A foursome of guests was querying Roc, the concierge, about what to check out nearby the Pfister today. He shared with them a few restaurants and then suggested they check out a little festival in its third year, called “Made in Milwaukee.” Featuring local bands, local food and libations, as well as local arts and local businesses, Made in Milwaukee was taking place all day today in Cathedral Square Park, just a few blocks from the Pfister.
Meanwhile, in the lobby, I met someone from New York who was visiting Milwaukee for his first time and wanted to know what he and his wife should check out before they attend a wedding tomorrow afternoon. They’d already gone to the zoo earlier in the day and had the rehearsal dinner yet this evening, so they only had the morning. The suggestion that seemed to click for him was simply walking down Wisconsin Avenue to the lakefront and meandering northwards along the shore to Alterra at the Lake for coffee and baked treats or a fresh wrap.
Of course, if it’s a stormy day and you’re stuck inside the hotel because you forgot your umbrella, or you miss out on any one of the city’s numerous outdoor shindigs that go on all summer long that feature local wares, you don’t need to look much further than the halls, bars and cafe of the Pfister, for a sample of the city.
Beyond the history that is contained within the walls themselves, the employees are a bastion of Milwaukee knowledge, trivia and historical anecdote. Concierges Peter and Roc will be thrilled if you ask them to tell you about actress Sarah Bernhardt’s involvement on the Milwaukee stage or about The Basilica of St. Josaphat. They will happily take you on a story-fueled tour of the city, if you have a few minutes (or an hour) to engage their encyclopedic minds on the topic. Of course, there’s the work by local artists as displayed in, or on the walls outside, of the artist-in-residence’s studio.
As far as having a taste of Milwaukee, start in Mason Street Grill, where you can sample the Mason Street Amber, brewed specifically for the restaurant by Lakefront Brewery (home of the country’s best brewery tour). The lobby bar also features Lakefront’s most popular beer, Riverwest Stein, on tap. Both of these watering holes, plus Blu, offer Rehorst vodka and gin, made by the Great Lakes Distillery. Their vodka won a silver medal in the 2007 San Francisco World Spirits competition, so you know it must be good!
Want a little more? Step into the cafe and check out the items on display, just inside the entrance. In addition to small bottles of Rehorst spirits, you can pick up a six-pack of Lakefront Brewery’s Riverwest Stein, or their Organic E.S.B (Extra Special Bitter) – a refreshing ale styled after the British pours. Stock up on Sprecher: known for their Root Beer, Sprecher also makes the kid-friendly Cream Soda and Orange Dream, plus adults-only Special Amber and Black Bavarian (my favorite). Need a snack to go with all your beverages? Pick up chocolates from Indulgence Chocolatiers, or organic Vanilla caramels with dark chocolate and sea salt made by Becky’s Blissful Bakery.
Of course, you can always just stay in your room. First, tune your radio to local music stations WMSE (91.7) or 88Nine (88.9) for some great sounds (some by local bands, of course); then pick up the phone and dial room service to have a meal made by Milwaukee chefs, in Milwaukee’s historic hotel, delivered to your door by a Milwaukee employee.* It doesn’t get any more local than that.
*Don’t forget to tip!