Best of 2012

From a bike ride sans pants to the most indulgent pork belly incarnation, we’re back with the best Milwaukee has to offer. We’ve delivered our annual “Best Of” picks with gusto since 1982, and our 31st time shouldn’t be any different. Well, maybe a little different. Because it’s the exceptions that elevate our latest effort to a new level. For instance, we couldn’t agree who baked the best cupcake, so we let you decide (and nearly 300 of you did). Voting was close and there were crumbs aplenty, but you didn’t let us down. Also, throughout this story of superlatives,…

From a bike ride sans pants to the most indulgent pork belly incarnation, we’re back with the best Milwaukee has to offer. We’ve delivered our annual “Best Of” picks with gusto since 1982, and our 31st time shouldn’t be any different. Well, maybe a little different. Because it’s the exceptions that elevate our latest effort to a new level. For instance, we couldn’t agree who baked the best cupcake, so we let you decide (and nearly 300 of you did). Voting was close and there were crumbs aplenty, but you didn’t let us down. Also, throughout this story of superlatives, take special notice of the augmented reality icons. Then use your mobile device and the Actable app to enhance your experience. So what makes these shops, artists, bands, politicians, restaurants and everything else worthy? Their refreshingly new, exciting and sometimes hilarious (see: Best Coffee Shop Name) spin on service to the city. No plain Janes here.

Edited By Claire Hanan, with Anne Baesemann, Liam Callanan, Abby L. Callard, Ann Christenson, Cristina Daglas, Lynsey Hart, Matt Hrodey, Jenna Kashou, Kathryn Lavey, Tyler Maas, Howie Magner, Samy Moskol, Dan Murphy, Emily Pettinger, Krista Schmidt & Maria Tsikalas.

Healthy Snack

Made in the tiny village of Viola, Wis., the Macrobar sits on grocery shelves alongside Clif and other energy bars. It’s a competitive market. What makes this a macro-not-micro eating experience? The bars – in flavors such as peanut protein, cashew caramel and (chewy fave) granola coconut – are vegan, use nuts and seeds for their “healthy” fats, and rely on grain-based sweeteners (not corn syrup). Some of the flavors are also gluten-free. Sayonara, Snickers. (Sold at Outpost Natural Foods and Whole Foods Market, among others.) (AC)

Homemade Flour Tortilla

Watch Mr. Senor’s (2335 N. Murray Ave.) owner Dude Llanas (brother of former BoDeans vocalist Sam Llanas) roll out the dough for his incredible flour tortillas while waiting outside the takeout window for your taco fix. Pass the time by examining the metallic sculpture displayed on the building’s exterior. Believe us, it will get you thinking. (AC)

‘Smores-Making Kit

The campfire basics of s’mores are Hershey’s milk chocolate, packaged marshmallows and a box of graham crackers. Nice, but Indulgence Chocolatiers ( does it better. The Waukesha business known for its decadent truffles has created a S’Mores Kit ($9), which includes sea salt dark chocolate and vanilla bean marshmallows. Perfect backyard fire pit material. But four servings per kit? Right. How about, well, one… (AC)

Scotch Egg

The Scotch egg, despite what the name suggests, does not claim the same homeland as actor Sean Connery. Tricky, huh? One theory about the origins of this popular gastropub item is that it was first made in 1730s London for wealthy coach travelers. Lucky them! In some circles, the two-bite wonder starts with a hard-boiled egg. At The Rumpus Room (1030 N. Water St.), the egg is soft-cooked before being gently encased in sausage, battered and deep-fried. When you cut into it, ahh – a scrumptious, runny yolk. Served with arugula and mustard dressing for big flavor ($4). (AC)


Five days a week, you’ll find Jeff Steckel fixing fresh sandwiches in his food truck, Jeppa Joes. The menu is brief – like $6 for Korean BBQ beef, pork banh mi, jerk chicken or grilled portobello – but always changing based on what ingredients are available from Braise RSA. Find its daily location on Twitter (@jeppajoes) or Facebook, and get there quick. When Steckel runs out of Breadsmith’s buns, he heads home. (AC)


One of the meatiest trends to hit restaurant menus of late is the charcuterie plate, with Riverwest’s Bolzano Artisan Meats ( salami in rotation at Juniper 61, Pastiche Bistro and Odd Duck, to name a few. The company makes five kinds of salami (from heirloom pigs raised without hormones or antibiotics) – like the tad-fruity Pig Red and the best-selling, tangy, peppery Old School. These logs of loveliness elevate a slice of crusty peasant bread to a royal treat. You can also buy half-pound links at Glorioso’s, Grasch Foods and several Sendik’s locations. (AC)

Pork-Belly Incarnation

Pork belly is the cool, of-the-moment fat. And nowhere have we found it more addictively prepared than at Beta (777 N. Water St.) in their pork belly sliders. The delicate meat is topped with fresh chervil, scallions and mayo, and tucked inside a steamed bun. Served four to an order ($8). (AC)

Over-the-Top Mac n’ Cheese

Go big or go home is the way Stubby’s Pub & Grub (2060 N. Humboldt Ave.) defines mac and cheese. It’s not enough to have a belly-enhancing three-cheese Mornay sauce (fontina, Brie and Sarvecchio Parmesan). For some extra dough (on top of the $11.50 base price), you can add protein such as scallops, chicken breast, a brat or (remember that line about going big?) pork belly. Oooo. (AC)

Mobile Juice Bar

Invincibility, with Super Sight and a Bionic Glow. Think not of chemical peels but of fresh-squeezed juice. Jason Lannoch launched his mobile Juiced! Juice Bar in March, parking at various Downtown locations. In his tiny, brightly painted vehicle, Lannoch whips up “power juices” ($4.50) such as the aforementioned Invincibility (kale, carrot, apple, kiwi and lemon for a bit of tartness). Also awesome: Eternal Life – pineapple and orange juices suffused with fresh ginger. Keep up with the bar’s whereabouts on Twitter: @jaysjuiced. (AC)

Greenest Food Courier

Peter DiAntoni started Flavorcycle bike delivery ( this spring, but he’s prepared for year-round service. Partnering with 18 restaurants, including Loaded Slate, Via, Balzac, Café India and Cafe Corazón, bike messengers deliver within zones based on the restaurant and time. Plus, it’s practically guilt-free (calories excluded) with zero emissions. (KL)

1012_Miss Julias


The frosted faceoff came at high noon. Drawn by the prospects of everlasting cupcake glory, four Best Cupcake hopefuls descended upon Bayshore Town Center one bright July day. But we weren’t the judges, dear readers. You were. After a sampling of the showdown’s creations, who won your vote? Did Delicately Delicious’ peanut butter cup cupcake stick to the roof of your ballot? Was it Miss Cupcake’s mouthful of a title – chocolate cake topped with fudge and salted caramel stout buttercream frosting? Perhaps the rich red velvet fromMiss Julia’s Bake Shop? Or was the class of the field crafted byClassy Girl Cupcakes, a salted caramel fudge cheesecake. Voting was close. Stomachs were full. But there can be only one winner: Congratulations to Miss Julia’s. (CH)

Coffee Shop Name

Bay View and the East Side may have more coffee joints per capita than other neighborhoods, but the inner city has by far the best names. “Sherman Perk,” located in a revitalized gas station in the Sherman Park neighborhood, is mighty clever, though our title of “best” goes to Coffee Makes You Black (2803 N. Teutonia Ave.). Located inside an old bank, the shop also serves as a community center and performance space. (MH)

Cheery Storefront

The most whimsical spot in all of Wauwatosa just might be a storefront that’s playfully accented with blue and red paint, the sign bearing the name Rocket Baby Bakery (6822 W. North Ave.). A little boy named Raiden – son of owners Geoff and Shannon Trenholme – was the inspiration for the bakery’s moniker. The shop specializes in artisan breads, terrific pastries and desserts. It’s also nailed “cute” within the welcoming interior, an ambiance provided by a group of tables (often occupied by young families) and the pastries dreamily displayed behind glass. (AC)

Upstart Brewer

Brenner Brewing Co. is a work in progress, but don’t be surprised if local artist-turned-brewer Mike Brenner adds another full-scale brewing operation to Milwaukee. Despite being featured in this space last year as “Biggest Arts Blowhard,” he certainly has his supporters. Brenner raised more than $25,000 for his upstart brewery through And he’s not just brewing average lagers in his basement. At Firkin Fest in July, Brenner’s Bacon Bomb Rauchbier won the Milwaukee Magazine-sponsored Big Firkin Award. Quaff the hard-to-find beer at gallery nights and occasional tastings, and you can say you got in on the ground floor. (DM)

Old School Social Club

What started as an all-speeds-welcome running club now focuses not just on soles, but souls. Started last spring by Valerie Nolin, a cancer survivor with a robust bucket list, the Sole Sisters Fitness and Social Club ( hosts various events, including this month’s faith growth group (Oct. 3), a haunted hike and trail run (Oct. 9), and a costume pub crawl (Oct. 30). (JK)

Scotch Happy Hour

Sure, Brocach Irish Pub (1850 N. Water St.) boasts of beer and brunch. But the true treasures only surface from 3-6 p.m. That’s when you get half off all top-shelf Irish whiskey and Scotch that’s regularly priced at $7 or more. This is the good stuff. Even the exquisite stuff. Four bucks for 10-year-old Bushmills. Macallan 18 for $12. Thirty-year-old Glenfiddich for $21. (Not cheap, but not $42, either.) Each pour is 2 ounces. I pony up $5.50 for an Aberlour A’bunadh, easier to drink than pronounce. The empty glass’ caramel aroma alone is worth the cost. (HM)

Paint ‘N Drink

Sometimes a night needs elevation from standard drinks to artistic liberation. Splash Paint Studio (184 N. Broadway St.) can do that. Opt for an instructor-guided class, or buy a mini 6-by-6-inch canvas for $10, and head for the patio or bar, where you can paint, drink in hand, to your heart’s desire. (ALC)

New Bar

Boone & Crockett (2151 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) does so many things right. There’s the cozy old-time saloon feel. The small but solid beer selection. And, of course, the classic cocktails. The wood floors, old couches in the front window, chandeliers above the bar and the decidedly cool light fixtures made from old phonograph horns all contribute to the retro vibe. It was a good move by the owners of Hotel Foster to open up a sister space in Bay View. (DM)

House Music Haven

Jessica Fortune Fenner, or “DJ Fortune,” is keeping house music alive in Milwaukee. For nearly two years, the Friday-night party “Taste It” at Studio 200 (200 E. Washington Ave.) has brought in seriously well-known DJs from Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and even overseas. This is not your average Top 40 night, so don’t expect typical club-goers either. With an underground, in-the-know feel, the crowd is solely there to dance. (AB)

East Coast Addition to the Bar Scene

Cans from Brooklyn-based Sixpoint Brewery began showing up at area bars and liquor stores in the spring. Founder Shane Welch, a New Berlin native and UW-Madison grad, crafts tasty brews, including Bengali Tiger. Also worthy are Apollo, a smooth weiss beer, and The Crisp, an easy-drinking pilsner. Thanks, Mr. Welch, for not forgetting your Badger State roots. (DM)

Cure for the Mondays

Stroll into Rogues Gallery (134 E. Juneau Ave.) on a Monday night, and you might think you’ve been transported to the weekend. The two-story space just off Water Street is a service industry night staple. The Monday night “Bangarang” features half-price drink specials, DJs and a bar packed with people unwinding after a weekend of hard work, rude customers and bad tips. (DM)

Freedom Riders

Who says you need a pair of pants to pedal? Not Steve Roche and his friends at, who started the Milwaukee Underwear Bike Ride summer series. Riders meet at an area location, strip down to their skivvies and donate the discarded clothes to St. Vincent de Paul. Then they traverse the city’s best bike routes, promoting a positive body image and, we presume, riding a natural high. (JK)

Scenic Drinking Spot

Since late June, when the place opened, the 50 or so adjacent picnic tables in the one-of-a-kind Estabrook Park beer garden (4610 Estabrook Pkwy.) have provided the best communal drinking in Milwaukee. On a crowded night, it’s hard to not strike up a conversation with other folks enjoying the shaded space on the Milwaukee River. One-liter steins of Hofbrau beers (Original, Dunkel and Hefe Weizen) are certainly a good way to banish shyness. (DM)

Casting Call

You’ve heard it before: Milwaukee has an image problem. Visit Milwaukee’s new partially crowd-sourced film series, Dear MKE, led by Hollywood producer and Milwaukee native Jack Turner, seeks to capture what makes Milwaukee great – besides beer and brats. After its debut at the Milwaukee Film Festival in September, the series planned to show 12 consecutive films, one per month. (MH)

Smooth-Talking Prosecutor

Dapper David Feiss, an assistant district attorney working for Milwaukee County, is the city’s leading white-collar prosecutor, and he acts the part. Sometimes floated as a possible candidate for DA, Feiss is trim, affable and speaks fluently on the complicated schemes cooked up by scofflaws to defraud their employers, governments, you name it. In July, he brought charges against a disbarred lawyer, Brian Mularski, charged with stealing $737,000 from his former firm in Bayside. (MH)

Temporary Save of a City Landmark

What happens when an arena’s outdated status prompts whispers about Milwaukee’s NBA future? Well, the $250 million needed to modernize the Bradley Center wasn’t in city coffers. So a deal was struck for BMO Harris, which recently bought local bank M&I, to also buy arena naming rights. The bank’s paying $1 million-plus annually as part of a six-year, $18 million multicompany sponsorship deal. The arrangement will help keep the BMO Harris Bradley Center viable while talks of a new home for the Bucks and other teams continue. Whew. (JK)

PR Backfire

A glistening Ald. Bob Donovan went down shouting in May when a flushed (and sometimes grinning) Ald. Bob Bauman upstaged the former’s press conference about the Downtown streetcar. Bauman painted the project as a settled issue, though Donovan continued to call on the mayor to call on the Common Council to call for a referendum on the issue. (Got that?) Donovan eventually wiggled away by laying down a barrage of covering fire. “Shame, shame, shame!” he said. “I have stood up for the little guy in this city more than anyone!” And he opened a door to leave. “Shame on you!” (MH)

Political Backstab

Tim Russell was a key aide to Scott Walker when Wisconsin’s governor was Milwaukee County executive. But Russell’s been damaged goods, politically speaking, since the Milwaukee County DA’s Office charged him with embezzling thousands from a program that hosted military appreciation days at the zoo. Damaged, that is, but not forgotten: An attorney working for Russell filed a motion earlier this year that included a damning letter written by a county prosecutor. The missive claimed Walker’s office stonewalled the John Doe investigation into misuse of public resources, even as Walker was professing his complete cooperation. Et tu, Brute? (MH)

Nice-Guy Reaction

After a third soul-draining run for governor, Mayor Tom Barrett got a weighty palm to the face. As he greeted loyal recall backers on the night of his surrender to Gov. Scott Walker, a mousy female supporter (or at least a former one) asked if she could slap him. “I’d rather give you a hug,” he said, but the harmless-looking woman smacked him anyway. (MH)

Neighborhood Facelift

What’s not to love about Walker’s Point? Pleasantly industrial with cheap(er) rent, artist lofts, artists, restaurants. And oh, the restaurants. A welcome consequence of this year’s renewed focus on good South Side eateries – Braise, c.1880, Zak’s, The Noble – is an increase in traffic, by foot and wheels, to an otherwise slightly desolate part of the city. No longer are folks passing directly from the Third Ward into Bay View. They’re turning off Kinnickinnic, exploring haunts new and old, and helping revitalize a neighborhood with an extraordinary amount to offer. We’ll eat to that. (CD)

Media Fight

It’s unclear who said, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.” But that’s just what Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn did earlier this year by calling out the Journal Sentinel for requesting the moon (his opinion) under the state’s open records law. “Well, when are you going to give us your notes?” Flynn yelled at a June press conference, after JS reporter Bill Glauber accused the chief of “hiding behind $10,000 charges.” Flynn stormed out, and tough stories in the JS’ series on crime reporting kept on comin’. (MH)

Heat Wave

Our proverbial bacon sizzled this summer. July 4 and 5 set records of 102 and 103, respectively, topping off a plateau of griddle-worthy suffering. The National Weather Service called the blast one of the worst since the 1930s, when Milwaukee caught the edge of the Dust Bowl drought. But another all-time record, 84 degrees on March 21, came well before the summer and was a sign of things to come. (MH)

Fake Holiday

All hail 4/14, a day when Milwaukeeans pay homage to the 4-1-4. No foolin’. Andy Silverman, Brent Gohde and Timm Gable concocted the faux holiday filled with unadulterated local pride. To promote it, they created a website and turned to social media, tweeting like crazy. Soon, Milwaukee Day was born. Celebrants drank Pabst in front of the Pabst Mansion, biked along the lakefront, listened to local bands and ate sausage and cheese. Mayor Barrett even signed a Milwaukee Day proclamation. Success. (JK)


Once the “SYDNEY HIH” letters came down, it got easier and easier to overlook this hodge-podge of storefronts and fire escapes located in the Park East corridor. It stood in the way of “economic development,” said city officials, but you’ll probably hear no end of stories hearkening back to shows at that underground music club, The Unicorn. Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam all played there. (MH)

Grand Re-Opening

Moviegoers who love happy endings have two more to cheer. The popular Rosebud Cinema and Times Cinema, shuttered in March as part of a foreclosure lawsuit, have restored the shine to their silver screens. New owner Lee Barczak planned to reopen the historic theaters just before fall’s chill arrived. And yes, Rosebud’s unorthodox seating selection of cushy loveseats and lounges will keep making patrons feel right at home. (HM)

Physical Theater Troupe

What’s physical theater? It’s “performance that mixes a lot of different styles of acting,” says Brian Rott, artistic director of Quasimondo, Milwaukee Physical Theatre. That includes elements of dance, puppetry, live music and even circus – clowns included. The troupe, founded by Rott and collaborator Jessica Miller earlier this year, staged its first show in June. Titled Paper and Plastic, the play had no dialogue, and Rott was skeptical about how Milwaukee would react. But he says audiences were receptive, even boisterous. The troupe’s second play, The Seagull 3D, opens Oct. 5 in the group’s Fortress building studio (100A E. Pleasant St.). (ALC)

New Custom Artist

Think art has to be relegated to fancy galleries and sterile museums? Think again. Jennifer Espenscheid, who has never taken an art class in her life, estimates up to 70 percent of the art she produces is custom-made for clients. Buyers range from restaurants to hospitals to regular people looking for a little décor pop. Her most notable custom creation is the ribbon in the recently opened Clock Shadow building’s lobby. And it’s more than just pretty: “[It] told the story of the building and conservation in general,” she says. (ALC)

Local Album of the Year

After turning heads locally and nationally with its 2010 Sub Pop Records debut That’s How We Burn, Jaill had the task of adding a follow-up release. Traps offers the same cache of stripped-down summer jams to which Jaill listeners have grown accustomed. Recorded in the basement of singer/guitarist Vinnie Kircher, Traps finds a way to be endearingly lo-fi while offering more lyrical depth and a (primarily) more mature sound than its predecessor. Trapspicks up where Burn left off, taking encouraging steps forward in just 11 songs’ time. (TM)

Breakout Band

A band can’t rise to prominence much faster than Field Report. Sired by Chris Porterfield, an alumnus of Conrad Plymouth and DeYarmond Edison – which also featured Bon Iver mastermind Justin Vernon – the months-old folk project first gained acclaim from a notable fan: Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz. In addition to supporting the Crows’ summer tour, Field Report has filed away gigs with Emmylou Harris and Dr. Dog. Buoyed by its debut eponymous album, the group has earned a staggering amount of positive press from outlets like Rolling Stone, NPR, Time and, yes, Milwaukee Magazine. (TM)

Hidden Collection

This month, Mount Mary celebrates its 100th anniversary with an exhibit of college attire culled from its fashion archives. What fashion archives, you ask? Oh, just the little collection of more than 6,000 pieces (both vintage couture and current) hidden in a temperature-controlled room on Notre Dame Hall’s second floor. With clothing from the 1750s to present day, burlesque beauty Hildegarde to contemporary king de la Renta, this sartorial trove is a treasure worthy of a proper gallery. (CH)

Female Theater Group

So new, they haven’t even had a show yet. But Pamplemousse, an all-women theater group run by Tamsyn Reed, Kate Krakow and Christina Mata, held a successful April fundraiser at Bay View’s Cactus Club. Their first show, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, is slated for November at Carte Blanche Studios. This “unauthorized parody” imagines Peanuts characters as teenagers. Perhaps they’ll give Charlie Brown some hair? (ALC)

Band Name

Milwaukee has no shortage of bands with strange, clever and just plain great names. But even with quirky nomenclature such as Animals in Human Attire, The Fatty Acids, Elusive Parallelograms, Sat. Nite Duets (an anagram for “United States”) and the witty palindrome IfIHadAHiFi, nothing holds a candle to the punny, double-entendre goodness that is Mortgage Freeman. (TM)

Billboard Advertising Campaign

A woman with dark glasses and a pensive look implores you to invest wisely in your life. She’s not real, but her message resonates. She’s actually a figment of Joe Locher’s imagination, of advertising agency Lyrical, and Advantage Media Services for Alverno College. (Locher’s daughter is an alum of the university.) The campaign debuted in April and has caught the public’s eye at bus stations, on billboards and at the Intermodal Station. International female artists worked off Locher’s concept to represent “strong women” – an idea used for a previous Alverno marketing push. The school credits that 2004-08 effort with a 24 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment. (ALC)

Place to Get Poked

The covered chairs, colorful rug and light-dimming shades make the space look like a living room. But it’s not. At Milwaukee Community Acupuncture (435 E. Lincoln Ave., second floor), patients are treated in a communal room, which keeps the cost low, says receptionist Kate Mau. Patients pick their own price on a sliding scale of $15 to $40, and also enjoy complimentary Rishi tea. (ALC)

Nails on the Fly

We have enough appointments to keep, so making one for a nail technician has always been out of the question. One visit with Mindy Bongxay, however, and you’ll never risk the walk-in again. Fast, efficient, no-nonsense and even inexpensive, Mindy’s work at Polished Nail Bar (621 E. Brady St.) is perfection. Sitting smack at the start of Brady Street, the less-than-a-year-old salon has the makings of any nice nail place – a notable step above a quickie mall setup – with on-trend décor, polish choices aplenty and a staff that’s plenty nice. Add Mindy, who can whip out a flawless mani/pedi, and making an appointment is worth every second of that quick and dirty phone call. (CD)

Local Eyelash Extensions

Barely there eyelashes be gone. Milwaukee’s own Nova Beschta created an eyelash extension treatment that’s making Milwaukeeans blink twice. Patent-pending Liquifan Lashes look natural because each extension lash bonds and cures to a natural lash, drying instantly. Well Spa Director Elizabeth Walsh says Liquifan works not only because it’s a “stellar product” but also due to the “artisanship behind it.” Duly noted. (SM)

Couples Massage

No, it’s not for you and yours. Instead this “lazy man’s yoga,” formally called Thai Massage, is a type of massage in which the therapist pushes and pulls the client through yoga-like stretches that would be difficult to achieve solo. It’s supposedly relaxing for the masseuse, too. A growing number of studios and private therapists are getting in on the trend. Lucky for those who want the benefits of yoga without the hard work, local Thai massage therapist Michelle Warren says even the least physically fit can enjoy it. (LH)

Pole Dance

The point is to boost your confidence, which we’re still up in the air about, but one thing you’ll surely improve is the strength in your arms and core. Yes, we’re talking about pole dancing – the leisure sport usually reserved for those very comfortable in their own skin. Miss Pole (17800 W. Bluemound Rd., Brookfield) has joined the workout warriors. And it appears she’s here to stay. (CH)

Wedding Accessory

Vivian Paul Anton melds her Greek past to her Milwaukee present – in a luminously beautiful fashion. The jewelry designer, goldsmith, gemologist and president of Paul’s Jewelers (10822 W. National Ave., West Allis) handcrafts gold and silver stefana: crowns of leaves worn by brides and grooms in traditional Greek weddings. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Elle and W. We’re clearly not the only ones handing out laurels. (CH)

Upscale Upholstery

Casually chic home furnishings are a dime a dozen, which is why Amy and Mike Mueller, owners of The Workroom (2221 E. Capitol Dr.), hand-pick each item or make it themselves. Amy, who has sewn for years, creates pillows, chair upholstery and curtains from a selection of thousands of fabrics – budget-friendly to luxe – in any pattern you choose. The care used on each embellishment and the tastefully curated vintage (or vintage-looking) home goods combine for a winning formula. (CH)

Personalization Station

A Pinterest-lover’s dream, Monograham’s (719 Genesee St., Delafield) stationery designs are free-spiritedly playful yet utterly feminine. But that can change. A Wisconsin native, Amy Graham Stigler opened Monograham while designing for Smock (a letterpress company based in Syracuse, N.Y.), and her personal shop offers total customization. Even the cheerily airy look of the store inspires creative outbursts from the most inside-the-box thinkers. (EP)

One-Stop Shop

Last-minute date? Finding someplace to snare a full outfit in a pinch can be a godsend. Like recently opened Flagship (275 W. Wisconsin Ave.), which can put you in a huggy David Lerner black dress with leather accents, a neon green mini clutch made of recycled soda pop tops and locally designed May Vora beaded jewelry. They even offer in-store makeup application, featuring Bare Minerals’ latest collection. You’ll be head-to-toe polished and, most importantly, punctual. (CH)

Stunner Shades

Just one pair of lace sunglasses led Amillia Moore to start her own sunglasses and shoe-bedazzling company for the texting generation. Appropriately titled OMG Fashion, its wares are sold at Bayshore’s Ma Jolie. Although not exactly practical, these sparkling statement-makers are head-turners. And Moore can customize each pair, fulfilling the wildest of requests: like the customer who wanted a full-size Barbie doll affixed to her sunnies. No word on Ken’s reaction. (CH)

Interior Design Transplant

Good news for interior designophobes. Susan Fredman Design Group (401 E. Silver Spring Dr., Whitefish Bay) opened a Milwaukee storefront last December, joining its shops in Chicago and Michigan. With 35 years of design experience, Fredman and friends have personally selected nearly every item in the new location. They’ll help with decorating decisions, from tables to towels to teapots. (MT)

New Yoga Pose

From pop-up shop to the go-to destination for the city’s yogis, this national workout apparel store has earned a cult-like following. And Milwaukee yogis have joined the pack. The Lululemon retail store (322 N. Water St.) debuted its makeover in February. Not only do its workout pants perform gravity-defying feats of shaping on one’s derrière, but the store’s employees are also some of the most knowledgeable resources for all things yoga. Stop in for a pair of shorts; stay for a friendly chat, the running club or a free Saturday morning “om” session. (CH)

Denim Mobile

Scoring the perfect pair of jeans can be laborious, exhausting and defeating. Next Door Boutique has found the solution, or at least a painkiller. In May, owner Renotta Thompson rolled out the Denim Mobile – a motor home full of the store’s premium denim and fashion goods. The vehicle has popped up at events (Hart Park’s Retro Rock N’ Run and Discovery World’s Beyond the Blues) as well as local denim parties. Find it before it hibernates in November. (KS)


Yes, the man at Buck Rub Outfitters (N13 W28400 Silvernail Rd., Pewaukee) says with a smile, he’s quite familiar with the phenomenon. Ever since The Hunger Games and the London Olympics became pop-culture archery advocates, he’s witnessed the results. Kids who’ve never drawn bowstrings are suddenly dreaming of bull’s-eyes. So parents haul them to Pewaukee for a bit of Buck Rub. They set up kids (and adults) with rental bows and let them let fly on the gorgeously rustic indoor range. And if the habit takes, well, those Rio Olympics are but four years away. (HM)

New Bookmonger

Few things are based on the honor system these days. But Little Free Library ( stewards trust that if they make books freely available in mailbox-sized collections, borrowers will one day return them. The project started in Hudson, Wis., in 2009, and today there are nearly 3,000 worldwide. Scott Gelzer and Pat Wyzbinski started 29 libraries in Milwaukee in memory of their son Brandon, who would have been 29 this past May. “Let’s be known,” Gelzer says, “as a city that reads.” (JK)

Kids Cooking Class

Imagine if the tables were turned and your child was the one serving you breakfast in bed. The dream can become a surprisingly tasty reality. Carol Burkert owns Kids Can Cook Culinary School (13456 Watertown Plank Rd., Elm Grove), and she’s instructed chefs-to-be for more than 15 years. She’ll teach your 9- to 12-year-olds how to make fruit pies, yeast breads, even crepes, making for a playdate with delicious results. (AB)

Social Climbing

The kids gathered at Adventure Rock (21250 Capitol Dr., Pewaukee) for a birthday party pay no heed to presents or cake. Instead, they’re watching a friendly worker teach them about the gym’s 17 auto-belay ropes. The gadgets make safe solo rock climbing a breeze on routes as high as 35 feet. Many more traditional belay stations and two bouldering caves ensure lots of variety. Even if you’ve outgrown birthday parties. (HM)

County Park Slide

Driving into Fox River Park (W264 S4500 River Rd., Waukesha), you won’t notice the hidden 32-foot double slide built into an embankment. Wind your car around the back of the park, following the signs to the playground area. Walk down the path to the playground, pass some European-looking playground equipment, and there’s the metal masterpiece, nearly hidden from view but open year-round. Unleash your inner kid, or go down side-by-side with your child on this old-fashioned joy ride. (AB)