No Reservations Milwaukee: Six places Anthony Bourdain should visit when he's in town
We plot out a local episode of the rock-star chef's Travel Channel series
When Anthony Bourdain visits the Riverside Theater Jan. 22, he won’t be bringing his popular Travel Channel show No Reservations with him. Which is a shame, because Milwaukee’s culinary culture could use a little publicity. Sure, we’re not New York City or Los Angeles, but we certainly have as much to offer as Cleveland, where Bourdain visited back in 2007, don’t we? Or Montana, which was featured on No Reservations last season. C’mon Bourdain! You like fatty, disreputable food almost as much as we do. Here, we’ll make it easy for you: Here are six places that would be perfect for an episode of No Reservations Milwaukee.
1. Lakefront Brewery
This is Milwaukee after all, so we might as well sit down have a beer right away. Lakefront (1872 N. Commerce St., 414-372-8800) is one of the city’s most beloved breweries, and the factory tour is practically a rite of passage for newly minted Milwaukeeans. And because beers like Riverwest Stein and East Side Dark reference local neighborhoods, a tour of Lakefront is practically an introductory tour of Milwaukee. Bourdain could then stick around for the Friday night fish-fry, which has emerged as one of Milwaukee’s best—which means it’s safe to call it one of the best fish-fries in the whole country.
2. Streetza Pizza
Regular viewers of No Reservations know that Bourdain inevitably stops by a local food cart in every episode because 1) he likes junk food and 2) it gives him an excuse to rhapsodize about experiencing what’s “real” about a city versus all the tourist-trap mumbo-jumbo that attracts the rest of you plebes. So a visit to Streetza Pizza is definitely in order. Along with being named one of the best food carts in the country last year by GQ thanks to its mouth-watering gourmet slices, Streetza Pizza is an ideal setting for Bourdain to rail against the Bronze Fonz and insist that the Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum is, like, totally overrated.
3. Ashley’s Bar-B-Que
Along with food carts, Bourdain is also a sucker for out-of-the-way, Mom-and-Pop establishments that have served up delectable food for generations. Ashley’s Bar-B-Que (1501 W. Center St., 414-372-7666) on the city’s Northwest side more than fits that bill, with a history of serving up barbecue sandwiches and ribs going back to the late ’60s. Many local barbecue fans swear by Speed Queen Bar-B-Q (1130 W. Walnut St., 414-265-2900), but the less-heralded Ashley’s is a little more down-home and cheaper. Bourdain would love it, though he would also probably be moved to comment on Milwaukee’s lamentable history of racial segregation after visiting one of the poorest—and blackest—parts of town. Oh well, every No Reservations episode needs a serious moment or two.
It’s inconceivable that Bourdain would visit Milwaukee and not eat at Sanford (1547 N. Jackson St., 414-276-9608), long considered one of the city’s best and most respected restaurants. The only thing that might keep him away is that Sanford was already featured in an episode of Bizarre World starring Bourdain’s Travel Channel cohort Andrew Zimmern. But that shouldn’t prevent Bourdain from experiencing this enclave of Midwestern hospitality and hominess operated by James Beard award winner Sanford D’Amato.
5. Cactus Club
Bourdain fancies himself a rock star of sorts. In fact, the whole point of his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures In The Culinary Underbelly appears to be asserting the bad-assery of chefs in general. So, a visit to Milwaukee’s most storied rock bar the Cactus Club (2496 S. Wentworth, 414-897-0663) in search of some actual rock 'n' roll action is in order. The vintage von Munz concert posters on the wall for old White Stripes and Queens Of The Stone Age shows would surely send Bourdain’s bad-boy sensors into the red, as would the club’s down 'n' dirty, CBGB-esque charm. Plus, if he gets hungry, he can always stop next door at Palomino (2491 S. Superior St., 414-747-1007) for a basket of fried pickle spears.
6. Miller Park
This would obviously have to be reserved for Bourdain's next visit to town, but is there a more quintessentially Milwaukee activity than tailgating at Miller Park? Mr. Bourdain, you haven’t lived until you’ve downed a brat smothered in mustard and sauerkraut on a Saturday afternoon in the summer a few hours before a Brewers game. After that, hand the man a beer bong and point him to the nearest game of bags. After a few rounds he’ll be ready curse out the cabal of Cubs fans that just showed up to boo the Crew. He also might not want to leave for the next town.