Category Archives: Wisconsin

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Filed under Cities and Towns, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Trocadero Cafe and Bar

trocadero_logoWe are firm believers that eating out should be almost equal parts food and ambiance. This, of course, is not to say that one cannot exist without the other, but to truly enjoy a restaurant experience we like both. Milwaukee’s Trocadero Cafe has mastered the art of destination dining; creating a fun and vibrant atmosphere that is grounded by the solid food and drink offerings. This is not a place to take Grandma and Grandpa for a nice meal. This is a place to bring your out of town friends when you want to show them that Milwaukee is an up and coming city that knows its food.

Located on Milwaukee’s hip Eastside area, Trocadero’s European cafe theme stands in stark contrast to the industrial setting that surrounds it. Inside, the sectional layout of the restaurant creates the sense that it’s much smaller than it really is, resulting in a sense of intimacy when dining. The cafe has two standout areas; its Terrace area, centered by a fountain, that in the warmer months is usually packed and plays host to live music and the see and be seen crowd. Inside, the bar area dominates the largest room of the cafe. Minimalist in design, the bar centers the restaurant and with it’s paired down shelving, chalkboard menus and exposed brick, conveys a bit of a coffee shop vibe that fits in perfectly with the cafe theme of the restaurant.

A great setting is nothing without the food to compliment it, and the Trocadero knows how to do food. The menu is heavily French cuisine influenced with options like the Burger D’Alsace; Angus beef, gruyere cheese with a garlic aioli, and three different versions of steamed mussels. Some of the items are hit and miss (we love the burgers, the brie, tomato and basil sandwich was only okay), but the upside is that for the price ($8 to $15 for most items) you can eat well without killing your wallet.

Lunch and dinner aside, the Trocadero is known for its Brunch, which packs the Terrace on the weekends and forms the backbone of the cafe. The crepe and quiche heavy menu is balanced by more traditional items like Eggs Benedict and a variety of omelettes. The stuffed french toast special is always one of our favorites, as is the Fromage Omelette. Our only complaint with the brunch is the price point; a bit on the expensive side for the amount of food you get. The brunch crowd packs the Terrace on the weekends, so if you want to get a seat outside get there early and not with a large group. Complimenting the brunch menu, and really the main reason why we love Trocadero’s Brunch, is the bloody mary menu; 5 different versions, each of which is outstanding and worth exploring. Our favorite is the Southsider; Absolute Peppar, extra Tabasco Sauce with the Trocadero’s house bloody mary mix and garnished with jalapeno stuffed olives, pickles, beans and asparagus. Almost hearty enough to serve as the only brunch item you need.

Befitting most of Milwaukee’s East Side bars and restaurants, the waitstaff is young and attractive, and are, for the most part, fast, friendly and competent (some are “oh my God please let me look awesome right now” attractive – making starting the day that much better). Every now and again, when the place is packed, service lags a bit, but the wait staff is good about letting you know when the kitchen is backed up and make sure your cups are full to ease the grumbling stomachs.

Overall, we like Trocadero for its decently priced food, Brunch and menu options. We love Trocadero for its bloody marys, ambience and Terrace area. This is a place that needs to be explored when you are in Milwaukee; take a friend, take yourself, take the girl (or dude) you brought home last night. The Trocadero’s combination of good food and better atmosphere showcases Milwaukee’s young and vibrant side, fills your belly and keeps your wallet mostly full.

Location: 1758 North Water Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Hours: Open weekdays at 11am, Saturday and Sunday Brunch starts at 9am

Price Point: Lunch and Dinner range from $6 to $20, with Brunch ranging between $8 and $13.

Menus (in PDF format): brunch, lunch/dinner, wine, beer.

Contact: (414) 272-0205, info@ztrocadero.com

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Filed under Milwaukee, restaurants, reviews, Wisconsin

Lake Drive Loop

The Wisconsin State Fair is so known for its “food on a stick” stands that local newspapers publish lists of what, and where, you can find, among others, burgers on a stick, fried bananas on a stick, meatballs on a stick, deep fried Snickers bars on a stick and cheesecake on a stick. And let’s not forget our favorite; bacon dipped in chocolate. On a stick. If you’ve ever wanted to eat more than 4000 calories in less then 10 minutes or shock yourself into getting motivated to workout the Wisconsin State Fair is the place for you.

Unfortunately the Fair is not the place to advance your conditioning, so to counteract the effects of the chocolate bacon we suggest a run along the the Lake Drive Loop; a scenic and fast route on Milwaukee’s Eastside that spends most of its time winding along the shore of Lake Michigan and through some of the most architecturally stunning neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

Lake Drive is where old Milwaukee money moved to escape the urban center; building huge and gorgeous homes on the bluffs that overlook the Lake. This setting forms the backbone of the run; which starts at Alterra at the Lake and heads South toward the Milwaukee Art Museum and downtown before turning north into Milwaukee’s hip Eastside and the Lake Drive neighborhoods. The run then turns back south and down to the lakeshore for a couple of miles before returning to the coffee house.

Although this run is relatively flat it stands out for a number of reasons; there are an abundance of long stair cases that can provide some cross-training options, among them the Atwater Stairs which can be reached via a 2 mile out and back. The architecture along the route is truly some of the most stunning of any city we’ve run in, and the Lake Michigan setting provides cooler temperatures and draws some of Milwaukee’s fit and active pretty young things, further enhancing the scenery. The route is also good for interval work, as the long and flat stretches provide an ideal environment for speed work. And best of all, the run starts and ends at Alterra at the Lake, our favorite Milwaukee coffee shop/recovery zone. Perfect for recovering from chocolate bacon on a stick.

Do it because: the great scenery, the cross-training options, the coffee and the fast route

Distance: 6.25 miles round trip.

Directions: from Alterra at the Lake (corner of Park Road and North Lincoln Memorial Drive) and head South (toward downtown Milwaukee) along the sidewalk. The sidewalk will end, but there is a short dirt path that heads up to paved trail. Continue to head south on the trail which will bring you to the Art Museum and North Prospect Ave. Head North (away from downtown) on Prospect which will wind past upscale condo highrises and into Milwaukee’s East Side.

At East Lafayette Place take a right and head toward the Lake. East Lafayette turns into North Terrace Ave, which heads North past the Watertower. At the Watertower, cross Park and continue to head North on North Wahl Ave., which intersects with Lake Drive. Continue North on Lake Drive until it intersects with North Lincoln Memorial Drive. From there head down the hill, toward the Lake and take North Lincoln back to the coffee shop.

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Filed under Cities and Towns, Milwaukee, routes, runs, urban features, Wisconsin

Alterra at the Lake

Remedy for jet lag after arriving in Milawaukee, WI:

1. Wake up early, drive to 1701 N Lincoln Memorial Drive, park in the public parking area behind one of the largest and strangest coffee shop buildings you’ve ever seen.

2. Change into your running clothes. A light jacket may be necessary.

3. Run the Lakefront Park Loop; enjoy the incredible views of downtown Milwaukee, Lake Michigan, and multitudes of nubile co-eds who frequent the area.

4. Return to the parking lot, towel off, stretch, head inside.

5. Partake in some of the best coffee and espresso you will ever have. Continue to enjoy views of Lake Michigan and Milwaukee’s pretty young things. Eat a Cowboy Cookie.

6. Repeat as necessary.

Filling the nooks and crannies of the former Milwaukee River Flushing Station (we have no idea what a river flushing station is or does. Or why it exists in an area of Milwaukee that is riverless), Alterra at the Lake is the most unique of Alterra Coffee‘s numerous cafes located throughout Milwaukee. Spanning numerous levels and rooms, with tables looking out on to Lake Michigan, this lakefront location epitomizes everything we love about local coffee shops; amazing coffee located within an architectural revival that forms a community centerpiece. Alterra is local and proud of it, spreading its great coffee and espresso throughout the Milwaukee area. The Americano here is the second best we have ever tried.

In addition to its wonderfully unique location, Alterra at the Lake is located in the middle of the best running area in downtown Milwaukee. Pretty young things aside, the runs near the cafe bring you past some of Milwaukee’s oldest, and richest, neighborhoods, packed with architecturally stunning homes and landscapes as well as numerous stair cases that are great for a side diversion and beaches to round out the mix. The ample parking behind and near the cafe make it a great spot to start and end a run.

Price-wise, Alterra skews toward the more expensive side of things, but the quality of their products make it worth the slightly higher cost, as do the highly attractive, overly hipster baristas that handle the crush of customers with smiles and efficient drink slinging. The attractive coolness of the staff might make you feel like a high school dork all over again, but better than starting your day looking into the eyes of the dark side.

Beyond the baristas, the coffee and the location, Alterra at the Lake, and Alterra in general, is one of the most community centric coffee shops we have come across. Involved in numerous partnerships with Milwaukee area cultural, environmental and community building groups, including Second Harvest of Wisconsin, the Urban Ecology Center, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Alterra is committed to community building, making enjoying their coffee and locations more enjoyable overall. This is a coffee chain that we would be happy to see become a bit more ubiquitous in the community. Alterra coffee, and especially Alterra at the Lake, has become one of our favorite bean dealers; check it out for the runs, stay for the coffee.

Alterra Coffee: 9 locations

Alterra at the Lake

1701 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Hours: M-F: 6:30am-10pm, Sat and Sun: 7am-10pm

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Filed under Cities and Towns, coffee shops, Milwaukee, reviews, Wisconsin

Atwater Stairs

In my recent travels to Milwaukee, Wisconsin I have  joyfully discovered the abundance of great food and beer that the city has to offer. I have also discovered the need to be especially diligent about working out while here as pounds of cheese and fried food washed down with beer do not work wonders for the training regime or how I look in spandex. Fortunately, Milwaukee has the Atwater Stairs.

Located north of downtown Milaukee, on the shore of Lake Michigan, the Atwater stairs are composed of 6 sections of 20 or so wooden stairs running from the Atwater Beach up to Atwater Park. About 6 feet wide, these stairs are steeper and taller than the typical cement variety; requiring leaping almost more than running. In addition to the stairs, there is a paved path winding down to the beach, which allows you to take a break from the stairs when your knees feel like exploding. The park where the stairs are located allows for stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee area shoreline, making this workout one of our favorites when visiting the city. Additionally, the stairs are close to our Lake Drive/Water Front Loop, and can be added in to break up a longer run in the area.

In the summer, when the stairs are the most crowded, the best time to do them are in the early morning or late afteroon hours. However, because the stairs are so wide there seldom a problem with people getting in your way. The Wisconsonites may look at you funny as you lap stairs while they down fried (fried!) cheese curds, but they’re always good about stepping to the side.

Do it because: intense stair workout, beautiful area, and a great way to enjoy the beach without having to get in the water.

Distance: Atwater Park is about 4 miles north of downtown Milwaukee.

Directions: From downtown Milwaukee (intersection of North Broadway and East Wisconsin Avenue), head east on E. Wisconsin toward N. Milwaukee St. Turn right at E. Mason Street and then make a slight right on to North Lincoln Memorial Drive. Turn right on Lake Drive/WI-32. The park will be on your right. There is usually plenty of parking along Lake Drive or in the nearby neighborhood streets.

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Filed under Cities and Towns, Milwaukee, urban features, Wisconsin