At the risk of sounding overconfident, I think Milwaukee Record manages to cover a lot of ground for a two-person operation with a great cast of freelance contributors. Over the span of almost 10 years, our nearly 11,000 posts have chronicled happenings in Milwaukee music, dining, visual art and film, and how a wide variety of localized experiences have made us feel.
In terms of the five senses, we’ve more-than-adequately covered sound, taste, sight, and feeling/touch. However, we’ve largely neglected one of the top five senses for much of our existence. Well, that ends today because I’m going to devote a little space on this here site to a few of my favorite Milwaukee smells. This list is far from being complete, and I’m not looking for a fucking debate about something that you think smells better. To me, some of these scents come to mind when I think about the city.
Long before they made our Milwaukee Record signature blend, Anodyne has been my favorite coffee in town and, as an extension, one of the main sources of my favorite local smells. I equate the strong aroma of fresh coffee with the start of each day, countless meetings and conversations, and concerts at their various cafes. The Walker’s Point location is the roasting source, and the Bay View shop masterfully mixes coffee with the transcendent smell of woodfire pizza made in house. Both are perfection.
Boone & Crockett
I can’t explain it. The interior of Boone & Crockett just smells really good!
Club Garibaldi Wings
You might have a different preference, but my favorite wings in Milwaukee come from Club Garibaldi. Adding to the downright incredible taste is the tantalizing smell of the marinated and grilled flats and drummies. Sometimes (including most Wednesdays, when they’re on special), you can also get a good whiff of them when you’re walking by outside. Damn…am I getting G’s wings tonight?!
Yeah, I know I said “Milwaukee” smells, but I couldn’t write about local smells without acknowledging the bacon-scented suburb to our south. When I’m out on the X-Ray Arcade patio or on the beach and the wind blows just right, I don’t hate it.
Kim’s has become a monthly takeout treat for me. So once a month (okay, sometimes twice!), my car is filled with the scent of delectable Jungle Curry, savory-sauced Pad Kee Mao, and just-fried vegetable egg rolls as I speed home to enjoy it while unwinding by watching a movie, TV show, or NBA game with my girlfriend on a Friday night. It’s as much the smell as it is the ritual of driving there, having Lin chat with me and/or playfully roast me as I pay, plating up and prepping a cocktail, and ending (well, temporarily pausing) the work week in delicious comfort.
Milwaukee Public Market
To be honest, I’m not a big Milwaukee Public Market kind of guy. However, when out-of-town relatives or an inescapable Lobster Roll craving requires a rare visit, I’m usually quite fond of the smell. This marketplace is the intersection of so many pungent fragrances I love including smoked fish, coffee, fresh flowers, oil and vinegar, exotic spices, falafel, cured meats and cheeses, and produce.
Can’t you just smell this photo? When walking into the OT, I’m struck with an irreplaceable scent of popcorn, butter, and history. Plus, this theater (or “theatre”) is one of the last few movie houses in the area that offers nutritional yeast flakes as a popcorn topping, which only improves the flavor, scent, appearance, crunch, and the feeling of seeing a movie at this stalwart of Cream City cinema.
Peter Sciortino Bakery
Okay, so I don’t have a picture of Sciotino Bakery. I think that’s because the moment I walk in, I lose sight of pretty much everything except how goddamn good it smells in there. Pastries, fresh bread, hot ham on Sundays. My god!
Purple Door Ice Cream
Even before I get into the building, I’m struck with the incomparable confluence of waffle cones and sweetened cream.
Record Stores (Any)
Incense or air fresheners, old cardboard, and aged wax. Individually, none of these scents are good, but when combined, it’s the smell of thumbing through records on a weekend afternoon…and that’s a pretty good smell to me.
This is self-explanatory, but there’s really nothing like being hit with the smell of fresh roasted nuts when strolling around the Summerfest grounds or the concourse at a Brewers game. I don’t buy ’em every time. Sometimes the smell on its own is good enough for me.
Third Space (and other local taprooms)
You know what I mean here, right? When a taproom just specializes in beer and not food, customers inevitably encounter a sturdy wave of hops, malt, and other ingredients of the brews that are crafted in that very building. Before tasting a delicious Milwaukee-made beer and feeling its affects, you smell it. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
URSA’s Lavender & Wood Soap
I first smelled this after washing my hands at Goodkind. Days later, I went to URSA and stocked up. While it’s not always on hand at my house, it’s in the soap rotation. It’s also become a recurring throw-in for gifts I buy my mom, stepmom, and sister who all live out of town.
(*CONTROVERSIAL BONUS SMELL*)
To be 100 percent clear, Milorganite smells fucking TERRIBLE. However, the fertilizer plant only gets especially ripe when it’s warm outside. So as weird as it sounds, I equate the dreadful scent of this product made from human waste with the absolute best time to live in Milwaukee. So yeah, it’s a bad smell that signals good times.