Tag Archives: TJ Uttke Photography

ABCs of Milwaukee Dining: A Conclusion

Late 2011 at Firefly Urban Grill + Bar, Wauwatosa

Late 2011 at Firefly Urban Grill + Bar, Wauwatosa

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“For a moment … we’re all immortal. Time stretches out forever. There’s a moment like that in every meal. If you pay attention it’s there … where oblivion is replaced with infinity … and then, the check comes.” -Aaron Wolfe from “Ruthy’s Dinner” at The Moth.

It has been eight months since our ABCs of Milwaukee Dining quest ended. Eight months where I’ve tried to figure how to sum up a two-year quest with my best friends. This is the best I could do.

Looking back, it is astounding to see all the things that have changed in the two years of our ABCs of Milwaukee Dining quest. Adam, Cindi, Shannon, TJ, Michelle and I have experienced two marriages and two babies. New houses. A new dog. New jobs. New friends. Vacations. And other things too. Continue reading

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Y is for Yen Ching

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Whenever we select a restaurant I’ve never been to, I am eager to go online and see the reviews.

Thanks to Michelle’s winning entry of Yen Ching (Adam also picked it), I found mixed results of a curious, unsurprising variety. I saw claims that Yen Ching is the best Chinese in Milwaukee. I saw that Yen Ching was featured on Dirty Dining.

I was eager to form my own opinion, so on a sunny Friday evening in early June, we made the half-hour trek from Bay View to Brown Deer and pulled up in front of a restaurant festooned with life-size golden lions, red siding, green shingles and large Chinese characters.

The interior carried the theme further. The large dining space was decorated with items meant to evoke ancient China, and they looked like they had been in place for about as long. Adam said:

I loved the gold Buddha statue and paper-style lantern light fixtures.

The mostly windowless dining area was maybe a third full on a Friday night–no reservations necessary. Although, Cindi notes: “I noticed a lot of people picking up their take-out.” Continue reading

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Touring Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery: A Pictorial

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The unmistakable, lime green label of Lakefront’s IPA is ubiquitous in Milwaukee’s finer bars and restaurants, but as a neophyte beer drinker, I still remember it as the first microbrew that really made an impression on me. IPA remains one of my favorite beers.

So, it is a huge hole in my hophead resume that I have never been to Lakefront Brewery for a tour. I’d only first gone there the year before for a fish fry charity event.

When I saw a case of Lakefront beer and a private tour were a silent auction item, I had to win, and, eventually, after several other bidders stepped in, I made the winning bid – Michelle was okay with it because Lakefront also makes one of her favorite beers, Riverwest Stein, which is their most popular offering.

A year later, prior to our ABCs of Milwaukee Dining brunch at Wolf Peach, Adam, Cindi, Michelle, Shannon, TJ and I made the trek to the brewery, which is, decidedly, not on the lake. Instead, it is tucked in the Milwaukee River basin, in the Riverwest district. Continue reading

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V is for VIA Downer

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This winter has been pretty rough on Wisconsin. Frigid temperatures and mountains of snow make it easier to stay home, underneath the covers with wine and Netflix.

But on a Friday in early January, we found many similar souls braving the weather for pizza and drinks at VIA Downer on Milwaukee’s Eastside, which was chosen by Adam, Cindi, Michelle, Mike and TJ (Michelle’s entry was selected).

I walked in, kicked the snow from my shoes and when the fog cleared from my glasses, I was in a large dining room with a modernist, industrial feel featuring high ceilings, artwork on the walls, exposed beams, wires and pipes. To my right was a hostess stand, to my left was a large, crowded bar and beyond were tables full of people.

VIA, the sister restaurant of Transfer (near the Allen Bradley Clock Tower AKA “The Polish Moon”), was crowded and our reservations, with a group our size, came in handy. Mike said:

The atmosphere was cool. You can tell they were busy but you could also hear everything any of us were saying and sometimes that doesn’t happen with seven people at a table.

We were seated near the middle of the room at large table. It seemed like a good mix of people on dates and large groups of friends. Continue reading

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U is for Union House

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Go west from Milwaukee on I-94. Use Exit 285 in Delafied and head south on 83. Pass the crappy chain restaurants and large box retailers and then six miles of subdivisions, forest and farms until a sign appears–Genesee Depot. The Union House is impossible to miss, a massive, two-story supper club with a wrap-around porch in the center of town.

Arriving at the Union House is arriving in the past.

And we arrived there on a weeknight early in December. Our reservation was unnecessary, but there were several diners in each of the dining rooms, as well as a small number of people at the bar.

As the first person to arrive, I pulled up a stool and ordered a beer … sadly, it turned out to be a flat Guiness. About half of us had been there before, including Cindi, whose submission was picked (Michelle and Adam also selected Union House). A number of us were excited about Union Houses wild game specials. Continue reading

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S is for Seoul Korean Restaurant

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I’ve driven past Seoul dozens of times without even realizing it. You probably have too. It is on Prospect Avenue on the eastside–across from Urban Outfitters.

Adam selected it because he had enjoyed the lunch buffet when he worked in the area. He said:

I try to pick places that other people in the group would never try on their own. I feel like that is part of the fun of doing this–to step outside your comfort zone and experience what people from all walks of life call “food.”

The rest of us never had never tried Korean food before, so we’d be out of our comfort zone. Continue reading

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Q is for Quivey’s Grove

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Two moments of musical clairvoyance bookended our visit to Quivey’s Grove in Verona, Wis. (near Madison). This was fitting since our group of friends came together around our similar taste in music.

The first moment happened on the car ride to Quivey’s Grove. Since there were no restaurants in the Milwaukee-area that met our criteria, we expanded our range to include Madison and Chicago and all picked Quivey’s Grove (Shannon’s submission was selected).

I told my car-mates TJ, Shannon, Cindi and Michelle that I didn’t know the song “Blurred Lines.” No one believed me, but I was honest. TJ, who was driving, was incredulous, and said it was the song of the summer and it was probably playing on the radio at that moment.

A turn of the dial and there it was … Robin Thicke’s hit.

This was just before we pulled into the palatial plot of land that accommodates Quivey’s Grove–two century-and-a-half-old buildings housing two distinct dining options–the Stone House and the Stable Grill (both buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places). Shannon chose the Stable Grill because it had a larger menu and was the more casual dining option. Continue reading

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R is for Rumpus Room

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At the beginning of July, the seven of us–plus our friend Ryan–enjoyed six sun-soaked days at an all-inclusive resort in Playa Del Carmen.

All-inclusive resorts are amazing, but after about 3 or 4 days of eating food prepared in the same kitchen and drinking every drink you can think of, you start to long for food from a different kitchen, flavors from home.

So it was ironic that our ABCs of Milwaukee Dining choice for “R” about two weeks after returning from the sandy shores of Mexico was Rumpus Room–a gastropub owned by the Bartolotta Restaurant Group which, according to TJ, has a “Wisconsin” menu (I would concur). He and Shannon were the only two in our party who had been there, and this was Shannon’s selection (and Cindi’s). Continue reading

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SPECIAL EDITION: Wisconsin State Fair Dining

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“In my opinion, the more indulgent the fair food, the better.” -Michelle

On an overcast Sunday, the last day of the Wisconsin State Fair, nine of us gathered to indulge in decadent fried goodness and other foodstuffs. It was Shannon’s idea to do a special edition of the ABCs of Milwaukee Dining at the Wisconsin State Fair. The usual crew was there–including Marilyn and Mike–and we were joined by Brendan and Clare, two friends who have relocated to Chicago and who’d come home to partake in this Wisconsin tradition.

All nine of us ordered an item and then, after the Fair, we ranked the items in the order we would eat them. Since there were nine of us (and Marilyn, who wouldn’t share her Cheerios for the contest), we were all full by the end of this quest. Continue reading

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P is for Pizza Shuttle

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It never felt right to eat at George Webb during the day.

Webbs is among a handful of local restaurants that are busiest once Milwaukee bars make their last call–others include Ma Fischer’s, Oakland Gyros, Real Chili, Johnny V’s Classic Cafe and, I always thought, Pizza Shuttle, TJ’s winning selection for our ‘P’ dinner in this quest.

So it made sense to us that in order to get the full Pizza Shuttle experience, we had to imbibe in the amber liquid that made Milwaukee famous prior to our pizza. In early May, the seven of us (Mike joined us again) headed to the East Side to build up that late night hunger at Yield and The Hotel Foster. We arrived at Pizza Shuttle promptly at 2 a.m.

Pizza Shuttle was closed. Take-out only. We were baffled. Continue reading

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