Return to Milwaukee

Day and Night: Milwaukee Art Museum spreads its wings. Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge aquarium and vintage hi-fi.

Last October we made a spur-of-the-moment weekend trek to Milwaukee. We had such a great time we knew a return was in order, we just needed an occasion. Well I turn 32 on June 24th so we declared Milwaukee my birthday destination. At only 90 minutes away, Milwaukee is an easy day or weekend getaway from Chicago. An amazing Hotwire rate of around $70 for the downtown Hyatt sealed the deal and reminded us what a bargain our northern neighbor is.

We saw a lot of the city the first time around, but there were a few things we would have liked to see that we just didn’t have time for. We toured the Miller Brewery and the Pabst Mansion, but didn’t complete a beer trifecta by touring Lakefront Brewing, so we’ll try to stop by this time. We had some great food in October and have done some more research into additional options. Since it’s June, we’ll give extra consideration to anyplace with a patio. Milwaukee’s riverwalk will provide plenty.

There are, of course, some things we’ll repeat, and we’ll start with Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge. This is one of my favorite bars ever (and last month it was named among the country’s best bars by Esquire magazine). Last summer we came across a mention in Time Out Chicago and thought we’d give it a try since we love a good cocktail or four. Tucked away in the Historic Mitchell Street Neighborhood just south of downtown, entering Bryant’s is like walking through a time warp. The place has immaculately maintained its ’70s-era design including McIntosh Hi-Fi and behind-bar tropical aquarium. I also feel like I remember well-placed vinyl, but it’s dark in there so I could be wrong, but it works. There’s no official drink menu, just great bartenders. Upon bellying up last time, they asked me what liquor I like (gin), plus a couple of follow-up questions and decided to “make him a Last Word” which coincidentally was already one of my favorite cocktails. Now that’s service.

The Historic Third Ward is also going to be worth a second look. Restaurants lined up along the riverwalk provide great views and many of the neighborhood’s original buildings are intact and restored, a nice change from the area just to the north that is filled with parking garages.

Another main inspiration for the trip is a return to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see a recently-opened exhibit called Posters of Paris. If you’re not into art, the architecture of the building is worth a visit itself. Every day at noon the Calatrava-designed brise soleil (sun shade) over the main atrium slowly flaps its 217 foot wide wings. Beautiful.

Look out Milwaukee, you have fans.

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