Category Archives: Restaurants

$5 movie night at the Majestic

$5 movie night at the Majestic

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The Marcus Majestic on the outskirts of Milwaukee may look retro, but it’s got all the modern amenities to make for a fun night out at the movies.   The place has 16 state-of-the-art auditoriums, including two 72-foot-wide, 3-story-tall UltraScreens®.   The bowtie-wearing clerks and grand piano in the middle of the lobby give it an upscale feel.  Food and drink choices go well beyond the usual concession stand favorites to include the Take Five Cocktail Lounge, Zaffiro’s Pizza Café, and Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Shop.  You can eat at the tables scattered throughout the lobby before your show, or you can bring everything in with you.    Mike and I split a small pizza and some cheesy garlic bread and carried them in to our screening of Homefront with Jason Statham.

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The Majestic makes the dinner-and-a-movie experience into an all-in-one event with Big Screen Bistro In-Theatre Dining.  While watching the latest blockbuster, you sit in a big, comfy chair, sip beer, wine or a cocktail, and nosh on tasty restaurant fare.   Free Wi-Fi means you can get some work done, too, before the lights go down.  Spots book quickly, so be sure to make your online reservation as soon as you can.

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If you’re on a budget, be sure to check out $5 movie day.  On Tuesdays, every movie, all day, costs only $5, AND you get a free small popcorn!

Coast-to-Coffice: Colectivo Fifth Ward

Coast-to-Coffice: Colectivo Fifth Ward

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Sharing space with other commercial enterprises, Colectivo‘s Fifth Ward location upcycles a discarded building into a cool coffeehouse that pays homage to the past.  The Foundry café, in Milwaukee’s emerging Fifth Ward neighborhood, is housed in the former Kramer International foundry.

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When Milwaukee was first settled, the Fifth Ward encompassed the area south of the Fourth Ward, between the Milwaukee River and First Avenue.  Over time, that area was absorbed into Walker’s Point.  Unfortunately, as the years went by, Walker’s Point became associated with crime and pollution.  Interest in historic preservation and a desire to make the Fifth Ward more appealing prompted the re-adoption of the name.  Interestingly, Colectivo (which was then Alterra) began roasting on the fifth floor of a warehouse in Walker’s Point.

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The Kramer International foundry produced non-ferrous and ferrous products for pump manufacturers.  The café honors that manufacturing tradition and history with its post-industrial design.

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As with all the Colectivo shops, everything is baked fresh every day at the Bay View location.  They source from local farms as much as possible, and they also partner with other Wisconsin food producers.  Wi-Fi is free, although it does ask you to re-accept the usage agreement after a couple of hours.

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The Fifth Ward location – with its friendly baristas, funky ambiance, reliable Wi-Fi, and range of great beverages and food – is an eccentric yet cozy place to be productive.

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Coast-to-Coffice: a 24-hour joint with Greek flair

Coast-to-Coffice: a 24-hour joint with Greek flair

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Pegasus Restaurant, on Greenfield Avenue in Milwaukee, is just a couple of blocks away from the Wisconsin State Fair RV Park.  It has coffee and tea to go with the free Wi-Fi, but it’s not the fancy stuff.  We’re talking basic beans and bags of Lipton here.  But that’s not the reason for making Pegasus your coffice du jour… or de la nuit.

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Pegasus is a grown-up version of the all-night college diner.  It’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  The tables are spacious; the booths are roomy. It’s casual, so there’s no pressure to dress fancy or worry about breaking out your laptop.

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You get free wine or beer or dessert with your meal.  Before you get too excited, though, the gratis vino is a choice been a Chablis or a rose.  Did I mention it’s not fancy?  If you’d rather drink outside the box, they have some cool retro cocktails to choose from.   How fun would it be to mix new and old by writing a blog post while sipping a Brandy Manhattan!

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Pretty in pink: a blushing Greek dressing

The menu is made up mostly of classic American dishes, but some Greek selections are sprinkled in.  The Greek salad dressing is a lovely shade of pink with crumbles of feta, and I give the place props for serving their salads on chilled plates.  The spinach pie is a well balanced blend of veggie and cheese with a nice flaky crust. The chicken breast is tender.  Serving sizes are generous.  I brought most of my entree home and enjoyed it for lunch the next day.

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Athenian Style Chicken Breast & Spinach Pie with rice pilaf and Athenian sauce

So the next time a deadline means you’re working at midnight and all the usual coffices have gone dark, Pegasus might be just the place to work, drink, and get your Greek on.

Coast-to-Coffice: Colectivo Lakefront

Coast-to-Coffice: Colectivo Lakefront

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I’ve been sharing my coffices for a while now, but I’ve decided to formalize my reviews under a “Coast-to-Coffice” column.  My focus will be on locally owned, small business establishments, rather than the chains (although I enjoy working at Starbucks on occasion, too).  I’ve also added a page to the blog devoted to coffices.  That way, anyone who might be looking for a place to work and get to know a community while enjoying awesome beverages (and yummy eats) can check out where we’ve been.

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Colectivo Coffee began its life in Milwaukee as Alterra Coffee in 1993.   After years of building the business locally, Alterra attracted national attention, and the company sold its name and certain artistic assets to Mars Drinks.  They ultimately gave up their connection with Mars and renamed themselves Colectivo, a name which was “inspired by the artful and funky buses used for public transportation across Latin America, ‘colectivos’ (co-lec-TEE-vo), and the iconic part of everyday life they represent for everyday people”.  There are 12 cafes in the state, eight of which are in Milwaukee and its suburbs.

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The Lakefront location is across from McKinley Marina in the historic Milwaukee River Flushing Station which was built in 1888.  The Flushing Station’s purpose was to flush out pollution by pumping fresh water from Lake Michigan into the Milwaukee River. The cafe inhabits two-thirds of the building, and the flushing pump, which is still functioning, takes up the remaining third.

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My first reaction to learning that the coffee shop was in an old flushing station was, “Eww!”  A collaboration between a food and beverage company and the Milwaukee Metropolian Sewerage District seems kind of gross.  But, when you visit, all the nasty images are replaced by the quirky look and cool vibe Colectivo has created, not to mention the living museum quality of the flushing station elements.

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Colectivo’s Lakefront location goes beyond creating a sort of living history to include environmentally-friendly features.  There’s apparently a wetland garden that captures and filters parking lot runoff, although we couldn’t see it while we were there in late November.  And, supposedly plants on the grounds are irritgated by rainfall from the roof that’s routed into barrels.  The three levels of the cafe are made from recycled materials like wood decking from an old soap factory, brick and steel recovered from pre-existing buildings, and salvaged pump room wood.

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But what about the coffee?  The coffee is excellent, likely a result of the long-term farmer and co-op partnerships Colectivo has developed over the years. Colectivo also offers Letterbox Fine Teas, a hand-selected line of teas.  And the food’s pretty good, too.  Like the coffee, prices are reasonable.  Everything is baked fresh every day at the Bay View location.  They source from local farms as much as possible, and they also partner with other Wisconsin food producers.  Wi-Fi is free, although it does ask you to re-accept the usage agreement after a couple of hours.

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Every summer, the Lakefront location is also host to the Florentine Opera and Musica del Lago outdoor music series.  It’ll be fun to check that out when we’re here in the warm weather.

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Local flavor

Local flavor

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Being a freelancer can be isolating.  Being a mobile freelancer, who’s generally never in one place more than a week, can become a sort of solitary confinement.  Getting out in the world helps a lot, so I frequently do my work over a cup of coffee (or tea) at a place with free Wi-Fi.  Starbucks and McDonald’s are always reliable options.  The hustle and bustle is energizing, and catching snippets of conversation makes you feel a bit like you’re in on the office gossip.  But their homogeny strips a town of its uniqueness.

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Our stays are so short that I don’t have much of an opportunity to get the flavor of the communities we’re in.  So I seek out local coffee shops as much as possible.  At these small businesses, it will likely be the owner that’s taking your order and handing over your latte.  Patronizing these kinds of places means my dollars are helping that community thrive while I’m getting my work done.  The other customers and their conversation, sometimes their accents, gives me a sense of the character of the area.

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Even the coffee selections are representative, like the Maple Latte at Black Cap Coffee in Stowe, Vermont.  The steamy drink is made with real Vermont maple syrup along with espresso and milk, and it’s delicious.  So is the broccoli and cheese quiche – with the most broccoli and the least cheese I’ve had yet – and the spicy black bean soup.  Working at Black Cap was one of my favorite parts of our visit to Vermont, and I’m looking forward to finding other local treasures like it as we continue on our motorhoming escapade.

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Plane spotting

Plane spotting

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Forget people watching.  Plane watching is the way to go!  Especially if there’re friends involved.  Oh, and food, too.  Midfield Cafe had it all when we met up with some pilot pals at the small restaurant situated right on the runway at Nashua Airport.

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The food at Midfield is filling diner fare, and the staff welcomes you like you’re family.  I’m sure it helps to be dining with locals.  🙂  Feel free to linger over coffee and conversation.  But be prepared to stop everything when a cool plane floats by the window.  You might see a banner tower, dipping down to pick up a length of signage.  Or, you might see a helicopter hovering neatly over the field.   And in the fall, you’ll see it all against a gorgeous backdrop of trees painted with leaves in vibrant orange and yellow.

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Holiday shopping and Thanksgiving dinner at the Cozy Tea Cart Cafe

Holiday shopping and Thanksgiving dinner at the Cozy Tea Cart Cafe

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It was wonderful for me to work at the Cozy Tea Cart Cafe while we were in Brookline for the week: the commute, the tea, the macaroons, the views.  It got even better when I realized that our last few days in the area corresponded with NH Open Doors, which happened to be taking place at The Cozy Tea Cart!

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NH Open Doors is a statewide shopping and touring event that, this year, took place on November 2nd and 3rd.  It’s all about enjoying the natural beauty of New Hampshire while shopping for items made in the state and sampling food from local restaurants and vendors.   The Cozy Tea Cart Cafe was one of this year’s participants.

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Along with a sample Thanksgiving dinner, the event at The Cozy Tea Cart included a meet-n-greet with New Hampshire artist Melanie Chouinard from The Silver Branch.  Melanie is a polymer clay fantasy sculptor, and her works are both breathtaking and adorable.   The tiny, sleeping babies adorned with faery wings are magical.  Her mushroom villages, with stone paths leading over the moss to petite front doors, are nestled in a variety of delicate teacups.  I bought a large one for just $32.   (I’m hoping a little museum putty will hold it tight as we motor down the road.)

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In addition to Melanie’s pieces, the store at The Cozy Tea Cart offered plenty of gift options for tea lovers: Victorian and Japanese-style tea sets, tea towels and cozies, magazines, notecards, dessert plates, loose-leaf tea, lemon curd and oat biscuits to create the perfect tea party, and more.  There was no excuse for leaving empty-handed!

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All that shopping and art appreciation builds an appetite.  The free Thanksgiving sampling dinner and tea pairing took care of it.

  • Our Sister’s Nuts provided the appetizer.
  • Chestnut soup was paired with Almond Snowflake Tea.  (I used it as gravy over my turkey. Delish!)
  • Herb-roasted turkey was paired with Ceylon Breakfast Tea.
  • Chilled pineapple cranberry relish was paired with Ginger Pear Spice Tea.  (That was the tea I drank when I was working.  Yummy!)
  • Brown butter and sage sweet potato ravioli was paired with Fireside Green Apple Tea. (Love the idea of serving ravioli at Thanksgiving!)
  • Roasted garlic mashed potatoes were paired with Iron Buddha Oolong.
  • Glazed maple vanilla carrots were paired with Hot Apple Cider Tea.
  • Dessert was gluten-free gingerbread with maple buttercream frosting paired with Vanilla Indulgence Herbal Rooibos.

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Candy Roux of Our Sister’s Nuts setting up her treats for NH Open Doors

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Planes, bikes and good friends

Planes, bikes and good friends

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Mike’s has two passions besides me ;-).  He loves motorcycles and airplanes, and he’s developed a wonderful circle of friends in both communities.   So, it was nice to bring the two together over a meal.  Russ, Mike’s trainee, joined us as we met up with Rod, our pilot friend from Sun ‘n Fun, and Rod’s CAP buddy Matt.  Rod and Matt flew in from Chicago, and we ate at Amelia’s across from Signature FBO on the general aviation side of Mitchell in Milwaukee.

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Amelia’s is named for aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and is filled with nifty airplane memorabilia.  There’s lots of comfy seating, from large booths to cozy tables.  The food is solid pub fare, and there’s plenty to share.

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Sculpture outside the front doors. Reminded me of Russ!

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We spent the afternoon at Amelia’s, chatting about CAP, Rod’s new airplane rental company Open Airplane, motorcycles and our RVing adventure.   After Rod and Matt had left, Mike, Russ and I went outside to find the Jeep’s battery dead.  As we were trooping back inside after calling roadside assistance, one of the owners offered to help us.  He came out and jumpstarted the Jeep, saving us time and hassle.  Very thoughtful!

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Navy bean soup

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I’ve never before seen a concealed carry class advertised in the ladies’ restroom!

Strawbale Winery

Strawbale Winery

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The Strawbale Winery is in Renner, South Dakota, about 15 minutes from Sioux Falls.  The winery is named for the straw that insulate its walls.  The bales help the winery reduce its energy use and facilitates the climate-controlled environment necessary to produce great wine.

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The tasting room is small but engaging with high tables and wine accessories packed into wooden crates along the walls.  For $5, you can sample five wines and take home a commemorative glass.  Once you’ve perused the list of wines, you write your selections on the chalkboard countertop, and the pouring begins!

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In the midst of my fruity choices, I threw in a dark horse:  Jalapeno.  It’s a white grape wine with an outrageous kick of heat.  I couldn’t manage more than one sip.  Brown Cow is a fortified wine, a blend of a table red and brandy with flavors of chocolate, coffee and orange.  It was delicious but oh so strong.  Delectably dangerous.

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The truth window shows the hay in between the walls.

Besides drinking and shopping, Strawbale hosts events: Sangria Sunday, Twilight Flights, and various festivals.  Stop in for a quick tasting or stay for the day.  Cheers!

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The Jalapeno wine is hot, hot, hot!

Brunch at the diner

Brunch at the diner
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Lemon Curd Pancakes

There’s something decidedly decadent about brunch.  The late hour, the combination of breakfast and lunch dishes, the leisurely pace.  If you count it as two meals in one, you can forgive yourself for eating too much, especially if you’ve gotten some exercise beforehand.  That’s why I was able to nosh without guilt when we brunched at Phillips Avenue Diner in Sioux Falls’ historic downtown after our chilly walk in Falls Park.

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Of course, I helped things along by thoughtful ordering.  A spinach and tomato eggwhite omelet was accompanied by a side of fresh fruit in place of toast or potatoes.  I simply had to try the lemon curd pancakes, though.  Normally, they come in stacks of three, but that would’ve been over the top.  So, I asked if I could have just one, and our waitress happily obliged, charging me an extra buck for the privilege.  The pancake was infused with lemon essence.  Juice, I think, not extract.  Instead of syrup, it was crisscrossed with glaze, a dollop of lemon curd and some raspberries to add color and a flavorful contrast.  Nummy!  The omelet was good, too.

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The neat thing about downtown Sioux Falls, besides its history, is the SculptureWalk.

SculptureWalk is an exciting exhibit of outdoor sculptures displayed year-round in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Artists place their sculptures in the program for one year, and all sculptures are aggressively promoted to the public for sale. Artists are eligible to win any one or more of the 14 awards in the Best of Show, People’s Choice voting and the random drawings. Awards total to $15,000.

Two impressive pieces are on the corner near the diner.  My favorite?  ‘Look and You Will Find It’ by artist Kate Christopher.  It’s so simple but so striking.  The group of standing men, all with heads downcast except one, has a compelling message: the path to discovery reveals itself when we lift our eyes.  I learn the truth of that every day on this amazing journey.

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Look and You Will Find It

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Butterfly by Jaque Frazee