We rolled into Milwaukee by early evening, after a quick pit stop for a cheese kabob from a coffee shop in Green Bay. Totally exhausted and starving, we got ourselves ready for the evening and set off in search of dinner. The restaurant we wanted to try was .6 miles from the hotel according to Google Maps, and in New Yorker terms, a very short walk. The area was quiet and residential before we got to one of the big streets, where it suddenly exploded with restaurants and bars. We picked the Rumpus Room after discovering that our first choice is closed on Sundays, and sat down at a high top for a cold local beer. We ordered a few small plates—fried cheese curds (super popular), brown sugar bacon and gruyere flatbread, and caramelized pork belly with baked apples. Dear lord, the food was so good I could have shaken somebody. Every bite of every plate was like food crack. The flatbread was extra thin and crunchy, so the flavors of the melted cheese and sweet pieces of bacon were the main highlight. The pork belly was super tender, with layers of buttery, juicy, rendered fat marbled throughout, and a tangy and fierce caramelization surrounding the outer layer. The curds, well, are deep fried bites of dense cheese with creamy dipping sauce—it’s hard to be unhappy with that choice. It was very hard to be unhappy about almost anything in my life as long as I was at that table.
After dinner, we stayed out for a few hours exploring bars in the area, which were surprisingly busy for a Sunday night. At one point, I ordered a $2 vodka tonic—a strong one. I stared at the bartender who had handed me my receipt like a confused child. I almost felt like I was stealing. Back in our room after a late night…we crashed in bed while dreaming of breweries and plates of pork belly.
The next day, we were feeling a little funkier than expected as a result of our Sunday too-much-funday. Instead of the brewery tour that we had planned, we decided to take a walk along the waterfront and take advantage of the 60-degree weather. The sky was bright blue and the water was extra calm, which settled our aching heads. I couldn’t believe how clean and fresh the air was there, despite the typical high rises and traffic of a big city. Every breath was fuller, and I cringed at the thought of returning to my hometown full of dirty subways and car exhaust. It might be time to invest in an apartment air purifier.
For lunch, we went to the Milwaukee Public Market—a cool indoor collection of food vendors and eateries. After snagging some fruit smoothies, more cheese curds, and a baked mozzarella platter, we were stuffed and sleepy. We strolled around the neighborhood for some iced coffees and photo-taking before begrudgingly accepting that it was time to head to the airport for our early-evening flight home. I took in one last deep breathe of that crisp Wisconsin air for the road, hoping to bring it back with me.