Metro Milwaukee Guide

The go-to guide for activities in the greater Milwaukee area


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Cheese Steaks at The Philly Way

I’ve heard that people in Philadelphia don’t eat Philly cheese steaks. Well, let me just say to all those Philadelphians – THANK YOU. I’m more than happy to eat your share over here in good old MKE. I’m pretty sure ours are better anyway. I mean, even Philadelphia Magazine rated the sandwiches at The Philly Way as the best Philly cheese steak in America. More than once. Clearly we needed to go there and try this glorious sandwich.

Milwaukee cheese steak

Here she is… the best cheese steaks in the country!

In the spirit of full disclosure, this was my first ever cheese steak. If that’s shocking to you, it was shocking to me too. This sandwich combines some of my favorite things: meat, bread, grilled onions, cheese whiz (don’t judge me, I’ll eat this cheesy nectar with everything)… And then to find out I could get MORE types of cheese? Heaven!

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Squeaky Cheese at Clock Shadow Creamery

There’s an old Wisconsin saying, “If fresh cheese is what you seek, make sure to listen for the squeak.” The phrase has been passed down for generations. It’s a very important part of Midwest folklore, and cheese tasters have abided by the rule for centuries. I’ve heard that some cheesemakers inscribe the words in food coloring on the inside of the cheese rind during production for good luck.

Okay, okay, that’s not true. And “old saying” clearly translates to “hey, look what I just made up!” But still, it is true that the fresher the cheese, the more it will squeak. And dare I say, the squeakiest cheese I have ever enjoyed came right out of Milwaukee, at Clock Shadow Creamery.

Behold, Wisconsin's first urban creamery!

Behold, Wisconsin’s first urban creamery!

Clock Shadow is Wisconsin’s first creamery in a city and was designed with the goal of having a local, accessible cheesemaker for city residents and visitors. Three cheesemakers work overnight to create four flavors of curds (plain, garlic dill, tomato basil, jalapeno) and about ten cheeses based on yellow and white cheddar (ricotta is the newest). If you’re unfamiliar with the cheesemaking process, here’s a quick overview.

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Paramount Walking Tour in Grafton

I may be dating myself with this reference, but do you remember the scene in Big where Tom Hanks played the floor piano in FAO Schwarz? (Readers not nearing 30, are you still listening? This is important!) If you don’t, here’s a quick refresher:

That movie scene was a huge turning point for me. It helped me realize that music was more than just notes and sounds – that it was a fun, wonderful way to express yourself. And, it turned me on to the idea of OWNING A GIANT FREAKING FLOOR PIANO. (See? I told you it was important. These things are incredible.) I tracked it down in the FAO Schwarz catalog, circled it in big red marker, cleared out a space for the piano on my floor, and lovingly placed the catalog – open to just the right page – on the table by where my dad put his briefcase after work. Long story short, I never got my coveted floor piano. Or my own personal carousel that I asked for every year at Christmas, but anyway. The movie memory stuck with me until adulthood. So, I think it was perfectly acceptable to nearly have a heart attack when Kyle and I ran across THIS:

A GROUND PIANO!!

A GROUND PIANO!!

On the way back from our honeymoon last year, we decided to make a pit stop in Grafton in Ozaukee County. Like any child of technology, I googled the town to see what we could do. Apparently, Grafton is the original home of Paramount Records (in operation from 1917-1933). Kyle instantly knew all about it (musician and musical historian that he is) and regaled me with stories of the blues artists on the original Paramount label (including Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Louis Armstrong), the “race records” it was most famous for, and a little bit of its history. For example. Did you know that the label was a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Chair Company? Or that the records from 1929 and later were recorded and pressed in-house, in Wisconsin, by the company’s other subsidiary, The New York Recording Laboratories, allowing Paramount to pseudo-honestly emblazon the advertisements with the phrase “Paramounts are recorded in our own New York laboratory”? Well, now you know!

Paramount's in-ground dedication

Paramount’s in-ground dedication

But back to the big piano. Grafton developed an attraction around this nugget of musical history, and the sidewalk ivories are the Walk of Fame. Every year, names of notable Paramount recording artists are etched into the black keys. 2012 saw the induction of Jelly Roll Morton and James Fletcher Henderson. In the Grafton Library or Chamber of Commerce, you can pick up a self-guided Paramount Walking Tour book, complete with historical photos and a map. The tour includes 12 sites around Grafton that showcase the history of the recording studio and its artists. Don’t worry if you’re lazy like me and don’t feel like walking. It’s only a half mile. Grafton puts on a blues festival every year, highlights the location of the old recording studio with a historical marker, and has a pretty neat fountain for visitors to throw pennies in as they make wishes to the ancient blues gods.

Fountain of Musical Greats. At least that's what I call it.

Fountain of Musical Greats. At least that’s what I call it.

Here’s a legendary recording by Blind Lemon Jefferson that was released on Paramount in 1927. Beatles aficionados will recognize the line “will a matchbox hold my clothes” from their cover of the Carl Perkins song “Matchbox”. It was a fairly common expression among blues singers, especially on Paramount. Ma Rainey used that line three years earlier on her Paramount release “Lost Wandering Blues.” Not only was Paramount a highly influential label filled with some of the most talented musicians of the day, they were also helping to lay the foundation for rock ‘n roll nearly 30 years before Elvis Presley’s first record.


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Winter at Apple Holler

Okay, okay, I know it’s winter time and it’s all snowy outside and all that garbage, but I can’t stop thinking about Apple Holler in Racine County. Not because I miss apple picking season (although I do – I’ll get back to that later), but because of the goats. That’s right, GOATS. Goats are quite possibly one of the best animals on the planet. Don’t believe me? Have you SEEN this video?

That’s some serious amazing goaty goodness. Anyway, all I’m trying to say is that goats are awesome. And Apple Holler has some you can feed. And they have a goat bridge so they can goat walk over to a goat food pulley system and… and then I fall apart from cuteness. Alas, the goats don’t seem to be out during the winter time. But you know what is? REINDEER. (These people, I swear. They just have a direct line into my big sappy heart.) Which brings me to the point of this post: Apple Holler rules in winter, too!

apple holler 2

The goat watches over us all.

My family normally hikes up our typical Midwestern flannel sleeves (I’m lying, only me and my mom wear flannel shirts, sometimes) in September or October and hauls it to the Holler so we can grab an apple stash. Apple Holler has 74 acres of orchard and 30 varieties of apples. You can also take a hayride, watch pig races, shop in their bakery and store, watch some dinner theater, eat some delightful food in their restaurant, go through the corn maze… you get the idea. Last year we brought home something like 130 apples. We always spread them all out on the dining room table and divvy them up to go to our respective homes and morph into pies, applesauce, cakes, and all that delicious nonsense. It’s something of a family tradition. So when we decided to go Hollering in winter this year, I was a little trepidatious.

apple holler 1

How do you like THESE apples?

I was hoping the cold and snow would calm the crowds a little bit. It didn’t. Which is good, I think, because the owners are super nice and will chat with you like an old friend if you get them talking. We waded through the crowd to our table. Now, one of my favorite things about Apple Holler is the weekend breakfast buffet, and it did not disappoint. Cheesy hashbrown casserole, pancakes, eggs, apple walnut French toast, bacon, cinnamon apples, and then some. The regular breakfast menu is equally as good. Have you ever seen a salmon gorgonzola omelet? I hadn’t, until my brother ordered it. And I stole a bite. And it was delicious. The waitstaff offers hot, homemade apple cider to everyone. There’s really not much better than hot apple cider on a cold day. Well, except for going outside and taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Which we didn’t have time to do, but still. We spent the time after our meal browsing the gift shop, bakery, and store. We visited with the reindeer outside and threw a couple snowballs. Then we headed home with bellies full of excellent food (and a to-go container of the cheesy hashbrown casserole. MAN I love that stuff).

Plan your visit:
Address: 5006 S. Sylvania Avenue, Sturtevant
Phone: 262-884-7100
Website: appleholler.com
Parking: Regular lot, overflow lot, and ample street parking available along the frontage road.


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Milwaukee’s Best Burgers

Dearest carnivores, I have a request for you. We’re planning a post on Milwaukee’s best burgers, and we need your input! Where’s your favorite place to get a burger in the Milwaukee area? So far on our Facebook page, we have one vote for AJ Bombers and one vote for Sobelmans. Let us know your picks in the comments, and then watch future posts for our featured burgers.

Well gee, this looks mighty delicious!

Well gee, this looks mighty delicious!


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Schroeder Used Books & Music

Please allow me to introduce you to a lovely lady named Alma. She’s eccentric, unique, and just happens to run one of the greatest used book stores I’ve ever been to. If you’ve never been to Schroeder Used Books & Music in West Allis, you’re in for a rather extraordinary experience. This is as far removed from Barnes & Noble as you can get. This isn’t anything you’ve ever seen before.  Floor to ceiling, literally, shelves packed entirely full of books. And in front of the shelves, stacks of even more books. In the middle of the store, bins filled to the brim with vinyl records. On the floor near the records, bags of groceries that she may or may not have purchased recently. This place is a trip.

Books and Music

The open sign isn’t lit up, but she’ll be there soon…

I first found this place while walking to the State Fair Park. It’s right across from the park on the corner of Greenfield Avenue and 77th Street. Before I delve more into this shop, let me first establish a set of guidelines that I highly suggest sticking to.

  1. No children. This is not the place for them. You’ll thank me that you didn’t bring them.
  2. Call Alma before you go. Her sign states that she’s open from 9 AM until midnight. She’s not always there though. Her cell phone is 414-476-8618. Just tell her that you’d like to stop by to look for some books, and she’ll tell you if she’s there or not. If she’s not there, she’ll let you know how long before she will arrive.
  3. Set aside several hours to browse. You’ll need it.
  4. Bring cash.
  5. Don’t be put off if the door is locked. Knock on the doors, knock on windows, if she’s in there, she’ll gladly let you in after she turns all the lights on.
Store Hours

Definitely call before going!

Ok, rules are set. Time to start browsing the shelves. Despite the initial appearance, it is quite organized. Plus, she knows where every category is. Once you get used to the system in there, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. It can be frustrating at times but with some patience, you’ll find exactly what you never thought you were looking for. One of my favorite things about this place is the sheer variety of books there are to look at. Stuff I never could have imagined. If you’re looking for a specific title, just ask her. She’ll swear she saw it right there just the other day, but she’ll tell you exactly where to look within the proper category on the shelves if it’s not right there anymore. And 99% of the books are clearly priced, very inexpensively priced I should add, written in pencil on the first page of the book. If you love books, I dare you to leave this place empty handed if you spend more than an hour in there. If books aren’t your thing, maybe you’ll find some good vinyl. This requires much more patience because the bins and shelves are packed so tight, you have to pull out a stack to flip through them easily. Or perhaps you’re interested in VHS tapes? 8-tracks? Adult films? Alma has it all.  I’d hate to ruin the rest of the surprises this store has. But I will share this video I found on the web to give you a nice glimpse of the experience. (This is the cleanest and neatest I’ve ever seen the store, by the way).

Plan your visit:
Address: 7629 W. Greenfield Avenue, West Allis
Phone: 414-476-8618
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m. – 12 a.m. (maybe)
Parking: Ample street parking available on Greenfield and on side streets.
Public Transportation: MCTS bus stop at S76 & Greenfield. Buses 44, 44U, 56, and 76.