Notes from a Wisconsin roadtrip, Week Two

Go Pack(ers) Go!

One of the goals of this research trip was to visit the legendary Champion's Pub in northeastern Milwaukee. Thanks for the tip, Sarah and Rich! Photo by Mark Baker.
This Google capture shows my route. I began in Milwaukee and made my way up to Green Bay. I then went out to the Door County peninsula. I then retraced my steps for the long haul to the Apostle Islands. I'm now sitting in chilly Duluth.
Another prime objective was to expose an urban myth that people in Wisconsin actually drink their Old Fashioneds with brandy. Turns out, they do! Photo by Mark Baker.
My visit to Milwaukee happened to coincide with a springtime blizzard. And a lot of rain and a lot of sun. I've seen it all. Photo by Mark Baker.

So far, the trip is going well, with only a couple of minor hiccups. One involves T-Mobile, who distressingly won’t stop charging my debit card for a short-term SIM card I bought to use data on my Czech cell phone (this may warrant a separate post once I figure out what’s happening). Another hiccup is the weather, which alternates by the hour between sun, rain and snow. (Ah, spring!) On the plus side, the people have been super friendly and every place along the way, so far, has been somewhere I’d actually want to return to on my own vacation. And yeah, I got to see Green Bay too.

Like last week, I’m on the road and don’t have tons of time to write. I’ll keep the text part of the post brief and use the photo captions to describe the sights. I start off in Wisconsin’s biggest city, Milwaukee, and then move on to Green Bay (home of the Packers), Door County, and the lovely Apostle Islands in the far north.

I still see echoes of Edward Hopper -- or maybe even Henry Miller's 'Air-Conditioned Nightmare' everywhere I travel. This is Milwaukee's rough and tumble Fifth Ward. Slowly hipsterizing its way to respectability. Photo by Mark Baker.
On a ramble through Milwaukee. This gate connects the rougher but more interesting Fifth Ward with the trendy and more prosperous Third Ward. Photo by Mark Baker.
A big shout-out to the Ambassador Hotel in Milwaukee. It's one of those Roaring '20s, jazz-age places that's still going strong. This was my room. Photo by Mark Baker.
A friend in Milwaukee, Rich, invited me to tour the landmark Pabst Theater. It's an amazing space to catch a band. On tour day, the theater was hosting a 'Little Miss Sunshine'-style dance contest for kids. Photo by Mark Baker.
Another unexpected benefit to drinking in Milwaukee. If you order a Bloody Mary in a bar or restaurant, it may very well come with a beer chaser (and a slice of cheese and salami on the swizzle!) I kid you not. Photo by Mark Baker.
The eye-catching entryway to the Milwaukee Art Museum on the water downtown. A touch of the Sydney Opera House on Lake Michigan. Photo by Mark Baker.
The Milwaukee skyline as seen from the lakeshore park on Lake Michigan. Photo by Mark Baker.
One of the pleasures of touring Wisconsin towns is the un-ironic throwback feel to places like this, the lobby of the Union Hotel in De Pere, near Green Bay. Photo by Mark Baker.
The town of Bayfield is stuffed with these beautiful old Victorians, many on hilltops overlooking the lake. This is the imposing mansion that houses the Rittenhouse Inn. Photo by Mark Baker.
The breakfast room of the Rittenhouse Inn, in Bayfield. Photo by Mark Baker.
One of the dining rooms of the Union Hotel in De Pere. Blink and it could be 1960, or 1940. Photo by Mark Baker.
Even the models apparently wear cheese on their heads up here. Seen in the window of a burger joint in Milwaukee's Fifth Ward. Photo by Mark Baker.
What could be more American than Orange Crush and the red, white and blue? This is Fish Creek, one of several classic Americana towns along the road up through Door Country. Photo by Mark Baker.
I post way too many photos of my breakfasts, especially since I usually order the same scrambled, hash browns and bacon. This was a pretty decent effort at the tiny diner attached to the Bay Motel in Green Bay. Photo by Mark Baker.
A shot of one of the harbors in Bayfield, a pretty resort town in northern Wisconsin and filled with Victorians, antique shops, restaurants and boats. Photo by Mark Baker.
A skill you quickly learn while touring the Upper Midwest is how to work the motel-room coffee machine. I've seen every style imaginable, but I still have no idea why Keurig was ever invented and what purpose it serves. Photo by Mark Baker.
The highlight of touring Lambeau Field in Green Bay was actually standing on (well, very near) the playing field. It brings out the kid in you. Photo by Mark Baker.
To be honest, I had no intention of swimming anyway. I didn't know that electro-shock drowning was actually a thing, but apparently they even have an association for it. Bizarre. Photo by Mark Baker.
I so wish we could get good pickles in Prague. Lord knows they've got the cucumbers, they just prefer sweet to sour pickles. These are the real deal, at Lautenbach's, outside of Fish Creek in Door County. Photo by Mark Baker.
Just another pretty house in just another pretty town. This is a street shot from Bayfield, in the north of the state across from the Apostle Islands. Photo by Mark Baker.
Monster turkey-club sandwich, the 'Turkenstein,' at the Comet cafe in Milwaukee. Photo by Mark Baker.
Bucket-list item checked off! Lambeau Field, Green Bay. Photo by Mark Baker.
Pink flamingos in the parking lot of Maggie's restaurant in Bayfield. Photo by Mark Baker.
An empty Lambeau Field in Green Bay as seen from the luxury boxes around the top of the stadium. Photo by Mark Baker.
A typical building in Milwaukee's Fifth Ward. It's a really likable city, with a unselfconscious retro vibe that's refreshing. Photo by Mark Baker.
Part of the tour of Lambeau Field in Green Bay was running out through the tunnel, just as the players do on Sunday afternoon. Photo by Mark Baker.
Downtown De Pere, Wisconsin. As I walk through these old downtowns, I'm amazed by a couple of things: how well-maintained and photogenic they are; and also how empty. Photo by Mark Baker.
Iconic statue of the legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, outside of Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Photo by Mark Baker.
Another breakfast. This one at the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek, Door County, may very well turn out to be the best of the trip. Crispy hash browns, jam, gluten-free toast and hot sauce. They've won awards here for their breakfasts. Photo by Mark Baker.
You can't miss the bright pink facade and all the pink flamingoes of 'Maggie's' restaurant in the town of Bayfield, the main port for exploring the Apostle Islands. Photo by Mark Baker.


  1. Madison is a food destination; also a craft beer destination
    Madison, WI
    Our foodie culture is like our food: homegrown, fresh and unique.
    Good food starts at the roots
    The Old Fashioned
    The Old Fashioned draws the best of ingredients from all over the state to craft meals closely associated with Wisconsin.
    Sushi Muramoto is a sumptuously decorated sushi restaurant that also serves up a great line in Japanese cooked foods, such as deep-fried shrimp or tofu and crab croquettes. Reviewed in NYTimes
    Habanero’s Mexican Grill
    Habanero’s Mexican Grill combines Mexican flavors with a local twist, as the restaurant uses only local, organic produce. Better than Tucson
    Mickies Dairy Bar
    While the Camp Randall area has been considerably built up over the last few years, the décor inside Mickies Dairy Bar hasn’t changed a bit since the 1950s. Sports annoucers alway stop by here; Wis lineman might be able to finish.
    New Orleans Take-Out
    1517 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711 · ~12.7 mi
    (608) 280-8000 better than New Orleans
    Taigu Chinese Restaurant Middleton, WI … – China Kitchen reviewed in Milwaukee papers

    Middleton Madison, WI 53705, Authentic Chinese cuisine available for dine-in, delivery and carry out. Seafood specialities and lunch specials.


    Eldorado Grill ALSO GREAT DRINKS
    186 reviews
    #32 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ Southwestern Mexican American Gluten Free Options

    • “Great food, and good price” 12/31/2017

    Tempest Oyster Bar
    182 reviews
    #41 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Seafood Gluten Free Options

    • “Great late date night.” 12/10/2017
    • “Creative menu with great service!” 11/06/2017

    103 reviews
    #51 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ Indian Vegetarian Friendly Vegan Options

    • “First Timers indulging in Indian Cuisine!” 03/23/2018
    • “Very Good Indian Food” 03/02/2018

    Louisianne’s Etc MIDDLETON
    160 Reviews
    $$$$, American, Cajun & Creole

    Nani Restaurant | (608) 826-9300
    518 Grand Canyon Dr, Madison, WI 53719 dim sum cooked to order not ahead

    Lazy Jane’s Cafe & Bakery
    170 reviews
    #24 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Cafe Vegetarian Friendly Gluten Free Options

    • “Good food and coffee in an eclectic settin…” 02/27/2018
    • “Coffee and Scones in a cozy setting” 02/06/2018
    Sushi Muramoto
    133 reviews
    #64 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ Japanese Sushi Asian Gluten Free Options

    • “Great sushi” 03/04/2018
    • “Great sushi – but no new” 01/06/2018
    90 reviews
    #76 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ Italian Gluten Free Options

    • “Amazing dinner” 01/17/2018
    • “Wonderful option for drinks and appetizers…” 01/14/2018

    51 reviews
    #100 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ Cajun & Creole

    • “Feeding the homeless” 11/26/2017
    • “Better than New Orleans” 03/25/2017

    Salvatore’s Tomato Pies NON TRADITIONAL
    35 reviews
    #106 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ Pizza Italian

    • “So good” 01/22/2018
    • “Hardcore pizza goodness” 11/14/2017
    287 reviews
    #37 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ Italian Pizza Vegetarian Friendly Gluten Free Options

    • “A Gift for Dad” 01/12/2018
    • “Handy” 11/07/2017
    Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry
    669 reviews
    #7 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Bar Pub Vegetarian Friendly Gluten Free Options

    • “Some many burger options” 03/27/2018
    • “Great atmosphere!!” 03/27/2018
    102 reviews
    #16 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Gluten Free Options

    • “Not Exactly What I Expected” 02/24/2018
    • “Cheese Bliss!” 02/10/2018

    Brasserie V – Neighborhood Eatery & Tap Room

    228 reviews
    #22 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Bar European Pub Belgian Vegetarian Friendly Gluten Free Options

    • “Crowded, but worth it for the beer menu” 01/27/2018
    • “Goldie Locks said “this one is just right…” 01/03/2018

    235 reviews
    #23 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Bar Contemporary Vegetarian Friendly Gluten Free Options Vegan Options

    • “Great food!” 12/28/2017
    • “Great Ambiance, Good Food” 10/21/2017
    Capitol Chophouse
    117 reviews
    #13 of 22 Results
    $$$$ American Steakhouse

    • “Nice place for lunch and dinner.” 01/03/2018
    • “Good atmosphere, convenient for Hilton Mad…” 12/30/2017
    Pho Nam Noodle House
    29 reviews
    #38 of 155 Results
    $ Asian Vietnamese Vegetarian Friendly
    “Tasty Vietnamese food” 06/14/2017
    “Delicious food at great price – great vega…” 12/15/2017

    Habanero’s Mexican Grill BETTER THAN TUCSON
    21 reviews
    #42 of 155 Results
    $ Mexican Southwestern
    • “Good food/service” 01/31/2018
    • “awesome authentic food” 04/05/2017

    The Daily Scoop in Memorial Union GREAT VIEWS OF LAKE MENDOTA
    8 reviews
    #67 of 155 Results
    $ American
    “DELICIOUS!!!” 03/26/2018
    “Babcock Ice Cream is Great” 02/16/2018
    Der Rathskeller
    15 reviews
    #71 of 155 Results
    “For a meal overlooking Lake Mendota, there…” 08/07/2017
    “It’s Still The Same – Happy About That!” 02/22/2018

    Glarner Stube NEW GLARUS
    310 Reviews
    $$ – $$$, American, German, Swiss

    New Glarus Hotel Restaurant
    198 reviews
    #4 of 8 Results
    $$ – $$$ German Swiss European Vegetarian Friendly Gluten Free Options
    “Great Service & Good Food” 03/26/2018
    “Don’t miss this place” 03/13/2018
    Quivey’s Grove FITCHBURG
    271 Reviews
    $$ – $$$, American

    Graze Restaurant $20 very special hamburger
    807 reviews
    #25 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Bar Gastropub Vegetarian Friendly Vegan Options Gluten Free Options

    • “Great food” 03/16/2018
    • “Great food and great view” 03/16/2018

    105 reviews
    #57 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Gluten Free Options

    • “Winner.” 03/25/2018
    • “Not your average brunch” 03/11/2018

    42 reviews
    #107 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Vegetarian Friendly

    • “Great place to eat on campus, way better t…” 03/18/2018
    • “Unexpected Pleasure!” 12/03/2017

    41 reviews
    #112 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Bar Pub

    • “Great place for drinks, lots of good place…” 01/06/2018
    • “Great breakfast and bloody marys” 10/23/2017

    L’Etoile Restaurant
    321 reviews
    #7 of 21 Results
    $$$$ French American Gluten Free Options Vegetarian Friendly Vegan Options
    “Lovely, expensive, french menu” 03/12/2018
    “Elegant restaurant on capitol square. Owne…” 02/04/2018

    11 reviews
    #22 of 22 Results
    $$$$ Bar Pub

    • “Amazing view, service, and food” 09/01/2017
    • “Intimate Business Swaray” 06/20/2017

    Marigold Kitchen
    349 reviews
    #9 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Cafe Vegetarian Friendly Vegan Options Gluten Free Options

    • “Breakfast Must!” 03/20/2018
    • “Surprises Around Every Corner! Plan Your V…” 03/18/2018
    The Old Fashioned
    1,898 reviews
    #10 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ American Bar Pub Soups Vegetarian Friendly Vegan Options Gluten Free Options

    • “Lunch” 03/28/2018
    • “Alll the cheese!!!!” 03/28/2018

    575 reviews
    #11 of 307 Results
    $$ – $$$ French American Vegetarian Friendly Vegan Options Gluten Free Options

    • “CLASSIC place – AWESOME menu & atmosphere!” 03/28/2018
    • “Great dinner at the bar Good drinks great…” 03/21/2018

    Muramoto Downtown

    Tornado Steak House
    588 reviews
    #2 of 22 Results
    $$$$ American Steakhouse Gluten Free Options

    • “Wow! Everyone’s meal looked great” 03/19/2018
    • “Wonderful evening” 03/17/2018

    A Pig in a Fur Coat
    204 reviews
    #3 of 22 Results
    $$$$ Italian Spanish American Vegetarian Friendly Gluten Free Options

    • “Birthday celebration for six” 02/10/2018
    • “small but great” 12/17/2017

    221 reviews
    #4 of 22 Results
    $$$$ Italian Pizza Vegetarian Friendly Vegan Options Gluten Free Options

    • “GREAT MEAL” 03/24/2018
    • “Need a reservation for a reason!” 02/18/2018

    Heritage Tavern
    146 reviews
    #5 of 22 Results
    $$$$ American Vegetarian Friendly Gluten Free Options

    • “First Timer; Now a Big Fan” 03/03/2018
    • “Love This Place” 02/17/2018

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Photo of Mark Baker
About the author

Mark Baker

I’m an independent journalist, travel writer and author who’s lived in Central Europe for nearly three decades. I love the history, literature, culture and mystery of this often-overlooked corner of Europe, and I make my living writing articles and guidebooks about the region. Much of what I write eventually finds its way into commercial print or digital outlets, but a lot of it does not.

And that’s my aim with this website: to find a space for stories and experiences that fall outside the publishing mainstream.

My Book: ‘Čas Proměn’

In 2021, I published “Čas Proměn” (“Time of Changes”), my first book of historical nonfiction. The book, written in Czech, is a collection of stories about Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and early ‘90s, including memories of the thrilling anti-communist revolutions of 1989. The idea for the book and many of the tales I tell there were directly inspired by this blog. Czech readers, find a link to purchase the book here. I hope you enjoy.

Tales of Travel & Adventure in Central Europe
Mark Baker