Rachel Seis – Milwaukee Record http://milwaukeerecord.com Music, culture, gentle sarcasm. Fri, 21 Sep 2018 18:18:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://milwaukeerecord.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/cropped-mrapp-32x32.jpg Rachel Seis – Milwaukee Record http://milwaukeerecord.com 32 32 The kids are alright: A look inside the curious practice of goat yoga http://milwaukeerecord.com/city-life/kids-alright-look-inside-curious-practice-goat-yoga/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/city-life/kids-alright-look-inside-curious-practice-goat-yoga/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 14:49:40 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=53825 Summer in Milwaukee is the best; summer in the Midwest is even better. Join Milwaukee Record and Miller High Life as we search the city and beyond for the Spirit Of Summer. hen it comes to outdoor activities in the summer, Wisconsin has its bases covered. If you’re into adventure, you can try your hand […]

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Summer in Milwaukee is the best; summer in the Midwest is even better. Join Milwaukee Record and Miller High Life as we search the city and beyond for the Spirit Of Summer.

When it comes to outdoor activities in the summer, Wisconsin has its bases covered. If you’re into adventure, you can try your hand at rock climbing the bluffs at Devil’s Lake. If backwoods biking is your thing, head north to hit the CAMBA mountain bike trails in the Nicolet-Chequamegon National Forest. If you’re wild about water sports, a kayak trip along Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands is hard to top. But if you prefer your outdoor exercise to be of the gentler variety, you’re in luck, too. Just 45 minutes away—at a secluded farm in the woods outside of Burlington—lies an opportunity to harness your chi in the most adorable of ways: through goat yoga.

Goat yoga has been rapidly spreading in popularity throughout the country in recent years, attracting followers with the benefits of playfulness, calm, and connection to nature as the major factors that set apart this unique practice from more traditional concentrations. And also: you’re surrounded by friendly, hoppy, bleating, curious little goats the entire time. What’s not to love?

Burlington’s Oak Hollow Acres is a small farm tucked away in a sleepy wooded area just off of Washington Avenue, and it’s the closest place to practice your Flying Goat-us (sorry) in relation to Milwaukee. Abby Lippman started the goat yoga program in the spring of 2017 after breeding goats for nearly two decades. It’s easy to see how much care she has for the species and how passionate she is about them—she even makes soaps, lotions, lip balms, and other all-natural beauty products using their milk to sell at the farm and local farmers markets. After deciding to start the program, she enlisted the help of Meghan MacCarthy, owner of Bearfoot Yoga Studio, also in Burlington, to be the peaceful guide for each goat yoga practice. Meghan’s energy, sense of calm, and willingness to lead a couple dozen adults and children squealing in delight as a herd of goats trots freely through her class is truly a lesson in zen.

Upon entering Oak Hollow Acres, it’s instantly apparent this place isn’t a typical farm. Speckled chickens strut freely through the trees as a gaggle of geese waddles through a nearby field. A donkey brays somewhere in the distance. A sleepy, shaggy dog uses aluminum fencing as a rest for his muzzle. A freaking peacock is perched peacefully on the ledge of a giant trampoline. And, of course, there are the goats. All Nigerian Dwarves, some full grown, some just weeks old. Before even signing up for yoga, you can acquaint yourself with your future furried classmates on the Oak Hollow Acres website. And if you plan accordingly with their kidding schedule, you can be among the first to mingle with the newest kids on the farm.

Classes are held a few times a month, and fill up fairly quickly. Sign up online for $15 to reserve your space, then count down until the day you meet your goat with gaia. It’s best to arrive early, if not to reserve prime space in the baby goat pen where each class is held, but to also ensure there’s plenty of time to become familiar with your surroundings, say “hi” to your cloven companions, grab a handful of corn to tuck under your mat to feed the gregarious goats as they approach you, and sign up to win the coveted “poop prize,” claimed only by the first yogi whose mat is defecated on during practice.

From the time you unfurl your mat on the ground, it’s apparent that this will not be an hour of zen. Instructor Megan adds calm, assured guidance through a series of gentle stretches, postures, and balances, but in an assault on attention, her steady directives are no match for the constant stream of curiosity from the goats who flock around you. Through each phase of Cat-Cow, it’s not uncommon to peek up only to be met nose-to-snout with a wild-eyed workout buddy. They’re eager to sneak right underneath your Downward-Facing Dog, and are more than happy to boost your behind as you squat back into Chair pose. Good luck spreading into Warrior Two when an elder goat suddenly claims your mat as his resting place. And just try to lock yourself into Tree when a teeny twin babies are playfully bounding from the tops of their small shelters behind you. It’s chaos. But the kind of chaos that washes your mind of any worry, anxiety, or stress that may have traveled with you. It’s not peace you’ll find on your mat during this class—it’s play. And its infectiousness lingers.

Sure, you have to be welcoming to the wildness around you, but that’s what you signed up for. The goats will gnaw at your mat and nibble on your sandals alongside it. They’ll step on your toes—they may even bound onto your back. You’ll giggle initially as the first one relieves itself inches from your face, but, strangely, you get used to it. You may even wish it would have been you who went home with the day’s prize—even if it’s the byproduct of a pile of pungent pellets deposited squarely on the center of your mat.

It’s not Ashtanga, it’s not Bikram, it’s not Iyengar. You’re not signing up for a workout, rather an unwinding—of rigidity, pretense, and any sense of self-consciousness. You smile. You stretch. You snap a few (dozen) photos. It’s the sort of silly asana that might not help you lose pounds in the process, but shed weight from your soul, if even for the hour.

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Jason Isbell mixes adoration, anger, and adept storytelling at Riverside Theater http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/jason-isbell-adoration-anger-and-adept-storytelling-riverside-theater/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/jason-isbell-adoration-anger-and-adept-storytelling-riverside-theater/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 06:27:05 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=45381 Jason Isbell is a man torn between times. A man caught between Southern roots and worldly ideals. Full-throttle, hard-soaked rebel days and solitary ones spent quieted, comforted, and content with family. Between stomping down the dusty, sun-baked, greased-stained streets he knows by heart and the runways that guide him over the globe. During a nearly […]

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Jason Isbell is a man torn between times. A man caught between Southern roots and worldly ideals. Full-throttle, hard-soaked rebel days and solitary ones spent quieted, comforted, and content with family. Between stomping down the dusty, sun-baked, greased-stained streets he knows by heart and the runways that guide him over the globe.

During a nearly two-hour set at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater Wednesday night, Isbell, joined by his band the 400 Unit, effortlessly waltzed between raucous stomps and lilting choruses, cracked whispers and roaring howls. He managed to lift the packed theater to its feet in an instant before coaxing it to quiet in a heart stop. He did so with messages of frustration, faith, heartlessness, and hope.

Isbell opened the show with the penultimate track from his 2017 Grammy-nominated album The Nashville Sound, “Hope And The High Road.” It’s a knee-slapper of tune that finds the singer-songwriter downtrodden and defiant in response to a society—and a government—he’s grown weary of. He ended the night on a gorgeous, gut-wrenching closer of an encore, “If We Were Vampires,” a ballad from the same album that equally speaks to finding a perfect love and lamenting the fleeting years together once that love has been requited.

Everything in between? Isbell blended a mix of adoration, anger, and adept storytelling. In a sense, he took the stage to warble and rage the tales of everyday Americans—whether their stories are those of anguish, helplessness, and triumph in places they rarely look—from the leaders who’ve let them down to redemption in the looks of children.

The typically chatty musician was fairly quiet this night, saving on-stage banter to introduce his bandmates by name and instrument—plus to wish bassist Jimbo Hart a happy birthday—but little else. It all meant plenty of time to pack in hits from Isbell singles to Drive-By Truckers covers to 400 Unit favorites from years past. The exuberant “Codeine” kept the crowd clapping along, while “Decoration Day” made diehards stand tall. “Stockholm” lulled the crowd to sway along.

And yet, as much as Isbell lets loose with his four-piece band in a churned-out, rollocking set that allows him to just step up and, well, guitar-solo the hell out of a song, he’s most affecting when quiet, poetic, and simply plucking at a guitar, singing the story he relates to so many so painfully well. Good lord, can the man play a lick out of a tune, but this night, the Riverside never felt quieter and at attention than when Isbell interrupted the uptempo show with heart-wrecker “Elephant,” from 2015’s Southeastern. One of the best examples of songwriting in Isbell’s catalog, the song had the audience hanging on to each crushed word. Similarly, the stunning love song “Cover Me Up” was moving as ever, with a sweetness and sentiment painting a story of true love saved—but we couldn’t help miss the absence of Isbell’s wife, fiddler Amanda Shires, who has previously lent her lovely voice to the tune in tours past. (She’s off in Nashville recording her own album at the moment, so here’s to looking toward new music in her own right.)

Balanced between soft and strong, proud and protesting, blues-drenched and balladeering, Isbell danced his way through a poignant, poised set at Riverside Theater, keeping each sneakered foot planted firmly on one side roots and the other side rock. And the crowd clamored for everything in between.

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Jason Isbell soars, celebrates at sold-out Pabst Theater http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/jason-isbell-soars-celebrates-at-sold-out-pabst-theater/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/music/jason-isbell-soars-celebrates-at-sold-out-pabst-theater/#respond Wed, 24 Feb 2016 06:10:52 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=19797 Jason Isbell has been through a lot since his first few solo outings at Milwaukee’s Shank Hall nearly a decade ago. After being kicked out of the seminal alt-country band Drive-By Truckers—allegedly due to troubles with alcohol—the Americana singer-songwriter has been to rehab, sobered up, grown up, and, oh yeah, wracked up a couple Grammy […]

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Jason Isbell has been through a lot since his first few solo outings at Milwaukee’s Shank Hall nearly a decade ago. After being kicked out of the seminal alt-country band Drive-By Truckers—allegedly due to troubles with alcohol—the Americana singer-songwriter has been to rehab, sobered up, grown up, and, oh yeah, wracked up a couple Grammy awards just over a week ago to place on his now-overcrowded mantel.

After accepting those awards (Best Americana Album for 2015’s Something More Than Free and Best American Roots Song for its single “24 Frames”) his Tuesday night Pabst Theater show quickly sold out. Word had spread, his album had appeared on a number of “Best-of-2015” lists, and enough press had been published to garner attention from even those who don’t especially consider themselves alt-country experts. Isbell always had a knack for tapping into the blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth stories that tug at American heartstrings, but there’s something in his matured storytelling that makes for a more nuanced touchstone above the rollicking, whiskey-soaked romps of his yesteryear.

Maybe it’s the help of his wife, fiddler Amanda Shires, who appeared as a rare addition to Isbell’s backing band, the 400 Unit, at the Pabst on Tuesday. On the night of their third wedding anniversary, Shires and Isbell were posted up next to each other, exchanging loving smiles and transcendent harmonies throughout the 100-minute set. “We’ve played a show on every important holiday as a couple,” Isbell joked. “Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, our anniversary…what do you think that means?” Shires, shy to answer at first, took her time to respond after a couple songs and a little consideration, saying “I think maybe this is what we’re supposed to be doing together.” Cue the flood of “awwws” from all corners of the room.

While Isbell may wear his own heart on his sleeve, he’s got plenty of others residing there, too. His lyrics weave a tapestry that narrate heartbreaking, life-affirming, melancholic tales and paint landscapes in familiar dusty-road towns where everyday starts make way for heart-wrecked endings. And those stories came to life on stage before the sold-out theater. Backed by his longtime band, Isbell’s rough tenor rang bristled-but-clear, purposefully narrating each tale from the foot-stomping, bluesy “Palmetto Rose” opener to motivational Grammy-winner “24 Frames” to the genuine tearjerkers “Dress Blues” and “Children of Children,” which closed the show proper.

All the while, the bandleader’s musicianship shone through with bluesy riffs and weepy slide-guitar solos that quieted the crowd before ultimately bringing them to their feet. And then there was “Cover Me Up,” the emotional love song written for wife Amanda before they’d married. “I was so scared to play it for her, ’cause I knew she wouldn’t put up with a shitty song,” Isbell smilingly said on stage. There was nothing to fear—each tier of the Pabst was hushed as Isbell’s voice teetered between a scuffed and velveteen cry that soared and fluttered its way across the room. Between their achingly sweet love song, the weary, lovesick “Traveling Alone,” a gorgeous, stripped-down rendition of Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer,” and heartstrong encore opener “Flagship,” it was a venerable love story played out onstage. Why wouldn’t it be on the couple’s special night? They lifted and lilted gracefully in a soaring and sweet set that perfectly illustrated why Isbell’s musicianship, story-crafting, and down-home humility have—after a tenuous crawl up from the cellar—proven why he should be considered one of contemporary music’s finest songwriters.

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Could a cat change the trajectory of the Milwaukee Bucks’ season? http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/could-a-cat-change-the-trajectory-of-the-milwaukee-bucks-season/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/could-a-cat-change-the-trajectory-of-the-milwaukee-bucks-season/#respond Tue, 12 Jan 2016 06:07:12 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=18247 There are a few alarming things about the Milwaukee Bucks this season. Roughly halfway through the team’s 82-game schedule, they’re hanging in the basement of the Eastern Conference with the lowly Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers—not exactly sexy basement-time company. Attendance for the team has been slipping further below 15,000 per game—the fourth-lowest draw in […]

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There are a few alarming things about the Milwaukee Bucks this season. Roughly halfway through the team’s 82-game schedule, they’re hanging in the basement of the Eastern Conference with the lowly Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers—not exactly sexy basement-time company. Attendance for the team has been slipping further below 15,000 per game—the fourth-lowest draw in the league—as the season lumbers along. And it seems their young talent—the same talent that spun Milwaukee’s fanbase into a tizzy before the season’s first tipoff—has gone stale (at best) to this point. But perhaps the most troublesome statistic of them all, the one that could summon the most vitriol from devoted basketball fans across the state of Wisconsin, is that there are seemingly zero players on the current Milwaukee Bucks 15-man roster who own a cat.

This feline transgression has been brought to light by the extensive research conducted by @NBACatwatch, the heroic, enigmatic twitter persona who tirelessly investigates and documents the state of cat ownership of any player active in the National Basketball Association, as well as the cat-havingness of the players’ family members, significant others, and alleged side pieces. @NBACatwatch began this very important work in 2013, but significantly ramped up its efforts last summer starting with, interestingly enough, some in-depth questioning of our Milwaukee Bucks—questions whose definitive answers on the cat-friendliness of the team have, sadly, remained fruitless.

After hundreds of tweets sent to anyone intrinsically related with Milwaukee Bucks operations, @NBACatwatch has received only three or four direct responses (read the full Bucks Ownership Report here). “It’s probably a mixture of them being flooded with messages all the time and not thinking their cat ownership/preference is important,” the dark-knight proprietor of @NBACatwatch tells us in an exclusive Milwaukee Record interview.

However, the investigation doesn’t cease when met with radio silence. Every night, @NBACatwatch scours social media accounts, news outlets, and fan tips to unearth any semblance of paws-itive news. Here’s what we know so far: The closest thing to a definitive confirmation of cat appreciation we can find in regards to the Bucks is the photographic evidence of Greg Monroe’s mom wearing cat face paint and one time Michael Carter-Williams referred to his girlfriend as a “cat lady.” Pretty solid stuff, but in an era when players across the league flaunt their un-collared love for cats by posting adorable photo collages with their furry friends or, fuck it all, devoting an entire Instagram account to their bewhiskered buddy, it’s high time for someone—anyone—on the Bucks’ roster to break free from the cat-lover stigma and shout their proclivity for purring pals from the rooftops.

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Such stigma lies deep within Jabari Parker, arguably the Bucks’ biggest star. He may get down with 100-year-old Amazon River Turtles, but the power forward is on record as saying he “doesn’t really like cats,” even after being afforded the opportunity to “see felines” on a trip to the Milwaukee County Zoo last summer. And although this is trying news, especially from a player who’s been publicly referred to as “Major Cat,” at least he’s not former Badgers glory boy Frank Kaminsky, who, when asked of his affinity for cats has emphatically stated, “No, no, no…cats are creepy.”

Okay, so no one on the Bucks currently owns a cat, but who could you safely put money on to be the first? “Giannis has cat owner potential,” @NBACatwatch affirms, and self-proclaimed animal admirer/shooting guard Rashad Vaughn is a promising prospect, having said on record he “love[s] all animals, any types of animals. I done have them all. Snakes, iguanas, dogs, cats, fish—I done have them all.” With that encouraging statement, @NBACatwatch gleans that “he seems like the Buck most likely to own a cat.” We’ll certainly be keeping tabs on the situation should any further evidence come forth.

While @NBACatwatch concedes the odds of discovering any Bucks cat fanciers this season aren’t great, he implores us to remain positive. “I hold out a lot of hope for Bucks players owning cats in the future. They’re a young team, and the majority of NBA players whom I’ve found with cats are older and have families. So give it a few years.” 

But who has the time to wait? The Bucks could use a kick in the proverbial tail when it comes to garnering enthusiasm for the remainder of the season. Here are just a few (of many) ways adopting a cat could bolster the organization:

Increased attendance and merchandise sales
Remember how apeshit casual baseball fans went when a scruffy little Bichon Frise “wandered” his way into the Brewers’ spring-training facility and then went on to have roughly 10,000 pieces of merchandise with his derpy face brandished all over them? That could happen for the Bucks! Find a kitten, plant it somewhere inside the Bradley Center, have interim coach Joe Prunty happen upon it, and, BAM! Soon enough it’ll be perched atop Bango’s Segway doing 360s across the court at halftime. Kids could line up to pay $25 for the opportunity to get their photo taken with Bango Jr. holding Lil’ Kareem (just a suggestion). Wouldn’t that be adorable? Of course it would! Then come the jerseys, the t-shirts, the mini basketballs, the stuffed animals, the Fatheads, the thongs with “Bucks’ #1 Pussycat” emblazoned across the front. Obviously, the excitement swirling around the adoption of Lil’ Kareem (assuming we’ve all fully embraced the name by now) would mean an uptick in attendance, and fans clamoring for the chance to see this whiskered wundercat in the fur. Taxpayers would gladly hand over their money to pay for a new arena were it to be the homestead of the Bucks’ new favorite feline.

Excellent PR opportunities
Last month, certain members of the Bucks found themselves up a tree after reports broke that they were partying in an L.A. strip club until 2 a.m.—just 16 hours before a game against the Lakers. While we’ll let it fly under the “boys will be boys” defense, it wouldn’t hurt to give the team a cuddly public relations makeover. Team up with the Wisconsin Humane Society, snap a few pics of the players spending some time with the adoptable kitties, and then, after some cat socialization time with handsome American Shorthair Meow-chael Carter-Williams, one of the Bucks falls in love and brings one home himself. Are you picturing one of those old-timey newspapers spinning up to the screen with the headline “Nothing But Pet: Bucks Feel Felines Make Slam-Dunk Friends”? You should be! It would be a media frenzy. The team would go on to host “Adoption Night” at the Bradley Center, sponsor Kitty 5Ks and a bevy of other charity events benefiting animal organizations, and everyone would quickly forget about past falters and current league standings.

A boost in team morale
Look, something just isn’t meshing with the team right now. Perhaps they need a shared interest to bond over to allow everything else to fall into place. Having a great little kitty pal could be that shared interest! Have you ever been caught in a conversation with two cat owners? Good God, they go on forever! Think of the in-jokes—the laughter!—the Bucks would share about how their cats try to sit in very small boxes, enjoy sticking their heads under running faucets, and have an affinity for licking plastic bags. No way the team won’t start clicking after that kind of camaraderie. No way.

Even if none of these scenarios pans out (a highly dubious assumption), we’re hoping that as the league grows enlightened of the joys, life longevity, and general good times keeping a cat around entails, our Bucks will come forth off the hardwood to proclaim their fondness for felines. As @NBACatwatch has assured us all, we’re inching closer, ever closer, to the first Buck to reveal himself. In the offseason we may have been coerced to “Own the Future,” but today, couldn’t we all agree it’s sufficient to paw at it instead?

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Tracklist: 25 ultra-specific Milwaukee-made gift ideas http://milwaukeerecord.com/city-life/25-ultra-specific-milwaukee-made-gift-ideas/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/city-life/25-ultra-specific-milwaukee-made-gift-ideas/#respond Mon, 14 Dec 2015 06:10:21 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=17525 In case you haven’t studied your Advent calendar lately, Christmas Eve is a mere 10 days away. Yes, just 10 light-filled, nog-fueled, shame-felled days lie between you reading this very sentence and fulfilling your loved ones’ greatest Christmas wishes. Have you selected the right gift to express the socially acceptable amount of love and/or completely […]

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In case you haven’t studied your Advent calendar lately, Christmas Eve is a mere 10 days away. Yes, just 10 light-filled, nog-fueled, shame-felled days lie between you reading this very sentence and fulfilling your loved ones’ greatest Christmas wishes. Have you selected the right gift to express the socially acceptable amount of love and/or completely platonic appreciation you mutually share with the person on the receiving end? If not, it’s damn well time you do.

We understand. Your list is filled with very special characters whose specific tastes demand something a bit more thoughtful than a five-wick candle or a T-shirt depicting the logo of an acclaimed cable-TV drama. Some people are so special, in fact, it’s seemingly impossible to select a gift that will fit their very, very particular personalities. Thankfully, Milwaukee is a hotbed of especially quirky, perfectly suiting, and expertly crafted gifts that will please everyone from your favorite bartender to the postman who you’re pretty sure saw you doing something weird through the window that one time. Here, we’re sharing a few of our favorite things made right here in Milwaukee that will delight even the most persnickety person on your holiday shopping list.

1. For your sweet, 85-year-old grandma who loves nothing more than baking cinnamon rolls and cursing in front of company: Plushzilla F-Bomb Plush

2. For your brother-in-law who is trying to get clean but not yet trying to get sober: Lakefront Brewery Beer Soap 

3. For that guy on Facebook who jumps at every chance to correct someone when they spell Bay View as one word: Bay View Neighborhood Print/Card

4. For your blossoming little brother who’s really putting in the work on his sweet 7th-grade ’stache: MKE Beard Book

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5. For the co-worker who keeps “borrowing” your goddamn salad dressing from the work fridge. Jesus, Carol!: Penzey’s Salad Sampler 4-Jar Pack

6. For the cat enthusiast who is equally enthusiastic about keeping track of what day it is: Kate Funk 2016 World’s Most Super-Amazing 100% Awesome Cat Calendar

7. For your sister, who has an unhealthy relationship with food: A Deer Abby Pretzel Pillow

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8. For the man’s man who likes to take his two-pump peppermint mocha on the go: Tactile Craftworks 24-oz. travel mug

9. For your aunt, who is a little behind when it comes to technology, but heck, she sure has a whole lot of hometown pride: My Fair Milwaukee iPhone 4/4s cover

10. For one of those guys who surfs in Lake Michigan, and also you like this person enough to spend more than $1,200 on him: Fillingham Surfboard Table

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11. For your vegan friend who would like an intricately decorated cookie to snack on during each of the 12 showings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens he plans to attend this weekend: A dozen vegan Star Wars-inspired cookies

12. For the toddler who just can’t get enough ’80s teen slasher flicks: Little Gypsy Finery Ready Freddy Tee

13. For your new pal Leonardo: Tock Custom Three Leonardos Flag

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14. For your little sister who lacks the responsibility to properly care for plants that thrive in arid climates and need to be watered literally three times a year: A Deer Abby Knit Cactus

15. For your brother, who is known to break a sweat while drinking: Great Lakes Distillery Wristband

16. For your friend who, without fail, says they’re “really thinking about becoming a member this year” every time the Milwaukee Film Festival rolls around (and does not become a member): Milwaukee Film Membership

17. For your co-worker who has recently done some…regrettable things at the holiday work party and has since sworn off drinking: Sprecher Top-Selling Soda Pack

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18. For that same co-worker, who has already resumed drinking: A custom gift basket from Discount Liquor

19. For your husband, who likes to keep his pompadour tight: A Stag Barbershop gift certificate

20. For the guy at the gym who loves working his traps but hates how ouchy they feel afterwards: La Buena Botanica Muscle Salve

21. For your big-rig truckin’ buddy who comes home from a long haul and is thirsty for something barrel-aged and served in a tulip glass: Burnhearts Trucker Hat

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22. For your uncle who’s still pretty jazzed about the BoDeans: An album download (or 50) from a current kick-ass Milwaukee band

23. For someone who’s planning on having a really bangin’ party or a very sad evening alone: A yard of Usinger’s Summer Sausage

24. For the dad you hate: A cheese tie

25. For your incredibly stylish friend who has impeccable taste in local entertainment and culture websites and is more than likely very good looking, too: A Milwaukee Record shirt

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Tracklist: 7 things to get you through Thanksgiving weekend http://milwaukeerecord.com/city-life/tracklist-7-things-to-get-you-through-thanksgiving-weekend/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/city-life/tracklist-7-things-to-get-you-through-thanksgiving-weekend/#respond Mon, 23 Nov 2015 06:10:19 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=16945 Thanksgiving is a tricky holiday. The middle child nestled quietly in the backseat between Halloween and Christmas, oftentimes no one realizes it’s been forgotten in the car for at least half an hour while the rest of the family is merrily shopping inside. “Oh, Thanksgiving! You barely make a peep, you just slipped my mind!” […]

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Thanksgiving is a tricky holiday. The middle child nestled quietly in the backseat between Halloween and Christmas, oftentimes no one realizes it’s been forgotten in the car for at least half an hour while the rest of the family is merrily shopping inside. “Oh, Thanksgiving! You barely make a peep, you just slipped my mind!” Then Mom takes Thanksgiving through Dairy Queen to make up for her mistake and Thanksgiving begrudgingly accepts her apology between dejected bites of her Peanut Buster Parfait.

Poor Thanksgiving. Its minimal fanfare and high probability to find yourself in uncomfortable situations make it easy to look over. Spend it with family and there’s a good chance you’ll get sick of everyone in no time soon. Skip out on the familial festivities and you’re faced with spending a holiday on your own, which—let’s face it—is pretty goddamn depressing.

Whichever side of the coin you find yourself this year, you’ll need some kind of distraction to make it through in one piece. Thankfully, Milwaukee’s setting the table with a feast of options to excuse yourself from forced family fun or to keep your mind off the fact you are so, so alone.

1. Spend the day with some animals
Grandma’s house is pretty much a zoo anyway, right, people? Except there you likely won’t have the chance to witness an elephant take an exhilaratingly large poop. Increase those odds by heading to the Milwaukee County Zoo, which grants free admission to anyone with a Milwaukee County ID from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Take a crisp stroll through the grounds, work up a nice pre-dinner buzz while delighting in the antics of the river otters, and, hey, maybe you’ll even see a tiger eviscerate a turkey carcass. Wouldn’t that be fun? Plus, there is a baby giraffe there now, which is undoubtedly more adorable than whatever dumb baby your cousin is bringing to dinner.

2. Spend “Black Wednesday” doing something other than shots
Instead of spending the night before Thanksgiving watching people you kind of knew in high school take Jagerbombs and dole out high fives, get out of the house to do something far more worthwhile. Seminal hip-hop group Rusty Ps are throwing a 20th-anniversary show at Mad Planet and celebrating by reuniting all four original members. Across town at LuLu Cafe, relative newcomers Rx Drugs will work of the appetites of the pre-Thanksgiving crowd with free rock ’n’ roll, supported by the golden voice of perennially-vested Mark Waldoch. Plus, the Found Footage Festival will take the stage at Turner Hall to celebrate 10 years of screening super weird video relics preserved on VHS. There’s a pretty good chance this weekend Mom’s gonna sit the whole family down to relive your most awkward years caught on tape, anyway, so here’s your pass to skip out on salting those damn-near-healed wounds of youth.

3. Get off your ass and go for a run
The average American consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day, which is disgusting. Negate a whopping 350 of those calories by lacing up your sneaks and hitting the pavement for a pre-feast 5K. The Drumstick Dash takes place Thanksgiving morning, and sends ambitious runners winding around 3.1 miles of the scenic parking lots surrounding Miller Park. And before the shame of eating half a pecan pie in one sitting sets in, you can feel good about yourself by giving to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, who will provide three meals for families in need for every dollar donation they receive that day. Plus, you get a cool t-shirt to let everyone know you’re slightly less slothful than they are. It’s a win-win. But sign up quick; online registration closes November 24th.

4. Express your gratitude for alcohol
You’re going to need to keep a nice stash of alcohol to drink alone in your childhood bedroom this weekend. Thankfully, this city never takes a holiday from supplying its residents with a steady flow of beer. So even if you went through your entire reserve while fielding mildly racist remarks from grandpa Wednesday night, you can still head out to resupply at Ray’s Growler Gallery & Wine Bar or Discount Liquor, both open on Thanksgiving Day. On Black Friday, beer nerds everywhere can rejoice in a couple opportunities to score rare brews that will impress their pals on the Beer Advocate forums. Discount Liquor’s White Whale sale promises the opportunity to stock up on a variety of limited-release beers from breweries across the country and Lakefront Brewery is once again opening their doors early to hawk their ultra-limited release Black Friday™ Imperial Stout Aged In Bourbon Barrels. This year, after waiting in line for approximately four hours, you’ll be blessed with the chance to buy up to three 22-ounce bottles ($15 each). The hunger for stocking up on limited-run beer won’t be the only thing satiated that day; throughout the morning, the brewery will serve hot food and beverages outside and heartier breakfast food inside the hall. So, go ahead, stand to your heart’s delight, eat a hot dog at 8 a.m., bring home your brew, and after all the hullabaloo feel okay about not sharing it with your family.

5. Knock out some shopping by keeping it local
You’ve got some time to kill and a terrifyingly-lengthy holiday shopping list. Rather than risking anxiety and the potential for injury by sojourning to the mall this weekend, throw a little money in the direction of local businesses on Small Business Saturday. All over the city, local shops and restaurants will be offering discounts on merchandise, free gifts with purchase, and complimentary treats and beverages while you shop. Check out the deals going on in the shopping mecca Third Ward neighborhood, or save yourself the headache of circling to find parking and the inevitable parking ticket that ensues and knock out all your shopping under one roof at the Urban Garage Sale. Back in its eighth installment, the Urban Garage sale fills Milwaukee’s Turner Hall with gifts from dozens of local shops, artists, and makers. From handcrafted jewelry from A Happy Thought, toys from Plushzilla, vintage clothing from Tambour, hand-printed textiles from Loft Studios and more, there are enough sweet, handmade gifts to cross off everyone on your list. Your money is going straight to local makers, and you’ll walk away with some truly unique gifts (and, let’s be honest, probably a couple fun things for yourself, too). The sale runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and $4 gets you in the door. Kids are free.

6. Go hog-wild for beer at the Harley-Davidson Museum
What’s more American than eating a remorseful amount of food, sittin’ ‘round watchin’ some pigskin, and engaging in light fisticuffs with your uncle? Beer and motorcycles, dude! The day after Thanksgiving, head to the Garage at the Harley-Davidson museum to nurse your post Turkey-Day hangover by fueling yet another hangover in the wings. The fourth annual Black Friday Beerfest promises three hours of sampling suds from ciders to Imperial IPAs, brought to you by some of Wisconsin’s (and a few out-of-staters’) best craft breweries. Forty dollars gets you general admission to the event, while $60 buys you a VIP pass, including early entry, a bottle opener, a sweet-ass can koozie, and a pretzel necklace for palate-cleansing and inebriation-suppressing purposes.

7. Screw Thanksgiving, bring on Christmas
Sure, Thanksgiving offers a peaceful moment to gather around the table with friends and family, affording the time to truly appreciate all life’s blessings and all that nonsense. Lame! Shut up and give us some twinkly lights and maybe an outdoor laser show or something. Christmas is where it’s at, nerds, and thankfully there are plenty of places in Milwaukee that usher in the one true holiday to rule them all, leaving Thanksgiving caught in a Looney Tunes-esque cloud of dust in its wake. The pumpkin pie’s barely cooled by the time Candy Cane Lane in West Allis is awash in a glow of red, green, and those gigantic inflatables that some young hooligan is definitely going to pop before December arrives. Beginning Thanksgiving night, nearly 300 homes in the designated community transform into a cacophony of light-emitting diodes, so head over and give a donation to the MACC Fund while you’re there. Ever wanted to see some big-ass bones drenched in the warm, white glow of Christmas? You’re in luck, pal! At 11:30 a.m. on November 27th, the Milwaukee Public Museum is holding a special ceremony for the official lighting of the humpback whale skeleton that hangs in its entrance, which is completely a thing that is not weird at all. No bones about it, it’s something you’ve got to “sea.”

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First Impression: The High Note Karaoke Lounge http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/first-impression-the-high-note-karaoke-lounge/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/first-impression-the-high-note-karaoke-lounge/#respond Fri, 18 Sep 2015 05:10:29 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=14649 Sometimes you’re driving in your car, windows rolled up, belting out a tune as loudly as your lungs allow and it hits you—the world needs, nay, deserves, to hear you sing these words over accompanied music in the presence of strangers huddled in the corner of a dark bar. Up until the fall of 2014, […]

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Sometimes you’re driving in your car, windows rolled up, belting out a tune as loudly as your lungs allow and it hits you—the world needs, nay, deserves, to hear you sing these words over accompanied music in the presence of strangers huddled in the corner of a dark bar. Up until the fall of 2014, you knew exactly where you could go to provide the world this service: The New Yorker. The beloved bar at 645 N. James Lovell St. was the only establishment in town dedicated to offering karaoke every night it was open. However, shortly after longtime owner Sal Monreal sold the bar to Shannon and Gina Stangel, it was announced The New Yorker would transform into a sports bar called the Mason Jar, and karaoke would be limited to Friday nights only. Amateur songstresses across the city wept.

After months of customers demanding the reinstatement of nightly karaoke, the Stangels retooled their operation and on September 4, reopened the Mason Jar under the name The High Note. Along with it came the promise of karaoke at least four nights a week and the opportunity for hordes of drunk people—and a handful of vocalists who have viable talent—to tell their story through song. Fancying ourselves tune-carriers in our own right, Milwaukee Record was there that opening weekend.

We arrived at just after 9 p.m., a few fashionably late minutes after karaoke festivities began for the evening. Although under normal circumstances The High Note runs operations Wednesday through Saturday, with some gentle nudging on Facebook the proprietors graciously agreed to open their stage to a gaggle of slightly inebriated souls on the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend. What followed was hours of joyful noise and a welcome return of the magic so sorely missed since the New Yorker closed its doors.

The space: The exterior of the High Note features new signage on the awning and a logo emblazoned on the front windows, but inside, not much has changed in the establishment since its transformation from the Mason Jar. It’s been cleaned up since its days as the New Yorker, and understandably gone is the New York City skyline mural that stretched across the bar’s back wall. New seating, including a small lounge area, has been added, as well as some updated glassware at the bar. A short stage, previously constructed to accommodate live music, rises up from the floor just high enough to allow karaoke crooners to bask in the spotlight, but not so high that they can’t do sweet jump moves onto the floor without fear of badly injuring an ankle.

Perhaps the biggest change, however, is the installment of fog machines at both front corners of the stage, which emit random puffs of smoke as the music plays, as well as lighting effects that cast a strobing, neon glow around the bar while karaoke superstars belt out their tunes. There are a half dozen wall-mounted TVs around the small room, some broadcasting whatever sporting events are being played that night and others displaying song lyrics, a welcome invitation to patrons around the bar to sing along with the soloist on stage.

The service: Erica was tending bar that night, serving a diverse crowd of roughly 20 patrons who sat perched on stools and stood gathered near the stage. Attentive, friendly, and happy to chat, she was quick to refill our New Glarus drafts ($5), High Life bottles ($4), and, as the night lingered, the occasional shots of whatever flavored vodka was generously gifted to us from fellow revelers across the U-shaped bar. What’s more, when called upon by the DJ to step out from the bar and take the mic, she delivered a dead-on rendition of Alicia Keys’ “In and Out of Love,” and kindly let some of us less-talented plebes gather around to join. Near the end of the night, she grabbed the mic once more and belted out her version of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” and unlike so many karaoke hopefuls before her, nailed every last note. She’d earned her right to drop the mic and walk straight out the door, but instead quietly went back to work slinging drinks like she hadn’t just blown the roof off the place.

The tunes: The High Note’s master of ceremonies is DJ Black Label, and that night, the affable Evan was playing DJ-in-residence. Dressed in a kilt without explanation, Evan the DJ happily—or dutifully, at the very least—queued up requests for Weezer, Miley Cyrus, the Billys (Joel, Ocean), Snoop Dogg, DMX, the Killers, Toby Keith, Lisa Loeb, Prince, and (sigh) Creed, among others. With a meager crowd that night, the wait to take the stage was never longer than 10 minutes after signing up for a song. A friendly tip: when scouring the songbook for your tune of choice, don’t be alarmed if you don’t find it. Just ask the DJ if Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” is available and chances are he’ll have it for you upon request. DJ Black Label’s empty orchestra archive runs deep.

The verdict: It’s enough to know that on any given weekend you can traipse into the High Note, sign up for a ditty, and rest assured that the stage will soon be yours. It’s even better to step inside and find the stable of New Yorker royalty has returned. (If you haven’t shed a tear during one of karaoke queen “Texas’” heart-wrenching ballads, may your robot heart forever remain corroded.) The only disappointment was the curious pricing for domestic drafts: $4 for a PBR but $10 for a pitcher, but that’s easily overlooked when considering the attentive staff, friendly clientele, and the opportunity to perform on stage while basking in the glow of lasers and fog machines. Whether they’d trotted out the fog and laser show or not, the High Note excels at something no other place in the city does: providing a place to test your vocal chords nearly any night of the week in front of a horde of strangers who will become your biggest fans by the end of the night. Or at least stumble your way through the first two verses of “It’s The End Of The World,” slink back to your barstool, and bathe in a puddle of stress-sweat until the DJ calls you to the stage once again.

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7 Milwaukee patios that make you feel like you’re not in Milwaukee http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/7-milwaukee-patios-that-make-you-feel-like-youre-not-in-milwaukee/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/7-milwaukee-patios-that-make-you-feel-like-youre-not-in-milwaukee/#respond Thu, 14 May 2015 05:05:04 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=10954 All winter long, Milwaukee waits in chilled anticipation of that first nice day of summer. When the mercury rises to a temperature we haven’t seen in months. When we stumble forth from our homes, drawn into the light, and go looking for a place that makes us feel like we are being outdoorsy, because today […]

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All winter long, Milwaukee waits in chilled anticipation of that first nice day of summer. When the mercury rises to a temperature we haven’t seen in months. When we stumble forth from our homes, drawn into the light, and go looking for a place that makes us feel like we are being outdoorsy, because today we are taking our drinking outside. On that first nice day—when we dare expose our pale Wisconsin skin to the sun—the wire chairs are un-stacked, the picnic tables are pulled out, and the globe lights are flickered on, signifying that summer is here, and the official season of outdoor drinking is upon us.

The opening of patio season is a near ceremonious event in Milwaukee. This city offers a bevy of spaces designed to draw in unsuspecting passersby, ruining an otherwise productive day with the promise of getting buzzed under blue skies at the risk of sunburned skin. Whether nestled on a slab of concrete, tucked away by the water, or enclosed by fencing that just barely keeps you out of eyesight from the residents next door, these are Milwaukee’s open-air oases that make an afternoon of imbibing in the sunlight feel like vacation.

1. Barnacle Bud’s
Once thought of as Milwaukee’s best-kept secret tucked away by the Kinnickinnick River, Barnacle Bud’s has become the de facto arena where perfectly nice Sundays slowly morph into the Monday hangover of your nightmares. But what a welcome place for a headache to be conceived. Just try and stop yourself from guzzling Dark and Stormies by the mason jarful in the sunshine as the legendary Jimmy T—whose live music enraptures the back patio every Tuesday and Sunday—props his jean-cutoff-clad leg on your picnic bench and sweetly strums the summer soundtrack of your parents’ dreams. You may try to stifle yourself as you sing along to “Margaritaville,” but at Barnacle Bud’s, it’s a near impossibility.

2. Horny Goat Hideaway
Count the Horny Goat Hideaway as an outdoor space that is immeasurably better than the namesake beer it brews. It may be the sleekest, largest, and most activity-filled patio in the city. The expansive patio deck stretches along the Kinnickinnick River and is filled with cushy lounge areas with fireplace features, tabletop seating, an outdoor bar, lawn games, and more. Sure, its name is roughly as hard to swallow (ugh) as the beer it serves, but on a sunny summer day, if you order a cocktail and find an open space to grab a seat, you might find yourself having a difficult time tearing yourself away.

3. Tonic Tavern
Proving you don’t need to be on the waterfront for a pleasurable outdoor drinking experience, Tonic Tavern offers the best street-side patio in Bay View. Their rotating beer menu is always stocked with an awesome selection of local beers and some from the best breweries around the country. Head there at night and take a seat under the canopy of globe lights, or go during the day and pull up a chair at one of the colorful bistro-style tables to take in the excellent views of Bay View’s finest strolling along Kinnickinnick Avenue.

4. The Harp
Inside, The Harp may have the dim, cozy, Irish pub vibe down, but head back to their patio deck and it’s all bright umbrellas, twinkle lights, and (hopefully) sunshine by the riverside. The deck was expanded in 2013 and with it came three new docks, perfect for pulling up your pontoon to throw back some Killian’s or Rumrunners or whatever on the multi-tiered deck. It may be a little bro-heavy come evening, but the deck and the view make it worth weaving through the bomb-taking clientele.

5. The Twisted Fisherman
Pull up an Adirondack chair, plunk your feet in the sand, and wave to the kayakers that pass by on the Milwaukee River. The Twisted Fisherman specializes in candy-colored drinks and a Key West atmosphere on Canal Street. They’ve trucked in a hell of a lot of sand to anchor in the vacation vibe, and have outdoor volleyball courts for those ambitious folks who’d rather be active than fill their guts with crab legs for the afternoon. It may not be as storied or tucked away as Barnacle Buds, but it does its best to imitate that same away-from-it all ambiance that invites you to kick off your flip-flops for the afternoon.

6. Von Trier
Von Trier may be one of the coziest spots to sip a steamy cocktail in the winter, but once patio season hits, its beer garden makes it an equally enjoyable summer drinking destination. It feels hidden enough from busy North Avenue traffic, while wrought-iron gates studding the ivy-covered brick walls allow for a peek at the hoards of people passing by. It may not be as sun-soaked as some of the other establishments mentioned here, but it’s high on charm and low on beach rock. Grab a basket of popcorn, head outside, and do your best to pretend you’re taking a hard-earned rest while backpacking through Germany.

7. (Just slightly nearby) your local yacht club
Man, those jerks at the local yacht club sure do look like they’re having a good time sipping fancy drinks while peering out over their boats in the marina, huh? Stick it to ’em by finding a nearby dock, spreading out a blanket, bringing a cooler full of your favorite boat drinks, and listening to the water lap against the hulls under the stars…for free. Hell, if you’re hungry and happen to be on the dock by the South Shore Yacht Club, you can even order up a pizza and Classic Slice will deliver it dockside. We may know by experience. Ascot and captain’s hat are optional.

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Milwaukee River, four ways: Making the most of the city’s urban waterway http://milwaukeerecord.com/city-life/milwaukee-river-four-ways-making-citys-urban-waterway/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/city-life/milwaukee-river-four-ways-making-citys-urban-waterway/#respond Wed, 03 Sep 2014 05:10:28 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=4377 It’s a posh time to be water in Milwaukee. In the past couple weeks alone, the city’s water sources have made headlines: MillerCoors is donating $500,000 in an effort to improve the water quality and shoreline at South Shore Beach. Salon ran a story calling Milwaukee “the new Portland,” but not because we’re hip, progressive, or […]

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It’s a posh time to be water in Milwaukee. In the past couple weeks alone, the city’s water sources have made headlines: MillerCoors is donating $500,000 in an effort to improve the water quality and shoreline at South Shore Beach. Salon ran a story calling Milwaukee “the new Portland,” but not because we’re hip, progressive, or the subject of a Fred Armisen sketch show—it’s because of the city’s heightened focus on natural water resources.

In the hierarchy of the city’s most beloved water sources, that big ol’ sea to the east typically reigns supreme, but don’t sleep on the rivers that wind their way through the city and suburbs. After all, Milwaukee’s name is derived from the Algonquin “Millioki,” or “gathering place by the waters.” (And, yes, it also means “the good land.”) Sure, the Milwaukee River may find itself the brunt of plenty of mutant-ooze-related jokes, but if you spend some time on it, safe from the toxins floating within, it’s an incredibly interesting way to get a view of the city.

To show some love to this forgotten stepchild of natural water sources, we recently traveled along the Milwaukee River four different ways: by pontoon, group boat tour, kayak, and foot. If nothing else, exploring the river from whichever vessel you choose helps fill a weekend day in Milwaukee after festival season as closed, but before the city retreats indoors, never to see the light until the following May.

Pontoon
Even if you don’t have your own boat, you can still enjoy floating down the Milwaukee River the way us poors do it: by rental. The Milwaukee River Cruise Line offers private pontoon rentals from May through October, with options for two-hour, four-hour, and eight-hour rentals every day of the week. To get the full river experience, we chose the eight-hour rental, setting sail at 11 a.m. and filling the rest of the day with as many boat puns as possible until docking back up at 7 p.m.

With snacks and a cooler of beverages in tow, traveling down the river (as far north as Lakefront Brewery) as the captain of your own (rented) vessel is a pretty freeing experience. Dock up at any riverside bar or restaurant, hop off, grab a bite or a drink, then get back on and float off to your next destination. Our stops included Lakefront Brewery, The Harp, Barnacle Bud’s, and Horny Goat Brewing Co., grabbing one drink at each establishment. Just cruising up and down the river affords the opportunity to see the city from a different angle, without the hassle of navigating one-way streets or circling around to find parking. Feel free to blast as much yacht rock as you possibly can, because a rented pontoon might be the only place where Michael McDonald’s talents can truly be appreciated. Even though it’s fun to stay on the river, you’re free to make your way into Lake Michigan’s harbor, and if you time it just right, you can catch a pretty spectacular sunset view of the city from the lake.

Group boat tour
Riverwalk Boat Tours, located on the docks at Pere Marquette Park, want you to party, preferably while you sip down a few head-splittingly strong margaritas. Each evening of the week they host themed tours, whose titles are alliterated with abandon: Margarita Monday, Tiki Tuesday, Wine Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday, Funky Fridays, Social Saturdays, Sunday Bloody Mary Cruise, and Sunday Three-Brewery Cruise. The common theme here, if you hadn’t picked it up, is drinking. We hopped on board the Margarita Monday Cruise and were met with a spread of chips, salsa, guacamole, and mini quesadillas. The bar was stocked with traditional and blended strawberry margaritas, as well as Miller Lite, wine, and rail liquor.

Because of the emphasis on the party, as well as the boat’s covered top, we weren’t expecting much in the way of great views of the city, and since we’d just pontooned up and down the river two days prior, it wouldn’t be a great loss. But an unexpected treat of this tour was what met us when we arrived in the Lake Michigan harbor: some of the most stunning views you can imagine of the city’s skyline. We spent time circling the harbor as the sun was setting, casting fiery oranges, yellows, and pinks behind the silhouettes of the U.S. Bank Building, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Hoan Bridge. Our captain drove us into the McKinley Marina, giving us a view of the boats docked within. Then, we were taken under the bridge and into the inlet at Lakeshore State Park, seeing the Henry W. Maier Festival Park from an angle only the floating hole-in-one green can experience during Summerfest. It was pretty incredible.

Yes, they want you to party, but when noticing a gaggle of their guests whipping out cameras to snap pictures of the stunning sunset against the skyline, the captain slowed the boat down, affording everyone plenty of chances to get the perfect angle of the pirate ship floating in the harbor. What’s more, once the boat heads back into port around 8 p.m., it’s just dark enough that the city’s lights are shining bright in the buildings around you, reflecting on the water and putting on a seriously impressive display.

ship

Kayak
For those who want to see the city from a lower vantage point, dipping a kayak in the river is a more health-conscious option for traveling Milwaukee’s waterways. Check out the Milwaukee Riverkeepers’ map of the city’s rivers and public slips, then put in your kayak where you please. The best part about choosing to kayak down the river (aside from, you know, exercising that badly ignored body of yours), is the relative freedom you enjoy while doing so. Whereas with renting a pontoon, you’re given boundaries from Lakefront Brewery to the north and Horny Goat Brewing Co. to the south (the Milwaukee River Cruise Line company doesn’t allow you to enter the Menominee River), and when taking a party boat cruise you’re at the mercy of your captain; when kayaking, you’re pretty much free to paddle wherever the hell you damn well please.

We headed out around 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, paddling along a near-empty river. Heading out early is a relaxing way to begin the day, as you’ll stay clear of the aforementioned party barges and recreational boats that litter the river as the sun gets higher in the sky. You’re free to dock up to any public slip along the river, just as a larger boat would. When out on the river before 10 a.m., it’s a relatively quiet way to get from point A to point B. It’s also a healthier way to navigate the river; just dock your kayak, then stop for coffee, stop for brunch, and enjoy a little workout while you’re at it.

Riverwalk
If being on the water isn’t your thing, you can always admire it from a concrete slab a few safe feet above. Milwaukee’s Riverwalk stretches two miles on both sides of the Milwaukee River, connecting parks, hotels, restaurants, and bars. While it’s not the most beautiful stroll you’ll take, it does allow for a more peaceful walk through downtown than shuffling along Water or Milwaukee streets. More cultured pedestrians can enjoy the variety of public art installations in a series called RiverSculpture!, and pick up a pamphlet from any of the kiosks along the river that describe each piece. (If you don’t shed a tear while reading the backstory of Gertie the duck, you’re a monster).

The Riverwalk is awesome for getting a close-up view of some of the city’s architecture, including the glamorous vistas of the backsides of nondescript office buildings. Potted flowers and lighted archways pop up along the walk, dressing things up a bit, and if you choose to dine or have a drink at any of the restaurants along the Riverwalk, it makes for some pretty entertaining people (and boat) watching. During the weekday noon hour, the Riverwalk serves as a playground for the business-casual-clad, stretching out lunch hour as long as humanly possible before returning to the doldrums of their soul-sucking jobs. Try and time it so you can catch the exact moment when the joy washes from their faces before returning to work!

kayak

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Yelp Roulette: Prodigal Gastropub http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/yelp-roulette-prodigal-gastropub/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/yelp-roulette-prodigal-gastropub/#respond Thu, 12 Jun 2014 05:10:42 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=2106 For those who can’t handle the responsibility of perfectly catering to the differentiating palates of a group of people, choosing a restaurant can be a crippling experience. Many times in life, when faced with choosing the night’s dining establishment, I’ve found myself melting into a pool of indecision until a more levelheaded member of my […]

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For those who can’t handle the responsibility of perfectly catering to the differentiating palates of a group of people, choosing a restaurant can be a crippling experience. Many times in life, when faced with choosing the night’s dining establishment, I’ve found myself melting into a pool of indecision until a more levelheaded member of my dining party, exasperated, suggests just going to get wings or something, God. But it’s a decision that can make or break a night. I mean, I’ve seen relationships end over arguing about picking a restaurant. It’s some messy shit.

Enter Yelp Roulette, a website that scours nearby restaurants in Yelp’s database, spins a virtual wheel and does the choosing for you. (You’re off the hook!) After being presented with your dining choice, you have three options: Spin again, check out the Yelp reviews of the establishment to help with your decision, or say “Fuck it,” and go to the damn place, completely blind.

I’m choosing Option C in my first Yelp Roulette experiment, giving into indecision and trusting it fully to steer me in the direction of the correct place to dine. Maybe I have previous experience with the restaurant, maybe I’ve only heard its name on a segment of “Dirty Dining.” It’s a gamble I’m taking for you, and in my first attempt, I’m happy to report, this gamble paid off in my favor.

Restaurant visited: Prodigal Gastropub (240 E. Pittsburgh Ave., 414-223-3030)

Average Yelp rating: 3.5 stars (52 reviews)

My experience: After bending the rules in favor of local eateries when my first two spins fell on Chipotle’s 27th Street location and the Hooters in Brookfield (seriously), I was relieved when my third spin revealed Walker’s Point’s Prodigal Gastropub, an establishment I’d been meaning to visit since its opening last summer. On a chilly Saturday evening, my dining companion and I entered through one of the restaurant’s four garage doors lining the front of the space. It was the only open door of the four, though the promise of a semi-open-air dining experience on warmer days entices me to return when temperatures are more seasonable. The space, like many other Walker’s Point/Third Ward eateries, is dressed in the typical “rustic-industrial” uniform: wooden tables, concrete floors, open ductwork winding through the restaurant’s high ceilings, and walls lined with reclaimed wood. It’s a space that says “upscale burgers” more so than “fine dining,” which sets the tone for the restaurant’s menu: sorta-fancy fare that won’t scare off the plebes among the more refined foodies.

Focusing on the “pub” side of this self-proclaimed gastropub, Prodigal should more than satisfy whiskey aficionados, offering 28 varieties of the spirit on its four-page drink menu. Uneducated as I am in the ways of whiskey, I passed to check out the craft cocktails, though eventually balked at the overly wordy descriptions, which were a little too fancypants for my taste. (However, the menu serves up plenty “classic cocktail” offerings to please Sidecar and Old Fashioned enthusiasts.) Instead, I flipped to the beer menu, which featured a well-rounded variety of drafts and bottles from a handful of breweries across the States and Canada. I ended up choosing a Unibroue Raftman amber ale, while my dining companion selected a Boulder Mojo IPA on nitro.

To kick things off, we asked our server—who made himself just present enough during our meal—to recommend a few of his favorite appetizers. He graciously spouted off three top choices: Clock Shadow Creamery Ricotta, Panzanella, and Flatbread. We opted for the Ricotta ($10) and, when it arrived at our table a short time later, we were wholly impressed by the artful presentation. But more importantly, it was damn delicious. Flaky strips of baked phyllo sectioned off a sampler of orange marmalade, minced Kalamata olives, and chiffonade spinach, flanked by two helpings of sweet, creamy ricotta—one of the best ricotta cheeses I’ve ever tasted. It was a great sign of things to come.

The seasonal menu makes no distinctions between appetizers, small plates, or entrees, but it’s easily deduced by a glance at the prices and descriptions of each dish. Appetizers range between $5 and $16, while entrees are anywhere between $12 and $26. I’m a sucker for scallops on any restaurant’s menu, so my mind was made up as soon as I noticed Prodigal’s scallop entree ($20), which was accompanied by fresh pasta, asparagus, prosciutto jus, preserved lemon, and sorrel. When brought to the table, I realized the bed of “fresh pasta” that lay beneath four perfectly tender seared scallops was likely the same noodles used in the restaurant’s touted “$10 Ramen Bowl,” special hosted every Wednesday. I actually loved the idea, as the delicate noodles were unassuming enough in a simple broth to make the scallops the star or the show (with a welcome enhancement by bright shavings of preserved lemon peel).

My dining companion opted for the night’s special: roasted pork tenderloin with apple crisps, Pomme Anna, and whole-seed mustard jus, atop deviled egg yolk ($18). While the pork medallions were just a little on the cold side, the complex flavor of the sum of the dish’s parts more than made up for it.

We ended our meal with dessert: Carrot Spoon Cake ($6)—two sweet, dense cakelets with a scoop of (absolutely delicious)cream-cheese ice cream, atop walnut streusel, drizzled molasses, and chervil. Our inner fatties appreciated that the dessert was big enough to share while wholly satisfying our collective sweet tooth, though we wouldn’t have minded another (oh…six or seven) scoops of that irresistibly rich cream-cheese ice cream.

Prodigal hosts a menu that is creative and artful, but without pretense. Offering a balance between dishes like veal tartare and duck confit poutine, with pulled pork sandwiches and Andouille sausage, it’s welcoming to foodie snobs or the unassuming diner who will undoubtedly stumble in after a visit to the nearby Summerfest grounds. The entree portions are respectable for the price, the presentation is thoughtful, and the food is elegant without taking itself too seriously.

My rating: 4 stars

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