Archive for the ‘Milwaukee’ Category

Pecha Kucha Milwaukee

May 12, 2010

Twenty slides, 20 seconds each. That’s all you get to explain your idea when it’s Pecha Kucha night.

Now happening in more than 300 cities across the globe, Pecha Kucha (Japanese for “chatter”) is a hot, swirling current of ideas and new approaches to life and work. The process unleashes the minds of innovative thinkers and provides a non-threatening stage for emerging artists and other original types to showcase their work. From taverns to trade shows, presenters—each with 20 slides and 6 minutes, 40 seconds of talk-time—speak on virtually any topic. Simple idea…but very compelling.

The process was dreamed up in Tokyo in 2003 by architects Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, to facilitate concise presentations for their designers. The events, now held worldwide, provide a setting for intelligent people to present their ideas—for free—to an audience. To watch ten presentations in Milwaukee, audience members each pay $10–the money goes toward the Pecha Kucha non-profit organization, for website upkeep and such.

Last night’s set of presentations at the Sugar Maple bar in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood was an artsy mix of creative exploration, cultural celebration and seemingly impossible mathematical equations. Topics ranged from building out-of-this world bicycles with disadvantaged kids to exploring Puerto Rican heritage to creating an architectural masterpiece out of clothespins and electrical wire. The audience leaned forward intently, laughed, shook their heads and learned. Oh, and they drank beer. Then they networked with presenters afterward to discover more about their ideas.  Here’s the website–check out a Pecha Kucha night near you:


Charro Restaurante in Brookfield, Wisconsin

April 6, 2010

Except for the devil-in-disguise feel of it, the movie Charro was a bomb–I’m sorry, Elvis; you know I love you–but I can’t help falling in love with the two restaurants of the same name. I went to Charro ( in downtown Milwaukee a while back and enjoyed it, but this visit to the Brookfield location was even better.  It has the same casual, sleek atmosphere, but felt a bit more personal and friendly.

First of all, when we walked in, we were greeted immediately by a smiling bartender. The manager offered samples of tequila–two different kinds–to help us with our libation selection. I wanted to make the world go away, to get it off, get it off, my shoulders, so I really enjoyed his pour of Oro Azul. I’m developing an affinity for reposado tequilas.

Are ya looking for trouble? The Spicy Scallops were true to their name–covered with a hot Serrano pepper rub and served with corn, butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds and cilantro ragout. I would choose it again–it was truly burning love. My dinner companion chose Fideo, which is the least Latin item on the menu, but also a winner: pasta served with chorizo, chicken, asparagus and manchego cheese. 

But the thing I like best about Charro is the decor–red and black, with barn-salvaged beams, and brooding religious overtones–crosses everywhere. On the walls are lyrics from the King. It gives me fever.

Charro Restaurante

17800 W. Bluemound Rd.

Brookfield, WI 53045


Milwaukee Historic Bowling Alleys

March 29, 2010

Anyone out there a bowler? I’m working on a book titled Milwaukee’s Historic Bowling Alleys, and I’m looking for photos and stories about events that occurred or interesting people who bowled in Milwaukee alleys pre-1960. Please send me an email at: If I use your photos, I’ll give you credit in the book.

On Saturday I took some photos of a few signs from some of the remaining historic lanes in town:

Opened in 1950, American Serb Hall is still going strong. They were setting up for a tournament when I was there this Saturday.

Bob-E-Lanes is one of the oldest in town, dating to 1923. The six lanes inside were run as Pyszczynski’s Alleys, then Romie’s Alleys, and became Bob-E-Lanes in 1976.

The 10 lanes at Ed’s South Milwaukee Arcade have been challenging bowlers since 1923.

And there are plenty more: Holler House, Falcon Bowl, Landmark Lanes, Bay View Bowl, etc….what makes all of these special is not just their age, but the fact that they represent the stronghold Milwaukee had on bowling during the past century. Sadly, with the merge of the various bowling organizations (ABC, WIBC, YABA and USA Bowling) into one organization: the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) in 2005, and the subsequent move of the USBC to Dallas a few years later, we’re at risk of being left behind, with nothing left but memories. I moved to Milwaukee in 1983, and since then–amazingly–49 bowling alleys have closed their doors. Forty-nine.

So get out there and bowl–let’s keep the sport alive in Milwaukee! And email me if you have pictures!

Milwaukee Hotels

December 22, 2009

Twenty years ago, you could roll a bowling ball down Wisconsin Avenue on a Saturday afternoon and never see a strike—a pedestrian, that is—unless, of course, it was the week of Summerfest. Now, plenty of visitor-friendly things to see and do make this little city a gem: Great Lakes Distillery, Discovery World, the Third Ward and the Riverwalk, for example.

Following suit, several classic hotels have been polished to a new luster, while the newest addition, The Iron Horse Hotel, is revved up and rolling, just across from the brand new Harley-Davidson Museum.

For the best in Milwaukee lodging, try one of these properties on your next visit:

At the InterContinental, you can be one of the Beautiful People, sipping an Orange Lychee Martini at the Zen Den, the sexiest, most elegant cocktail lounge in town. The only lights in the place come from the alabaster bar and tabletops, which glow mysteriously from within.

Hotel Metro is a sleek, contemporary sleep-spot, listed on Travel & Leisure’s Top 500. Splurging on a Master Suite means you’ll have extras like a wet bar, a towel heater and spa jets in the oversized tub. The best part, though, is the rooftop spa, with its relaxing waterfall and outdoor fireplace.

The Ambassador Hotel, a lovely art-deco style property, was built in 1927 and refurbished, top to bottom, in 2005. The lobby gleams with stunning period fixtures, and most oversized rooms have flat-screen TVs, complimentary Aveda products and plush robes. The on-site gourmet restaurant and lounge, Envoy, offers terrific food and drinks under the glow of sparkling glass chandeliers.

County Clare offers 4-poster beds in charming green and ivory rooms, and a filling Irish breakfast each morning. The pub on the main floor has lovely stained glass windows and specialty tap beers such as Black Velvet (Guinness and Strongbow). The menu, meanwhile, offers help for the hungry with country classics like shepherd’s pie and meatloaf. There’s live Irish entertainment most weekends.

The newest—and quite possibly coolest—lodging is The Iron Horse Hotel, right across the river from the Harley-Davidson Museum. They cater to bikers—with underground cycle parking and boot benches in the rooms—and to anyone else who wants a boutique hotel with a sexy, sophisticated edge. Here’s a peek at the artsy minibar in one of the rooms:

Start your evening at the two-story cocktail lounge, Branded, and then move the party to recently opened Smythe, the on-site restaurant, for some upscale comfort food. 2010 promises the opening of the downstairs Boiler Room, which will  provide an adults-only hot-tubbing experience, complete with a lounge for relaxing with cocktails and conversation.

The Brumder Mansion is a beautifully restored Wisconsin Avenue mansion-turned-bed-and-breakfast, with seven working fireplaces–and a live-performance theatre in the basement, which was completely restored by new owners this year.

Finally, the 115-year-old Pfister Hotel, a downtown Victorian masterpiece, continually self-renews; the latest improvement is WELL Spa, on the ground floor. This most luxurious spa in Milwaukee offers treatments with enticing names such as Marine Extreme, Orient Express and Hammam Shower Experience.

Christmas in Milwaukee

December 18, 2009

Milwaukee is a great place to be at Christmas–we’ve got snow, lots of good cheer, and a good mix of holiday light displays, from the large-scale Festival of Holiday Lights downtown to the most modest, but still festive and fun, Candy Cane Lane.

Filled with mid-century houses similar to the one above, residents in Candy Cane Lane began stringing lights en masse 25 years ago. Just north of Oklahoma Ave. between 92nd and 96th streets, you can cruise or stroll and view the more than 300 homes participating in the event. The event is free, but Santa is frequently on hand, collecting donations for the MAAC fund.

The Jingle Bus, meanwhile, takes riders through downtown, to view the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival, happening now through January 3, Park your car in the Grand Ave. structure, and board the Jingle Bus at the Plankinton Arcade. Then sit back and relax, as you view thousands of twinklers and holiday characters. Speaking of characters:

That’s me on the right….how do you like my new Christmas outfit?

The best Christmas displays are the ones that are unexpected: a tiny little nativity display on an out-of-the-way shelf, a crazy little reindeer eraser perched atop a child’s pencil, or those ubiquitous, slightly tacky Christmas ornament earrings and necklaces we insist on wearing. The best I’ve seen so far is this little tree, shining bravely, all alone in an otherwise dark yard.

Happy Holidays!

Steely Dan at Riverside

November 14, 2009

Grab your Steely Dan t-shirt & get thee to a concert hall…last night this dexterous duo played the Riverside in Milwaukee…if you’ve never seen them live, put this on your gotta-do list.

Steely Dan Riverside 2

The show started with the Aja album, played from start to finish, which is what I had been looking forward to. But it got even better after that…I felt like I was transported back to the ’70s. The playlist included Babylon Sisters, My Old School, Kid Charlemagne–even a rendition of Dirty Work. It was obvious that Fagen and Becker were there to make sure everyone had a good time, in stark contrast to their standoffish reputation. Fagen suggested we get up and dance, to which we responded with a collective shake-and-shimmyfest. I’m pretty sure we would have done anything he asked.

Steely Dan Riverside3

Cool glasses, aren’t they? Kind of a leopard thing goin’ on…

The Riverside is my favorite place to see a concert. It’s smallish, so it feels intimate, and you can bring in a camera, as long as you’re not obnoxious with it. It also has a long and storied past. Built for vaudeville in 1927, the theater was restored to its former beauty in 1984 thanks to a generous donation by Milwaukee patron Joseph Zilber. It’s one of the few historic theaters left in Milwaukee, and, amazingly, it looks just about the same on the inside as it did in 1927. I hear that there are “Haunted Riverside” tours given by one of the employees…but I’d rather get my thrills & chills listening to some fine Steely Dan jazz.


Spooky Milwaukee Theaters

October 24, 2009

Walking into a dark–I mean completely black–ancient theater with a strange man this close to Halloween takes guts. Luckily, I have ’em, and I’ve done it 4 times this past week…with 4 different strange men.

I have to admit that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up at one point, when Steve, the publicity guy at the Modjeska (built in the 1920s), told me that he sometimes hears conversations in the theater when there’s nobody there. He also mentioned the rumor that, many years ago, a jilted lover may have hung himself from the balcony. And he told me this while we were walking in a dark hallway behind said balcony.

So why am I checking out all of these theaters? It’s all for a story I’m writing for Experience Milwaukee’s Spring 2010 issue. Stay tuned…next week I’m heading for the haunted Avalon.