In my last post I talk about the birth of an internet friendship and it culminating in a face to face meet-up several years in the making. This meet-up occurred in Milwaukee, and the city was interesting enough that it needs it’s own post. Get ready, it’s a doozie!
I left LA on Thursday night and landed in Milwaukee on Friday at 6:30am. I should note: I did NO research on Milwaukee before I landed. I wasn’t sure what state or even time zone it was in. Due to plan changes I needed to find my way to a hotel in Mequon. Not only did I not know where this town is, but I didn’t even know how to pronounce it. I was expecting a tourism desk but instead found a wall of pamphlets. I wrote the hotel address down on my hand and walked up to the luggage help desk where a nice lady was reading the newpaper. “I need to go here (pointing to my hand), how do you think I could go about doing that?” She was very nice and recommended a “Go” shuttle which would be cheaper than a cab. I followed her orders, made a call from their specialty phone and within 10 mintues I was in a van on my way to Mequon.
I had a great shuttle driver. He was probably in his 50’s-60’s, over 6′ tall wearing a black leather jacket and had a warm Minnesota accent. When I asked him advice on where to go he turned the shuttle ride into a tour of Milwaukee. He told me about the german restaurants downtown that I needed to visit, the Fonzie statue, the free Miller Brewing Tour and the Lakefront Brewing Tour. He pointed out where to get the best burgers and described Discovery World as well as the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum. And of course he said “Ya’ gatta go to Kapp’s (spelled Kopps). That’s where the Happy Days gang hangout.” I could tell in my first 20 minutes of being there that this was going to be a fun trip.
Once I met up with my friends (in some case for the first time- see my earlier post) we went to a lovely brunch at a local cafe. It was filled with 70 year old diners (who were adorable) but what did I expect at 9:30am on a Friday. From there we went to Alison’s (the bride) parents house before taking a scenic drive along Lake Michigan to go to their local coffee chain: Alterra. We enjoyed some coffee while looking at a quiet downtown. Was it really a work day? The streets were so bare.
After our caffeine fix we decided it was check-in time at the hotel. We stayed in the Pfister Hotel (I know, funny name) located centrally downtown. It’s super fancy-schmanzy with a top floor indoor pool and bar. Once everyone got settled in their rooms we decided to walk to the Third Ward section of downtown (only 5 blocks away). We met up with another group of RISD friends in town for the wedding at Cafe Benelux. They had a huge selection of beer on tap and in bottles. Our group ended up going with a meter of beer (10 beers for $33). I recommend this place not only for their huge selection (their Beir Book) but everything was decently priced. From here we walked back to the Pfister Hotel so the bride and groom and our friend Mark (who became ordained with the Church of Life to officiate the wedding) could get ready for their rehearsal.
The rehearsal dinner was held on the second floor of the Public Market. The Public Market is a giant high-end food court/ gourmet food shopping center. It was a beautiful renovated warehouse-esque space with the second floor reception overlooking the market. The dinner was buffet style and had a make-your-own taco bar, falafel bar, and sausage station. The open bar had many locally brewed options and it was a great meet-and-greet for the families and friends. As a post dinner celebration, they reserved tables at the ping-pong lounge/bar called Spin Milwaukee. This place was like nothing Ive ever seen. A DJ was spinning tunes and there were ping pong balls flying everywhere. People were dancing between tables while dodging balls. It was a madhouse and in the center of the main room was a spotlight and bleachers around a ping pong tournament. People playing at that table brought their own paddles and kept them in special cases. It was unreal.
The next day we went to a diner downtown called Michigan Street Diner for a hearty breakfast. They have statues of Marlyn Monroe and Elvis Presley in their windows so it’s hard to miss the place. When we left Juan pulled me into a building connected to the diner that was under construction and showed me the interior atrium that was so beauiful, that I had to post a pic. After a hearty breakfast we explored downtown while looking for a CVS. The groom found a head-up penny on his wedding day (lucky day!). Once back at the Pfister we explored the 23rd story pool which had AMAZING views of the city. After a quick dip it was wedding time!
There was a trolley taking people from the hotel to the Masonic Hall where the wedding was held. The space was perfect for a wedding because the stadium style seating gave everyone a great view. It was a very personal wedding celebration, pretty special. Post nuptuals, while the bride and groom were off getting pictures taken we trolly’ed over to the reception at Cuvee in the Third Ward. This was a great recepetion space. We snacked and got drinks from the open bar. They offered a huge selection and featured 2 specialty drinks: “The Juan” (a Dark and Stormy) and “The Alison” (a Paloma).
Once the bride and groom arrived several sets of double doors opened and we entered
the main dining area. A large band was playing, and they were fabulous. They were singing new and old songs of different genres, taking requests and transitioning between songs seamlessly. Seats were unassigned which worked out really well. They had a backdrop set-up so the photographer could take photos of guests. It was such a fun event. Alison’s grandma gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard, detailing how Alison was conceived as well as outing that Juan + Alison’s relationship began when he was her Teachers Assistant (taboo!). It was awesome.
When the wedding died down, everyone chilled out until the open bar ended at midnight and then we moved over to Cafe Benelux. This time instead of the meter of beer, I sampled one of their stouts. Loved it per usual. Then we headed back to our hotel as our night had to end.
We had a slow morning the next day, as you can imagine. Breakfast was served on the top floor of the hotel and then we had to pack up and check out of our fancy diggs. With the car loaded up we decided to walk around and see the Milwaukee Art Museum as it was such a beautiful day. The museum’s addition is by Calatrava and the wings physically open when the museum is open, and they close when the museum is closed. Check this place out.
When the bride and groom met up with us, her request was that we get a greasy meal at Kobb’s, which I recognized from my airport driver/tour guide. Yes, please. We drove to Kopp’s where you go to the counter, order food and then sit on some built in cement steps outside. I had their onion rings (so good it didn’t need ketchup) and a fish sandwich (it was the size of my head). If you’re in Milwaukee and are okay with mayo and what Im imagining are a lot of transfats, stop by this place becuase it was delicious and cheap. If you get the custard (which you should) be sure to share because it is thick, creamy, and very filling.
At this point our sunny day turned rainy and we decided to go bowling at Landmark Lanes. This place was like something out of Freak and Geeks. You had to manually calculate your score (which meant having to really know how bowling works). They had an arcade and a darkly lit bar. The place felt like a movie set. Very cool, very cheap, and perfect for a rainy day.
As our time in Milwaukee was nearing an end, we said our goodbyes and began our drive to the airport. On our way we were delighted to see a double rainbow, which was a nice close to our reunion weekend. Since I’ve come back a friend mentioned visition the Safe-House (spy themed bar) downtown, where you enter through a bookcase using a code word. Hell ya. Milwaukee, I will be back, you can count on it.