Milwaukee Public Market is a colorful melange of
specialty restaurants and gourmet shops that offer
everything from candy, wines and flowers to freshly
made cheese, sausage, and bread.
— Call it love at first bite. I had serious doubts about
putting anything into my mouth with the word
"curd" in it, but when in Wisconsin, do as the
Wisconsinites do. So I ate a cheese curd. And then
another, and another, and another, and then suddenly the
entire basket was gone.
these tasty treats — morsels of cheese that resemble
blots of Play-Dough but taste heavenly — is sort of a
prerequisite to getting to know Wisconsin.
there’s no better place to begin an introductory course
to Wisconsin than Milwaukee, the state’s largest city on
Lake Michigan’s pristine western shore.
my first visit to Milwaukee, which was originally a side
trip from windy Chicago just a short drive to the south, I
had preconceived notions of the city. Breweries, beer,
bratwursts, factories, "Laverne and Shirley" and
I was proven wrong. Well, except for the accents.
knew Milwaukee would evolve into one jammed with culture,
world-class restaurants and perhaps the ultra-coolest
museum on the planet?
me get to the Milwaukee Art Museum first. I can only best
describe it as an innovative architectural wonder that has
wings that stretch wider than a Boeing 747 when the museum
opens each morning. It takes four minutes for the museum’s
signature Calatrava Wings, designed by Spanish architect
Santiago Calatrava, to fully extend, and is akin to an
enormous silvered bird taking flight.
the wings are as iconic as the Sydney Opera House or the
St. Louis Arch, there is much more to see inside. Filled
with more than 25,000 works from the likes of revered
artists including Georgia O’Keefe, Pablo Picasso and
Audubon, and with ever-changing exhibitions and stunning,
rare collections of paintings, sculptures and folk art,
for the art lover, it’s a feast for the eyes and
you know that not only can you make cheese from the milk
of goats, sheep and cows, but also water buffalo — and
that those water buffalo live on a Wisconsin farm? I didn’t
either, until I popped in for a short tour of Clock Shadow
Creamery, Milwaukee’s first cheese factory, which is
located just across the street from the Milwaukee Brewing
is ground zero in the nation for the dairy industry,"
said Bob, the head guide. "There are more master
cheese makers in Wisconsin than any other state."
focus of Clock Shadow Creamery is fresh cheese, he said,
before explaining the process of how cheese — and those
delectable cheese curds — are made.
there is cheese-making, there are restaurants and markets
and food tours. The concierge at my hotel said to not miss
the Milwaukee Public Market. Great advice. A colorful
mélange of specialty restaurants and gourmet shops that
offer everything from wines and flowers to freshly-made
cheese, sausage and bread, it’s been a hub of activity
for more than 100 years. Think of it as the farm coming to
a quick sandwich at the market, I joined a group with
Theresa Nemetz of Milwaukee Food Tours. She offers several
culinary tours throughout the city, but I chose the Old
World Third Street in the Westown neighborhood for its,
well, antiquated European heritage from Germany, Italy,
Poland and Ireland.
festivals abound on just about every weekend of the
year," she said as we meandered for about a mile
sampling German fare and visiting spice markets, bakeries
and even more cheese shops.
the way, we stopped at Glorioso’s Italian Market, so
authentic you practically need a passport to cross the
threshold. It’s a Tuscan or Umbrian village magically
transported to Milwaukee via flavors, scents and
even led us past a statue of one of Milwaukee’s coolest
fictional residents: Arthur "The Fonz"
Fonzarelli of "Happy Days" fame.
of my most memorable dining experiences was at Bacchus in
the historic Cudahy Tower. The hardwood flooring,
floor-to-ceiling windows and expansive views of Lake
Michigan only add to the fact that the food was
an appetizer of sea scallops, my palate moved to the
barnyard with my choice of a moist and delicious
pan-roasted chicken with eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini
that paired perfectly with a pinot gris from New Zealand.
The entire meal was utterly and completely
that "who knew" factor again, with it being a
complete surprise that Milwaukee is such a great culinary
not much of a cliché person, but it fits here. There is
truly something for everyone in Milwaukee. The
Harley-Davidson Museum appeals to all the wild hogs out
there, while the North Point Lighthouse and Schlitz
Audubon Nature Center might be more for the mild
architectural gem of the Pabst Mansion, once the home of
beer baron Frederick Pabst, is for history fans, but so is
the Grohmann Museum that features the Man at Work
Collection that documents the evolution of organized work
over the course of 400 years.
also offers brewery and distillery tours through Great
Lakes Distillery, Milwaukee Brewing Company and Miller
Brewery. The Milwaukee Brewers baseball franchise plays at
aptly-named Miller Field.
you’re a little more adventurous, take in Lake Michigan
from the gorgeous, stately S.V. Denis Sullivan Tall Ship.
When night falls, pedal away on the Pedal Tavern, a
16-person tavern-on-wheels bicycle that follows a
designated pub crawl route. Or kayak downtown on the
Milwaukee River with Laacke and Joys, a rental gear and
sporting equipment store that’s more than 160 years
I may not have found Laverne and Shirley in Milwaukee, all
those preconceived notions of the city were whisked away,
and I give this Midwestern gem a Fonzie-cool two thumbs
THERE: Milwaukee is crisscrossed by Interstates 94
and 43. While General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)
serves as a hub for AirTran Airways and Frontier Airlines,
it is also served by all major carriers.
E. Wisconsin Ave.
or toll-free 800-558-8222
W. Florida St.
E. Kilbourn Ave.
N. Water St.
soups, salads and seafood in a causal atmosphere.
S. 2nd St.
locally-sourced restaurant with the emphasis on simple and
Bar and Restaurant at Harley-Davidson Museum
W. Canal St.
food like burgers, fries, sandwiches, salads and big
delicious baskets of cheese curds.