Washington Heights is on the rise, but it's always been a hidden gem. Almost all of the recommendations fall on Vliet Street (but don't forget McBob's).
Food & Drink
4919 W. North Ave.
Milwaukee’s definition of a family restaurant. Walk in, sit down, order a meaty sandwich and lean against the fireplace. It’ll arrive quickly, glistening with oil from the griddle and requiring both hands.
A while back, the magazine declared McBob’s the best reuben sandwich in town, but it’s a reuben of a certain kind: This is the two-fisted, mustard-streaked kind that sinks into the stomach like ballast.
5601 W. Vliet St.
This counter-service pizza parlor has a dedicated following. Unlike some other thinly crusted Milwaukee institutions, it babies its “long fermented” dough, making it the focus of the pies, and there’s a warning on the website that if they run out of dough, too bad! Wy’east started out as a food truck/trailer in the Portland area, and the pizzas do have a craggy, rustic look.
5830 W. Vliet St.
A simple, straightforward bowling alley in operation since 1960. Decades ago, people in Milwaukee practically lived in places like this, and while many have closed, quite a few are still around and paying the bills with cheap beer.
5918 W. Vliet St.
In a city filled with multi-floored Colectivo extravaganzas, its hard to remember that, by and large, most coffee shops are small and cozy.
A relative newcomer, Valentine aims to sidle up next to you at their tasting-room-slash-roasting facility and become your new friend. They do this with relatively cheap ($2.50 for 12 ounces and $3.00 for 16 ounces) pour-overs using one of twelve beans, meaning you’ll either have to ask for recommendations or pick the most pleasant-sounding name.
And there is cheap Rishi tea and a standard line of espresso drinks, the maker of which said on a recent afternoon, “That’s what I do for a living. I make bomb coffee.”
5704 W. Vliet St.
While this children’s bookstore hours are (seeming) a closely guarded secret, it’s still a great place to pick up a colorful book full of wonder. Rainbow also carries a line of Celtic greeting cards, if that’s your kind of thing.
For the record, the store is open from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, so probably go on Saturday. According to legend, the place opened in 1981 on North Avenue and marks its books 25 percent off the cover price.
5708 W. Vliet St.
There are quite a few home furnishing stores on Vliet, and this is the most down to earth. If you’re concerned about craftspeople getting paid properly, this is the place for you. Like other joints on Vliet Street, this one has limited hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Art & Culture
5906 W. Vliet St.
It’s not the Oriental, but they still do cool stuff. On Feb. 8, they’re screening the Sid and Nancy fictionalization about Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, and on April 6, a showing for the Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Festival. Plus, during the Milwaukee Film Festival, they present all kinds of stuff. Evening tickets run $12 per adult, and they do have beer.
5322 W. Vliet St.
This “hot shop” for glassblowing offers party packages where you can learn the basics of the art as a group. And for those looking to get a little more serious, individual classes go deeper into topics like “marvering,” which is important, if you didn’t know. Whatever you make needs 48 hours to cool, unless you made a paperweight — then it’s a week.