Milwaukee Record launched on April 7, 2014. Since then, we’ve published more than 10,300 stories and reached millions upon millions (upon millions) of internet-weary eyeballs. As always, our output this year was all over the map. Here are just some of our favorite stories we ran in 2023. Enjoy!


Mandatory Milwaukee: Thinking about doing the Polar Bear Plunge and then finally doing it
Yep! I finally did it! On Sunday, I hoofed it to Bradford Beach and joined hundreds of other foolhardy Milwaukeeans (and some out-of-staters) in a mission to dive into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan. Why? Why not! The weather was in the 40s, there was little to no breeze, and the thought of starting a new year with a body-shocking swim seemed appealing. The crowd was large and in good spirits. There were oodles of tents and bonfires. A friend agreed to jump in with me. Our respective families humored us and helped with towels. It wasn’t that bad! [Matt Wild]


“The best jobbers in the country”: The mystery VHS that unearthed Milwaukee wrestling history
As the tracking buzzed into place, a spartan, white wrestling ring popped into view, with the letters “MWA” clearly emblazoned on the mat in basic, plain blue text. A mustachioed, tuxedo-clad ring announcer read from a clipboard while two unnamed professional wrestlers, one of them completely jacked to the gills, paced the ring. I say they were unnamed because the video had no title graphics and, weirdly, no sound. Why the hell does this video have no sound? Who are these guys? Where was this taking place? [DJ Hostettler]

East Side locksmith Badge Lock & Key closes (and locks) doors after 45 years
“Some people come in here and say, ‘Oh, I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. I’ve been coming here since my mother used to live down the street,” Keihl says. “We’ve seen a lot of people that grew up in the neighborhood, who were here for years and years, and then it’s like, ope, now they’re gone.” [MW]

Liminal Milwaukee: A brief tour of some of the city’s liminal spaces
Is Milwaukee chock full of liminal spaces? Of course it is. Here’s a brief tour of some of those spaces, organized by location. And yes, some stretch the definition a bit. And yes, we could have included 8,000 pictures from the Milwaukee Public Museum alone. [Milwaukee Record]


My Saturday at the 2023 Midwest Gaming Classic: A minute-by-minute report
4:24 p.m. “Sir, did you drop your dagger?” asks an MGC attendee. “Oh, yeah, thanks,” says a mostly bare-chested man who is carrying a giant sword and who totally dropped his dagger. And hey! There’s LGR YouTube star Clint Basinger on the left! Greetings, Clint! [MW]


We ranked all the bleachers at Summerfest in advance of tonight’s Bleachers show
Yesterday, as an indirect means of preparing festival-goers for tonight’s Bleachers show, we walked around the entirety of the Summerfest grounds to document, evaluate, and rank the bleachers at each stage. We’ve omitted grounds stages that don’t have bleachers to save you time and scrolling, and we’ve also left off the American Family Insurance Amphitheater because Milwaukee Record isn’t big enough to get media credentials for that part of Summerfest. [Tyler Maas]

I took a Milwaukee Record gummy and saw Greensky Bluegrass at Summerfest
As Greensky line-checked the stage mics, I took this opportunity to grab the big lemonade from the lemonade stand, as the THC was making our mouths feel very cotton-y. I came back with the 32oz’er as Greensky took the stage to applause and shouts. It was all working out so nicely! As the first notes to the song “Windshield” rang out over the audience, I knew we were in for a special time here at the Big Gig. [Grant Steskal]

You saw The Flaming Lips play Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots at Riverside Theater. You loved it.
Coyne talked about how the person next to you might be suffering. He talked about how the simple act of coming together and enjoying a show was a powerful tonic. He talked about the need to scream. You thought about this. You thought about a family member still reeling from the loss of a partner. You thought about a family friend hurt by the actions of her child. You thought about another friend, also at the show and somewhere down in the pit, who had had an exceedingly rough year. You thought about yourself, bruised and beaten from the pandemic and still in a glazed-over state of anger and confusion and grief. You wondered when, or if, any of you would feel normal again. You screamed. [MW]


If you could never leave one Milwaukee street, which would you pick?
If you had to pick one Milwaukee street—any street at all—to spend the rest of your life on, which would you pick? Before you answer, I have to add some rules and stipulations that need to be followed: 1. You can pick any place to live, but the address needs to be on that street or property needs to touch said street. 2. It has to be in Milwaukee proper. For example, if you pick Oakland Avenue, you don’t get to enter the Shorewood portion. Your North Avenue territory would end at the Wauwatosa border. National Avenue doesn’t include West Allis amenities. You get the point. 3. Any food, goods, or services you receive must be provided on that street. No delivery allowed. 4. Money and career are of no concern—just don’t leave that street. [MR]

78 words about the 78-song Holy Shit! comp
While we certainly want to give some attention to ambitious release that spans more than half the accomplished band’s existence, 78 tracks is a lot of material to sift through. So instead of doing a straight-up review of this voluminous beast, we’re going to do the next best thing: one-word reviews of every single song on the comp. [TM]

“Cory The Riverwest Sandwich Fixer” keeps Original Fuel Cafe favorites alive in his kitchen
“It’s mostly people I know, or people will send their husband over, or I think I know him and it’s a different guy with the same name who messaged me through Instagram,” Cory says. “There will be people I literally haven’t seen in years, who I haven’t seen since before Fuel closed. People lose their minds, like, ‘Holy crap! I can’t believe this is real.'” [TM]


Burrito Sandwich: An investigation
“So, um, what’s the Burrito Sandwich?” I asked the employee, who seemed borderline surprised to have finally been asked this query. I felt time halt. The room was already silent, but it felt somehow even more quiet in that instant resting between question and answer. Eventually, the words floated through the humid 82-degree interior air within the 1991-looking restaurant and reached my eager ears. [TM]

You betcha! V. Marchese has provided Milwaukee area with “fresha” produce, iconic banana for decades
“For some strange reason every time I’m fortunate enough to see the Fresha You Betcha Banana, the rest of the day turns out great,” says Zgorzelskit. “It’s become my lucky banana. I know when I see him smiling at me with his curly locks and thick mustache, that means it’s gonna be a good day.” [Tea Krulos]

The inevitable loss of beloved Milwaukee things
Am I dreading whatever ends up replacing these beloved Milwaukee things? Not really; in fact, the thought of new beloved Milwaukee things excites me. But for now, I’m happy to enjoy the things we have, if only for a little longer. [MW]

South Metro Pier is a strange, secluded, serene lakeside trail you probably never knew existed
I stumbled upon the existence of South Metro Pier in nearby Oak Creek after seeing a friend post about it on Facebook like two years ago. If not for that, I can say with relative certainty that I would have no idea this place existed. There’s very little evidence of it online. Hell, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District—which is apparently responsible for this under-publicized public space—doesn’t appear to even mention it on its website. One doesn’t stumble upon this place, and even if you’re looking for it, it’s not exactly easy to find. [TM]

Relive Dana Ehrmann’s prize-winning Wisconsin State Fair coverage with this video
Here, then, is a handy YouTube compilation of Ehrmann’s reports. Relive her “Dairy Challenge”! Thank the maker for her cream puff and beer hacks! Witness the birth of her ill-advised airbrushed “DIVA” neck tattoo! Chuckle along with folks in the Milk Barn line as Ehrmann quizzes them on obscure Bucks players (and buys their milk)! More! [Dana Ehrmann]


Flamingos…in Wisconsin?
Earlier today I got an out-of-the-blue text message along with a photo confirming five (5) American flamingos at South Beach, Miami…er, Port Washington, Wisconsin. Before venturing north, I relayed my findings to a birding group in hopes that someone closer could get confirmation. Seventy-five percent of the group was convinced I was leading them on a wild goose…er, flamingo chase. One local took the bait and within 10 minutes we had confirmation: Wisconsin’s got flamingos. [Kyle Arpke]


The Vanguard discusses anniversary, struggles, new chef, Halloween pop-up theme
However, while having our annual chat with co-owners Chris Schulist and Jim McCann about this year’s Halloween pop-up theme and menu, we were shocked to learn that all is not well at 2659 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. According to Schulist, “sales have dropped off so dramatically that, frankly, doors could close next month” if things don’t turn around. [TM]

Cream City Chaos: Arcade game at Last Rites a celebration of Milwaukee punk scene
“It’s a very retro arcade-style game. I take cues from some of my arcade games that I played growing up,” Altenbach says. “But I wanted to center it around the punk scene in Milwaukee and have it as a playable time capsule, so to speak. Being in a band, making shirts and stickers and everything, once I got the ball rolling on this, I thought, ‘What stranger piece of band merch can there be than having an arcade cabinet?'” [Ethan Duran]

Jason Momoa vodka signing at the New Berlin Costco: A minute-by-minute report
9:50 a.m. – Overheard: “I’m excited to find out what his hands feel like!” “I’m just going to lick him!” Folks, I say this with the utmost respect and journalistic detachment, but this line is getting horny. [MW]


In defense of Milwaukee’s “worst restaurants”
I’m not here to say these places are “secretly great” or whatever. This isn’t me trying to convince you that, I dunno, Attack Of The Clones is “actually good.” This is just me saying that maybe—just maybe!—Café Hollander (and/or other Lowlands Group joints) and BelAir serve a purpose—good in a pinch, good for families—and that they’re far from the worst restaurants in Milwaukee. [MW]

I built my dream Mexican fast food meal on Layton Avenue (and you can too!)
Exactly 33 seconds after leaving the Taco Bell drive thru, I was in the parking lot of the brand new Taco John’s. Since it was among the very first days of the location’s existence, the drive thru line was a little longer than my previous stop. No worries! My order wasn’t too big and I wouldn’t be traveling much further. In total, I was still in and out in about five minutes flat. [TM]

Back from the brink? Milwaukee just had its best budget season in decades
“I did not think I would live to see the day when we would produce a City of Milwaukee budget brief and a Milwaukee County budget brief that was not essentially just describing the nature and the breadth and the depth of these far reaching financial problems, and the devastating service cuts that were on the horizon. And instead this year, in our reports on both the City and the County, the whole discussion is about how strategically, these two governments are investing their new resources in ways that both will make up for years of underinvestment.” [Dan Shafer]

Milwaukee tamaleras combat the cold with homemade tamales
Milwaukee, as well as other cities with brutal winters, has a small army of tamaleras, older Mexican women who live off the grid, selling tamales to their public by a strict word-of-mouth campaign. The women materialize on the south side during the cold months. Tamales are sold year-round, but they are made more available between October and March, as the ladies come out of their kitchens and sell them outside churches, laundromats, and other public spaces. [Juan Miguel Martinez]


Enjoy Every Fish Fry: Kick Switch in Okauchee Lake has big perch, big Old Fashioneds
But the die had already been cast. Not only does Kick Switch Bar And Grill in Okauchee Lake have the advertising for tall Old Fashioneds, they line part of their backbar with pint glasses pre-filled with cherries and oranges. By the time I looked over again, the bartender was already mixing my drink in one. Woe is me to start messing with their streamlined system—a tall Old Fashioned it would be. So, with fruit on the bottom but not on the top, brandy, and soda, I was given a no-frills, straight-to-the-point, pint-glass Old Fashioned. [Caleb Westphal]

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