Reviews: February

The Avalon Theater, Draft & Vessel, NO/NO’s new album, 5 Lilies and the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers’ Market.

Edited by Ann Christenson

Bay View's Avalon Theater. Photo by Erin Gosch.
Bay View’s Avalon Theater. Photo by Erin Gosch.

Fade to Black

Fans of the Avalon Theater (2473 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) – the storied movie house that first began operations in 1929 when talkies were still a novelty – will be relieved to discover “twinkling stars” on the ceiling are still a part of the show in the restored main theater (one of two screens). The Moorish capitals and a statue of Athena in the lobby are also holdovers. But nobody will accuse owner Lee Barczak – who also operates the Rosebud and Times cinemas – of staying rooted in the past. Looking to create a singular night on the town, sit-down service is available in the stadium-style seating for patrons looking to nibble on pizzas and panini or sip on spirited beverages (tap wine, beer, cocktails) as Hollywood’s latest releases unspool. It’s a mashup of historic and modern-day flourishes that’s sure to be a Bay View blockbuster. (Tim McCormick)


Last fall, three former members of Milwaukee’s The Delphines joined Rio Turbo dancer Cat Ries to form the dreamier, new wave group NO/NO. The reconfiguration followed the same quick delivery system and no-frills aesthetics established by its predecessor, but refined a new mesmerizing sheen behind synthesizers and electronic drums. If The Delphines felt staticy and black and white, NO/NO bursts with neon colors. X.O. marks the second four-song, 12-minute EP in as many months, and carries over what The Delphines did best: sing something catchy, and then get out of there. (Kevin Mueller)

Draft and Vessel. Photo by Nathaniel Davauer.
Draft and Vessel. Photo by Nathaniel Davauer.

Cry Growl 

The first thing I notice about Draft & Vessel (4417 N. Oakland Ave.) is the wood – exposed beams, rustic flooring and a gorgeous bar crafted with reclaimed wood from a family farm. All of it gives the small space (300 square feet, with plans to expand) a cozy feel. The feng shui is nice, but it’s what’s behind the bar that ties it all together. Sixteen taps pour a wide, frequently rotating range of quality beers to sample at the bar or at three small tables. Carryout is possible in growler form or by snagging one of about 40 bottles available. The outstanding selection and relaxed cafe-like setting created by owner Nathaniel Davauer results in a low-key haven for craft beer lovers, and a place where I can imagine spending plenty of time. (Dan Murphy)

Pump Up the Jam

Sweetly named local business 5 Lilies produces statement-making fruit preserves. Statement-making? Truly. The ingredients in blueberry lavender peach (that’s one variety) include star anise, lavender tea, orange blossom water and blueberry balsamic. The fruit spread might make bread and peanut butter feel really inadequate. Or make assertive cheese and salty cured meat feel extra special. The chunky pear citrus ginger is another natural on a cheese plate. Each of the roster’s eight flavors retails for $7 on Also sold at Lakefront Brewery. (Ann Christenson)

Afro Fusion Cuisine. Photo by Craig John Photography.
Afro Fusion Cuisine. Photo by Craig John Photography.

Greenhouse Effect

Milwaukee County Winter Farmers’ Market’s home at the Mitchell Park Domes – an unlikely mix of local produce purveyors and hot house flora – has generated a remarkably successful weekly event. Running Saturdays (9 a.m-1 p.m.) through April 11, the place is abuzz with visitors and Wisconsin-made or -grown edibles. Once you enter the Domes’ adjacent, light-filled greenhouse (where the market was moved earlier this year), it’s as if you’ve traveled somewhere far away. With coffee in hand, peruse the flower honey and grass-fed lamb offerings. Chat with the frozen sweet corn enthusiast or the Bay View woman starting a mustard business. Hear about the value of moose antler dog chews. Get mesmerized by chutneys and pickled beets, and don’t miss the apple merchant’s analysis of crunch versus sweetness. (Debra Brehmer)


This story appears in the February, 2015, issue of Milwaukee Magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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