An e-zine for happenings of local culture in Milwaukee and elsewhere

Archive for July, 2011

A Knock-Out, Champion Chicken

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.

South East Asian in Silver City, Thai BBQ

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.

Art for the Birds, Lynden Sculpture Gardens

Giant forms of steel and other various materials, some jagged, some smooth, some anthropomorphic, recline on the sprawling lawn of the Lynden Sculpture Garden. A great scene for artists, couples, families and outdoorsy people, or all of the above, the Lynden Sculpture Garden has tours both guided and unguided. However, this coming Sunday at 12:30p another cause can bring you to the Lynden confines.

Art for the Birds came about as an attempt to decrease the number of birds that go careening into window panes during the summer and fall months. The Lynden Sculpture Gardens will host an afternoon of crafty-ness as they create a collage for the Lynden Gallery building designed to alert birds to presence of windows.  Between 12:30 and 2:30p on July 10th, you can add aesthetically pleasing and bird deterring digital images for the collage. Bring you digital cameras and cool photo ideas along.

The Lynden Sculpture Gardens, which actually more resembles mid-sized park, features over 50 exquisite monumental industrial and traditional sculptures in the garden. Currently, on exhibit at the Lynden Gallery is artwork by Amy Cropper and Stuart Morris entitled Inside/Outside. The Lynden Sculpture Garden also hosts other periodic events such as Yoga in the Garden, which happens Sunday’s at 1:00p.

Even if you can’t make Art for the Birds or Yoga in the Garden, the Lynden Sculpture Garden is open Friday through Wednesday for the Summer months, a great setting to spend a relaxing afternoon whenever you might have a chance.

Barbecue Exclusive, Local Trolley T-Bone Steak

Two months separate cook-out enthusiasts from the next opportune Holiday, but surely in Milwaukee another reason to strike up the grill materializes in the meantime. By then, you will be ready for something other than burgers and brats so you can take this T-Bone Steak recipe for a whirl, Local Trolley’s version of the mid-south classic vinegar-based sauce.

Local Trolley Grilled T-Bone Steak

Local Trolley Sauce
Slathering a favorite BBQ sauce atop and searing the meat of choice is one way to get from prep to plate. Even if you’re not vegan, you should find that preparation disrespectful to a good cut of Steak. Steak deserves pampering and stately treatment before you devour it. Invented over Independence Day 2011, the Local Trolley Sauce recipe makes two T-Bone Steaks.

Combine in a large metal bowl:
8 oz of Apple Cider Vinegar
5 Tbsp (heaped) of garlic pepper
5 Tbsp (heaped) of Old Bay Seasoning (found in most spice isles of the grocery store)
4 Tbsp of your favorite BBQ sauce (optional)

The sauce will be a pretty deep red and very liquidy. Stir and agitate, mixing well all the ingredients and set aside.

The T-Bone Steak
T-Bone, the great upper mid-grade beef cut, has a thick cut and a nice fat trim. Remember that the fat generates the flavor of the meat. Look for a cut with a generous fat trim around the edges and fat marbled within the meat. This is a cookout not North Shore Bistro.

Prepping the T-Bone:
Shake the garlic pepper 12 inches above the T-Bone to create an ample, but reasonable, even dusting over the surface of the meat. Repeat this process with the Old Bay Seasoning. After both seasonings cover side one of the T-Bone, firmly message in the seasonings into the loins. Flip and repeat dusting and message of side two of the T-bone.

T-Bone meets Local Trolley Sauce
Bathe the seasoned and messaged T-Bone in the metal bowl filled with Local Trolley Sauce. Place T-Bone in a large heavy-duty freezer bag and pour the remaining Local Trolley Sauce in the freezer bag with the T-Bone. Seal and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. If you make two T-Bones you may want to jostle or turn the freezer bag at least once so that both steaks get equal amounts of time submerged in the marinade.

Grills are Hot
The day of your cookout get your grill going, charcoal or gas. For charcoal grills, build up coal on one side of the grill so that you create a high heat and lower heat zone. For gas grills set your gauges so that the flame is medium low. The idea for barbecuing the Local Trolley T-Bone is to cook it long, slow and well-done over medium low indirect heat.

Once the charcoal is ready usually about 20 minutes, place the T-Bone on the low heat portion of the grill, close and let cook, turning the T-Bone every 20 minutes until charring the fat trim. For gas grills, the warming rack is a good place to give the T-Bone the required dosage of indirect heat. Place T-Bone on the warming rack and turn every 30 minutes until charring the fat trim. Drizzling excess Local Trolley Sauce on the steaks periodically will help you keep and eye on them.

The bone of the T-Bone should begin pulling away from the steak’s loin when it’s ready. Slap the steaks down on a plate, let cool, for however long you can resist, and start hacking chunks of meat. You’ll want this meal for breakfast lunch or dinner.


The 4th, Summerfest, with or without you…

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
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!!