A few weeks ago – ok, maybe more like a month ago – I got to cross another state off my list! That brings me to…34 I believe. Time to update my Up In Smoke map.
I traveled to Wisconsin and Illinois for work, and as usual, it was a whirlwind trip. I did have a little time to prowl around Milwaukee and Madison, and of course, try some beer. (Let’s be honest…my number one goal in a new place, which I take very seriously.)
Milwaukee was first. We flew in around lunch, got our rental car, and headed over to the Safe House for lunch. Safe House is a really cool place – it’s a spy-themed restaurant and bar. You have to know the password to get in….or you have to prove you’re not a double agent. We tried to guess the password, failed miserably, and had to cluck around like chickens for 10 seconds. Turns out, everyone in the place can see this….which just adds to the fun.
Once you get inside, you’re bombarded with spy paraphernalia. The servers address you as lady spy or sir spy, the food is all spy-themed, and you’re given a “mission” to complete while you wait. It sounds cheesy, but it was perfect for us. I’m not sure I’d go at night, because then it probably would be silly (or at the very least, super crowded), but lunch was just fine. That said, apparently they have a signature cocktail that they send through a tube all over the bar – I’d have liked to see that.
I had the fish tacos, and they were just ok. The sauce was a little weird. I also had my first fried cheese curds…which were way too salty. Go for the atmosphere, not the food….or at least not the cheese curds and fish tacos.
The tacos didn’t actually come with fries, I’m just a weirdo.
We worked the rest of the day, but then I had a chance to prowl around before and after dinner. I asked the hotel staff where to go for local beer, and they sent me to Who’s On Third. It’s a sports bar with female bartenders. I appreciated that since I was by myself. I took my Kindle and chatted with the brand new bartender. Plus, I lucked out with $2 pints, and got to try a couple Wisconsin brews. I had the famed New Glarus Spotted Cow, which I enjoyed (that’s it below), and then a couple of Lakefront Brewery beers that I wasn’t impressed with.
Dinner was at Mader’s, my first German food experience. I ordered a German beer flight and the German sampler. I screwed up on the flight – I should have ordered another local beer. Turns out, I’m not a fan of German beer. Good to know, since I had 6 of them.
As for the food, I liked most of it. The sampler came with Wiener schnitzel (breaded pork – LOVED it), kasseler rippchen (smoked pork – good, but nothing special), and Rheinischer sauerbraten (braised beef – liked it). It also came with a potato dumpling (that lumpy thing in the back which I just COULD NOT do), sauerkraut and red cabbage, which were both delicious.
Mader’s is a Milwaukee institution, and I’m glad I got to try it. It’s expensive….my entree was $35. (Thank you, business travel.) I don’t know that I’d go back. The atmosphere was cool though, and the history of the restaurant is pretty neat.
At this point, you’re probably picking up on how much I loved Milwaukee, but just in case….this is what I texted Jimmie that night.
After dinner I prowled around some more, since we were right in Downtown Milwaukee. I walked the River Walk, found the Fonz, and tracked down Gertie the duck. Now…..Gertie. When you look her up online, she appears huge. She’s not. (She’s the same size as Millie, who I took a picture of instead because she was sassy.)
To say I was underwhelmed by Milwaukee is an understatement, though the view from the River Walk is pretty at sunset, and there’s some interesting sculpture art all around.
Oh, and it was borderline COLD in Milwaukee. Guess that’s because of the lake and all.
As for the hotel, we stayed at the Fairfield Inn Downtown Milwaukee, and it was….tiny. I’ve never been in a hotel room that small. It was fine for one night, but any more than that and I’d have gone insane. Also, I had a lake monster ghost living in my vents, and she sloshed around all night.
The next day we drove over to Madison to meet up with the other half of our team – totally out of the way, but it meant I got to see Madison, so I was fine with that. Plus, they brought me fresh cheese curds, which is apparently a Wisconsin staple, but is really just kind of strange.
This is the part of the trip where Untappd tells me I’m an alcoholic. >>>
I liked Madison a whole lot better than Milwaukee.
Madison is funky, and there’s a lot of beer. We ate at the Old Fashioned on a recommendation from a local, and holy smokes was it delicious. We had more fried cheese curds (they were much better). Three of us ordered beer flights, for 20ish beers total, and we just sampled all evening.
I had the tacos – one of each because I couldn’t decide – and they blew me away. Actually, the veggie taco blew me away, and the rest were just delicious.
Sadly we didn’t get to spend much time in Madison before we had to head down to the Chicago area, but I did get to run in a grocery store. While there, I found this.
Of course, I bought it. And it actually wasn’t terrible. I also bought these.
Chicago was pretty uneventful – we stayed out by the airport, and drove around a lot. I have family there, so we met up for dinner the night we were there. At Joe’s Crab Shack. Which is fine and all, but taught me a very important lesson – people confuse “local” with “nearby.” Ah well. After dinner I came back to the hotel and had a very wild night in my room with Snapchat, beer, and cheese.
Oh, one funny story….Joe’s was about a mile from our hotel, on the other side of a business complex. There was a sidewalk, so I figured I’d just walk it. No fewer than 5 people told me it was too hot to walk. It was 90 degrees, and 42% humidity.
Let me just say right now…..for those of us in the South, that’s a walk in the park.
<<< That’s my “ya’ll don’t know hot” face.
The day we flew out (Day 4 if you’re keeping track), we had lunch at Portillo’s. I had the French Beef or whatever it’s called. It’s huge. And delicious. And you totally don’t need fries. Fun little place, local to Chicago, and worth the trip.
And that pretty much sums up my Wisconsin adventure – food, beer, and being underwhelmed. Oh, and lots of time on Snapchat.But, this cutie greeted me with exuberance when I finally got home….and then promptly turned on the “WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME” face.
It’s good to be loved.