As a nearly lifelong Kenoshan, no nickname hurts me worse than “Kenowhere.” My city’s reputation as a bore couldn’t be further from the truth. Kenosha’s the best – we have a beautiful lakefront, quirky attractions and delicious food. So please join me on this hometown tour of my go-to spots.
First: I argue that Kenosha is the Breakfast Capital of Wisconsin. These three restaurants are why: Frank’s Diner (508 58th St.), inside a railroad-style dining car; The Coffee Pot (4914 Seventh Ave.), a vintage cafe; and Danny’s Cafe (6514 Green Bay Rd.), a no-frills, big-portions joint. Order a garbage plate with everything at Frank’s, eggs Benedict at The Coffee Pot, and a skillet at Danny’s.
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If you’re looking to fill an afternoon by the lakefront, I’d suggest a stroll along Kenosha’s Museum Circuit: Public, Civil War, Kenosha History and Dinosaur Discovery (between First and 10th avenues). My favorite is the sleeper hit Kenosha History Center which has a small, dedicated staff and cool recreations of vintage K-Town. The more recent Civil War Museum is also well worth your time, especially the “Solidarity of Soldiers” exhibition, an atmospheric, dark room filled with statues depicting American soldiers from our country’s major wars gathering around a campfire. Our old-fashioned trolley car passes each of these spots and will give you a scenic ride for just a buck.
I also suggest visiting the nearby Southport Light Station (5117 Fourth Ave.), a restored 1866 lighthouse. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy standing alongside the century-old Cream City brick, a pipe between your lips, whispering, “Avast, me lovely Jenny, I’ll be home someday – but for now, the lake is me mistress.” And if you’re not like me, congratulations.
On to a topic that tugs at my heartstrings: meats and cheeses. Tenuta’s Deli (3203 52nd St.) is the place to go. It’s a small Italian grocery store packed to the rafters with items you won’t find elsewhere: rare cheeses, imported candies, hand-sliced gabagool, and even this shirt I bought that says “Kiss Me I’m Italian,” which has never once worked. The other local spot for cheese is a little more conspicuous, due to it being a giant castle. Mars Cheese Castle (2800 W. Frontage Rd.) stocks hundreds of cheeses and has a bar that gets surprisingly hopping on the weekends.
Now, if you want to find unique threads, go to Mike Bjorn’s Fine Clothing (5614 Sixth Ave.). This emporium stocks enough bright, bizarre and boisterous attire to make even Saul Goodman happy. And any cinephile should stop at the nearby birthplace of the legendary Orson Welles (6114 Seventh Ave.). The unassuming blue house has a commemorative plaque outside. Over his career, Welles described Kenosha as both “vital and charming” and “a terrible place.” Obviously, he was misquoted the second time.
The Big K is also home to dueling drive-ins, Big Star (1500 Washington Rd.) and The Spot (2117 75th St.), both serving delicious burgers. (Personally, I’m a Big Star man.)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Bristol Renaissance Faire. But honestly, I haven’t been in years. Last time I went, my mom kept covering my eyes when women in low-cut costumes walked by. I was twenty-two at the time, so it was kind of embarrassing. Anyway, they go all-out at this olden-times extravaganza: jousting, knife-throwing, archery, etc.
Last but not least, the Washington Park Velodrome outdoor bike track (1821 Washington Rd.) is the oldest operating in the nation. During the day it’s open to the public – in fact, I learned how to ride a bicycle there myself. I believe that if you stand very still and listen closely, you can still hear the faint echo of my father’s sigh as I rode straight into a garbage can for the 17th time in a row. On Tuesday nights during the spring and summer, the track hosts races. A sizable crowd always shows up – it’s a charming occasion, with food trucks, a manic announcer and plenty of spandex.
I hope you enjoyed this little tour of my fair town. If you visit and happen to see a pale little guy hanging out by Simmons Library’s beautiful dome (711 59th Pl.), come say hello – I’m happy to chat.