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First Fest Milwaukee has a lot of ethnic fests, but Cuban Fest is not one of them. A Cuban Day Celebration, however, we’ve got, starting this year. It’s May 20 at Cubanitas Restaurant (728 N. Milwaukee St., 225-1760). Owner Marta Bianchini, of Cuban descent, says she has no idea how many Milwaukee Cubans the event […]

First Fest

Milwaukee has a lot of ethnic fests, but Cuban Fest is
not one of them. A Cuban Day Celebration, however, we’ve got, starting
this year. It’s May 20 at Cubanitas Restaurant (728 N. Milwaukee St.,
225-1760). Owner Marta Bianchini, of Cuban descent, says she has no idea how
many Milwaukee Cubans the event will attract, but it could be a few hundred. The
restaurant will lay out a lunchtime all-you-can-eat buffet featuring many menu
staples from Cubanitas, such as croquettas and tamales. Bianchini, who co-owns
Osteria del Mondo with hubbie Marc, also promises special pastries filled with
meat or guava. For ambiance, she’s arranged for two local Cuban-American
musicians (a cellist and flutist) to perform. Bianchini wants guests to bring
along an old black-and-white photo of a Cuban they admire; it might become part
of a collage. “I grew up with these things, and when I moved here [from the East
Coast], I couldn’t find them. I do this for me,” says Bianchini of her Cuban
Day. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Buffet prices: $10 adults; $5 kids 5-12.

Still Habitual

I remember the first time I ate a Buttafuoco, a
cheese, tomato and hot pepper sandwich named in (dubious) honor of Joey “Amy
Fisher shot my wife” Buttafuoco. What a history. What a mouthful. Anyway, that
was mid-’90s Fuel Cafe (818 W. Center St., 374-FUEL), when the motto of
the business was, “Coffee espresso food smokes.” That still pretty much sizes up
Fuel, but this summer, co-owner Scott Johnson says the remodel he’s been talking
up for a while is finally going to happen. And once it’s done, Fuel will be
smoke-free. Johnson’s been collecting salvaged materials for Fuel’s redo. He
wants to keep it on the cheap. The interior, he says, will “definitely be nice
but still edgy and cool.”

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Eight Days of Dining

My god, can you believe RiverSplash is just a
month away? That’s sort of a summer festival, although not technically held in
summer (June 2-4). It means the onset of farmers’ markets, creepy flying pests
and shorts…oh, right – not shorts until at least the end of June. The first
week in June also marks the first Downtown Dining Week. It’s an enticing
idea. For eight days (June 1-8), 30 restaurants are offering a three-course,
fixed-price menu at lunch and dinner. The prices (lunch $10; dinner $20) are
obviously going to score points. Your dining choices include – and yes, they’re
all located Downtown – Carnevor, Coquette Cafe, Holiday House, Nanakusa,
Osteria del Mondo, Sake Tumi, Yanni’s
and Zarletti. Some of them have
their prix fixe menus posted on event co-organizer Milwaukee Downtown’s Web
site: www.MilwaukeeDowntown.com. One note and one bit of advice: Prices do not
include beverages, and you’d be real smart to make reservations.

No Place for Meat

Riverwest Co-op (733 E. Clarke St.,
264-7933) is a funky little place where you can buy organic produce, dairy, soy,
cereal – probably most things you could stock your green pantry with. In an
adjacent room is the counter-service co-op cafe, which I’ve mentioned in
Milwaukee Magazine for yummy meatless sandwiches and smoothies. The menu is a
wee bit bigger now. Just to give you an idea: fried peanut butter and banana
sandwich, cream cheese-pesto sandwich, “garden and trees” sandwich, breakfast
burrito and others. Tuesday and Thursday are taco nights; and Wednesday is pizza
night. Sunday mornings, you can order pancakes, French toast or a veggie
scramble with tofu or eggs. The café is open till 8 p.m. every day.

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Can’t get enough dining? I chat about restaurants every Friday with
Jane Matenaer and Kidd O’Shea on “The Mix.” Listen between 8 and 9 a.m. That’s
99.1 WMYX-FM.

E-mail your worst restaurant gripes to me at ann.christenson@milwaukeemagazine.com

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