where else to go in Milwaukee?
March 20, 2006 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Another question about travelling to Milwaukee, a follow-up of sorts to Frank Grimes' recent question. My girlfriend and I are going up to Milwaukee this weekend; are there any neat non-beer/bar/brewery-related things to do and places to visit? And does anybody know of a good vegetarian restaurant or two there?

I see that the collective mind gave Frank lots of good suggestions, but he was looking more for breweries, bars, that sort of thing. Unfortunately most of those suggestions don't apply to us, since we're both vegetarians and we've done enough brewery tours to last us a few lives already. I will be looking into the Jelly Belly factory and the Mars Cheese Castle, though.
posted by jacobm to Travel & Transportation around Milwaukee, WI (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I lived in Milwaukee as a broke college student from 1997-2003 in the "progressive" Riverwest area. I never went on a brewery tour while I lived there and never felt like I was missing anything. Here are some of my favorite places to go:

-- Fuel Cafe: has very good vegetarian and non-vegetarian sandwiches, plays really odd music, and has pretty good local coffee. My favorite meal there was the cheesy artichoke melt sandwich and the 7-layer bars with a Sports Tea. Fuel is a good place to have lunch and people watch. See who can count the highest number of piercings. It's very smoky, however, especially in the evening.

-- Oriental Theater: watch the website and see if you can catch a movie there. It's a gorgeous, depression-era theater that has been restored. I used to go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show there on Saturday nights at midnight, but I don't know if they're still doing it there.

-- Beans & Barley: a great vegetarian restaurant near the Oriental on North Avenue. I mostly went there to shop in the little food store, but occasionally I ate there and the food was always great, even for my non-vegetarian palate.

--Comet: Another smoky east side coffee house. It's clientle is a little more professional than Fuel's, but it's still very interesting. I used to do laundry in the coin-op place next door and then drink coffee between loads. Everything there seems to be served with tangy El Rey chips; I remember the cheesy mashed potatos was my favorite.

--M&M Club: This is a gay/lesbian bar in Milwaukee's Third Ward (the art district), but it's worth visiting the attached restaurant even if you aren't. When I had enough money, I would come here for the freshest green salads I ever found. They have a small menu, usually 3-4 entrees per night, and they are all excellent. They do fish well, and bring you fresh bread before your meal.

--Art Museum: This was built in 2001, I believe, and it's a breathtaking sculpture of a building. If memory serves, every day at noon it opens it's "wings" and they close at dusk each night (barring high winds). I've actually never been inside, since the entry fee was always too steep for me, but I've biked around outside on the grounds quite a bit.

--Potawatomi Casino: This is the only casino I've ever been to, and I've gambled exactly $20 there. I've heard from other people that it's pretty impressive. I liked the Native American decor and the infamous buffet is just as good as everyone says it is (although when I went I had to stand in line for two hours to get in).

--Outpost Natural Foods: A co-op whole foods store on North Avenue. There's a small deli area where you can sit down and eat a sandwich after you're done shopping.
posted by jennaba at 2:24 PM on March 20, 2006

And does anybody know of a good vegetarian restaurant or two there?

Sure. Beans & Barley is the old-school veggie restaurant on the East Side, and Barossa down in Walker's Point serves organic +vegan dishes. There's also a slew of Middle Eastern and Indian restaurants which will do just fine. There's lots of good food in Milwaukee; it will not be hard to find good vegetarian food.

You didn't mention the kinds of things you like to do, so it's a little difficult. But here goes:

Must sees:
* The Art Museum. It's gorgeous, and the collection is better than you'd ever expect.
* The Lakefront. It too is gorgeous, and you'll already be there if you visit the art museum. Pack a picnic or go for a stroll.
* Go see a movie at the main screen at the Oriental. It's one of the loveliest old movie palaces you'll ever go to, beautifully preserved and an active Landmark arthouse.
* Get custard from Kopps. Any one. That's a quintessential Milwaukee experience.

Maybe, maybe not:
* The Milwaukee Public Museum. Perfect if you have kids or like museums.
* Go see a show. There's decent live music in Milwaukee. Onopa Brewery and the Cactus Club are the standouts in the indie scene.

Also, find paper copies of the Shepherd Express and The Onion when you get there; they'll have listings of plenty of things to do.

Hope this helps!

posted by eschatfische at 2:32 PM on March 20, 2006

Shahrazad on Oakland has good Middle Eastern food; many a high school lunch was spent at the next door Thai Kitchen for me.

If you like Thai, the King & I in downtown MKE does it all right.

Noodles & Qdoba (the latter a Chipotle-ish sort of joint) are decent lunch restaurants, nowhere to plan a trip around, but good veg food if you need something quick and cheap.

Dancing Ganesha on the east side is good, if trendy, Indian. Trocadero, in the same area, is a nice French bistro with some good veg options if I recall correctly.

If you like Mexican or Latin American food, try Rey Sol on the South Side, and Sol Fire by the lake on Prospect (double-check the street, though).

And if you're into coffee, bypass all Starbucks for your nearest Alterra. Their pastries are much better than your average coffee shop.
posted by anjamu at 2:48 PM on March 20, 2006

Check out the Safe House for a unique bar experience.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:47 PM on March 20, 2006

Ooohhh... I was trying to think of things to suggest and then I remembered I once pitching the idea of doing an article on uniquely Milwaukee locations to a boss once. I would try bowling at The Holler House on 21st and Lincoln, it's the oldest sanctioned bowling alley in the country.

Sol Fire is actually on Farwell Avenue.

Onopa will be closed for remodeling this weekend. If you want a goofy show on friday, check out Awful Fest at the UWM Union in the 8th Note (Ground Floor of the Student Union). Basically ideally it would be a bunch of goofy noise bands, but my band's banjo temp will be playing in a group called Body Jazz. On Saturday, if you're looking for a show, there's The Taste of Midwest Music Festival... 6922 w. Orchard St. West Allis , that might be ok.

Bremen Cafe should serve vegetarian food.

If you're into sex toys there's The Tool Shed.

If you want antique, comic book, thrift, board game, bike, running or bookstore recommendations, let me know.

For music stores, there's Atomic and Rush-Mor.

I'm sure I'll think of more.
posted by drezdn at 7:40 PM on March 20, 2006

You could go < href="http://www.thepettit.com/">ice skating at the Petit National Ice Center

Or Goldmann's.
posted by drezdn at 7:50 PM on March 20, 2006

And as much as I dislike them, onmilwaukee's 100 things to do in Milwaukee
posted by drezdn at 7:54 PM on March 20, 2006

Response by poster: Oh man, these suggestions are great. Thanks everyone! No Mefite need ever be bored in Milwaukee again!

Drezdn: I'd be interested in hearing some bookstore recommendations if you wouldn't mind.
posted by jacobm at 8:01 PM on March 20, 2006

If you like to pour through piles of used books looking for treasure I'd hit Downtown Books (make sure to bring cash) and Renaissance Books, if you're into feminist works, or political stuff visit Broad Vocabulary. If you like hunting for obscure comic books, by digging through them (literally), there's The Turning Page. There's a local chain called Harry W. Schwartz's that is OK, with one right across the street from Broad Vocabulary.

Where to go in Milwaukee sort of depends on what you're looking for. If you're looking for Milwaukee's take on Belmont, there's the Third Ward which runs from Water Street east to the lake and from The Interstate (or Saint Paul Avenue) South to Chicago Avenue. There's also Kinnickinnic Avenue with special attention focused on the stretch surrounding Lincoln Avenue. For upscale clothing there's Brady Street. For weirder record stores try Center Street on the Eastern end.

For some of the cooler weirder stores, there's stuff in the closer suburbs, such as American Science and Surplus (though you have one of those in Chicago), there's Greenfield News and Hobby, and tons of incredibly awesome thrift stores.
posted by drezdn at 8:20 PM on March 20, 2006

Also, it would be great if you could post what you did end up doing.
posted by drezdn at 7:43 AM on March 23, 2006

Response by poster: FRIDAY: We got in around 6:00 or so and went to the Oriental Theater to see a movie. The movie wasn't so hot, but the theater was magnificent. Then we intended to go to Beans & Barley, but we got there just a couple minutes after it closed so we went across the street to Pizza Man instead. Pizza Man had a great ambiance but not great food. Then we went to a bar (forget which one).

SATURDAY: We spent a long time walking around downtown and by the lake. We went to Nectar Cafe, saw the Art Museum's wings flap closed and open, looked around the museum a bit, and then went to Downtown Books. Afterwards we went to a grocery store and ate samples (don't laugh, it's fun). Then we went back to Beans & Barley and had a fantastic dinner. For dessert, we went to Polaris, the super-expensive rotating restaurant at the top of the Hyatt Regency. It would've been out of our price range for dinner, but we could handle drinks and dessert, and the panoramic view was great.

SUNDAY: All we really did was walk around the city. We went to the historic third ward and the lake, and we went over to the courthouse and the library.

All in all a very enjoyable weekend. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions.
posted by jacobm at 5:00 PM on March 26, 2006

Jacobm, does your girlfriend happen to have a brother named Willy?
posted by drezdn at 7:06 AM on March 28, 2006

« Older who are those guys?   |   Smartphone recommendations? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.