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. Read More

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Z is for Zaffiro’s Pizza

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In late October, we made a trip to a frequent location–Milwaukee’s East Side–for our final ABCs dinner. On a moderately chilly Monday night, we drove up and down the streets that make up the Brady Street neighborhood…

None of us had ever been to Zaffiro’s but we had certainly heard about it before–it was Michelle and Adam’s selection. Read More

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.” Read More

We Went to Nomad in Milwaukee and saw America Beat Ghana in the World Cup

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Being a sports fan is a calculated risk. The highest highs are possible, but crushing lows are more likely.

I’m a novice soccer fan, I only watch every four years, during the World Cup. Soccer is not a sport we grow up with and not a sport our country excels in, but trust me on this … go to Nomad or Highbury or any other soccer bar before this Cup ends and watch the Americans.

The United States Men’s Soccer team is only certain to play two more matches in this year’s World Cup. What they do on Sunday and then next Thursday will determine if they move on.

If you’re lucky and this team has more magic in it, perhaps you’ll share the joy that millions of Americans–including Mike, Ryan, Adam and I–felt early Monday evening. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

T is for Tenuta’s Italian Restaurant

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Sometimes, in certain neighborhoods, in the right places–the beautiful ones that seem unchanged by time, frozen several generations ago–if I squint hard enough, I can picture my grandparents, enjoying a meal with friends, smiling and laughing.

It is a comforting thought, these spaces shared with those who came before; home to conversation, fun and revelry, food and beer.

Bay View’s Tenuta’s (TJ’s pick, Shannon also submitted two entries) is one of those places. Cindi said:

How lucky are we to have such an idealistic Italian pizza place in our neighborhood? There is a certain charm to this cozy nook; you can tell that everyone around you feels it. There are few places I’d rather eat at on a chilly, Wisconsin night.

We were there on a Friday, and our reservations came in handy. The place was packed. Many of us had been there before, but this was my first time inside. Read More