“What do you think you’ll miss the most?”
It’s a question I’ve given a lot of thought to since my dad asked me in April as we were driving through Illinois to go apartment hunting.
At this point, I’d written 76 articles for my blog. I’d posted 304 photos and attended countless openings, events and happy hours.
I opened my mouth, confident that I’d find the answer as I said it. But I was stumped.
After all that, I couldn’t think of the single greatest bite.
For a moment, I actually thought of Culver’s. And yes, Culver’s came to mind even though I’m a die-hard Kopp’s fan.
Hear me out: my adventure in Milwaukee began with a burger and custard with my future boss at the Culver’s right across the station. I remember other employees gave him a hard time for choosing the fast-food joint, but looking back, I actually can’t think of a better place. Fast-forward three years, and everyone’s eyes would light up the second someone would say they were thinking about running over for custard. We picked it up after great shows. We picked it up after the not-so-great days. My anchors treated us to scoops of the flavor of the day if it was something with caramel or peanut butter. And don’t even get me started on the rush to the food table if someone surprised the team with cheese curds.
I started explaining to my dad that I’d somehow be missing Culver’s, when he pointed out a Culver’s an exit before downtown Champaign.
“You’ll have Culver’s here,” he said. “You’ll still get your custard.”
And that’s when I realized that it wasn’t exactly Culver’s that I was feeling nostalgic about. It was the moments surrounding each bite. Because, if there’s anything I learned after starting this blog, food isn’t just about food. It’s about the friends and family you’re surrounded by.
Some highlights from Milwaukee…
- Bel Air Cantina: You’ve got to try the housemade chorizo or the black bean & corn taco. The booths are big enough to get together with a large group of friends after a long day of work. If you’re looking for something refreshing as well, I recommend the strawberry margarita.
- Milwaukee Public Market: Buy two rolls of sushi at the Thainamite counter and then sit down at Thief Wine’s bar and order a flight of wine with your friend after a long morning working third-shift. It’s your Happy Hour. Try to ignore the envious looks from all the working people on a lunch break as you take your time laughing about the most random moments. When you’re ready to leave, buy a couple cookies or scones on the way out.
- The Noble: The line is always long for Monday brunch, but it’s 100 percent worth it. Order a Bloody Mary while you wait for a table to open up and go with a special. I went with two food bloggers that I’d met a couple weeks before, and although I didn’t know it at the time when I was waiting in line, left with an amazing friendship in the making. Half of my posts from that point onward have been at restaurants I checked out with my friend Sam, the foodie behind Food + Drink Milwaukee.
- Goodkind in Bayview: If the Noble was the start of a food chapter, Goodkind and Purple Door mark the end of the Milwaukee chapter. When I told Sam I would be moving, she immediately asked me to make a bucket list of restaurants for us to check out before my move. Goodkind was at the top of the list, and it didn’t disappoint. We got the half-off bottle of wine (a Monday night special) and capped off the night with a flight of Purple Door ice cream. I couldn’t think of a better meal.
- Story Hill BKC: Get a large group together and order as many small plates as possible. I think we ordered half the menu the last time I was there and every bite was incredible. I was in a serious food coma the rest of the weekend.
- Stone Creek Coffee: Sometimes you need a little peace and quiet to get work done. I always loved going to the location in Whitefish Bay, where every seat has a charger. Get the lavender latte. You won’t be disappointed.
Colectivo: I recommend the chai tea latte. It’s perfect to sip while meeting up with your future co-worker for the first time before starting work.
- Blue Bat Kitchen: It’s been so exciting watching the former Water Buffalo space transform into a tequilaria with an incredibly versatile menu. It’s a great place to go with family, friends, or some combination of the two. With summer finally here, you can sit right on the river enjoying a margarita. Oh, and I highly recommend the agave steak bowl. The queso fresco is perfect.
- Mason Street Grill: When I moved to Milwaukee, I already felt so close to my cousins there. We’ve spent nearly every Thanksgiving together in Lake Geneva since I was a little kid, and they cheered me on every step of the way as I embarked on a career in journalism. But for the past three years, I’ve developed an even closer relationship with each one than I ever thought possible. I’ve spent countless family dinners with them at Mason Street, Bel Air, in their kitchens, etc. Those are often long dinners, and yet time always flies by as we talk about everything from movies to politics to sports. I admire all of my cousins immensely. They all set such high goals for themselves in everything they do, and when they reach those goals, they’re always ready to raise the bar a little higher and move forward. They’ve given me advice, helped me as I navigated the ups and downs of work and relationships and have become wonderful friends whom I’m going to miss so much. I can’t wait till the next Sunday night family dinner I’m able to attend.
After living in Louisville, I often wondered why I didn’t start food blogging there. After all, between the incredible restaurants and the bourbon scene, which I explored with some great friends, there would have been plenty to write about. But I honestly think being around multiple generations of foodies in my family here helped shape my love for food into something tangible. I’m absolutely going to miss writing about Milwaukee, but I know I’ll be back, and perhaps more importantly, I’m leaving here with a lifelong passion for eating, cooking and baking. And don’t worry – it didn’t take me long to start exploring all that Champaign has to offer. I can’t wait to pick up a fork (and my camera) and share my new adventures with you right here on Chews and News!