My MKE Staycation is an ongoing series on Milwaukeemag.com. We ask writers and contributors to describe their ideal day off in Milwaukee. Catch up on the entire series here.
In dreaming up an ideal winter Saturday staycation with my husband, I gravitated toward feeding our stomachs with food (what’s a city tour without eating one’s way through it?) and our creative minds with art. Food and art are two ways to take the pulse of any city.
Where to start, then? Breakfast, of course.
7 a.m. or 8 a.m.
Depending on what kind of start we get, we indulge either at Simple Cafe (opens at 7) or Beerline Cafe (opens at 8). If it’s Simple, I usually go for the Classic Benedict, the Mashed Potato Omelet or the Korean Breakfast Bowl, but I might try Spaghetti Squash, Swiss Chard & Kale Latkes this time or the Matcha Pancakes with pumpkin custard. If it’s Beerline, my go-to is the Tofu Scramble, but the savory Green Sun’s Zenith crepes sure do sound delicious (spinach, tzatziki, kale chips, pistachios and avocado).
Now it’s time for a morning of art, beginning a few minutes from either breakfast options: Redline Milwaukee calls itself an “urban laboratory” for local contemporary artists and social justice engagement. Their current exhibit, Matthew Warren Lee’s “To Whom Do We Owe Utopia?”, runs Jan. 19-Mar. 24 and juxtaposes classic landscapes and future technologies in what looks to be a surreal examination of our national reality.
Heading west to the Marquette University campus, we’ll visit the Haggerty Museum of Art, whose “Resistance, Protest, Resilience” exhibit runs Feb. 2-May 20 and highlights over forty photographs chronicling the fight for social justice around the world.
Our last stop this morning, the Wisconsin Black Historical Society & Museum a few minutes north, will complement the Haggerty exhibit well with a focus on preserving our own state’s African American heritage through photography, art and artifacts, including photographs from the Open Housing Marches and a panoramic mural depicting ancient Egyptian history all the way through Milwaukee’s present.
Whew. Way to start the morning off with so much heavy material! We’ll both need to take a break, for sure. If we’re really hungry and want someplace nearby, The Tandem is just down the street. There, we can fill up on Beet Reubens or BBQ Pulled Pork, potato salad, cornbread, the daily Power Greens mix and more. However, if we can wait a bit and are in the mood for something lighter but still filling, we can head into Walker’s Point and warm up with a huge bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen (my favorite, though they have dozens of other tasty options) at The National.
Just a short walk away from The National is Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, where we’ll begin the afternoon leg of our museum experiences. If our Staycation happens to be on Feb. 3, then we’ll be able to see the Haggerty exhibit and the last day or two of WPCA’s “31 Emerge,” a celebration of 31 emerging Milwaukee artists as well as the Center’s 31st anniversary.
We’ll then have the rest of the afternoon to explore the Milwaukee Art Museum at our leisure, taking in familiar work with new eyes and feasting on the 2018 Scholastic Art Awards exhibition (running Feb. 3-Mar. 18) and “The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip” (Jan. 26-Apr. 22).
Truth be told, for as much as I know I will love this day of food and art, after a combined 7 hours of walking slowly and peering closely, my feet, neck and lower back might be sore. So we’ll walk to The Pfister Hotel, where I think we’ll need a cocktail at BLU Bar & Lounge on the 23rd floor to unwind with a view of the city that won’t challenge us personally, socially or politically like the art will have done but will just, well, be there for us.
While I could make a list of dinner options a mile long (and I was going to, because I like options), I think that we’ll end the long day with a meal at one of our mutual favorites, Zarletti. My husband and I have enjoyed every meal and experience at this romantic Italian spot a half block from The Pfister. And we haven’t been there for a long time, so this will be perfect. They just can’t go wrong.
And this day, I should say, couldn’t have been more right.