Milwaukee Revisited

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I recently spent a few days in my hometown, Milwaukee–my first visit in three years. Above is a nifty local microbrewery signage collage from the backyard patio at Honeypie, a newish restaurant on Kinnickinnic Ave. (locals simply call it “KK”) in Bay View that friends took us to for a leisurely lunch.

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A few blocks further south on KK, Palm Tavern is the kind of local hangout I desperately wish we had in Boston. Not that Boston has a shortage of local hangouts, but none of them seem as personable and low-key as this.

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On the other side of the Palm’s neon-accented block glass: I love the woodpecker art but I’m not quite sure what to make of the nipples on the wall above them.

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I would gladly sit in the Palm for hours, sampling every one of the “new arrivals” listed on the chalkboard.

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Bay View has undergone extensive gentrification since I moved to Boston 17 years ago, possibly more than any other Milwaukee neighborhood (except maybe Riverwest). However, vintage Bay View surfaces occasionally, as seen by this gloriously dimmed House of Beauty across from the Palm.

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Also across from the Palm: genuine (I think) old school dive bar Lee’s Luxury Lounge.

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I’m guessing this door at Lee’s has not been in use for decades.

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A peek at Lee’s interior, and a neon sign that just about sums up the entire city.

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Still, remnants of classic Milwaukee are gradually giving way to newer establishments like this one, a few steps away from Lee’s and the Palm.

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One final Bay View photo. I couldn’t resist photographing this because it reminds me of this (as seen on 1980s-era David Letterman).

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Let’s travel two miles west to my childhood neighborhood (the good ol’ South Side) and one of my favorite places, National Bakery & Deli on 16th and Euclid. To this day, my dad still facetiously calls it “Lincoln Bakery”–the only reason I can discern being that National Avenue and Lincoln Avenue are two major thoroughfares close to where he grew up.

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National’s famous (to me, anyway) Wall of Pastries. You couldn’t ask for a better side-by-side comparison than the religious cake (complete with crucifix and Eucharist) right next to the pink one with the baby girl skull.

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National also had this gigantic cake at the counter. I was unfamiliar with the legend of Hank, the Milwaukee Brewers’ unofficial mascot, as I should’ve been since it’s pretty recent.

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Onward to the suburb of West Allis and a Friday Night Fish Fry at Kegel’s Inn, another one of my all-time favorites.

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Kegel’s is a German restaurant that opened in 1924; I doubt these exterior paintings are original, but they add considerable charm. The interior walls have paintings of monkeys playing poker (of all things), but I was obviously too entranced by my buttery spaetzle and tall glass of Hacker-Pschorr Weisse to take a snapshot of them this time.

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Downtown Milwaukee is architecturally a hodgepodge of the old, the new and the restored. Here’s the back of an old building, although most of the windows have obviously been updated.

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On the other end of the block, a more-or-less restored building, dating from 1892.

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Along the Milwaukee River, looking North towards Wells Street. The Pabst Theatre and the Bronze Fonz (not really visible) are on the right.

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A freeway pylon glowing a mysterious radioactive blue. Have we gone deep into the depths of industrial Milwaukee?

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No, we’re just at the Henry Maier Festival Park, where Festa Italiana was in full swing on a comfortable mid-summer’s Saturday night.

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Naturally, the best part of the park and the festival (apart from the nightly fireworks) is the Sky Glider ride that transports you from one end to another.

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A Sky Glider’s view of the stand for Sciortino’s Bakery, as good as anything in Boston’s North End (possibly better).

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At any rate, I’ve never had better Italian cookies than these, which were purchased at Sciortino’s year-round location on Brady Street the previous day.

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I leave you, and Milwaukee, with this image from Klode Park in Whitefish Bay: a view of the main path leading down to the beach and Lake Michigan. Unless I move, in five years I will have spent the same amount of time in Boston that I did in Milwaukee. I no longer really feel like a Milwaukeean, but I’m sure I’ll be back again for a visit–maybe in another three years.

Coming up: more photos of one particular green space in the Milwaukee area.

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