Joanie's Midwest Vacation
Another vacation in the States to locations not on everyone's list of top destinations. For some reason, Milwaukee had intrigued me and I had a couple friends who really liked it, so I figured let's do a loop thru Wisconsin. And when I saw how close Dubuque was to Madison, decided we'd venture into Iowa too (need to buck up my list of States). Had a quick non-stop flight to MKE (why is it MKE not MWK?) and visited the beautiful Basilica St. Josaphat as we drove in from the airport. We then headed northeast to Lake Michigan for Friday fish fry at Jack Pandl's, a place that's been around since 1915. It had its charms but the food was just ok and our waitress was kind of miserable. Took a walk in the park by the lake then checked into the lovely Hilton Garden Inn downtown, where they greet you with mimosas. Did the Riverwalk with the obligatory stop at the Bronze Fonz, saw some art, and ate some brats at Mader's, another very old restaurant that every celebrity has visited. We regrouped then headed down to the "Historic Third Ward" (and the 5th) for drinks, art and stumbled upon some loud metal. Sat. they let us check out a little late so we scoped out the Public Market, went to the space age looking Milwaukee Art Museum, then checked out the famous Sobelman's where the Bloody Mary is king. These are way more than just a stalk of celery in a drink, check it out: Sobelman's Bloody Mary. And all the components are quite good including the actual Bloody. And there's a beer chaser with it, just $11.95 to $13.95 for the non chicken ones. Full food report here: Chowhound
We drove to Sheboygan, a town Andrew wanted to see. Suffice it to say that between a big screw up at the hotel and the lack of a great vibe, we kept driving to Green Bay and added a nite to that itinerary. We did visit the world's tallest flagpole and had a good early dinner at this old timey spot (of course) called Gosse's where we had a couple specialties, broasted chicken and a double brat on a Sheboygan hard roll. I spent half the time finding a hotel in GB, forgot about my Hotel Tonight app. We checked in and had plenty of time before Channel 3 and the Chicago band The Safes at the Lyric Room so we stopped at the Libertine where I had the state drink, an old fashioned for only $5. The show was somewhat entertaining cuz of the dorky crowd but the music wasn't the best. The next day was an early visit to the National Train Museum then checked into the crazy Tundra Lodge where a million stuffed animals greet you. I'd read bad things about this place but it was fine as was the brewpub in the parking lot where we watched the Patriots before heading down to Lambeau Field, checking out the Walk of Legends on the way. I had to buy a "frozen tundra" t-shirt. That evening, the Packers were on Sunday Night Football so we got food at another brew pub (our first fried cheese curds, these were great) and watched the game with the locals. Lots of little bars with a divey look to them in that city.
Mon. we drove to Madison via Fond du Lac for lunch then checked into the hotel about 3 miles from downtown Madison. Walked around then stopped at Opus for a 2 for 1 champagne cocktail happy hour, drinks and snacks were very good. Next we hit a bar that was doing music trivia, thinking we were gonna kick ass but came in 7th of 10 teams, yikes. Then it was the Topeka band Midnight Ghost Train at the Frequency, we were the only people watching them besides other band members. They were good but it was a long day so we just saw a handful of songs. Andrew didn't feel great so I headed into town on Tues. to do a tour of the beautiful state house, hit a couple record shops and see the university campus right on the lake, very pretty. Stopped at the Chazen Art Museum then back to regroup for the nice dinner out which started great but I just couldn't do justice to eating that evening. Didn't even feel like squeezing in one more place so we headed back to get an early start on Wed. We drove about 30 min to take a tour of Taliesin West but they were booked up so we wandered around the grounds of what I later discovered was only the Frank Lloyd Wright visitor center. Duh, I thought we were at least on the grounds. We did see Taliesin on our drive to Dubuque so we were close, and the center def. had Wright qualities.
Had a great deal at the Hotel Julien in downtown Dubuque, a really pretty historic hotel. Got some iced coffee and headed to the Fenelon Elevator, supposedly the steepest one in the world. Saw art in the library, walked thru the warehouse district, did their Riverwalk along the Mississippi and ran into Midnight Ghost Train who were playing down the street. We hit happy hour at the nicer restaurant in our hotel and the fried artichoke balls were nice, but the people working the upstairs and downstairs bars aren't going to win any bartender awards. After the only rain of our trip, we got another snack, played pool at the Dungeon (I got my ass kicked) and called it a night. Thurs. we were able to tag along on a school trip to the interesting Crystal Lake Cave (for free) then had an excellent breakfast at Sunshine Family Restaurant (where we ran into the dude from Midnight Ghost Train for the 4th time). I have two words for you: hash browns (why are they never served in New England?). We happened to hit their little art museum on free Thurs. (lucked out with free stuff) then later stopped by a winery then the supper club experience at Timmerman's (in E. Dubuque which is actually in Illinois). Known for their sunsets over the river, old fashioneds and steak. A nice tawny port at Pepper Sprout then a quick Düber beer at funky, divey Paul's Tavern ended the nite.
Fri. we made a donut run then drove back to Milwaukee to stay in an Air BnB in the Riverwest section of town. Had to check out Honeypie cuz I like pie as much as donuts. There was lots of other cool stuff on S. Kinnickinnic St. including Sven's Café for coffee, Vanguard for sausage and drinks, Odd Duck for tasty food, Acme Records and esp. Rush Mor records, where Dan knew a lot of the Boston hardcore people, super nice guy. We came back to that area to see bands at the Cactus Club where we discovered the time warp bar At Random. Wow, super cool 40's place and fun bars in general. Sat. we hit the Pabst complex. We didn't know this event Open Doors was going on so they were doing free, abbreviated tours. For lunch, we went to the long standing Klinger's for a butter burger, one of those Milwaukee things. We went back downtown to the Hofbrauhaus then saw the Frank Lloyd Wright system built homes, also free for Open Doors. Went to Bryant's, the oldest bar in Milwaukee, for more deco feeling cocktails. Had dinner around Brady St which is kind of like being smack dab in Harvard Sq. it's so nuts. We ended the evening back in our hood at the fun Riverwest Filling Station, nice employees and patrons (one of whom had just eaten at the little café at the bottom of my street in JP), interesting beers and amazing pineapple orange cake. We walked down to Art Bar but ended at Two next door, another old school looking lounge (something Boston sorely lacks). Sun. we had the famous hoppel poppel at Benji's Deli, walked by Lake Michigan one last time and headed to the airport. That was the Midwest trip.