Best of 2013

Consider these pages a visual vacation. In fact, you might want to cozy up to a cocktail, or two, before diving in. Our latest “Best Of” Milwaukee endeavor marks more than 30 years of passing out kudos to the folks who keep the Milwaukee wheels a-spinning. And as in years past, this compendium includes nods to the best of the arts community, the food scene and the elected officials who give us no shortage of things to write about. But unlike previous “Best Of” articles, this year’s roundup includes a lot of beer, clothing and trampolines. Why? Because interest in…

Consider these pages a visual vacation. In fact, you might want to cozy up to a cocktail, or two, before diving in.
Our latest “Best Of” Milwaukee endeavor marks more than 30 years of passing out kudos to the folks who keep the Milwaukee wheels a-spinning. And as in years past, this compendium includes nods to the best of the arts community, the food scene and the elected officials who give us no shortage of things to write about. But unlike previous “Best Of” articles, this year’s roundup includes a lot of beer, clothing and trampolines. Why? Because interest in beer never seems to dwindle here in Brew City, locally made clothes have developed a new cachet and, as for the trampolines, well, you’ll just have to read on to find out.

Best Historic Revamp
How often do you really seek out a hotel bar? The Hilton Milwaukee City Center’s Monarch Lounge (509 W. Wisconsin Ave.) just might change that. A classic cocktail menu is a plus, but the real draw is the 1920s-era, art deco surroundings. The lounge holds the building’s original crystal chandeliers, floor-to-ceiling mahogany wood panels and 30-foot, previously covered windows that look out on to Fifth Street. At a time when it’s trendy to be retro, it’s refreshing to see the real thing. (CD)

Best Bike Fitting
Some area bicycle shops will simply adjust your seat height and call it a bike fitting. Then there’s Emerys Cycling, Triathlon and fitness (multiple locations,, which boasts the trained eye of an Olympic silver medalist. Co-proprietor Brent Emery got his hardware in the 1984 men’s team pursuit cycling race, and competitive cyclists far and wide seek his fitting wisdom to shave time off their races. But can casual Sunday riders benefit from Emery’s proper adjustments for height, forward-back positioning and tilt? You bet your knees. (HM)

Best Beer Takeout Spot
Riverwest Filling Station (701 E. Keefe Ave.) bases its operation on growlers, those large glass jugs that patrons can fill with beer and take home. Thirty quality tap choices ensure that the process of topping off your prized growler takes some serious thought. That’s why it’s a good idea to get two. (DM)

Best Staycation

Timber beams, taxidermied animals and fish, and chandeliers made of antlers give Camp Bar (4044 N. Oakland Ave.) the feeling of an authentic Northwoods bar in the less-than-woodsy heart of Shorewood. After a tasty Old Fashioned or two, this might start to feel like a getaway. (DM)

Best Jive
Wherehouse (818 S. Water St.) picked up a new style of dancing last fall: swing. The Jumpin’ Jive Club moved from Milwaukee Ale House to the Walker’s Point joint for Tuesday-night swing, and the Milwaukee Rebels (specializing in West Coast swing) hold lessons there twice a month. You don’t need skill or even a partner to participate, just the desire to jump, jive and, most likely, wail. (ALC)

Best Coasters
In a perfect world, you’d receive presents for someone else’s anniversary. And the folks behind City Tins have us feeling hopeful. The coupon coaster-makers are toasting their fifth anniversary by adding bar and lounge tins to their repertoire, including the Nomad and Hotel Foster. Bottoms up. ( (MP)

Best Bar for Those Who Can’t Commit
A little more than a year ago, Tosa’s The Ruby Tap (1341 Wauwatosa Ave.) introduced locals to the self-serve wine system, an inexpensive way to sample wines on the (somewhat) cheap. But there’s more to be ingested at this 38-seater: craft beers, charcuterie and cheese plates, and desserts. (AC)

1013_Best Of_Fall Beer

Best New Brew
Just before Alterra became Colectivo, it opened the Wauwatosa Cafe (6745 W. Wells St.). The spot has the tasty, ahem, Colectivo coffee and the glorious chorizo breakfast burrito. But it also has beer. That’s right, Colectivo upped the ante by putting brews on the menu, including the delicious One Tun Pale Ale and Cortado Imperial Stout. It’s hard to argue with the addition of this kind of “brewing.” (DM)

Best Beer in the ’Burbs
One year ago, Bernie’s Tap Room (351 W. Main St., Waukesha) significantly bolstered the craft beer scene in downtown Waukesha. The spacious place has proven itself with a short history of great beer dinners, a concise but solid tap list, and the occasional tapping of a hard-to-find keg. It’s worth the (responsible) drive. (DM)

Best Way to Get Greasy
So you’re a bicyclist who doesn’t know Allen wrenches from Allen-Bradley? Fix it. The do-it-yourself bike movement is gaining speed, driven as much by social concerns as practical ones. In Downtown Milwaukee, Vulture Space (651 N. Plankinton Ave.) teaches the fine art of fixing to a clientele ranging from commuting professionals to the area’s homeless. In the Fifth Ward, Coast In Bikes (700 S. Fifth St.) offers four DIY nights a month, two of which specifically cater to women. Tools and workbenches provided; just bring your brain. (HM)

Best Institutional Reaction
In April, a textile factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing more than 1,100 workers. They’d been making clothes for European fast-fashion retailers, but the public outcry for stricter safety regulations rippled much further. As a swift response, MOWA exhibited Terese Agnew’s 2005 quilt, “portrait of a textile worker,” which bears the likeness of a female textile worker composed entirely from fashion labels. It was a striking statement eight years ago and is still powerful today. (CH)

Best Local Music Ambassadors
Former members of Milwaukee band Camden and current Eric & Magill collaborators, Eric Osterman and Ryan Weber, now reside in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Kenya, respectively. But the Brew City expats are doing us proud. What’s more impressive than the duo’s albums of gorgeous melodies and lush sonic landscapes? The fact that Eric & Magill manage to do it while thousands of miles apart – twice this year alone. (TM)

Best Album Of The Year
On Sept. 6, the spastic sextuplet known as The Fatty Acids released their third album, Boléro, at an extra-special Pabst Theater concert. Boléro is an upbeat frenzy rife with affable, dancey indie rock with political undertones. And it’s the band’s best work yet. (TM)

Best Year for Public Art
Street artist Jeremy Novy’s koi fish (symbolizing LGBT acceptance and equality) created a thoughtful scavenger hunt, and Reginald Baylor’s first public artwork in the nine-piece street art series A Common denominator is a visible product of community collaboration. And 2013 still has three months to bolster its fine collection. (CH)

Best Indie-Gospel Crossover
Although he’s apparently put his Grammy-winning Bon Iver cash cow out to pasture, Eau Claire musical mastermind Justin Vernon has been busy. Beyond playing in Gayngs, The Shouting Matches and Volcano Choir, Vernon is producing albums in his western Wisconsin studio. Projects range from Blind Boys of Alabama to Milwaukee’s Field Report. Worlds collided when the famed gospel group covered the latter’s song “I Am Not Waiting Anymore” for its
latest album. (TM)

Best Band About to Break Out
Milwaukee sisters Victoriah and Hannah Gabriela Banuelos – better known as indie rockers Vic and Gab – appear to be pacesetters among local acts on the fast track to breaking out. With a cache of infectious love songs, the singing siblings recently released “Love of Mine,” which has already been featured on the MTV show “Skins,” while also inspiring plaudits from the likes of Spin and Paste. (TM)

Best New Art House
The new Museum of Wisconsin Art building, a triangular structure that has twice the old building’s gallery space, helped revive the West Bend museum. With snow-white panels and 5,100 square feet of shimmering glass, the new MOWA reconfirms that an exterior facade can be just as aesthetically imaginative as an interior collection. (JC)

Best Third Ward Addition
The Third Ward is about to get a dose of fresh blood, thanks to MIAD. Although the art school has long had student residences in the Ward, it’s now constructing its first traditional dorms, which are set to open in fall of 2014. And freshman and sophomore students from more than 45 miles away will be required to live there and be prohibited from having a car on campus. Think of it as MIAD’s new art immersion program. (MP)

Best Retouching
When Blush Beauty Boutique opened in the Third Ward in 2004, it brought brands – like Laura Mercier makeup and Tocca fragrances – that we couldn’t get elsewhere. Now with a second shop under its belt in Mequon, Blush (1515 W. Mequon Rd., Mequon) brings us the goodies from Kevyn Aucoin – whose highly pigmented, long-lasting makeup is an industry standard. There’s nothing better than HD makeup for our digital world. (CH)

Best Blowout
Some people are born with good hair and others are born with the good sense to let someone else tame the mane. Enter Beauty, a local salon with an expertise in blowouts. Now, every day can be Kate Middleton Hair Day. (multiple locations, (CH)

Best Football Smile

This goes to the Packers’ James Jones, and if you have any doubt, turn to Page 32. (CH)

Best Bra Fitting
Any woman could tell you not all breasts are created equal (or symmetrical), but it took bra companies awhile to catch on. This year, Kenosha-based Jockey introduced a new sizing system, based on volume, not inches. Ten cup shapes and an under-bust measurement create up to 55 possible bra sizes. A victory for breasts of all stripes. (ALC)

Best Places to Sweat

Fitness Fighting
Do people call you aggressive? Do you crave red meat? Let us introduce you to Fitness Fighting. The class mixes cardio, plyometrics, martial arts and strength training in a series of throwing-and-kicking combos. A new gym by the same name (6575 N. Sidney Pl.) opened last spring, and it’s the perfect place to sweat out your demons.

Yoga Sculpt
Mix Vinyasa flow yoga with 2- or 5-pound hand weights, add in booty-shaking grooves, and you get yoga sculpt – a total body workout to lengthen and strengthen. It’s the perfect class for those looking to get a more intense workout with the same Zen aftereffects of yoga. Jaimi Patterson is the only one offering it at Yoga Ward (223 S. Second St.).

You may have missed your chance to be a prima ballerina, but you can still score the toned body. The idea is to fatigue each muscle group and then stretch it through floor exercises taken from pilates and ballet movements – all along a ballet barre. Try it at Core Concepts (241 N. Broadway), Invivo (2060 N. Humboldt Ave.), or Danceworks (1661 N. Water St.).

No, it’s not a Starbucks drink. It’s cardio mixed with pilates, plus jumping on a trampoline while trying to maintain a vertical posture. Trust us, that last element adds a major dose of fun. The LIft Pilates and Core Align Studio (383 W. Brown Deer Rd., Fox Point) is the only place in Wisconsin to offer it.
—By Jenna Kashou

Best South Side Cheerleader
Patty Pritchard Thompson wants to make Bay View her baby. After more than a decade of volunteering for the South Shore Farmers Market, Chill on the Hill and the Halloween Pumpkin Pavilion, she spearheaded efforts to bring back the beloved South Shore Frolics Parade this summer (the longest parade in Milwaukee County at 1.5 miles) after a one-year hiatus. All indicators point to raising a cherub-faced, healthy ’hood. (TMc)

Best Bathroom
Big upset this year, with the Urban Ecology Center’s riverside park location unseating the John Michael Kohler Arts Center for best bathroom. Everything is green inside the environmental organization’s bathrooms, except for, well, you know. All of the toilets use nothing but rainwater, and in the urinals, any deposits percolate through a layer of odor-stopping oil and go down the drain. We recommend bringing along the latest issue of Sierra Magazine for extended stays. (MH)

Best Skeleton in Wisconsin’s Closet
Did you know that a sport called bear wrestling was once practiced in Wisconsin? Disreputable handlers drugged the noble creatures and sold tickets to wrestling matches pitting one half-drunk man against one completely drugged bear. Our shame went national earlier this year when, during a cheeky interview, Stephen Colbert asked U.S. Rep Mark Pocan about the state Legislature’s 1996 ban. (MH)

Best Thinly Veiled Narcissism
Maybe they should call it “TMI”4. “Live at Daybreak” anchors
Susan Kim and Vince Vitrano – two of the sunniest personalities on TMJ4 – have made lightening up the news’ most depressing qualities into an art. Who could forget Vitrano’s investigation into which of his children dropped a V8 can into the toilet, or Kim accusing her partner in crime of stealing her on-set curling iron? Not us, and not just because they administer their own Facebook fan pages. (MH)

Best Political Pleats
For Gov. Scott Walker, nothing provides both the comfort and crisp formal lines required of the modern conservative politician like a freshly laundered pair of pleated dress pants. Whether he’s gripping the handlebars of a Harley-Davidson at a small-town biker rally or grinning widely in a Travel Wisconsin photo op, the only thing sharper than the governor’s political barbs are his pants. (MH)

Best Packers Decor
In 2009, the Packers pulled 30 rolls of FieldTurf, valued at $300,000, right off their Ray Nitschke practice field and donated it to the Milwaukee community-based organization Journey House. Four years later, after fundraising efforts and an agreement with the parks department, the snazzy synthetic surface was the stunning centerpiece (see Page 32) of the pro-style facility unveiled in Mitchell Park. (JC)

Best Political Flop
John Nygren (R-Marinette) raised a stink this summer with a measure to evict the nonpartisan Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from the two rooms it occupies at UW-Madison. A pummeling by local and national media followed, and Gov. Scott Walker ultimately blocked Nygren’s efforts with a line-item veto. (MH)

Best Exploitative Press Release
According to a press release from the reputable folks at, “the world’s largest Sugar Daddy dating site,” nearly 100 Milwaukee-area teachers “are moonlighting as Sugar Babies to offset wage cuts and job losses.” So while founder Brandon Wade finds it unfortunate that “teachers are forced to work in underfunded schools,” he’s not above exploiting the underpaid instructors. (TMc)

Best of Sheriff David Clarke

Never shying from spotlight or controversy, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is a sound-bite savant.

In an interview with WISN, Clarke said, “On an everyday basis, to me, federal government is a bigger threat” than terrorists.

“Sounds like a bit of penis envy by [Chris] Abele,” Clarke wrote of the Milwaukee county exec to a conservative radio host in February.

“When I was growing up as a kid in the city of Milwaukee … if we averaged four homicides a year, that was a record number.” But Politifact Wisconsin researched police crime stats and found the lowest annual homicide total in Clarke’s childhood was 12 in 1956.

— By James Carlton

Best Rebound
This guy didn’t just make lemonade out of misfortune, he baked a gosh-darn lemon pie. Rob Koebel – the TMJ4 reporter caught urinating outside Bayshore Mall’s Apple Store back in August 2012 – responded to the gaffe by moving to North Carolina and launching quite the acting career. He’s since landed a number of roles on TV shows, including a cop tasked with protecting a newspaper reporter in CBS’ “Under the Dome.” How’s that for irony? (MH)

Best Local App
If you’ve ever waited for a Milwaukee County bus, you’ll appreciate the newest yet-to-be-named app from UWM’s App Brewery. Out this fall, the app uses GPS to track the Milwaukee County Transit System buses. It’s like wrapping a cozy sweater around your travel anxiety. (ALC)

Best Marketing Miss
Cya Downtown. When you start with “cya,” things can only improve, right? That’s what we thought. Oh, how wrong we were. With the release of Milwaukee Downtown’s new promotional video in July, Milwaukeeans were graced with a re-edited video of 2-year-old footage and a newly remixed version of Peaches’ 7-year-old, overtly sexual “Downtown.” With lyrics like “Cause I wanna take you downtown/Show you my thing/Show you my thing,” how can you go wrong, right? Sigh. (CD)

Best Self-appointed Neighborhood
In June of this year, a few stores on the 500 block of Water Street banded together, and bought and hung city-approved signs. They declared that the street and a four-block square behind it would be henceforth dubbed the city’s fashion district. Clai Green, owner of Luci Boutique, explained that the store owners wanted to be known as a shopping destination, especially for tourists. Although curiously close to the boutique-filled Third Ward, we understand how no one likes to feel left out. (CH)

Best in Show
Art Institute of Wisconsin (320 E. Buffalo St.) may be the new fashion design program on the block, but that doesn’t mean its students didn’t put out a veteran effort for their first (sold-out, no less) fashion show. Students re-created modern trends with skill and updated classic silhouettes with imagination. Well-
tailored futures abound. (CH)

Best New Boutique
Patrice Procopio opened Third Coast Style in September while simultaneously helping to launch the Fashion District initiative. Her store’s concept is all about our city’s highly publicized love for itself. This time, though, we have good reason, because Procopio is only selling clothing and accessories designed by locals. From wedding jewelry to Lake Michigan-plucked rock rings and formal gowns, her Water Street boutique is the perfect place to start when you’re in the market for something unique. (CH)

Best Local Pinterest
It might take the windows out of window shopping, but Loteek, a new website that looks like a localized version of Pinterest, sure saves you precious time. The premise? You can shop a slew of local boutiques – think Five Hearts, Luci, even Vino 100 – from the comfort of your desktop browser. ( (CH)

Best T-Shirt
Two Emerson college students called up local screen-printing company Ink to The People and asked for help in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. They wanted to sell a shirt declaring “Boston Strong” and donate the proceeds to The One Fund, which Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick set up to provide aid for the victims. Their efforts resulted in more than $800,000 being donated to the fund. (CH)

Best Decor for Impulsive People
Elizabeth Rees, a native Milwaukeean, created a removable wallpaper company, chasing paper. It features patterns with chevrons and Milwaukee landmarks, and it might just be the best thing to happen to home decor this year. The reason? Its removable properties and small dimensions ensure that you can always change your mind. (CH)

Best Competitors
Local fashion designers Miranda Levy and Timothy Westbrook made the cut for the 12th season of “Project Runway,” thus earning a coveted spot in the drama-filled, tear-stained spectacle. Neither made it to the Lincoln Center tents, but they substantially raised Milwaukee’s fashion profile. (CH)

Best Use of Kale
Our ancestors were no strangers to members of brassica oleracea plant species, but it’s unlikely they paired it with fresh corn, charred pickled onions and ancho dressing – a salad at Wolf Peach (1818 N. H. Hubbard St.). In October, expect a combo of raw and fire-roasted kale tossed with turnips, rutabaga, radishes, cashews and lime-chile vinaigrette. Bring it. (AC)

Best Spice House
Leave the butter to Julia Child. Because tucked away in the lobby of Landmark Downer Theatre’s (2589 N. Downer Ave.) is a smörgåsbord of Kernel Season’s finger-lickin’ popcorn seasonings. Flavors rotate, but with some 10 different varieties offered, everyone’s palate is covered, often with the taste of chocolate marshmallow, ranch or Cajun. (KS)

Best Cast-Iron Pride
Melding functionality and state pride, Madison sculptor (and owner of FeLion Studios) Alisa Toninato designed a cast-iron skillet map representing the 48 contiguous states. Can you blame us for preferring our beloved Badger State over any of the others? Time to season this bad boy and bake some cornbread. ($125 per pan, (AC)

Best Resto Hoodie
Resto T-shirts haven’t gone buh-bye, but they’ve been eclipsed by merch of a more snuggly order. The hoodie. Yeah, bro. And nothing quite screen-prints the garment of our dreams better than fuel cafe’s rockin’ coal-black zipper hoodie, preferably worn two sizes too small, just like those hipster kids (818 E. Center St.). (AC)

Best Momster
Opened by Amanda Haugen in March, The Cookie Momster is a one-woman, cookie-wheeling operation out of Bay View. From Harley motorcycles to Despicable Me minions and characters from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” Haugen’s custom-decorated sugar cookies are as fanciful as they are delicious. (KS)

Best Pancakes the Size of Your Head
Riverwest Co-op Café (733 E. Clarke St.) gets the prize for super-
sized pancakes – comparable to that of your standard Frisbee. Thick and fluffy, its innards jammed with blueberries, sliced bananas, granola or a mix ($4 per pancake). If you’ve never had a pancake coma, it’s time. (AC)

Best Cupcake On the Go
You know that moment when a delicious morsel of cupcake tumbles to the ground, helplessly falling to a death by ants? Never again. Using state-of-the art plastic technology, Classy Girl Cupcakes has squeezed all the goodness of a cupcake into a handy push pop holder. And the layered delight is available in 20-plus flavors. (ALC)

Best Sushi Experiment
It’s culinary cognitive dissonance. Your eyes see sushi, your ears hear bratwurst, and your brain curls into cheese curd. Which is fine, because curds are there, too, along with nori, Guinness mustard, crushed pretzels and, yes, Secret Stadium Sauce. Meet Miller Park’s Bratwurst and Cheese Curd Sushi, crafted during this year’s launch of sushi service in the Johnson Controls Club. Hard to believe, we know, but it’s no fish tale. (HM)

Best Pizza

Last year, you chose the cupcake queen; this year, you crowned the pizza prince. We even had to add an additional round of voting because the ’za competition in this town is so fierce. Preliminary online votes determined five finalists, and those pie protagonists delivered their wares to a taste test at Bayshore Town CenteR. They brought their game faces, and a variety of toppings. Ian’s offered mac n’ cheese; Classic Slice served up pepperoni, basil and garlic; Ann’s Italian Restaurant dished out shrimp, tomato and basil in a garlic butter sauce; and Cranky Al’s supplied a ricotta, spinach and cracked pepper version. But it was Calderone Club that took home the pizza prize with its pepperoni, mushroom and sausage slices. That’s amore. (CH)

Best Weeknight Diversion
Ally and Chris Benedyk found a way to chase the Hump Day Blues away. It’s Dinner & A Movie at Love
Handle (2215 E. North Ave.), the couple’s sandwich-and-small-plate emporium. Their screenings started with personal faves – Explorers, Jaws, Midnight in Paris – and have moved on to broader (read cheesy horror and art-house) fare. Movies show at 8 p.m. If Chris is doing a cured salmon sandwich on the chalkboard menu, get it. (AC)

Best Girl Scout Yoga
Brownies can finally unwind from a stressful day of Girl Scout cookie sales with yoga at Haleybird Studios (9207 W. Center St., Wauwatosa). There, troops can learn about the ancient Indian discipline and earn a badge to prove it. And since all the money-collecting and cookie-delivering often falls onto parents’ laps, they can join in, too. Namaste, indeed. (SB)

Best Case of the Spins
When pro hula hoop whiz Anna Stone stops by your kid’s birthday party, everyone’s in for a dizzying time. Stone’s business, HoopVive, offers classes and party packages that let kids hoop and dance while adults can spin to burn off the cake. But watch out – she’s been spotted spinning fire. ( (SB)

Best Chewtoy
Kelley Legler, a Hales Corners mother of two, has garnered quite the following from a very simple idea dubbed the Baby Jack Blanket. Sold locally at Sprout, Little Monsters and Boerner Botanical Gardens, it’s is a plush blanket with attached fabric loops on which to hook a pacifier, toy or a pair of slimy gums. Even Lisa Ling is a fan. (CH)

Best Swingers’ Spot
The Marsupial Bridge below the Holton Street Viaduct has played host to bike-in movies, connected thirsty masses to Lakefront Brewery and even served as the sleeping quarters for one adventurous user on FourSquare. Thanks to the efforts of the artist collective beintween, it’s also the site of some of the coolest swingers this side of Victor’s. Working under the cloak of night, beintween founder Keith Hayes and his cohorts repurposed used tires to install nine swings under the bridge, giving passersby a chance to enjoy a little child’s play in the middle of the city. (TMc)

Best Mini Monsters
We’re suckers for boutiques, and when their items are pint-sized, the cute factor skyrockets. Enter Little Monsters (2445 N. Farwell Ave.), a precious East Side children’s store run by Andie Zacher, who previously managed the now-defunct Boutique Bebe. Locally made goods sit alongside nationally renowned ones (like Toobydoo’s, below) and clothes that fit even the tiniest little monsters. And vintage-inspired toys are a welcome throwback to the days before touch screens. (CD)

Best Natural High
Dash past the three-story rock-climbing wall, and your eyes grow wide as you take in the more than 100 trampolines that line Helium Trampoline Park (16235 W. Beloit Rd., New Berlin). The wee ones will thank you for the bounce factor and foam-block pit, and kids of all ages love the chance to play dodge ball. And with the newly opened Waukesha-based Skyzone offering similar highs, it looks like tramps be trendin’. (TMc)