Milwaukee, Manhattan, and My Mom

It’s me, home again from a trip to Milwaukee for Christmas. It was fun, and perhaps this is a good place to share one of my favorite memories. My mom, a quirky woman who doesn’t cook that often (but does a fine job when she does), made a roast of some kind to serve to my brother and me on Christmas Eve. Along with it, she served store-bought au jus, which was way too salty, but afforded me this adorable moment.

Passing me the au jus, mom said, “Darling, did you want the du jour?”

I mentioned the right phrase to use and talked about how it’s weird that Americans have appropriated French prepositional phrases as nouns into our culinary lexicon. To this, my brother kind of grunted/smirked at me and said, “Yeah, that’s what I was just about to say.”

In my free time after Christmas, I met two dear friends for a few drinks downtown. Kallie and Shawn are Milwaukeeans who live in New York, which is perhaps subconsciously why I suggested Elsa’s on the Park, as the Elsa’s people also own the equally fabulous Bar 89 in Soho (pictured on the right). bar89

I have always loved this Milwaukee–Soho connection. Elsa’s and Bar 89 share a contemporary industrial vibe and a menu chock full of creative, never-pretentious burgers, chicken, pork, sandwiches, and salads. It’s as though the same lively party is going on simultaneously in Milwaukee and Manhattan. For a girl who started in one and aspired to the next, I always like to be reminded of how seamless these two restaurants are.

There’s two other distinctive traits these restaurants are individually known for. For better or worse, Bar 89 is remembered far and wide because of the loo. Everyone knows that if you are 1.) in Manhattan and 2.) want to take a memorable pee, you go to Bar 89 on Mercer. On the second floor, overlooking the open dining area, is a wall of bathrooms with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that fog up only after you step inside and close the door.

Elsa'sAnd for Elsa’s? This place is remembered far and wide for its diversity. Everyone knows that if you are 1.) in Milwaukee and 2.) craving lively and colorful camaraderie, you go to Elsa’s. One review called it “the UN” of restaurants. This picture was taken at 7, when the bar was almost full of cable-knit sweaters, long-sleeve denim shirts, and jeans (and apparently, lots of white people). By the time we left, every table, corner, hallway, and standing area was stuffed with people of every stripe, color, and fashion statement. I noted how rare it is that I get to eat dinner next to two black guys wearing full-length fur coats and heavy gold bling bling around their neck, and marveled at how any one restaurant could be so casual and fabulous all at the same time.

Elsa's foodWe weren’t there for entrees, so we shared water chestnuts wrapped in bacon and this salad. I’m pretty sure it was called Greens N’ Galette, but what’s galette about this? In any case, these flatbreads were covered with olives and bacon, the bacon was served with honey dipping sauce, and it was all so delicious followed by a glass of wine and lots of catching up with my pals.

The best part about this all? The smart people behind Elsa’s and Bar 89 also own Kopp’s Frozen Custard, which means the burgers and fries are always amazing. These restaurants are essentially two of the swankiest casual burger joints I know.

Elsa's on the Park on Urbanspoon

Bar 89 on Urbanspoon

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8 thoughts on “Milwaukee, Manhattan, and My Mom

  1. Angelique

    I want to go to Elsa’s next time I’m in Milwaukee! I pretty much didn’t know it existed. I will have the opportunity to check out Bar 89 in Soho as I JUST BOOKED A TICKET TO NYC last night! Think of other recommendations you might have, food-wise.

  2. Larry Bebus

    You know, I was already sold on Elsa’s and then you mentioned the Kopp’s connection. That pretty much seals the deal. Kopp’s and Beans and Barley are two Milwaukee favorites of mine, and now I shall have a third.

  3. Carrie Post author

    Ang – I’m impressed that you booked it. I’m so out of the New York food scene, but I’ll think about it. Be sure to talk to Aaron, who has the travel section of the New York Times memorized.

    Larry – What good taste. Beans and Barley is also one of my favorite places to go, and Kopp’s burgers are the bomb (although I’m primarily a sucker for their pineapple malt). Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  4. ann sutherland-Faerber

    Hi Carrie, Thanks for the info on the foodbuzz regarding Milwakee. Whenever I may find myself in this town I will know how to navigate its culinary offerings. Relying on old stand-bys can be frustrating in a otherwise known meat and potatoes town (although, they are good too).

  5. Carrie Post author

    Hey Ann. Milwaukee has really transformed itself when it comes to food and drink. When you are visiting, check out my other post about Milwaukee, or give me a call. There’s so many good things to do.

  6. Restaurant in Ilfracombe

    Great blog and post cheers. How long has this blog been running now? The only thing is I seem to be having some technical difficulties getting to your RSS feed though. Restaurant in Ilfracombe

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