New Belgium's Biere de Mars and Milwaukee Brewing's Baltic Porter, at Sugar Maple in Milwaukee
New Belgium's Biere de Mars and Milwaukee Brewing's Baltic Porter, at Sugar Maple in Milwaukee


This itinerary is especially good for people who love beer.

WEEKEND FUN Determined to get out of town for a night but at a loss when our plan A fell through, my husband and I were brainstorming over beers when inspiration struck, courtesy of a can of PBR: Milwaukee! It fit our criteria—less than two hours away, affordable—and although I had heard good things about the County Clare Irish Inn, a Hotwire deal for a $51 room at the Hilton City Center was too good to pass up. Because we had visited the city before, we weren't looking for a full-on tourist attack (the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Lakefront Brewery tour) so much as a gluttonous Saturday on a budget. Our itinerary:

1 Go for brunch at Honeypie. Sustainable agriculture + pork = heaven. Along with its older sibling, Comet Cafe, Honeypie is part of a co-op that buys from regional farmers, but I wasn't thinking "healthy" or "local" as I dug into a plate of breakfast potatoes smothered in pulled pork and eggs over easy. And then there was the beermosa: the better part of a pint of New Glarus Spotted Cow topped off with orange juice. Genius. Too full for pie, we polished off the meal with a stroll through Bay View, Honeypie's funky neighborhood of coffee shops (including a branch of the Milwaukee-based Alterra) and vintage stores.

L'Oreos at the Milwaukee Public Market
L'Oreos at the Milwaukee Public Market

2 Browse the Milwaukee Public Market. Eyes bigger than our now-full bellies, we headed north to the trendy Third Ward shopping district to ogle this indoor bazaar of prepared foods, artisanal goods, and cheap wine. For a future visit: the $12.95 lobster dinner at the market's St. Paul Fish Company.

3 Covet custom frames at Milwaukee Bicycle Co./Ben’s Cycle. An online supplier of bikes and bike stuff beloved by gearheads nationwide, this brick-and-mortar store, family-owned since 1928 in the historic Lincoln Village neighborhood, warrants a visit—if only to drool over the Milwaukee-brand frames built by Waterford Precision Cycles, a Wisconsin company co-owned by Richard Schwinn (yes, those Schwinns).

The beer menu and the taps at Sugar Maple
The beer menu and taps at Sugar Maple

4 Sample craft brews at Sugar Maple. A straight shot east down Lincoln Avenue is this Bay View beer hall, featuring a rotating list of 60 microbrews, most in the $4 to $5 range, or four 3-oz samples for $10. We liked Tyranena's Down & Dirty Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, from the nearby hamlet of Lake Mills, and Lakefront's Local Acre, the first beer since Prohibition wholly made from ingredients grown and processed in Wisconsin.

5 Eat dinner at Cellar. Downstairs from Roots, a farmer- and chef-owned fine-dining restaurant in the Brewer's Hill neighborhood, is Cellar, a more casual cafe-slash-bar offering the same upscale menu and the same skyline views, plus cheaper sandwiches. Barbacoa tortas at a chichi slow-food spot in Milwaukee, of all places? Yes, please—and one more round to wash them down.

  • "Draft Picks," Chicago's April 2008 guide to Midwestern microbreweries, which spotlights Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery.
  • Chicago's August 2007 travel guide to Milwaukee's artsy Third Ward neighborhood, "Northern Star." Note to the traveler: Good Life, a restaurant mentioned in this article, has closed. 


Photographs: Jennifer Wehunt