It’s strange to think about, but true. Today in Milwaukee, most of us live better than the legendary royalty of yore. If we want the very best of something, we need not brandish the hand of our daughter so some beefy knight will travel the earth to find this treasure. Nope, we just hop in our car, drive to the right retailer, slap down a little cash or a rectangular piece of plastic and … we’ve got what we’re after: a tasty tea with decadent tapioca bubbles floating in it, the top fashions from Italy, an exquisite bottle of wine or a wild, sherbet-colored suit. If we long to experience exotic butterflies, we need not dispatch a naturalist to risk jungle rot or cannibalism, just simply travel a short way to a museum where hundreds will flutter inches from our face. The best of music, dining, art, sports, boutiques … all within a whim. The only stumbling block to experiencing such excellence is knowing where to find it. And that’s where we come in: Presenting our 27th annual Best Of Milwaukee issue. All new, and bigger than ever. Our guide to the best this city, and quite often the entire world, has to offer. Your highness.
Edited by Mario Quadracci with Miranda Agee, Ann Christenson, Kurt Chandler, Erik Gunn, Jim Hazard, Kevin Kosterman, Howie Magner, Carly Mohr, Bruce Murphy, Dan Murphy, Mary Van de Kamp Nohl, Colleen Heather Rogan and Evan Solochek.
Photo by Christopher O/Melia Bluhm
The plastic straw is as wide as an index finger, the perfect size for sucking up the marble-size tapioca balls floating at the bottom of the glass. It’s not unusual for newbies of Bubble Tea (all the rage in Taiwan, its birth country) to utter an “oohh” after that first tapioca ball reaches their lips. RuYi (1721 W. Canal St.), the new Asian restaurant at Potawatomi Bingo Casino, makes four shake-like varieties of Bubble Tea, a smooth blend of sweetened condensed milk, tea, ice and chewy tapioca “bubbles.” Bubblelicious.
Since the start, Alterra has been known as much for its shabby chic rehab projects as its lattes and baked goods. But with its new HQ (2999 N. Humboldt Ave.), Alterra is now conquering the world of new construction. This polished industrial structure, with expansive windows and a rustic covered patio, has rejuvenated a corner of Riverwest. Since opening in late 2007, it has received a Mayor’s Urban Design Award and was named “Best Environmentally Friendly Project” by the Business Journal. All deserved.
Classic Drive-in Movie
When the Keno Drive-in first opened its gates in south Kenosha, Abbott and Costello’s Africa Screams was one of Hollywood’s box office hits. That was 1949. Today the Keno still lights up the summer night as the largest solo-screen outdoor theater in the state, packing up to 800 cars into its lot for double features. The old metal speakers that hung on the car windows are long gone, replaced by FM radio soundtrack broadcasts. As they have since 1949, shows start at dusk. kenodrivein.net.
Martial Artist with a Mission
Michael Coleman Kyoshi (master teacher), instructs up to six classes a day, six days a week, at his Futen Dojo. But the sixth-degree black belt of classical Japanese martial arts has made time to start a volunteer program called “Million Good Deeds,” which aims to inspire local students to become better citizens. Students dream up a good deed, then have a parent or teacher sign off on it before it’s performed. The goal is to eventually have 10,000 students do 100 good deeds. That makes a million good deeds, rippling beneficently across the community.
Best Nite Nite Shopping
Even though it’s all about sleep, shopping at JWI Boudoir Boutique (807 Genesee St., Delafield) is never a snooze. The full selection of products, displayed in well-designed bedroom vignettes, make updating or creating a dreamy bedroom a totally relaxing experience. Fine linens, bedroom furnishings, decorative shelving, storage containers, lamps, paint, wallpaper, even pajamas and loungewear are either in stock or easily ordered. And talented in-store designers are ready and waiting
Sure, there’s a lot of great wine to be found in town. Several restaurants feature world-class wine menus, and rare and vintage labels can be purchased retail. But to truly appreciate a great vino, it helps to have a little education on the subject. Ben Christiansen at Waterford Wine Co. (1327 E. Brady St.) is the most knowledgeable, passionate and articulate wine coach in the city. Every week, he picks a different wine style (Brunello, Italian whites, Bordeaux, etc.) to examine in a guided tasting ($20-$50). The selections and lectures are always interesting and enjoyable, tasteful and tasty.
Tucked away in the Marshall Building (207 E. Buffalo St.), textile artist Laura Goldstein transforms blank canvases of sensuous silks, cashmeres and velvets into luxurious scarves, wraps, table runners, pillows and throws at her Grotta & Co. Hand-dyed in rich, lush colorations and hand-printed with sophisticated imagery, her work is sold in high-end boutiques across the country. But because it’s all created here, lucky locals can stop in at “Shop the Studio” events where the entire retail collection and lots of special extras, like samples, exotic textiles and delightful remnants (perfect for quilters), are offered for sale.
Best Chile Paneer
If there is a perfect dish to symbolize the meeting of East and West, or more accurately, India and Wisconsin, it’s the Indian dish chile paneer. Mayura Restaurant’s (1958 N. Farwell Ave.) spicy sauce blends fresh green peppers, onions and chiles, then is generously ladled over curds of farmer’s cheese. It’s the best that you’ll find this side of Bangalore.
Though ultra-trendy today, the mojito was actually invented in the 19th century by grog-slurping Cuban farm workers. The rum now comes in a rainbow of fruity flavors, and the variations of a mojito are as many as the bartenders who mix them. The best, however, stick to the basics: lots of fresh mint, lime juice and bar sugar or simple syrup, all muddled in a tall glass, then mixed with white or medium-bodied rum and poured over ice. While Trocadero (1758 N. Water St.) has nothing Cuban on its food menu, the hip restaurant serves a mojito as refreshing and delicious as they come.
The bartenders at Coquette cafe (316 N. Milwaukee St.) get the point about a martini. It’s a simple thing to make, basic ingredients mixed with care, but easy to mess up. Perhaps it’s the discipline of the kitchen that carries through to the bar. Whatever the reason, martini lovers know Coquette is a place where every martini that comes to the table tastes like the real thing every blessed time.
Whether pastel or vibrant, Johnnie Walkers (234 W. Wisconsin Ave.; 7608 W. Hampton Ave.,) has been serving up a veritable rainbow of color-coordinated shirts, ties, suits, shoes and hats for almost a quarter of a century. From the snappy brim of a godfather, derby or fedora hat to the polish of a snakeskin shoe, the sharp and tailored look has a rich and popular history. And while some might argue the look is old-school, there’s no denying the swagger inherent in Technicolor style. Rest in peace, Bernie Mac.
It all started 15 years ago when Nancy Hazard, then a homebuilder’s secretary, divided her perennials and put the excess up for sale out on the curb. Professional landscapers arrived first, and as the business grew, Hazard kicked off her shoes and became the region’s premier perennial gardener. Husband Jerry pitched in, too. Greenhouses, exotics and acres of additional perennials came later, and now, from April through Thanksgiving, you’ll find barefoot Nancy and her staff tending the gorgeous beds, prairie garden and potted plants at Country Gardens (N79 W39551 McMahon Rd., Oconomowoc).
The state that brought the world Trek Bicycle Corp. and Waterford Precision Cycles can now add the Milwaukee Bicycle Company (1018 W. Lincoln Ave.) to its ranks. The company, an extension of Ben’s Cycle & Fitness, currently produces three models: the “Orange One” (a relaxed single-speed/fixed-gear commuter), the Track (a pure racing machine with aggressive geometry) and the 29er (a high-quality mountain frame). All three are terrific two-wheelers.
From the minute you enter Beverly Designs boutique and gallery (149 E. Wisconsin Ave., Oconomowoc), you see the artist’s eye at work in the hand-painted designs owner Beverly Bartel adds to mass-produced merchandise. Her clothing, ranging from casual to elegant, has attracted a loyal following. Inspired by fashion industry icon Yoko Gochinas, Bartel is now famous in her own right.
Clothier for Short Men
When a 6-foot-4 guy needs pants, he hits the Big & Tall store. When a 5-foot-4 guy needs pants, he hits the… children’s department? Short men are all too familiar with an overlooked truth: Finding clothes that fit is harder than scoring on a WNBA player. Or with one. That’s why Gary Anders, himself just 5-foot-5, opened Napoleon’s Tailor (2331 S. 108th St., West Allis). The store’s entire stock – from shirts to suits to pants and jeans – is fitted specifically for diminutive dudes.
Best Male Coach
If he worked for the Bucks or Brewers, airplanes would land at Keith Tozer International Airport. Instead, the city’s most successful coach toils with the Milwaukee Wave in the obscure world of indoor soccer. So while Fonzie gets a statue, Tozer goes largely uncelebrated. But we know better. Tozer has coached the sport for 24 years and won upwards of 600 games, more than any man on the continent. In 16 years with the Wave, his teams have four titles (more than the Bucks, Brewers and Milwaukee Admirals combined), and he continues to coach national teams. Nobody’s done more with less fanfare.
“B” Horror Movie Collection
With more than 1,000 “B” horror movie titles in its collection, it’s no wonder October is the busiest time of year at Video West (8532 W. Lisbon Ave.). Never heard of “B” horror movies? That’s OK, most people haven’t. Usually, they’re only shown in small art houses in bigger cities. John Rogge tirelessly searches to bring the latest titles to his store. People come from all over the state to check out his collection.
Little Debbie Redux
For decades, Little Debbie’s snack cakes were a fixture of the American household. But that was before we knew about things like partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats and preservatives. Fortunately for the nostalgic among us, Outpost Natural Foods (100 E. Capitol Dr.; 7000 W. State St.; 2826 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) has re-created Little Debbie’s signature treat, the Oatmeal Cream Pie, without any of the chemicals. The result – Little Oaties – is a rich and creamy indulgence.
For years, the Pabst Theater was often an empty shell of a venue. But backed by philanthropist Michael Cudahy, Gary Witt has polished the theater like a jewel and packs it with concerts and shows, mixing rock, blues, country, jazz, comedy and more. Witt recently turned his attention to revitalizing the Riverside and Turner Hall. Between the three venues, each with its own flavor in the shows they host, Milwaukee has never had it so good.
New Radio Station
88Nine Radio Milwaukee may be the most integrated music station in town, and it seems to mix every kind of music, from arcane white rock to hip-hop, R&B and punk. Its segues aren’t always pretty, but the station is noncommercial, plays lots of music (including a weekly in-studio interview and concert by local bands), and its high-energy approach reaches out to the community and involves listeners.
The Milwaukee Golden Eagle Concert Band plays classic concert band music – Sousa, polkas, Glenn Miller and Broadway show tunes. Karen Dubis, the conductor, is a Milwaukee police lieutenant and, between selections, a standup comedienne in the good old vaudeville vein. Her specialty is gags, mostly “groaners” about marriage or old age. Cornball, yes, but when Dubis leads the band in “Seventy-Six Trombones,” you, too, may get hooked by all that schmaltz. For information, call 414-541-8288.
An idea began to percolate amongst five ladies as they worked at Peabody’s Interiors. They were the area’s top interior decorators and knew they could bring Milwaukee a retail store of high-end furniture and accessories the likes of which it had never seen. The result: Haven Interiors Ltd. (1457 N. Farwell Ave.), which opened three years ago. It wasn’t long after opening, though, that past Peabody’s customers began tracking the Haven pioneers down, and the Haven decorators realized they didn’t have to deal with the headache of retail to be successful. And so they became by-appointment only. Haven now has seven female employees, all Peabody’s expats, all providing exquisite high-end interior decoration to eager area customers.
Blueberry facials, relaxing foot baths, and hot oil treatments all sounds pretty lush, right? But for a dog?! Sarah and Brett Jahnke, owners of EmBARK! Pet Spa (1208 E. Oklahoma Ave.), say absolutely. Opened in April of 2007, this pet paradise aims to reduce the stress of getting bathed and groomed by limiting the number of animals on the premises at one time and keeping them uncaged whenever possible. We’re sure the puppy manicures (or would it be pedicures?) don’t hurt either.
In 2006, when construction at Discovery World was almost complete, Mike Cudahy wanted a period postcard by L.L. Cook – one he’d saved for more than five decades – to be transformed into a mural. The mural was executed on curtains by Milwaukee’s Acme Corp. and hung proudly in the Pilot House. Taking up an eighth of the room, the mural looks somewhat pixilated up close but is striking from a distance, depicting a city that is no longer. The Calatrava and condos of today were not even a twinkle in the city’s eye when the original postcard was printed in the early 1900s. A quaint, one-of-a-kind slice of old Milwaukee.
Place to Get Rad
When it comes to the board and sneaker lifestyle, there isn’t a store in the country quite like Moda3 (320 E. Buffalo St.). Owned and staffed by skateboarders and snowboarders, the point here is more about passion than profit. Yet judging from the lines that form every time they release a limited edition of retro footwear from Nike or Adidas, that shouldn’t be a problem either. The store offers a truly unique mix of boards, sneakers, urban vinyl, street wear and accessories that resonates with the young as well as the young-at-heart.
Weirdest Tasty Panini
What the heck? It may be a little unorthodox – that slap of pasta strings, meatballs and mozzarella cheese pressed between two halves of a hoagie – but with risk comes greatness. Imagine knife-and-fork comfort food wrapped up in a hunky two-fister, and you’ve got the spaghettini panini at Fuel Café (818 E. Center St.). For added deliciousness, it comes with a side of warm marinara for dipping.
Men are simple creatures. Think beer commercials work by accident? So shower us with a sports smorgasbord broadcast on massive crystal-clear TVs. Toss in pool tables, dart boards and slick video games. Don’t forget comfy theater-style seating, fried food and cold libations. Dim the lights. Voila – the ideal mancave. The folks at Fanatics Sports Central (185 N. Jefferson St.) have perfected the recipe. One of the city’s newest sports bars is now its best.
Free Music Before Sundown
Every Wednesday at noon, The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist (812 N. Van Buren St.) offers up a free 30-minute concert of classical music. Bach, Saint-Saëns, Ravel … you know, all that crowd. The setting for this brief respite from the weekly struggle is vast and sublime. The concerts offer more than relaxation, though. They’re an education, offering exposure to music and musical talent you won’t hear on local radio. A hidden treasure.
Purchase of Paradise
The state’s bid to buy out the defunct Rainbow Springs resort would preserve 970 acres of recreational paradise and help preserve the nearly pristine Mukwonago River system, including deep, spring-fed Rainbow Springs Lake, which supports rare fish, mussels, aquatic plants and lots of trout. A gift of nature for the entire metro area.
Frothy and light? Bah. Rich and dense? Ahh. We’ve speared our plastic forks into a range of locally baked cupcakes and found others to like. But neither a pretty sunflower piped on yellow cake nor a red velvet number spread with – how unorthodox – cocoa frosting could stop the domination of the chocolate fudge cupcake from C. Adam’s Bakery (Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St.). The dense, intense chocolate cake careens into a fringe of yummy fudge frosting. A category 10 on the Cupcake Richter Scale.
Anyone can pin dead Monarchs to a board and call it a butterfly exhibit. But the Milwaukee Public Museum’s live butterflies can land square on your nose while you amble through their abode. The tiny tropical room teems with a kaleidoscope of color, entrancing kids and adults alike. Waterfall murmurs complete the Zen-like scene, a swirl of flutters with nary a net between you and the winged wonders. But watch your step. Smushed butterflies aren’t nearly as pretty.
Door, Window and Cabinet Knobs
Neu’s Hardware Gallery (18900 W. Bluemound Rd.; N95 W16915 Richfield Way, Menomonee Falls) is a must-stop whether you’re building a new space or breathing new life into an old one. Knobs and hardware are essential to the character of your space and no one offers a better selection. You’ll find tens of thousands of metal, wood, ceramic, glass, plastic resin and stone knobs at a wide range of prices. Don’t be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. Professional designers are always on hand to help you.
Faraway Trip at Home
There’s something almost mystical about wandering about Artasia (181 N. Broadway). Scattered over its 14,000 square feet is a bounty of hand-picked treasures from China, Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia and Southeast Asia. You would be hard-pressed to find another store like it anywhere. From plumbing fixtures to prayer wheels, swords to statuary, artifacts to abacuses, Buddhas to baubles, it’s the closest most of us will come to a trip to the Orient.
While bars all over the country are mixing up appletinis and flirtinis and other ridiculousness, Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge (1579 S. Ninth St.) shakes it old-style. Reopened in July under new ownership, Bryant’s is back to practicing the art of mixology, slinging Manhattans, old fashioneds and Tom Collinses as the crooning of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra ring through the cool, dark, retro lounge.
Catering to bakers, Cedarburg’s Downtown Dough (W63 N658 Washington Ave., Cedarburg) carries a colossal collection of cookie cutters (more than 1,500). From 50-cent standard tin cutters to hand-designed copper numbers that go for about 20 bucks, the store is ready to provide any kind of shape, from traditional holiday shapes right up to llamas and cruise ships.
Place for Thing-A-Ma-Jigs
As the economy tightens, Dan Wiken, owner of 100,000 Parts company (2373 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.), is sure to see even more customers hunting for the multitude of do-hickeys he keeps stocked to ensure home fixtures and appliances stay up and running smoothly. No matter if its a broken bit for a stove, vacuum, washer, dryer, fridge, furnace, water heater or whatever, simply show it to Wiken, or supply a manufacturer’s name and model number, and get ready to be amazed at how quickly his search of the store’s overflowing shelves will turn up its replacement.
Best Female Coach
How good is Terri Mitchell? Consider this: If her women’s basketball teams hold form, she’s a few short years from passing Al McGuire as Marquette’s winningest hoops coach. McGuire won 295 games, including that memorable NCAA crown in 1977. Mitchell enters the 2008-09 season with 238 victories and is fresh off a 2008 WNIT championship, the program’s first major tournament title. She’s taken Marquette to postseason play in 10 of her 12 seasons, including six NCAA tourneys. Just one question: Can she dance like Al?
The Garden Mart (W297 S9115 State Road 83, Mukwonago) isn’t your ordinary nursery. Since 1993, the place has dedicated itself to diversity and little-known and underused plants. The Garden Mart offers more than 12 kinds of maples, plenty of crab trees and rare – but hardy – specimens like the white redbud and the yellowwood. Certified arborist Brian Thomas knows the subtleties of every species and enthusiastically shares his expertise.
Though we’re far from the coasts, some boutiques still offer the styles of the world’s fashion hot spots. Here are the best.
New York: Inspired by sleek Soho boutiques, HERS (309 N. Water St.) concentrates on the urban dressing from designers like Robert Rodriguez and Diane von Furstenberg. The look? New York Minimal – a stunning sheath set off by a single statement-making accessory.
New York: Valentina (18900 W. Bluemound Rd.; 1505 W. Mequon Rd.) is always in attendance at Bryant Park, scanning the runways and placing orders with American designers like Peter Som and rising stars like Marlene Birger. The look? A signature blend of elegant, upscale sexy sophistication.
L.A.: Stephanie Horne (159 N. Broadway) sifts though the best of sophisticated casual fashion with a concentration on shape and texture. The look? Sizzling femininity from designers like Jenny Han paired with edgy rock ’n’ roll, a-la Taverniti jeans.
Europe: Aversa (5800 N. Bayshore Dr.) presents the flawless fashion of Armani Collezioni alongside designers like Marisa Minicucci. The look? Impeccable personal style, beautiful fabrics and fine tailoring.
Milwaukee: Fasten (2224 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) features more than 50 of the city’s best independent designers. The look? Expressive and definitely one-of-a-kind. n
Best of Local Music
Local Release of 2007
Soft Skeletons: Recorded at industry bigwig Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, this is Call Me Lightning’s first album released on hip New York label Frenchkiss Records. Soft Skeletons is a raucous thrill ride with songs that nimbly walk the line between dissonant noise rockers and catchy, fist-pumping sing-alongs. An infectious foray into experimental high-energy post-punk.
Part hip-hop, part punk and part dance, the eclectic emcee Juiceboxxx is difficult to categorize. But there is no mislabeling his live show: pure energy. Frantic and unpredictable, Juiceboxxx’s performances typically move quickly from the stage into the crowd and include flailing limbs, sweaty tank tops and brilliant segues into freestyle. And with a packed nationwide tour schedule and songs titles like “Sweat” and “100 MPH,” it doesn’t seem like Juiceboxxx will be slowing down anytime soon.
Many bands spend their first year or two of existence in their parents’ basements, writing songs and talking about how their sound will “change” the music industry. But the Folk/Americana group The Championship headed right to the road. In 2006, the band booked several tours – including a five-week jaunt across the entire country – and released an album on singer/songwriter Joe Crockett’s own Bear Rifle Records. The band has not stopped touring since.
Best Vocal Harmonies
Nowhere is the chemistry between Scott Starr (guitar) and Kevin Dunphy (drums) of Fever Marlene more apparent than in the dynamic and harmonious interplay between the members’ very different voices. Starr fronts the two-piece outfit with a raspy, nasally timbre that effortlessly ranges from playful to haunting, while Dunphy layers a gentle silhouette over the mix. When these two don acoustic guitars, there is no sweeter sound in town.
Best Rhythm Section
Collections of Colonies of Bees has been a fixture on Milwaukee’s experimental scene since 1998. The heart of the band’s appeal is its ability to seamlessly meld an endless variety of timings and structures into a unique and highly enjoyable brand of progressive rock. From breathy emptiness to grandiose cacophony, Jon Mueller (drums) and Dan Spack (baritone guitar) propel the hauntingly beautiful instrumental chaos to new and unparalleled heights.
When we decided to find the city’s best chili this year, we ran into two major concerns. One, we needed judges that know the art of hearty slow-food. And two, we needed to make sure that bringing together the city’s best chilis didn’t leave a smoking crater in the ground. The answer was clear: firefighters. Cooking meals like chili is religion in station houses, and who better to handle the volatility of chili mixing than those guys with the spotted dogs, big red trucks and sizable hoses? We turned to the brave men of the St. Francis Fire Department, and they sniffed, tasted and delivered their verdict. Our judges: David Bartlett (Captain), John W. Boyd (Driver/Operator), Dan Grudzielanek (Firefighter), Andy Jensen (Firefighter), Pete Trost (Captain).
1. Soup Market (2211 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.)
2. George Webb (1828 N. Farwell Ave.)
3. Café Hollander (2608 N. Downer Ave.)
4. Real Chili (419 E. Wells St.)
5. McBob’s Pub & Grill (4919 W. North Ave.)
1. Outpost natural foods (7000 W. State St., Wauwatosa)
2. Annona Bistro (2643 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.)
3. Beans & Barley (1901 E. North Ave.)
4. Brewed Awakenings (1208 E. Brady St.)
5. Comet Café (1947 N. Farwell Ave.)
Hall of Fame
Pie in a Paper Bag
The uninitiated may be dubious, but the worldly French have long baked foods en papillote (in parchment paper). The process seals in precious juices and locks in flavor. But most don’t care why Mukwonago’s The Elegant Farmer bakes its fruit pies in a paper bag. They just know the flaky pastries with a crunchy top crust are loaded with fruit (the apple version uses firm Ida Reds) and sweet, we assure you, beyond your wildest sweet-tooth dreams.
Whether you’re there for an organized event like fireworks, just taking an aimless walk or checking out the clouds supine in the grass, Lake Park is, and long has been, the city’s best place to shake off the weight of the city and absorb nature. From its use as a sacred site by hunter-gatherers as far back as 300 B.C. to its designation and construction as a public space in the late 1800s, the land has long served an important function for area residents. Designed in the “Romantic” style of European parks by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of New York’s Central Park), Lake Park is what he set out to make it: the city’s best place for psychological and moral restoration.
James and Rose Pickering
More than 34 years ago, the two performers acted together at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater for the first time in Down by the Gravois (Under the Anheuser Busch). Nobody remembers the play, but the Pickerings have endured, becoming the Lunts of Milwaukee, doubtless the best-known acting couple in the city’s history. They have been with the Milwaukee Rep for more than half of its history and are still going strong. n
Harvey’s Wallbangers remain so celebrated, it’s easy to forget they actually lost the 1982 World Series. After dropping the seventh and final game at St. Louis, the Brewers still returned home to a raucous parade. More than a quarter-century later, current Brewers wear the 1982 uniforms on retro Fridays, while members of the ’82 Crew have morphed into legends, their names spoken with religious reverence. Yount. Molitor. Gorman. Rollie. Simmons. Kuenn. Which gets you to wondering: Just what brand of worship awaits the Brewers team that finally wins the Series?
What better way to celebrate the quintessential Milwaukee watering hole turning 100 than to induct it into our Hall of Fame? The Bondar family has been slinging pints at Wolski’s Tavern since 1908 (brothers Dennis, Bernard and Michael have run it since the ’70s), and the “I Closed Wolski’s” bumper stickers are known to folks far beyond the metro area. While other bars have popped up around Wolski’s (1836 N. Pulaski St.), offering a variety of gimmicks to attract customers (open mic nights, garage door patios, you name it), Wolski’s has survived by keeping it simple: friendly barkeeps, flowing beer, free popcorn and an authentic, unpretentious atmosphere. Here’s to another 100!
Best Shoe Stores
Which shoe stores have found their niche and become the best at what they do?
Sweet Kicks(1690 N. Franklin Pl.)
The top dealer in fresh and fashionably hip comfort.
Picardy Shoe Parlour (11035 N. Port Washington Rd., Mequon) A sophisticated foot-fetishists’ dream. Hot on cool individuality? Picardy produces.
For Little Ones (walking or not):
Psue’s Maternity & Children boutique (11012 N. Port Washington Rd., Mequon) Packs a mighty selection of tiny fun.
Handmade and Exotic:
(shoo) (241 N. Broadway) The place to step up with some of the finest contemporary handmade shoes the world has to offer.
Timeless Men’s Style: Allen Edmonds (East Towne Square, 11043 N. Port Washington Rd., Mequon; 18900 W. Bluemound Rd.) The venerable company is still the shoe-in for upscale men’s kicks.
Best of the Media
Three Hours of FM Radio
Rock ’N Roll Roots, Sundays 9 a.m.-noon on WKLH. For more than 20 years, host and music savant Steve Palec has used archived interviews, his own knowledge, and an eclectic playlist to educate and delight listeners with odd facts and the history of pretty much every band you can think of. Palec is a master of six degrees of rock ’n’ roll separation, and could find a connection between Eric Clapton and Boy George. Did you know that Steely Dan’s song “Don’t Take Me Alive” was partially inspired by Patty Hearst? If you listen to Palec, you do.
Journal Reporter One-time Journal Sentinel courts reporter David Doege has been around forever, but took a buyout from the JS and went to the Biz Journal, where he ranges widely and often scoops his old paper.
New Beat Reporter
Crime has never been so bizarre since the Journal Sentinel’s literate reporter Crocker Stephenson got on the beat. There was the man who shot his lawn mower (arrested for disorderly conduct), the guy who faked heart attacks to get off paying restaurant bills (fraud), and the man who falsely confessed to murder – twice – because it would win the sympathy of his wife (no charge). Weirdly wonderful.
New Journal Sentinel Feature
“Public Investigator” updates that old newspaper staple, the Action Line. Reporters Ellen Gabler and Racquel Rutledge go to bat for readers with projects that demand – and get – a quick turnaround. Highlights include an exposé on a lax landlord who racked up hundreds of property violations in less than two years and the struggles of an identity theft victim to get anyone in law enforcement to go after the perpetrators – whose names the reporters and the paper were gutsy enough to publish.
Sports Talk Interchange
Talented former Journal Sentinel baseball scribe Drew Olson and WISN-TV sports guy and trivia mastermind Dan Needles were once a trio with Bill Johnson (since reassigned). Now a duo, Olson and Needles are just as captivating on The D-List (ESPN 540 AM, daily 9 a.m.-noon). Sarcastic yet intelligent callers like “Mark in a Truck,” “Squeeze” and “Alex in Brown Deer” earn a spot on the D-List, which appears on the station’s Web site (espnmilwaukee.com). Interactive and fun.
Two and a Half Hours of FM Radio
Melissa on WMSE, Wednesdays 12:30-3 p.m. Melissa delivers a top-notch alternative playlist with an endearing “aw shucks” demeanor (complete with an infectious giggle). This girl is clearly having fun as a DJ, and because she’s a volunteer, she doesn’t get paid a dime. You’ll hear local music, new “real” alternative (tunes you’ll hear only on an independent radio station), and classics by the likes of Pixies and Guided By Voices, one of Melissa’s favorites.
Reason to Get to Work on Time
Gone are the days when the “Today Show” could lure reluctant commuters into procrastination. At the stroke of 9 a.m., Channel 4 cuts away from “Today” to bring us “The Morning Blend,” an awkward, locally produced variety talk show by WTMJ. While local businesses may be happy for the publicity when the show profiles them (a common segment on this insipid show), the greatest gift they’ve given area employers is on-time employees.
Best Strategic Move
Channel 12 continues to position itself as the serious commercial broadcast news outlet in Milwaukee, so what better place to bring Mike Gousha back to local TV viewers? The Channel 4 alum brings the gravitas, intelligence and perspective that has long made him Milwaukee’s most admired newscaster as he pitches in with a Sunday morning interview show and in-depth reports during the week.
Best Sports Blogs
Google delivers 2.6 million hits on “sports blog,” roughly the population of Mongolia. We kept our search a tad closer to home and found the best amateur, online commentators covering our home teams.
Green Bay Packers
RailbirdCentral.com: Insightful and newsy, Brian Carriveau’s work could be mistaken for beat reporting instead of blogging. His coverage of the team’s practices is virtually unprecedented.
PackerPalace.com: Not much in-depth analysis or original reporting, but no shortage of off-the-cuff commentary and Vince Lombardi quotes. Best of all are the creatively cartoonish videos. Where else does Brett “Charlie Brown” Favre try kicking a football that’s pulled away by Ted “Lucy” Thompson?
AcmePackingCompany.com: As much a gathering place for Packer backers as a blog, you’ll find an overload of information and fan interaction here.
BrewCrewBall.com: Perhaps the most well-rounded blog you’ll find, regardless of sport. Jeff Sackmann and crew cover every Brewers base, from interviews with minor leaguers to in-depth statistical analysis of Ned Yost’s lineup. Follow along with the fan forum’s live play-by-play threads and you may never watch a game the same way again.
RightFieldBleachers.com: A collective effort started by five guys with the “ultimate dream of someday opening our own bar completely dedicated to the Milwaukee Brewers.” In the meantime, they set a cyberspace table with wisecracks galore and scour the Web so you don’t have to.
BrewerNation.mlblogs.com: For fans who like their commentary with a heavy dose of Chicago Cubs hatred.
TheBratwurst.com: Spicy opinions and intelligent analysis, statistical and otherwise, from lead writer Brett Boyer. When the NBA Draft rolls around, few people break it down as precisely and presciently.
BrewHoop.com: The team’s most visible community-type blog, evidenced by all the fan postings. But the heavy lifting is largely a tag-team effort between Alex Boeder and Frank Madden, with excellent roundups of relevant news and opinion.
BucksDiary.blogspot.com: An excellent example of what happens when a smart hoops fan is an even smarter mathematician. How else could someone invent a stat called “defensive win production”?
Others of Note
CrackedSidewalks.com: They could teach a course on Marquette basketball, math credits included.
CuteSports.blogspot.com: When your sports life could use a lady’s touch.
SportsBubbler.com: Fast becoming a catch-all destination for Wisconsin sports blogging.