Our editors hit the streets in search of frugal diversion.
Meet Your Guides
1. Looking for Adventure
Total spent: $19.49
Your Guide: Matt Hrodey
➞ One and a quarter pints of steaming drip-brewed coffee (20 ounces) costs $2 at Stone Creek’s Radio Milwaukee Café, 158 S. Barclay St.
➞ I jump in my rugged Ford Focus and head south to the Mitchell Airport Observation Area, 1400 E. Layton Ave. Settling in with the other airplane nerds at this parking lot on the airport’s northern fringes, I watch the jets roar overhead.
➞ At my next stop, spooky Fitzsimmons Road in Oak Creek, this maybe-haunted “road to nowhere” ends Thelma and Louise style at a lakeside cliff where several drivers have plunged to their deaths.
➞ I leave primed for nautical derring-do, but can only afford a $5 paddleboat at Juneau Park.
➞ Since all adventures should include climbing, I endure nine flights of stairs to the Astor Hotel’s publicly accessible (read: unlocked) roof.
➞ To wind down, I shell out $5 at Bounce Milwaukee, 2801 S. Fifth Ct., to play its retro arcade machines for an hour.
➞ At Organ Piper Music Palace, 4353 S. 108th St., a Polka-fied version of Chuck E. Cheese, I enjoy a personal pizza with my go-tos, mushroom and pepperoni, for just $7.49. When the organist leans into Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight,” all the stresses of life as a thrifty adventurer drift away.
➞ To end my saga, I hike from the Milwaukee RiverWalk to the top of Reservoir Park, passing from the city’s lowest elevation to its highest. The view? Priceless.
2. Window Shopper’s Walkabout
Total spent: $20
Your Guide: Carole Nicksin
➞ Since a reporter is only as good as her sources, I enlist the aid of Milwaukee tour guide Adam Carr to show me around West Historic Mitchell Street, once the third largest retail corridor in Wisconsin.
➞ We start at the magnificent St. Stanislaus Church, 524 W. Mitchell St., where high Mass is still celebrated in Latin.
➞ Walking west, we stop at Las Palmas, 600 W. Mitchell St., a Western-wear shop with a wall of cowboy boots in colors ranging from pistachio to purple.
➞ With none under my budget, we move on to Sasta Bazaar, 709 W. Mitchell St. All sorts of items tempt me at this Pakistani grocery, including jars of honey with nuts, but I show unusual restraint.
➞ Still clutching my $20, I follow Adam into Mitchell Street Men’s Wear, 710 W. Mitchell St. The array of pink hats and tomato-red ties make it clear the word “subdued” has no place on this avenue.
➞ The Mitchell Mall, 1020 W. Mitchell St., presents more delights, including tiaras and embroidered Mexican tops (all above my $20 price point). When we reach the end of the retail strip, marked by the old Modjeska Theatre, I still haven’t spent a dime.
➞ Determined to burn through some cash, we retrace our steps to Anmol, 711 W. Mitchell St., an Indian/Pakistani restaurant. I order mutton handi ($12.95) and garlic naan ($2.95). With tip, I hit $20 even, a small price to pay for such a lively and colorful day.
3. Tour de Beer
Total spent: $20
Your Guide: Tom Tolan
➞ The goal: Drink all I want while staying under budget, which isn’t going to be easy.
➞ My evening starts at La Masa, 1300 E. Brady St., a restaurant where I have two empanadas (chicken tinga and potato/peanut) for $6.
➞ With this foundation in place, I cross the street to a crowded Nomad World Pub, 1401 E. Brady St., for what a guy outside says is the best happy hour in town. It’s certainly the best I see this night: specials start at $1 a drink at 4 p.m. and slowly increase from there. It is a bit of a rush when the clock strikes four. I have a nice Bell’s Oberon for $1.50 (including tip) and then an Old Tankard Ale for $2.50.
➞ Pushing to stay on schedule, I pedal my bike to Hotel Foster [now closed], where the $1-a-drink promotion runs from 5 p.m. to 5:23 p.m. I make it under the wire and pay $1.50 to sip a Weihenstephaner Dunkel in the high-ceilinged old bar, which is surprisingly empty.
➞ From there, I sideline my increasingly wobbly bike and walk a block to Rascals [now closed], where domestic beers are $1 until 9 p.m. I sober up with a Coke but follow that with a Budweiser for a total of $2.75. The regulars are closer to my age than at the other places. We reminisce about when this was the Murray Tap, and you could get glasses of beer for just 15 cents. You could really get happy back then.
➞ To cap off the night, I spend $5.75 for wings at G-Daddy’s BBC [now closed], 2022 E. North Ave. This brings my total to exactly $20. (I think. Beer tends to interfere with your math skills.)
➞ Once sober, I ride home to Shorewood.
$2.49 ➞ Empanada ➞ El Rey Food Mart 1320 W. Burnham St. A sturdy pocket of masa dough, cheese and spiced meat. The deli has other treasures, like pozole.
$4.99 ➞ Meatball Panini ➞ Scardina Specialties 822 E. Chambers St. Possibly the best meatball sandwich in town. Also try the Cubano, Sicilian steak sandwich and fresh cannoli.
$6.99 ➞ Chicken and Waffles ➞ Daddy’s Soul Food Grille 754 N. 27th St. This new storefront is selling a lot of waffles. And its cafeteria-style lunch buffet offers a soul food feast.
$7.99 ➞ Grilled Pork Noodle Dish ➞ Xankia 222 W. Wells St. The perfect rice noodle dish for a hot summer afternoon, colorful and dressed with carrots, light greens and a spring roll.