Growing up, I had a shit kicking, High Life drinking, roof laying, neighbor next door. He was also the first person I ever saw grilling in the rain under an umbrella, with a beer can and Marlboro smoking in one hand, turning brats with a serving fork in the other.
Beside the yelling, cursing, racist propagating and abusive familial relating going-on year round, this family can claim my first best friend, my first video game football touchdown (on Atari 5200), and also my appreciation for Bob Uecker’s voice crackling Brewer’s play-by-play through AM airwaves, and not surprisingly my taste for fried smelt.
Back then the crank nets would come out once a year, cast off of the McKinley Marina pier, snagging multitudes of mid sized bait fish. My neighbors would bequeath a 5 gallon bucket or so of smelt upon my family every summer.
Those days of smelt fishing on Milwaukee’s corner of Lake Michigan left long ago. Not to be forgotten, recently I noticed smelt popping up again in Pick N’ Save and even Whole Foods’ fresh seafood sections.
Get Ready to Play
I got a call from an old college buddy of mine, with a ticket to Brewer’s opening day 2013? I hadn’t been since I wasn’t supposed to be there legally boozing… An idea formed instantaneously. Needing only the occasion, I thought craftily to myself, “let the commiserating of old times begin!”
Some Old Charcoals
It’s like all the days at the Park that came before and all the days that will come after, this year the atmosphere spits crisp gusts of pre-spring air down on thousands of revelers in the mid-morning pale sun. Bumpers hold brews and bags of chips, buns and what-have-you fixings for the tailgating, my party’s got a special guest.
A hoard of headless smelt lay prone packed on top of each other, wrapped in a thin film of plastic and secured in stiff brown butcher shop wax paper. Unwrapped, they nonchalantly slide past each other looking for the nearest resistance to hold them from spilling everywhere.
Ten in the morning is too early for brats, and thats why these here smelt are here. Seasoned and ready the cast iron pan catches the match light flame, too hot for grill cooking, heating the oil to a boil. Old Bay’s and salt are already mixed in the cornmeal, waiting for the smelt to take a dip and shake. Prepped, the smelt go for a swim in the pan for a couple of minutes, out and ready to eat like fish french fries.
The commotion draws the attention of a few weathered tailgaters. They exclaim “Aw yeah, Smelt!” A new opening day tradition is born.
Opening Day Smelt Batter Recipe
Yellow Corn Meal (I use the Quaker round container. You may have to pour a little out to make shake room)
Old Bay’s Seasoning
Add to the Corn Meal
3 heaping Tbsp of Old Bay’s Seasoning
1 Tbsp of Table Salt
Shake to mix
Add 3-5 smelt at a time to the mix and shake to cover smelt
Drop in hot oil and fry for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes
Remove and let rest on a paper towel
If you heard a rumor that there was a giant coffee cup being hoisted atop a building you can confirm that just by heading east down I-794. The giant rooftop cup, a beacon to all wayward coffee drinkers, signifies you can now sip Stone Creek Coffee slowly at their shining new Factory Store on 5th and St. Paul.
Stone Creek Coffee Factory Store serves up quality and well sourced grind all week, very early on weekdays opening at 5:30a, then 6:00a on Sat and 7:00a on Sun.
Spacious, comfortable and modest, the Stone Creek Factory Store retained the old world charm of given by original building architects Burnham and Root, with vintage cabin completeness provided by Kubala Washakto (a slightly style-cramping choice of architects considering they also designed Alterra’s corporate headquarters). Not moments after entering Stone Creek’s vestibule, do you experience l0arge glass panels beckoning you to enter the cafe to see just how nice inside looks.
At the Factory Store opening, Stone Creek’s renewed industrial interior, formerly just their headquarters and roasting facility, provides a ideal setting for coffee consumption and bustles with activity. It feels like an unpretentious resort suitable for Stone Creek’s typical patronage, a pleasant and seemly crowd not quite spanning the cultural spectrum the way Alterra does. Friendly, knowledgeable Barristas have a marked presence, as well as ample seating at big tables suitable for accommodating feasts in ancient Saxony.
Method to the Cup
Stone Creek still has a Barrista school where its employees hone their craft of brewing and cupping. A kind fellow stands at the coffee bar practice area ready to demonstrate the traditional drip method of brewing. The mock Barrista station captures the intensity of a chemistry lab. Several glass vessels rest on top of digital scales consecutively, cradle ceramic drip cones in their openings. A tea kettle holding water heats up with a digital thermometer monitoring its temperature. In grave detail, the fellow explains that preparation of a single cup of coffee using the drip method suits his personal preference. An emphasis on the precise weight of beans and type of grind, ensures that what the vessel captures, when water brought just below a boil slowly soaks through the coffee and filter, impresses the pallet of those with discerning taste.
Further leaping into maturity, not that Stone Creek hadn’t outdone itself with the primary features of the remodel, baked goods now come in-sourced fresh from its newly christened commercial backing facility. Goodies make it from oven to plate, pipping fresh, and quicker than ever. Stone Creek’s coffee couldn’t be happier.
Stone Creek’s flagship store gets tons of credit for adding a little commerce to an otherwise bleak area for retail business of any kind. Sitting at the footsteps of the Central Post Office and Intermodal Station, and a stones throw from We Energies, an obvious captive market will inevitablely tip their cups. Let’s hope that some spillover from the Third Ward Association’s innovations in pedestrian experience and attempts to heighten awareness of activating dead spaces like Brighten the Passage, can meet West Town and the City halfway and alleviate the bleak walking conditions from surrounding areas to make an even greater success story for Downtown.
Just past 84th and National Avenue, we weave through some barricades placed in the middle of the road to ward off through traffic. We get one maneuver closer to having some Peruvian food from an obscure three month-old niche eatery called Chef Paz. A bunch of construction shouldn’t stop from you from going anywhere now should it? Especially, not West Allis.
I could talk about how enamored I feel driving through West Allis, a.k.a Stallis, and marveling at the shear volume of corner and mid-block pubs and windowless bar and grills enjoying above average patronage on a weekday night. Throw in my pleasant dining experience at Chez Paz, and my work week becomes a little more bearable.
A decorative iron gate encloses the patio seating just outside the entry-way. Entering Chez Paz, a minimally repurposed diner layout holds some continuity from the restaurant’s previous occupants legacy, spheroid lunch counter and all. A layer of mint green paint covering the stucco walls makes an impression on your eyes.
Chef Paz’s cuisine fuses hearty comfort food we know and love Stateside, with preparation uniquely South American. The menu emphasizes interpretations of rice and bean based dishes found throughout the world and the venerable combination of steak and seafood. Traditional American, Asian and Italian recipes get an Andean make-over for those looking for something more familiar.
Way Down Home Cooking
A meal for every appetite, the opening courses glanced Tex-mex favorites like empanadas and “tamals” done with a Peruvian spin, served with a memorable creamy salsa verde. For the main course, I chose a hefty portion of paella loaded with shrimp, calamari and mussels, complete with a shell-on whole-head shrimp garnish. The closing courses will help you indulge further as you manically scoop sinfully rich mousses or custard-y deliciousness from small glass cups.
Chez Paz fires up the kitchen Sunday through Monday just before the lunch hour and closes at 8p weekday and 9 on the weekends. Prices correlate directly with the amount of food ordered, with superb flavor held constant and weekday dinner specials for $6.99.
Two new Peruvian restaurants open on National Avenue by Damien Jaques, OnMilwaukee
Two women focus on a food processor, a friend in the field healthy eating. Ready for their next culinary television how-to episode, ingredients get sliced and chopped. They are making raw meatloaf. Sounds disgusting right? It gets better, the meatloaf they make contains no meat.
As grills cool during the summer’s end, meats, buns, cheese and the slightly possible pickled veggies that have hit dinner plates all the summer take a breather. Autumn kitchens warm up for the holidays, getting ready for the year’s best eating that has yet come. Not many deny how good the traditional meat and potatoes diet tastes going down, but a movement gaining popularity aims to challenge our outlook of food, from ingredients to preparation, and how what we digest affects our well-being.
Here in Milwaukee, Caroline Carter has gravitated towards the benefits that healthy food choices can provide the body, and seeks to teach how to make those benefits go even further by preparing her food raw. On the food pyramid, the items she chooses are exclusively flora, supplemented by vitamins and minerals that increase the potency of her meal’s salubriousness.
Carter and her daughter Shenita Ray can show you how to enjoy alternatives to traditional cooking, for any meal of the day. They shop locally and feature segments on sustainable food producers in the area and local grocers including Outpost.
Karyn Calabrese receives much credit for helping to trailblaze the raw food movement and inspire those like Carter spread the raw food gospel. Calabrese is the proprietor of two restaurants in Chicago, IL one, Karyn’s Raw has an exclusively raw and vegan food menu.
via MPTV1036 on YouTube
Caroline Carter’s cooking show Cooking Raw airs Fridays at 6p and Sundays at 12:30p on MPTV Channel 36, and Saturdays at 12:30p on MPTV Channel 10. She also has a line of healthy wheat and gluten-free flax seed crackers and granola, called Caroline’s Homemade, that you might find at some of your favorite local healthy living spots including Beans and Barely, Good Harvest Co-op, Riverwest Co-op and a few others.
For a small pond, Milwaukee has never shied away from rivalry. In the battle grounds of Milwaukee’s corner taverns and mid-block pubs, brew masters watched their glory pour from beer taps. More recently, Milwaukee’s other favorite brew has inspired a less overt battle to fill coffee house mugs with specialty blends caffeinated beverages. What more fitting place for a friendly business duel to take place, but at the intersection in Bay View where Lincoln, Kinnickinnic, Allis and Howell Avenue create the most conspicuous conglomeration street corners per acre of anywhere in Southeastern Wisconsin.
If Bay View were Greenwich, Connecticut Alterra Coffee Roasters would be the Jones’. The coffee brewers that auspiciously broke-in a vacant garage on the Eastside in 1992 before the curse cast on Prospect Mall took hold, in 2012 leveled the old Maritime Bank building a redeveloped it into a LEED-certified coffee super cabin suitable for a mountainside lot in Boulder, Colorado.
Much conversation titillates around the subject of coffee culture and Alterra just upped the ante. More like a coffee resort, their open air patio sits adjacent to a convertible vestibule that leads to the lobby’s order counter. A flock of hip and forward thinking parents and yuppies, are joined by counter-thinking parents and hipsters in a line reaching the sidewalk on KK. Hustling servers of all ages and persuasions, from tattooed to typical, cut through the through the faux log tables and chairs, to seek out and deliver goodies to those dining on the patio.
On Alterra’s upstairs level, though the garage door window was closed, the lofted space still felt like a high-end stilted bungalow in Costa Rica. Despite the pomp and trendiness, we all know that Alterra serves extremely tasty coffee, including the house coffee that was barely phased by a few of tablespoons of half and half, truly fitting for a coffee blend represented by the rock star accentuating the “A” in Alterra.
Keep that Upper Lip Stiff
Having a niche is sometimes just as good as being at the top of your game. Nestled in behind a patch of birch trees, Stone Creek Coffee’s shop exudes the understated and connoisseur quality of its founder. Eric Resch started Stone Creek around the same time Lincoln Fowler, Ward Fowler and Paul Miller jump started Alterra, today the shops are kind of like two cool brothers that took different paths to productive adulthoods.
Baristas tending to a quaint and quiet lounge area, with comfy leather chairs and wood furnishings holding an impeccable golden maple stain, patiently wait for customers to settle on their beverage choices. A modest but sweet selection of bakery and reasonably priced fruit awaits a chance to accompany a smooth cup of freshly drawn coffee. The patrons inside and out have their coffee without a fuss, a bit motley in their own right. The down-to-earth nature of Bay View has thoroughly soaked into the Stone Creek establishment, you might barely know it’s there riding past. Stone Creek’s visual impact barely distinguishes the shop from the surrounding landscape.
Not too long ago Stone Creek did some remodeling of its own. The patio is set with rugged green steel chairs that offer a surprising level of comfort despite their riveted all-conditions design. All-weather industrial strength umbrellas anchored in place shield the tables from the rain or shine. Elongated park benches give a few additional places to settle. A traditional garden fountain trickles audibly, miraculously drowning-out road noise that one might imagine enveloping your outdoor experience, but it just doesn’t.
The coffee tables inside, situated in an acceptable and not too cozy proximity to one another, offer various vantage points, inspired by the Stone Creek slogan accordingly, from which to sip your coffee slowly. Large screened windows make the counter area into a sun porch overlooking the cafe’s patio. Favoring kinship to the traditional beer brew pubs of Milwaukee, Stone Creek notably serves a house ice brewed coffee straight from a beer tap into single serve cups, or take-away refillable growlers, as if you needed a reason to come back.
Enough Sippers for All Occasions
Alterra Coffee Roasters and Stone Creek Coffee Roasters do the brewers of Milwaukee’s past proud Monday – Sunday during regular coffee drinking hours, fittingly with Stone Creek opening a little earlier and Alterra closing a little later.
Growing legend and proprietor of Growing Power Will Allen delayed the grand opening of the Growing Power Deli and Market to pay small token of respect to his neighbors in Oak Creek. Just another reflection of the thoughtfulness that lends soulful heartiness to Growing Power’s most recent effort to sew seeds where they are most needed and might take. MLK is ready to add a handsome crop to its mixed yield of previous development plantings; across the street lay the hulls of Stella’s Restaurant, which before that was a Ponderosa Steakhouse.
In partnership with the King Commons development in the Harambee neighborhood, Growing Power now offers fresh produce and dry goods in a retail market storefront located on Martin Luther King Drive just north of Center Street. To make it even better, there is a modest but appetizing menu of sandwiches and salads salads available from the cafe’s kitchen. MilwaukeeMag did a taste test of the chicken and dumplings, jumbalaya and the Cucavo (cucumber and avocado) sandwich. Then there is every grill’s old reliable: the burger.
The Great Burger Debate
Much ongoing talk is uttered concerning the where-to for a great burger in Milwaukee. Growing Power can safely join the shortlist. For a flat $6, you get a thick grass-feed lean beef patty that you can have with your choice/combination of fixings and bread. The great part about grass-fed beef, in similar way as with free-range chicken eggs, you are reminded of how accustom to com-agra products you are as to find adequately raised and prepared meat and vegetables surprisingly full of unfamiliarly delicious flavors.
I choose to have my burger with pepper jack cheese, Growing Power’s famous mixed-green lettuce, tomato and fried onions. Half-way through my meal, it didn’t cross my mind to rip the corners off of my mustard packets. Don’t bother asking for fries, the menu is designed to fight unhealthy food choices. Instead Growing Power’s produce refrigerators have many choices to accompany any meal. I chose a handful of fresh and crispy green beans for fifty cents.
Growing Power Deli and Market’s friendly service and nice causal atmosphere comes with all the great food Monday through Saturday from 7:00a to 4:00p, serving coffee, bakery and breakfast sandwiches, and a variety of other lunch fare.
Growing Power Aims to bring fresh produce to food desert by Lori Friedrich, OnMilwaukee
The Growing Power Cafe by Chris Christie, MilwaukeeMag
The Growing Power’s Deli and Food Market open for breakfast and lunch by Carol Deptolla, TapMilwaukee
They say “home is where the heart is” and “food is the way to the heart”, if these pillars of coventional wisdom prove true HeartLove Place has a good thing going. A community organization fulfilling their congregation’s calling for Christian ministry, HeartLove Place teaches aspiring chefs how to feed their appetite for culinary knowledge, while cooking up catered goodness for taste buds only satiated by savory and sweet flavors.
Skills Well Done
For those wanting to master skills in the kitchen they’ve gained whipping up tasty meals for themselves and loved ones, HeartLove Place runs ProStart a nationally recognized culinary curriculum accredited by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation . If you satisfactorily make mouths water to NRAEF standards some University of Wisconsin-System schools will recognize your accomplishment with Bachelor degree credit in Hospitality and Food Science related fields of study. HeartLove’s ProStart curriculum covers everything from hospitality responsibilities, nutrition science, and wine tasting to health codes, purchasing and accounting controls.
Make My Mouth Water Please
Want to bring ethnic and American food flavors to your next event? HeartLove Place has a full suite menu of meals available through HeartLove’s catering services. If your event’s main courses covered already, strongly consider securing sweet-tooth satisfaction from HeartLove‘s mixing-bowl. Local Trolley‘s primary recommendation Carmel Cake!
For more information of the ProStart culinary arts program contact Chef Dion Williams (414) 372-1550 ext. 128 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. For catering details contact Devin Hudson (414) 372 – 1550 ext. 124 or by email email@example.com.
It hangs out on a block best known for the grizzly working-class pub Steny’s, smushed-up next to Fat Daddy’s. Making use of the sign design made famous by Southern used car lots, coin-sized dots spell “Lo Cash”, shimmering flecks of silvery sunlight off the side of the building.
The interior decor although not brand-spanking new has yet accumulated the drinking hours to adequately absorb the savory juices that amply flow from the kitchen, a dive in the making. A neon sign couldn’t even bring it attention. Lo Cash Live keeps the low-key atmosphere of the 5th Ward strip, still adding flavor to recipe. Lo Cash Live is a Barbecue Joint, South by Mid-West.
I sit down at a table near the wall with my dinner mate. Swinging into the tall seat I nod at Al Jarreau, who poses behind the glass of the frame that holds an old promo portrait. Other crooning singers from various eras and genres nudge corners with him. I’m hard on BBQ so I’m ready for disappointment. Nothing beats the backyard and down-home secrets that make it atop the briquette heated grill.
Lo Cash’s menu makes the right first impression, short, easy to read and to-the-point. Each main dish of either BBQ pork, chicken or brisket and comes with a side, picking from sweet corn, slaw, baked beans or macaroni and cheese (with is technically a vegetable south of the Mason-Dixon). Sandwiches of the same fill also for your fancy. The house adds variety with a fried shrimp po’ boy and a Wisconsin inspired option called Three Little Piggies: a brat patty with pulled pork and bacon, ‘tween a bun. Not one of the meals or sandwiches cost more than ten bucks.
Packing it In
I hone in the brisket meal, it’s even tough to cook-up outdoors. In fifteen minutes a sawed-off tin water pale comes out lined with red and white checked wax paper, table cloth inspired. On top of it, steaming slices of tender beef brisket lay naked, with a perfect amount of edge fat, and covered in vinegary BBQ sauce. The fork goes in, the brisket disappears, mighty delicious on a cool spring evening.
One added note, this 5th Ward diner will soon have the distinction of filling the void left by the closing of Sil’s Mini-Donuts on North Avenue. An appetizer called Corn Fritters comes out looking like a basket of traditional hushpuppies, however, sugared and thoroughly fried, the cornmeal balls come with a tub of molten butter sauce for dip. Goodness!
For Your Listening Pleasure
The food should draw you in and Lo Cash keeps the good times going with cover free live music. I got a fortunate treat hearing a solo set from Annie B who rocks lead for group Annie B and Vagabond Company. They actually just jammed the pre-game show with Icarus Down for the Bucks game Monday night.
Of hard Americana cast and heart made, sometimes mellow vocals belt from Annie B’s lips in front of her acoustic guitar on her two recorded albums Fancies of a Random Heart and a solo project The Kiwi Cafe, sounds well suited for live performance.
Lo Cash Live is located on 2nd and National and open serving great food and music daily.
Oh yeah it’s 2012! That means it’s time to quickly look back at 2011 before speeding off into the night of the New Year. I’ve been blogging for about 3 years now, and the new year also brings us closer to Local Trolley’s one year anniversary! Before I go on posting, I want to acknowledge my most popular posts from 2011. Even though I don’t know how I will honor my most popular post subjects, I still want to give them the desserts they deserve!
Here are the five Local Trolley topics receiving the most page views in 2011!
#5 Vision Noir, Ryan Laessig, Milwaukee Alt (posted August 19, 2011)
Meeting Ryan Laessig was an unexpected jolt of freshness. A photographer and avid re-branded clothing maker, Laessig taps into the alternative fashion scene with a couple of location based themes titled Milwaukee Alt. and Capital Alt..
Laessig published a book photography this past summer entitled Milwaukee Alt. featuring men and women’s fashion styles and aesthetics. His efforts engage sexuality, seductiveness and pleasure, hanging out in area between tasteful and taboo.
#4 Breaking Beats Down, Miltown Beat Down Rd. 1 (posted May 12, 2011)
Generating much hype over the past 5 years or so the Miltown Beat Down has provided and outlet for not just aspiring rappers but music producers. The past three years the Miltown Beat Down has featured music producers exclusively. In 2011 hip-hip producer Reason took the title, on the precipices of one of 2011′s top underground collaborations UniFi Records’ release Know Flight Zone with Dana Coppa.
The Miltown Beat Down featured a lot of other independent efforts like Audio Pilot, Sam Winters, Luxi, Mark V, and White Russian, and approximately 36 other talented hip-hop musicians. DJ Madhatter and Kid Cut Up, two hip-hop mainstays in Milwaukee (minus Kid Cut Up now who left Milwaukee to spread his wings this past fall) mastered the ceremonies last year, no telling what in store this year. In the wake of Andrew Tyler’s murder, the only thing the hip-hop community can do is keep striving for higher ground and efforts like the Miltown Beat Down humbly keep the culture ascending.
#3 Making the Mold, Northern Chocolate Co. (posted April 8, 2011)
Filling a need to associate people we know with established type cast, takes a little bit from Jim Fetzer‘s natural mystique. None the less people seek his chocolate desperately and I definitely noticed that as the winter holidays approached, views of my post on Northern Chocolate Company trickled up.
He’s an alum of the old Ambrosia chocolate factory workforce and has kept busy making chocolate on Martin Luther King Drive well before urban renewal took hold in Brewer’s Hill. If you made a Milwaukee Pabst-Can-list, tearing-off and devouring the head of one Northern Chocolate Co‘s famous chocolate bunnies would settle in the top ten must-do’s.
#2 Talent transplant: Riverwest a Rhapsody! (posted March 12, 2011)
Riverwest, ah Riverwest. Some love it, some get broken by it, some thrive in its rubbery stew. Riverwest is kind of like Milwaukee’s City of the Lost Children and playwright Eric Theis wound his experiences there into a theatrical ditty entitled Riverwest: A Rhapsody!.
Ironically, Theis produced his musical in Madison at Broom Street Theater. Despite the play’s, geographical limitations, Theis masterfully transformed his Madisonian cast into a band of gypsies worthy of a inhabiting a Polish flat on Weil Street.
Fearless of difficult topics, Theis’s other projects include an original script about the Reconstruction Era South titled The Temples of Nadir. Crafting intelligent, poignant and nuanced dramatic prose, Eric Theis falls into the category of extremely talented young risk-taking writers to support.
#1 Pt. 2, Art Opulence, Mike Maegestro (posted September 1, 2011)
On a very indiscript late summer day in August, an art show gracing several store fronts in the Plankington Arcade section of the Grand Avenue Mall had just underwhelmed me. Having heard about another lightly promoted art show, I decided why not check it out, I never go to Avenues West.
Milwaukee artist Brittany Farina pulled a few fellow artists together for one of the more unsung event of 2011, an art night at the Brumder Mansion. One of the artists, Mike Magaestro, strung together a tremendous series of paintings centering on the most difficult subject matter to make interesting: flowers. He’s nearly a landmark unto himself in the Milwaukee design world, it seems that visual arts just add to the proficiencies that Magaestro nimbly executes.
Congrats Mike on being Local Trolley’s #1 post for 2011!
It’s Wednesday and nothing else will do but fish for dinner. Where to? Thinking through my mental map quest, Colossus Gyros on 84th and Lisbon comes to mind. Riding the back roads, I get to the triangle corner of the Colossus storefront and across the street the Po Po got some dude pulled over who is doing a little too much explaining. I look over to Colossus. Closed! I thought that place was a local staple! I mush on, turning the corner to head West on Lisbon.
An over-sized back-lit sign proclaiming Champion Chicken employs the help of a cartoon chicken wearing a boxing glove, a beacon shining to diner food and custard lovers on 88th and Lisbon. They have a few different menus with plenty of options, chicken, ribs, fish, shrimp, pizza, and burgers, and sides comprise most of the food. Custard in scoops and sundaes get piled as well. The fresh catch menu surprise is Blue Gill, fried crispy and not too salty. Don’t get your hopes up you won’t find catfish. Champion Chicken is open pretty late, Friday and Saturday until midnight. They also cater.
Skip Culver’s or JJ’s Chicken (originating in that place to the South they say is windy), if you’re in the neighborhood, Champion Chicken has been cooking up the goodness since 1959. Champion Chicken’s location is on 8718 W. Lisbon Avenue.
Circling back to National Avenue from 34th and Scott, I nestle my wheels against the curb under a shade tree. I like spicy food, my hands don’t like hot steering wheels. The city bustles on 35th and National like the pulse of a hyper-tensed vein. People activity registers high in Silver City, as gnarled wills eek out gritty and working-class livelihoods.
Too hot to stay indoors, the neighbors gather on door steps outside of the Asian International Market and speak in an Asian dialect I do not understand, most likely Hmong. Walking up the block to Thai BBQ, passing windows full of American immigrant authenticity, I make a snap unwarranted judgment that I am going to love this Thai dining experience. Reaching the eatery, I ascend the stairs inside to see adorned, with spices, tables creating islands of various sizes for diner’s to escape McWorld.
A tremendous number of religious themes, possibly more so than Cafe Corazon, emblazon Thai BBQ’s interior. Gold painted molding breaks up the deep red trim glazing the walls. Figures of Ganesha and Vishnu accompanied by ornate lanterns and fixtures keep the eyes looking around for more. Departure from the sacred happens in blank wall space, filled with pictures of staged menu items on plates advertising the most popular and rare entrée. Like all good Thai restaurants, you will not lack choices, 101 dishes fill the menu. Amazingly each meal is a little different.
After being seated a middle age gentleman approaches the table, our server. He utters English in a thick accent and perfect grammar of his native language. He has a wry smile that is not completely showing, and issues banter implicitly asking if we would like more time with the menu. Feeling at home as a Thai food veteran, I truly can’t decide what to select. The menu consists of the standard fare: fried rice, rice noodles, fried rice noodles, papaya salads and curries of all varieties. Shrimp, tilapia and duck appear alongside chicken, et al, as the meat choice for each.
My dining buddy selects the Ginger Curry, and I am plain addicted to fat rice noodle with basil, commonly know as Drunken Noodle. Then the inevitable question arises, “How spicy for you?” I want 4 out of 5, and the server looks at me imagining the face of the last 11 Americans to say that. No testament to the quality or flavor of the meal, I would eventually put the self-serve table chili sauces to use.
A tepid but savory soy milk drink and rice wrap spring rolls fried to perfection satiate my wait. A flat screen television beams recorded Thai pop music videos that have already made the dining experience well worth it. The server moves to the background near the fruit smoothy station, in front of kitchen entrance, pins a cordless phone between his shoulder and ear to chat while counting receipts on a Saturday afternoon. Suddenly a scene flashes in my head that I am on location for a Jean Claude Van Damme action sequence for a straight to DVD flick.
The food arrives and I quickly snap back to reality. Steaming hot spices, singe the combination of meats, vegetables and noodles placed before me, copiously filling quaint china ware accompanied by customary communal sticky rice. It’s 90 degrees outside and the air conditioning maintains a relatively cool climate in the mid-70′s. These conditions only encourage my appetite for chilies.
As expected Drunken Noodle takes my mouth to a familiar place, that of wanting seconds. Having asked for a sample of my friend’s Ginger Curry, my sentiments quickly erased all memory of Drunken Noodle and embraced fully that Thai BBQ’s curry recipe easily could take the title of the best I have ever tasted. Keeping custom with all great Thai restaurants, the unfinished portions whisked away return stuffed inside durable Asian style paper take-out boxes.
Not for everyone, Local Trolley recommends Thai BBQ only to the most experienced and hardcore Thai food lovers. I’m from the camp that expects certain things from Thai food restaurants and it’s not plastic trays that look like they came from the Froedtert medical complex, with dainty helpings of pasta and red curry powder from Sysco sprinkled on it, and no rice!. I suspect the Silver City neighborhood alone will keep unappreciative diners away. A superb value Thai BBQ courses range from $8-$12.
Half way through the year, our Leviathan, our Body Politic, our Country celebrates its independence from the Great Britain. Here in Milwaukee, we commemorate with the best of them other cities in our Union. The Big Bang already teamed up with Summerfest to open the World Biggest Music Festival with an impressive fireworks display.
We didn’t have a man running on wind currents 100 feet in the air over the Marcus Amphitheater, but the good folks organizing the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony would have been proud. Of course WISN Channel 12 can help you re-live the finale to the tune of that one famous opera.
Fireworks were invented in China, and now they are sold on State highway frontage roads.
Wait, is Summerfest going on? This is Brew City…
The Fondy Farmer’s Market (looky here)
It’s the largest in the area and it opened last week Saturday. Field greens, green onions and chinese broccoli are available however, this time of year The Fondy Market stands out for its prepared foods. Fresh from the grill burgers, brats, corn on the cob and even smoked turkey legs, make great outdoor meals. Spring rolls and other Asian dishes mix up the market menu. Walnut Way Conservation Corp also sells fresh honey from bees that had access to peach tree blossoms.
On Milwaukee did an nice article on The Fondy Market on the eve of the market’s opening day last Saturday. Located on 22nd and Fond du Lac Ave. just north of North Avenue, The Fondy Market has off street parking on the Meineke Street side for your convenience.
The Vliet Street Green Market (looky here)
The Washington Park Partners sponsor the Vliet Street Green Market, a Sunday farmer’s market in the midst of Washington Park, on 4420 W. Vliet Street. It features food, live music and crafts in a community that is a hot bed of Fair Trade awareness and neighborhood building.
Great business like Amaranth Bakery, Birdie’s Cafe and the fair trade shop Four Corners of the World , a central organization in founding Fair Trade Day observance in Milwaukee, make their home in the Washington Park area. Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) just circulated an e-mail call for crafts persons, artists and musicians interested in participating in the Green Market to contact Bess Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
US Ping Pong Championships (looky here)
Everybody’s talking about it, and its going on until July 4th. WUWM even did a radio news story about it. Can it take the place of a cook out? We can thank Forrest Gump for introducing us to Table Tennis, not to be confused with Ping Pong played by locals in the Third Ward’s Spin. Right now and for the rest of the summer, and when open, On Milwaukee’s Jeff Sherman reported that you can play ping-pong free at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Chase Bank Plaza and at Mitchell airport, and these places too for free on Killerspin tables… But in the meanwhile you can get inspired to appropriately wear resale gym shorts and a head band at the Frontier Airlines Center.
PBR Fest (looky here)
The A.V. Club reported that on Sunday July 3rd PBR Fest can cure your Summerfest blues (they mention some other random stuff too). I can attest to PBR Fest being extra cool. It’s just too bad it’s not on the same day as New Belgian Brewery’s Tour de Fat like last year, a rare orbit crossing of fests. PBR Fest keeps only PBR flowing, on the block between Burnhearts and Hi-Fi, has a main stage underplayed by sidewalk stages, and usually both entertain. If I’m not mistaken, if you really want to go to Summerfest you can stumble up the block to The Highbury and catch the shuttle, if I’m wrong you can just get more drinks at The Highbury (actually not as bad as the first photo slide show photo looks).
The Band Shell at Washington Park (looky here)
Among other great things you can do in the Milwaukee County Park System you can see music performed in a band shell. July 6 opens the Band Shell Concert Series with a Leahys Luck performance. They may look a little smarmy, but have you every heard an Irish Folk band that didn’t force a jig out of you?
Wiz Khalifa at Summerfest July 5 (looky here)
Phrophetic and Pizzle’s Green and Yellow gave Wisco a busting Super Bowl theme song this past winter, adapted from Pittsburgh repping Wiz Khalifa’s single Black and Yellow (86 million views on one post, woa). Wiz’s track brutally pays homage to the Steeler’s football franchise. Snoop Dogg did a remix for the Steelers that Lil Wayne crushed on behalf of the Pack. If you don’t know what happened, and why this will make one of Summerfest’s top shows (hopefully without incident), well you probably were hating on Kanye (Christina Daglas’s point and JC Poppe’s counter-point) like those JS Online commenters the A.V. Club heckled (scroll down the page of the link), and you mind as well…
The Lakefront Segway Tour
…take the Lakefront Segway Tour from Veteran’s Park…
History is History
Last thing, in light of inevitable mass teacher layoffs in MPS (a story that made CNN), let’s recognize Third Coast Digest for exercising journalistic freedom by printing a impeccable selection of prose, in a piece excerpting the original underground media star Frederick Douglas (makes you wonder how long public education has been under attack). Happy 4th MKE!!
To festive Milwaukeeans, no opportunity to have the summer’s first Margarita presents itself better than Cinco de Mayo. Cafe Corazon sits as a kitsch landmark on the Beerline bike trail, happy to oblige distilled agave cravings despite Cafe Corazon’s Puerto Rican inspiration. Nestled just North of Burleigh on Bremen Street deep in Riverwest (the unofficial home of Polish flats) uninhibited good times radiate from Cafe Corazon’s craggy triangular-shaped building.
The traditional cantina spirit lives inside Cafe Corazon. Patrons converse jovially, aided by house specialty libations removing any inhibitions one might have of sharing minimal space with the maximum number bodies. There will be no cagey American sensibilities requiring acres and privacy here. Diners in wait stand, sit or lean with beverages clutched and mingle with neighbors.
Decor tinted with teal tropical ocean hues, starkly contrasted with blood-red bar and wood trim, give backdrop to the ample religious relics and Catholic keepsakes commemorating the Christ’s Passion that occupy every free nook. Enjoying more than one of the tastiest and tartest mouth searing Margaritas served on record will certainly beg an extraordinary test of self-control, to avoid unseemly acts beckoning God’s forgiveness. Fortunately the Parish Priests of this Mass, of Latin-inspired cuisine, shepherd wayward appetites with insatiable dishes.
Good things come to those who wait for a place at one of the six coveted table tops tended by the cafe staff. Part of the Cafe Corazon experience must include the faux pas of wetting your appetite by eying others’ food while on stand-by. There is no denying that every food combination appears absolutely delicious, urgently flying out of the kitchen quickly uniting with the ordering guest.
Certain details such as the thinly sliced medallions of radish garnishing the tacos, the secret house tomatillo and cilantro-based green salsa or flavorfully doctored black beans, compliment the traditional Latin menu nicely. Plates of tacos, enchiladas or quesadillas with choice of filling, including the lesser known Mechada (slow cooked pulled beef) anchor the menu. Sea Food aptly varies the menu further and all dishes have a vegetarian option. Keeping with sustainable ethics, Cafe Corazon uses Restaurant Supported Agriculture and raises its meat locally.
Cafe Corazon serves up tastiness Tuesday through Saturday 11am to 10pm. Saturday and Sunday offers brunch starting at 10am.
Walking towards the door, I imagined a scene flashing back to a developing main street in an early 20th century trading post. In this scene, Northern Chocolate Co., with its brick facade and iron-barred windows, would securely hold the town’s people’s earnings converted into a currency called chocolate.
Historic Martin Luther King Drive, home to beautiful early American industrial architecture, stands as a corridor ripe for incarnation of commercial vibrancy. In spite of the direction developers attempt to take MLK Drive, establishments of Northern Chocolate‘s ilk project business possibilities seething with mom & pop character for which Milwaukee natives yearn. The netherworld sustained by shopping malls give hints about what happens when the experience gets left out.
Upon arrival you may see a skeptical eye peering at you between posters and a hand-written sign beseeching visitors to ring the buzzer and check any fur accouterments on the sidewalk before entering. When granted a pass, you enter a glorious palace of chocolate figurines, globs, spheres, and sticks carefully crafted to suit a spectrum of chocolate tastes. To be clear, no candy here, just chocolate; additions of select nuts and fruits only apply.
I’ve heard Northern Chocolate‘s proprietor compared to the Seinfeld character famous for serving the best soup, in that large over populated metropolis on the east coast. This guy definitely cares about his chocolate, he’s even conceivably fanatical. Chocolates line the walls from floor to ceiling, wrapped plainly in clear cellophane topped with an illustrated label proclaiming “otterly peaceful”. Part-kitchen part-museum, his work place houses worn porcelain and tinned artifacts, some appearing religious, others promotional of seminal consumer product brands. The dim light draws eyes to reclaimed iron work suspended from the ceiling recollecting the past. Although founded in 1991, everything about Northern Chocolate Co. draws you back to the old world.
Northern Chocolate‘s Easter themed selection of five-inch tall bunnies in various active poses, including a chocolate bunny playing an accordion, reinforces spring time joviality. Don’t let the grizzled but gently aged man behind the counter surprise you, he’ll take responsibility for hand-making Northern Chocolate’s delicacies that make the film Chocolat come to life without the band of gypsies.
I have no idea when Northern Chocolate Co. is open. I made the trip there on a Saturday afternoon.
Margaret Bergland did an excellent profile piece on Northern Chocolate‘s artisan-owner for Milwaukee Magazine (Inside Milwaukee) in April of 2008. It’s quite a story, with ingredients for legend, and gives a built-in history lesson of some of Milwaukee’s classic neighborhoods and business.
Local Trolley 2011 Honors!, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-13I
Recently, I mentally noted that Lisbon Avenue leads a perfect and direct route from Milwaukee’s Northside into downtown. For that matter, as an old “milk road”, Hwy 41 will take you all the way from Green Bay, WI to downtown. Overlooking the park lands of Washington Park, I welcomed the familiar left turn off of Sherman Boulevard now free of orange construction water barrels that for the past five years prominently guarded Lisbon Avenue. Not far out of the turn, in my periphery a series of parked cars line the street in front of a quaintly adorned building, with classic storefront display bay windows endemic to older Milwaukee neighborhoods. Turns out Amaranth Bakery & Cafe forms the honeycomb attracting these local bees on 33rd and Lisbon.
Opening in 2005, Amaranth Bakery & Cafe brings flavorful baked delicacies and Anodyne coffee to an area of Milwaukee that not 10 years ago could have been mistaken for the setting of an episode of The Wire. Sandwiched between Washington Heights, Sherman Park, and Walnut Hill, the cross-road neighborhood of Washington Park gets passed by everyday with little notice.
At the turn of the millennium, while Washington Heights and to some extent Sherman Park maintained their class as stable Northside neighborhoods, Walnut Hill (which anchored the heart of the Black community in the 1950′s and ’60′s and encompasses Lindsay Heights) and Washington Park faced tribulation. Like many other neighborhoods, the spillover of years of divestment in Milwaukee’s central areas ripped these neighborhoods’ social fabric. In the mid-1990′s, partnerships in the Walnut Hill and Washington Park neighborhoods, initiated through grassroots organizations like Walnut Way and New Hope Project, sparked the revitalization seen today.
The beauty of Amaranth Bakery & Cafe, which is still somewhat out-of-place even with Washington Park’s make-over, goes beyond its external appearance. The proprietors, life partners Dave and Stephanie, don’t commute from a remote part of town. They put roots down right in the Washington Park community and cast a civic presence there. Amaranth and their founders support neighborhood efforts to promote constructive activities that do justice to the residents that subsist contrary to prevailing media images. They also publish a print-only monthly newspaper called The Washington Park Beat, which for Milwaukee’s concentric easterly neighbors circulates at Whole Foods.
Amaranth’s innovation also has a taste. The fare at Amaranth keeps a “buy local” ethic, with many ingredients produced locally or regionally. Even the sweet treats supply reasonably healthy nourishment, including only sensible amounts of food group essentials. Take the pecan pie out of the bleached flour crust and corn syrup-based filling and you have a delicious flaky crust with a custard bed comforting glistening and slightly sweetened pecans (friendly to my gluten sensitive stomach, although likely not free of it). The serenity found in Amaranth’s atmosphere encourages thought; over-sized comfortable chairs would betray the humbleness and spirit of ingenuity exuded here. A stash of boards games give motivation to embrace this theme.
Amaranth Bakery & Cafe offers environmentally and socially conscious soups, salads and baked goods without the snot. Daily soup options have updates found on the newly launched business page. Amaranth Bakery & Cafe is open Tuesday through Saturday 7am – 2pm, and definitely on my must support list.