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Best Of 2011
From barbershops and birthing centers, meatballs and mussels, Brewers t-shirts and Brewers bars, froyo and food trucks. And much, much more!

Edited by Evan Solochek

With Anne Baesemann, Kurt Chandler, Ann Christenson, Cristina Daglas, Sarah Elms, Jeanette Hurt, Paul Kosidowski, Tea Krulos, Kathryn Lavey, Howie Magner, Bruce Murphy, Brenda Poppy, Colleen Heather Rogan, Kahara Schabach, Denise Schiller, Krista Elizabeth Schmidt and Simone Smith

For as much as things change in Milwaukee – and, really, things do – just as much stays the same. Our very first Best Of issue, which hit the stands all the way back in October of 1982, is littered with little nuggets of truth that, all these years later, remain resonant. Once you get past the second-rate graphics, disturbing black and white photos of a mustachioed Bob Reitman and of Joel McNally looking, well, exactly the same, and the general retro campiness of it all, strong parallels emerge.

For example, in 1982 Speed Queen was singled out for its great barbecued chicken. Today, it is now spoken of with words like “icon” and “institution” and is, thusly, heading to the Hall of Fame. But that’s not all. Whereas then the Pet Lawn Cemetery & Crematory took home “Best Pet Cemetery” honors today, perhaps, Kindred Spirits Animal Communication, this year’s “Best Animal Communicator,” could enable you to check in with some of those long-lost pets. A clever quip scrawled on a bathroom stall at the long-closed Coffee Trader (“When incognito, do as the cognitions do”) was awarded “Best Graffiti” and this year we again praise that unsanctioned of public art – Jesse Graves’ eco-friendly mud variety. And, finally, as the pasties on the dancers at Rickey’s Tavern enticed us back then, today it’s the fluffy puff pastries of Julie’s Burek’s that caught our eye. See, it’s all cyclical. The past is more present than ever and our Retro Sidebar is further proof.

You’d think after putting out a Best Of issue every year for nearly three decades – that’s roughly 2,500 items – Milwaukee would run out of things worth celebrating. You’d be wrong. The following pages are filled with 85 illustrious items, from the attractive and the absurd to the tasty and the trendy. And, for the first time, we even let you in on the fun. In what will become an annual feature, we opened up a recent dining story (“Best Pizzas,” March 2010) to public voting. Keep reading to find out what pizza place is the city’s favorite. Though we hope decades from now you won’t look back and snicker at our silly graphics and sillier facial hair, we are, at the very least, confident this list will hold up as well as our first. (ES)

USE OF TRAMPOLINES
The flashiest slam dunks at Milwaukee Bucks games come from neither the Bucks nor their opponents. It’s the Rim Rockers who steal the show, their aerodynamic acrobatics boosted by trampolines and highlighted by twists, flips and off-the-backboard passes. (HM)

BREWERS EYE CANDY
Oh, George Kottaras. Two words: Greek God. Two more: Call me. (CD)

BIG-SCREEN TV
It’s 5,940 square feet of high-definition delirium. Installed prior to the 2011 season, Miller Park’s new video scoreboard is the fourth-largest in all of baseball. Couch potatoes, wipe away that drool and pass the remote control. With a hydraulic lift. (HM)

BEST INTENTIONS GONE AWRY
It seemed like baseball promotional brilliance. In the wee hours of May 24, the Brewers scattered 1,400 Bernie Brewer lawn ornaments at public parks throughout Wisconsin. Fans were told they could start scavenging at 5 a.m. But cheaters squatted on sites early and hoarded Bernies (some even showed up on eBay that morning), leaving far fewer for rule-abiding citizens. (HM)

PINGPONG PARTY
With 13 pingpong tables (including a stadium-like center court), plenty of room (16,500 square feet) and a waitstaff that brings drinks to the table and refills your basket of balls, the fun can go on forever at SPiN Milwaukee (233 E. Chicago St.). Even the private event rooms have tables, so you never have to stop pingponging. (BM)

SPORTS CELEBRATION
As we sat around the conference table discussing this idea, Cristina Daglas, our resident Bears fan, muttered, “Such a douche.” And with that, it was decided: Aaron Rodgers’ “Title Belt” celebration is awesome. It energizes the fans, riles up the competition and, best of all, now has the added benefit of actually being true. Strap on that belt, champ. You’ve earned it. (ES)

WINTER FIX FOR MOUNTAIN BIKERS
Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park
(8365 N. 76th St.) doesn't kid around. Opened in December 2010, this state-of-the-art facility is one of only two of its kind – in the world. Housed in a 110,000-square-foot former Menards, Ray’s lets you do it all: cross-country, park tricks, free ride and dirt jumps. It’s open October through April, so when Milwaukee freezes, you’ll still have a warm place to ride. (SE)

WACKIEST BIKE RIDE
The annual Fat Tire Tour of Milwaukee is an all-day happy hour on wheels, a 25-mile bike route linking half a dozen bars. Gray suits and red bow ties abounded at this summer’s Pee-Wee Herman-themed ride. Serious cyclists snicker at the dizzying event, but what could be wrong with combining a vigorous workout with the healing powers of beer? (KC)

BREWERS T-SHIRTS
Most Brewers fan shirts are pretty lame. Whether it’s the glove with the middle finger or the ubiquitous “Cubs Suck,” we can do better, people. And Tyler Maas (who’s obviously awesome; he’s also a freelance writer for us) has. Forward Fabrics (forwardfabrics.com) offers creative concepts such as “I [picture of Corey Hart] MKE,” “Braun of the Dead” and “Weekend at Bernie’s.” Well done, sir. (ES)

PLACE TO TAKE YOUR KIDS WHEN YOU’RE HUNGOVER
It’s cold out, possibly raining. You’ve watched “Thomas the Tank Engine” 15 times, and it’s only 9 a.m. Gone are the days of summer, when you could push the kids outdoors to play for hours. Well, wrangle them, grab the diaper bag, and head to The Big Backyard (2857 S. 160th St., New Berlin), a year-round indoor playground and veritable godsend to parents. (AB)

RUN IN THE PARK
For most kids, there are two ways to circle the bases at a major league ballpark: have a vivid imagination or a major league father. But in Milwaukee, all that’s required is attending a Brewers Sunday home game, when kids 16 and under can run the Miller Park bases after the game for free. (HM)

MUSIC CLASSES
Whether you’re looking to attend concerts, learn an instrument or introduce your 4-month-old to music, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music (wcmusic.org) has an expansive catalog. The nonprofit school has three locations, but the bonus for students at the Prospect Avenue location is studying in a registered historic landmark. (DS)

PLACE TO GIVE BIRTH
Even the nicest hospital is still just a hospital. But at the Well-Rounded Maternity Center (N88 W16733 Main St., Menomonee Falls), the cozy decor and large hot tub (water birth optional) is like having a baby at a bed and breakfast, except you don’t have to clean up afterward. (DS)

KIDDIE PLAYLAND
Designed by kids, funded by donations and built by (experienced) volunteers, Possibility Playground in Port Washington sets a new standard. The cool castle-shaped play structure has extra-wide ramps, so kids with special needs can play alongside all of their friends. Parents be warned: The views from Upper Lake Park are distracting. (DS)

CHILDREN’S LIBRARIAN
Heather Holton
is the rock star of the Cudahy Family Library (3500 Library Dr.). Her fans clamor, crawl and wiggle to be near “Miss Heather,” who leads them in rousing renditions of “Acka Backa Soda Cracker” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” With songs, stories and even signing, Miss Heather speaks their language so well that some mornings, it’s standing- … er … crawling-room only. (JH)

DRUNCHIES
You have undoubtedly experienced the sensation of more liquor in your system than desired and a raging appetite. In such cases, even old shoe leather sounds appetizing. But whether you’re sober or blitzkrieged, the fresh-fried, fingertip-singeing doughnuts dipped in either powdered or cinnamon sugar from Sil’s Drive-Thru (1801 E. North Ave.) will sate the beast within. (AC)

ITALIAN MEATBALLS
Glorioso's
(1011 E. Brady St.) does a lot of things really well. Most things, actually. But what stands out above all is its meatballs – moist, garlicky, delicious. At only $4.99 a pound (you get eight or nine in a pound), there’s really no reason to ever make meatballs from scratch again. (ES)

EXCUSE TO LEAVE THE OFFICE ON FRIDAY
It’s Friday. You’ve had a long week. It’s time to loosen your tie, take off those pumps, get out in the sun and head to Food Truck Friday. In addition to a much-needed dose of vitamin D, you can take an international culinary tour without leaving Cathedral Square, sampling everything from the Asian-fusion flavors of Tigerbite to luscious Lebanese flatbread at Pita Bros. (SS)

BANH MI
This otherworldly Vietnamese sandwich from Pho Hai Tuyet (3881 S. 27th St.) is pure flavor and texture nirvana. The rubescent-seasoned (and aptly fatty) pork is nestled inside a chewy baguette with shredded carrot, cucumber, roasted peanuts, sliced jalapenos and cilantro aplenty. Your eyes will water. In a good way. (AC)

ROOFTOP PATIO
Not that you really need a reason, but breakfast, lunch and dinner are three good excuses to visit Third Ward newcomer Benelux Grand Café & Market (346 N. Broadway). Featuring a prime rooftop patio, it’s the perfect place to linger over drinks, soak up the view or people-watch on the street below. Umbrellas offer protection from the sun and stray seagulls, so consider yourself warned. (KL)

NEW MEDIEVAL STRUCTURE
Lords and Ladies, your cheese awaits! Kenosha’s Mars' Cheese Castle (2800 120th Ave., Kenosha), which opened its new building in March, now regally resides inside a 24,000-square-foot medieval castle, complete with a watchtower and battlements. Even better, a drawbridge-style entry beckons I-94 travelers off the highway and into the cheese-filled oasis. (BP)

WORST INSULT TO A PIG
Everything about it is preposterous. The name. The size. The very concept. Even the incredulous reactions from onlookers. But the Pork Parfait at Miller Park – layers of pulled pork, mashed potatoes and barbecue sauce – is also preposterously tasty. And at $7, a veritable ballpark bargain. (HM)

SPICY MUSSELS
Mon dieu. Belgian purists may sniff at it, but there is something addictive about the mussels served with chorizo, jalapeños, chopped tomato and garlic at Riverwest’s Café Corazon (3129 N. Bremen St.). So good, you’ll want to soak up every drop of the broth with your bread. (BM)

CLEVER NAME
As clever names go, Challahluyah! (“Heavenly homemade challah at the JCC”) is downright divine. And the bread, subtly sweet and golden glazed, is pretty darn good, too. Every week, Whitefish Bay’s Laurie Biskowitz bakes more than 100 of these luscious loaves, which are available every Friday for just $4. (ES)

FISHMONGER
Want fresh seafood? Head to Empire Fish (11200 Watertown Plank Rd.) for the highest quality in the Milwaukee area. From local Rushing Waters trout to South American mahi mahi filets, Dan Ryan delivers a large selection to his customers. You'll also find wines, seasonings and other great accoutrements to complete your meal. (KL)

INEXPENSIVE PASTA
Spaghetti alla marinara for $7? Fettuccine Alfredo for $9? Lobster ravioli with garlic cream sauce for $12? The prices are hard to believe at centro café (808 E. Center St.), but the quality is good, and the cozy atmosphere is reminiscent of a Greenwich Village bistro. (BM)

REASON TO NOT COOK
Julia Asimi’s mom taught her how to make buttery puff pastry and stuff it with delectable fillings such as beef, feta and spinach. Today, she makes Julia’s bureks (madisonavemarket.com) by hand in her South Milwaukee kitchen, so you don’t have to. Order 12 of them and get free home delivery, or just grab one for $4.99 in the frozen food aisles of stores like Pick n’ Save, Glorioso’s, Piggly Wiggly and Grasch’s. (JH)

NEW CHEESE
In a state with more than 1,000 dairy products, new cheeses are a dime a dozen. Not so with Evalon. This Gouda-esque raw goat’s milk cheese from LaClare Farms is only the second non-cow’s milk cheese ever to be crowned in the U.S. Cheese Championship. (JH)

GOBI MANCHURIAN
Cauliflower has never looked better. Imagine the vegetable – lightly battered and deep-fried – in a sauce whose tanginess can be traced to ketchup. Stop imagining and go get this princely dish at Indian Bazaar (5254 S. 27th St.). (AC)

FROYO FREE-FOR-ALL
Strawberries and Oreos and peanuts and hot fudge and … gasp … cookie dough and M&Ms and kiwi and jelly beans … OK, you get it. There are a lot of choices at Yo Mamma! (1349 Wauwatosa Ave., Wauwatosa) frozen yogurt shop. And it’s all yours for the taking. Just grab a cup, fill it up with whatever crazy combination you like, and all it’ll cost you is 45 cents an ounce. (ES)

AWARD-WINNING TEA
Rishi Tea
boasts a collection of medals to make even Earl Grey envious. It’s no wonder that the 14-year-old company, founded by Joshua Kaiser, has racked up 26 national awards with its organic and fair trade-certified teas originating from 120 gardens across Asia. Our dining critic’s fav is Golden Phoenix Dancong Oolong, but there are many other great ones worthy of anticipation while you put the kettle on. (KS)

LONGEST WAIT FOR BREAKFAST
I like my breakfast like I like my cars: fast. But how can you deliver quality in less than an hour, you ask? Well, last time I checked, an egg can be cooked in a minute. It’s done all over the city. So come on, Blue’s Egg (317 N. 76th St.), we love ya, but you’ve got to pick up the pace. I’m not waiting 45 minutes for stuffed hash browns, though to be fair, it looks like many other people are willing to do just that. Sigh. (CD)

PIZZA FOR THE PEOPLE
Back in March of 2010, dining critic Ann Christenson wrote, “Cracker-thin crusts are not taken lightly in Milwaukee, [and] Zaffiro’s – offering its product with an airy saltine base – is the place to beat for that anorexic of pizza crusts.” Apparently, you agreed, because Zaffiro’s (1724 N. Farwell Ave.) took home top prize in our first Best of the Best Poll, where you were given the chance to choose your favorite pizza from our 2010 “Best Pizza” story.

BAR TO BREAK A CURSE
The block has seen more turnover than an overcooked pancake. Housed in the same building on Jefferson Street (between Mason and Wells) as long-departed restaurants Ed Debevic’s, Singha Thai II and Senor Frog’s, The Belmont Tavern (784 N. Jefferson St.), with its 45-foot glass windows, open on warm days to show off its art deco interior, breathes welcoming vibes. Might it breathe success? One can hope. (AC)

WINE BAR
Thief Wine Shop and Bar
(400 N. Water St.) offers a modest counter with stools, reasonable prices, a smart and ever-changing selection of wines, and a knowledgeable waitstaff. But it’s the setting that makes this unique. Surrounded by the bustling Milwaukee Public Market and its many food vendors, it feels like the height of urban chic. (BM)

BOTTLED BEER SELECTION
The Bomb Shelter
(1517 S. Second St.) is a beer-lover’s paradise, boasting more than 350 varieties of bottled beers. You can get Milwaukee favorites like Pabst and Schlitz, sure, but what about a Wells Banana Bread Beer, Pangaea Lilja’s Sasquatch Stout or a ’t Gaverhopke Kerstbier Belgian Spiced Winter Ale? Yeah, they have a lot of beer. (BP)

MOST PRETENTIOUS BAR
Liquor, wine and cheese are the selling points of new trendy spot Distil (722 N. Milwaukee St.). Big on the whole artisan/craft/swank thing, its Saturday-night swarm of scantily clad clientele is likely still opting for that rail rum and coke. But hey, have money to burn? Try a $13 martini on for size. And just remember that Distil is taking you “outside the ordinary and into the extraordinary.” Or something. (CD)

SALACIOUS SHAKES
Is it ironic that I am getting panhandled while ordering the “Pan Handler”? Perhaps. Such are the perils of sitting outside at Dick’s Pizza & Pleasure (730 N. Milwaukee St.). I briskly brush off the street hustler so I can focus on the vanilla shake with Grand Marnier and orange zest. My counterpart feels slightly odd saying “Banana Hammock” out loud, but the promise of the vanilla shake with Frangelico, bananas and toasted hazelnuts offers the necessary motivation. (AB)

BREW CREW BAR
On the northern edge of Bay View, in a no man’s land of sorts, is Gumby’s Pub (2151 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.), a tiny bar with a hefty hometown feel. Black and white photos from Jim Gantner’s personal collection (he’s Gumby, after all, and related to the owner) line the walls in this distinctly non-hipster BV spot, a welcome transgression from the norm. (CD)

MOST DESERVED DEATH
First there was beer, and all was good in the world. Then came light beer. OK, fine. That wasn’t good enough, so Miller released MGD 64. And then, as if the focus groups were comprised entirely of 16-year-old girls, they added lemonade. That’s right, MGD 64 Lemonade. Thankfully, Miller pulled the plug in July, less than three sickly sweet months into the abomination. Apparently, the only ones buying it were writers giving it bad reviews. (ES)

NEW CLASSICAL MUSIC STAR
There are new faces aplenty at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, but none as impressive as Ilana Setapen, who played a dazzling Mendelssohn Concerto with the MSO last season. Setapen also had a star turn with the Fine Arts Quartet this summer, and has performed in recitals and chamber concerts all over town. (PK)

CHEAP CONCERT
What’s better than good music? Good cheap music. Enter Turner Hall’s $10 Buck Shows, a fantastic way to check out lesser-known, up-and-coming acts for the price of one Alexander Hamilton. The Dodos, Yuck, Owen Pallett, Beach House and The Tallest Man on Earth have all graced the indie-heavy $10 bills. (CD)

PRESHOW GIG
The soundcheck is to music as batting practice is to baseball. Now wouldn’t it be nice if music fanatics could cheer their band on before the show? Well, thanks to the effortlessly cool 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, sometimes they can. Hosting soundcheck sessions (Iron and Wine, My Morning Jacket and others), lucky folks win their way on the guest list for a preshow sneak peek and a free beverage or two. (CD)

POSTSHOW GIG
Here in MKE, we like our concerts outside, inside, on boats, in beer halls, in basements and after hockey games. Wait, what? Yep, hockey games. The Milwaukee Admirals postgame concerts are free with the price of admission and have brought some fantastically B-list names to the ice – Dropkick Murphys, Huey Lewis and The News, and The Village People, to name a few. Don’t act like you’re above a “YMCA” singalong. We’re not. (CD)

STORYTELLERS
Ex
Fabula, loosely translated to “from stories,” is a catchy and appropriate name for Milwaukee’s best and only storytelling group. A standard Ex Fabula slam features Milwaukeeans sharing personal stories without notes or props. Some are silly, some are tear-jerkers, but all create a sense of community among audience members. (SE)

NEW THEATER COMPANY
Youngblood
Theatre Company (1925 E. Kenilworth Pl.) is a collective of five former UW-Milwaukee students whose taste is refreshingly non-mainstream. Fond of original works (by its resident playwright Benjamin Wilson) and fresh, challenging voices like Adam Rapp and Mickle Maher, the company’s enthusiastic following proves theater can have hipster appeal. (PK)

BIGGEST ARTS BLOWHARD
Mike
Brenner threatened to close his Hotcakes Gallery if the Bronze Fonz was erected. (It was; the gallery closed.) He shaved his head like the persecuted Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to protest the Milwaukee Art Museum’s “Summer of China” exhibition. (The show went on.) He’s condemned Milwaukee as “intellectually bankrupt.” (The city still stands). Brenner’s main impact: lots of press for Mike Brenner. (BM)

GREEN GRAFFITI
Jesse
Graves, 23, is keen on an activity usually reserved for children: playing with mud. Since 2007, the UW-Milwaukee grad has been painting the town (and other Midwestern cities) using this toxin-free medium in his graffiti on buildings and under bridges to simultaneously promote and protect the environment. (KS)

STORE TO FIND FASHION ACCESSORIES IN A SNAP
Bangles & Bags
(feelfabulousforless.com) keeps four boutiques filled with trend-forward accents ready to ratchet up the fashion quota of any casual, career or on-the-town outfit. Best of all, it displays a broad selection of jewelry, purses and accessories by color and style, so finding that perfect accessory is quick and easy. (CHR)

SOURCE OF COLORFUL STYLE FOR MEN
In nature, when it comes to glorious hues, it’s the males that generally get center stage. In fashion, however, it’s another story. But Perry Newsom, owner of Simon Oliver Menswear (318 E. Silver Spring Dr.), is changing that with a sophisticated mix of suits, shirts, socks and ties, all expertly chosen to infuse men’s wardrobes with a pop of cool colors. (CHR)

DENIM DEPOT
They were way ahead of the denim craze on Chicago’s North Shore, and E Street Denim (11010 N. Port Washington Rd.) has finally branched even farther north, bringing its wide selection of high-end jeans to Mequon. Blues aside, E Street also dives heavily into the boho-chic look with dresses, skirts, tops and accessories. (CD)

PLACE TO FIND AN ARTFUL BOW TIE
Let’s face it, when it comes to artful dressing, men don’t have the options women do. Maybe that’s why Grotta & Co. (207 E. Buffalo St.) is doing such a bustling business selling hand-printed and beautifully dyed silk bow ties designed to deliver a splash of personality. Seriously, this is one accessory Groucho would have scarfed up in a second. (CHR)

MOST IMPROVED MALL
Haven’t been shopping in Brookfield Square (95 N. Moorland Rd., Brookfield) lately? You’re missing out. The 44-year-old mall has undergone serious remodeling, rearranging and overall upgrades in the past few years. And it’s continuing to add new stores, including Maurices and The North Face, not to mention extended food options such as Stir Crazy, Red Robin and Cooper's Hawk. (KL)

USED COMIC BOOKS/SCI-FI BOOKS
Stuffiness in hot weather doesn’t deter bargain-hungry nerds from hiking to Downtown Books. It's where you’ll find a treasury of thousands of used comic books and sci-fi reading material covering everything from Asimov to the X-Men, all of it priced cheaply. (TK)

PLACE TO FEEL MORE BEAUTIFUL
Sure, the Third Ward has funky shops, galleries and restaurants. But (hello!) you need to look good, too. That’s where Blush Beauty Boutique (249 N. Water St.) comes in. This shop/spa hybrid is where you can find high-end makeup, fragrances, scrubs, peels, potions and just about anything to make you look, feel and smell like a celebrity. (AB)  

LOCAL TV ENTERTAINMENT
Roaches in the kitchen? Expired meat in the fridge? The horror! If you’re looking for some free, quality entertainment, tune in to TMJ4’sDirty Dining” segment every Thursday night for some hilariously dramatic confrontations between reporter Courtny Gerrish and local restaurant owners. (SE)

LUMBER STORE SINGER
Bliffert’s Lumber owner Freddy Bliffert once headed up the 1960s band Freddy and the Freeloaders. Five years ago, he got back into music, forming Freddy and the Blifftones, a soft-edged retro band whose repertoire runs from R&B to barbershop, all tied together by Freddy’s soulful song stylings. (BM)

DOG STORIES
“You can buy me a rabbit.” That’s what Bella the pug said to Rebecca Moravec of Kindred Spirits Animal Communication, a traveling animal whisperer who ventures throughout metro Milwaukee and northern Illinois to various pet stores. Eyes closed, room silent, Moravec chats telepathically with the pooch while she meanders about the room. As for the rest of doggie Bella’s thoughts? She’s very popular in the family, wants the windows open at home and would like to drink out of real water glasses, not bowls. Goodness. (CD)

BIGGEST RACK
Alterra’s Prospect Avenue
location is setting the standard for bicycle parking, boasting the city’s only on-street bike corral that holds up to 20 bikes and effectively clears the sidewalk for pedestrians and outdoor diners. The rust-orange structure also adds a pleasing aesthetic pop to the Prospect Avenue landscape. (BP)

BEST MAGAZINE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
By now, anyone who’s anyone knows that Bridesmaids, the hit summer comedy, featured extensive exterior shots of Milwaukee and Bay View. What you probably don’t know is that Milwaukee Magazine also played a pivotal role – our January and July 2009 issues were sitting on the coffee table in Kristen Wiig’s apartment. We’d like to thank the Academy… (ES)

MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM
When the Calatrava addition opened in 2001, the Milwaukee Art Museum soared into the nation’s consciousness. Its winged pavilion has been compared to a mechanical bird, a ship’s prow and a modern-day cathedral. Like the wings, the MAM has seen ups and downs with budget and management woes. Yet it has mounted exhibitions stirring and sublime, some of them coups within the art world. On the Calatrava's 10th anniversary, our lakefront icon still dazzles, inside and out. (KC)

BRADFORD BEACH
For a while there, we thought we’d lost it. Long a Milwaukee County park and a city treasure, Bradford had fallen on hard times. But after some years of bacteria buildup and disappearing humanity, the beach came back better than ever. Boasting further embellishments like a swath of sand volleyball courts, a refurbished beach house and nearby Northpoint burger joint, the nearly 28 acres of sand has become a hot spot for thousands every summer. (KS)

GALLERY NIGHT
Every three months, the art-starved masses descend upon the Third Ward – and points beyond – searching for a dose of inspiration, an injection of culture and, of course, a few glasses of free wine. Now boasting a roster of more than 50 art spaces, Gallery Night has been the premier art event in Milwaukee for nearly a quarter-century. Where else can you hobnob with the local glitterati while soaking in the latest expressions of Milwaukee’s creative class? (ES)

EDDIE BURGESS
Burgess was such a dynamo of energy, it’s still hard to believe he passed away in May at age 58. Burgess joined the UW-Milwaukee dance faculty in 1989 after a barnstorming career as a professional dancer and had served as department chair since 2003. He also performed and choreographed with numerous companies, from the Milwaukee Ballet to the Milwaukee Rep to Wild Space, and always with total passion and great enthusiasm. He will be missed. (BM)

SPEED QUEEN
Ribs, tips, shoulder, slab. Eat the slow-cooked meat with your hands, and sop up the sauce (mild, a mustard-based hot or a mix) with a few slices of white bread. Speed Queen – named for the alacritous service of matriarch Betty Gillespie, who died in 2010 – has been serving up ’cue and slaw at this location since the ’70s. Few things come as beautifully out of a Styrofoam container. The drive-thru window is the easiest road to the Queen. (AC)

KOSS BILLBOARDS
For the scoop on some four decades of Koss advertising history, check out our feature story


In Milwaukee, what’s old really is new again.

THE GET DOWN
If you haven’t already, put on your dancing shoes and get ready to boogie, as DJs Andy Noble, Brent Goodsell and Opiated Black spin soul and funk 45s fresh out of the 1960s and ’70s every second and fourth Saturday of the month at Mad Planet (533 E. Center St.). (SE)

THE HOTEL FOSTER
For those of us who loved The Globe, Live on North (and Lava before it) was always a cruel joke. But thankfully, a business has finally moved into the North Avenue space that does justice to its ancestry. Hotel Foster, a 1920s-themed bar, brings class and refinement to a corner much in need. (ES)

STAG BARBERSHOP
What Hotel Foster is doing for drinks, Stag (3064 S. Delaware Ave.) is doing for grooming. That is to say, bringing us back to the good ol’ days, when men took pride in their appearance and a barber was as much a confidant as a stylist. (ES)

CAFE AT THE PLAZA
Dating back to 1925, the art deco details and old-school horseshoe counter are balanced by chef Karen Bell’s modern interpretations, such as a chorizo omelet with goat cheese and romesco sauce, or biscuits with duck sausage and cranberry gravy (1007 N. Cass St.). (KAS)

BRASS ROOSTER
Fedoras, top hats, pork pies, bowlers, boaters and even a safari-style pith helmet were all picked out by husband-and-wife hat aficionados Kate and John McLaughlin for their happening haberdashery (2479 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.). The hep shop also stocks handsome accessories like cuff links and pocket watches. (TK)

REHORST AMERIQUE 1912 ABSINTHE VERTE & ROUGE
In 1792, a French doctor concocted absinthe, and by the 1870s, Europe and America were consumed by the ‘green fairy’ craze. But in 1915, the spirit was banned. After absinthe became legal again in 2007, Great Lakes Distillery took inspiration from pre-ban recipes to conjure up two delicious versions of the legendary drink. (CHR)


Like a phoenix from the ashes, these Milwaukee establishments have been reborn.

BELAIR CANTINA
For months, the contemporary former home of Good Life (1935 N. Water St.) sat vacant. Then, Scott Johnson and Leslie Montemurro did what they do best, turning it into a bohemian-chic taco shack – and still with those outdoor tables and a knockout view of the river. Although “The Bad Life” is still scrawled on an adjacent wall, life is decidedly good at BelAir. (ES)

SUMMERFEST
For a while there, it looked like the Big Gig was headed down the proverbial tube. (Tom Petty again?) And then the summer of 2011 hit, with one of the strongest lineups the fest has produced in years (headlined by the likes of Kanye West, The Black Keys and Britney Spears), a hefty marketing campaign full of free tickets, a day off in the middle for a much-needed breather and stellar attendance numbers. Faith officially restored. (CD)

HOYT POOL
Eight years after Milwaukee County pulled the plug on good clean fun in Wauwatosa, the Hoyt Park pool (1800 N. Swan Blvd.) reopened this summer with a cannonball splash. Rebuilt with $11 million in private funds, the pool is heated and has lap lanes, a water slide, a giant sandbox and dozens of deck chairs. (KC)

BOSWELL BOOK CO.
Flashbacks of the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops of yore aren’t a bad thing. Boswell Book Co. (2559 N. Downer Ave.), run by 23-year Schwartz alum Daniel Goldin, smacks of the best of the dear, departed store whose old digs it occupies. It boasts an indie-committed, book-lovin’ staff; an atmosphere apt for lingering; and an eclectic selection of books, including a strong local section. (AC)

GLORIOSO'S
After more than six decades in the same small storefront, the Glorioso brothers packed up last year and moved across the street into the former Brady Street Pharmacy. Although it may have lost some of its old-world charm, the store now has almost 11,000 square feet in which to stock its delicious Italian delicacies. It’s a fair trade-off. (ES)

CHERRY PIE
“She’s my cherry pie. Cool drink of water such a sweet surprise. Taste so good make a grown man cry. Sweet cherry pie.” Yes, in the immortal words of California glam band Warrant, cherry pie is great. (Although some might say the song is really talking about something a little different, we refuse to entertain such tacky thoughts.) Flaky, delicate, tart and sweet – cherry pie is a throwback dessert that drips with Americana. But who makes the best in town? We assembled a panel of grandmothers (because everyone knows grandmothers make the best pie) and pitted five of the city’s best pies against each other. (ES)


WINNER
THE ELEGANT FARMER
1545 MAIN ST., MUKWONAGO, 262-363-6771
“VERY GOOD…SWEET, BUT NOT OVERLY SWEET…SLIGHTLY TART…DELICIOUS…LIKE THE NUTS”

RUNNERS-UP
CAFE LULU
2265 S. HOWELL AVE., 414-294-5858
“CRUST HARD AND THICK…GOOD FILLING…TART”

BEANS & BARLEY
1901 E. NORTH AVE., 414-278-7878
“TOO SUGARY…VERY TART…CRUMBLE CRUST WAS GOOD”

HONEYPIE
2643 S. KINNICKINNIC AVE., 414-489-7437
“CRUST WAS GOOD… SEEMS LIKE HOME-PICKED CHERRIES…NEEDS TO BE SWEETER”

EAST SIDE OVENS
2899 S. KINNICKINNIC AVE., 414-769-1062
“TOO SOUR…THICK CRUST…TASTELESS”





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