man, it's a hot one...
Just a note about this trip before I dive in. It got up to about 97 degrees both days we were there. When we came in February it was in the lower twenties and there was literally two feet of snow on the ground. We have been talking about visiting in nicer weather so we could enjoy walking around. Then we come the one weekend that it's just as unbearable to walk around but on the other end of the spectrum. Don't get me wrong... I'll take sweltering over freezing any day... but it was still funny to experience the same place at two extremes. The midwest is WILD.
Okay, so, because there's days when I have no concept of space or time and Friday was one of them... we left a lot later than intended. What should have been a less than two hour drive took well over three because it was during rush hour.
But it's okay because instead of stopping at the hotel first we went straight to dinner at STRANGE TOWN.
As we ordered our fifth dish we heard our waiter saying to the table of four next to us that a group their size would usually share around four dishes...
ANYWAY. Since Tony and I have huge appetites and FOMO when it comes to the menu at any vegan restaurant, here's what we had...
sea vegetable salad
ocean ribbons + kelp noodles / spirulina ginger cream / herbs and cress / house sea palm furikake
This was one very interesting salad. Lots of textures and flavors going on in this ultra glorified seaweed salad. I know that sounds sarcastic and maybe a bit negative but it was truly delicious. The only reason I'm not going absolutely bananas is because it had cilantro in it which I just hate so much. I want to love it. I really do. But even a small bit of it completely ruins whatever I'm eating. However, it says a lot about this salad that I still tried desperately to eat around the cilantro which we all know is absolutely impossible because that shit is like an infectious plague.
carrot queso dip & chips
Yo. This was an upscale version of a vegan classic. It tasted like your basic cashew queso made with potatoes, carrots, and onions, but they upped the carrot and added a tiny bit of spiciness that made this perfectly warm queso an EXPERIENCE. The tortilla chips were standard but very good and as a flax lover from way back, I was into the raw crackers that were really simple (straight up flax and pepitas) but still super flavorful.
rice noodles / beet + radish spirals / kaffir lime + ginger coconut broth / chili tofu / seasonal herbs and blossoms
I never thought I would describe "lukewarm" food as a positive but it's 2018 and here I am. Who is "luke" anyway and why can't that dude pick a temperature? According to Wikipedia, in the word "lukewarm" the "first element believed to be an alteration of Middle English lew (“tepid”)." And then it goes on and on and thats a rabbit hole I can't go down right now because I still have two more courses to get through!! The lime and ginger coconut broth was perfectly tepid. Let's leave it at that. The rice noodles tasted like clouds. I had to go back and look at the menu because they didn't even taste like rice. The chili tofu was cooked so well. It was very firm and flavorful and floated in the broth like TOFU ALWAYS SHOULD. I'm looking at you, weak ass, slimy ass, sinking ass tofu.
The little greens, are those micro greens? I'm somehow not "foodie" enough to know what they are. Anyway, those were amazing but THIS TOO HAD HIDDEN CILANTRO AT THE BOTTOM so I wasn't able to truly dive in like I wanted to but this was a super tasty and very fun dish. Also, lets be real, it could have been made of dirt and I would have ordered it because it was called PINK MOON. Pink Moon is going to be the name of my all female acid jazz band when I'm in my sixties and inevitably dye my hair cotton candy pink.
heirloom mayocoba bean + basmati cake / poblano coulis / avocado salad / sunflower sprouts / aji chili / tortilla chip dust
Tortilla chip dust is my rap name. This was amazing. Definitely one of my favorites. We ordered a "cake" of sorts when we came in the winter and this was very obviously a summer update. The flavors were lighter. This was also our third dish with flowers on the plate. This evoked an eye roll from Tony and deservedly so. But I have to admit that I'm into it. I imagine that at the end of April their chef burned the previous menu while blasting "Lusty Month of May" and screamed "FLOWERS ON EVERYTHING" as his staff cried while tearing apart dandelion petals.
Also, I don't know what the hell "poblano coulis" is but I imagine it's something like "Valar morghulis" in Game of Thrones which means "all men must die" and this dish was definitely to die for.
The night is dark and full of terrors if it's not full of "aji chili."
Mayacoba Bean. First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men. Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of my goddamn tastebuds.
A sunflower sprout always pays his debts. His debts to our next course because I don't see how it could compare.
Okay. I'm done. I'm so, so sorry.
curried sweet potato + kale + chickpea filling / pickled mango-coconut yogurt sauce
Bathe me in pickled mango-coconut yogurt sauce.
After our first three dishes we were like, maybe we should slow down. But we did not sit in three hours of traffic to walk away comfortable so we topped things off with these samosas. I was hesitant because I always try to avoid ordering things that we could get elsewhere. We live about a mile from the best Indian food in the city where we have had our fair share of amazing samosas. But I'm glad we tried Strange Town's samosas for the sauces alone. They were both super tangy and flavorful. Also, the outer pastry was delicious. I could have eaten just that. But the chickpea/sweet potato/kale filling was cooked just right and perfectly spiced.
we don't really drink
but we obviously had to share a single glass of this fancy French wine.
I couldn't tell you what this wine was called but it was supposed to taste like "freshly cut grass" and it did. 10/10 grassy as hell. Very good.
That was our summer Strange Town experience. Even if you aren't vegan its definitely worth checking out if you're in Milwaukee.
Next we were off to get ice cream. We stopped at a place called "Babe's" that had the Chocolate Shoppe soy flavors. We had vegan ice cream sandwiches and they were okay. It's the same ice cream you get in Chicago at George's or any place that serves Chocolate Shoppe flavors. We were unimpressed but hey, sometimes dessert is dessert and we'll take what we can get.
The next morning, after getting in a workout at the world's warmest hotel gym, we headed over to Urban Beets cafe for a late breakfast. The last time we were in town we came here for juice after shoveling down some Holey Moley doughnuts. We didn't get our act together early enough to get to Holey Moley which gave us the opportunity to check out the full menu at Urban Beets and all I can say is WOW.
They have an amazing array of juices and smoothies and superfood lattes. There are avocado toasts and bagels and cashew cream cheeses as well as sandwiches and salads.
nutty nib smoothie bowl
banana + blueberry + almond butter + cacao + acai + agave / topped with banana + granola & coconut flakes
This was Tony's smoothie bowl. He was happy because it's super close to what he makes almost every morning at home. It's nice to travel and find healthy options that don't make you feel way off track. I'm pretty impressed that Milwaukee has a few places with healthier vegan breakfast options. I find it difficult in Chicago to go to vegan places and not always feel like I'm splurging. I know, I know, there are healthier options at a lot of places but they usually aren't places with actual seating or they are places that are predominantly not vegan. If you have any examples of places like this in Chicago then throw them my way!!!
blue majik smoothie bowl
banana + pineapple + blue majik + lemon + mint + agave / topped with blueberry + coconut & mint
I got this bowl because it's blue and I'm a sucker for fun colored food. According to the Urban Beets website, Blue Majik is a proprietary, chemical free extract of Arthrospira platensis (Spirulina), a Nutrient Dense AquaBotanical. Blue Majik is prized for being nutrient dense; full of vitamins (especially B12), enzymes, and minerals. This powder is like a billion dollars on Amazon so I always like to order things with it when I'm out.
sprouted grain bread topped with avocado + house made coconut bacon & topped with balsamic drizzle
Tony had this very simple but flavorful avocado toast with COCONUT BACON which is my new favorite thing.
bagel & cream cheese
everything bagel with house made vegan coconut bacon and onion cream cheese
!!!!!!!!! As far as I know, there is no place in Chicago that serves vegan cream cheese so the last time I went somewhere and was able to order this was when we were in Brooklyn in the fall. It was amazing. Typically they have a pesto cream cheese but they asked if their cream cheese of the day was okay. OKAY? Coconut bacon and onion? More than okay. I could eat this every day.
Tony also had a hemp milk latte and I had their coconut matcha latte with peppermint and maple syrup.
After breakfast we tried to bear the heat and walk around the Third Ward. We stopped into the Public Market and got some fresh squeezed juices at The Green Kitchen which rocks.
The juice did not help.
It was scorching and we were sweating... a lot. So after buying this cute new plant at Mod Gen on Broadway we decided to check out the Milwaukee Public Museum.
Entry - $14 with student ID
We mostly wandered around aimlessly. We checked out the rainforest exhibit which was interesting. Then we walked through "Old Milwaukee/European Streets" and this was really well done. It was similar to the old town-y exhibit at the Field Museum but felt a lot bigger. All of the little village homes had cats in them which was a REALLY nice touch.
The highlights were the butterfly exhibit with real butterflies which was so cool (except for all of the little kids almost stepping on butterflies) and then we saw one of their planetarium shows called "Wisconsin Stargazing." I'm usually super wary to see any of those kinds of shows because I have vertigo and they make me super sick BUT this was literally just a stargazing show. They put the night sky up and then someone talked us through the different planets and constellations and the history of how different cultures have used constellations to tell time and it was really cool. It made me wish I paid more attention in 5th grade when we learned all of this and when Pluto was still a planet.
very casual architecture that I'm using as a transition.
Before leaving town we stopped at our absolute favorite place, On The Bus.
*Stefon voice* This place has EVERYTHING. Smoothies. Smoothie Bowls. Date Shakes. Paninis. Ice Cream. Belgian waffles WITH ice cream.
basil pesto sandwich
basil pesto + housemade sliced seitan + tomato + arugula+ mozzarella on ciabatta
Okay this sandwich took me back to something I used to order all the time at places like Cosi or Starbucks which is just a basil pesto, tomato, and mozzarella sandwich. I have yet to find a vegan replacement to this but On The Bus came through with the crustiest ciabatta, delicious housemade seitan, and a very convincing vegan mozzarella.
Tony had the Jamaican jerk sandwich he had last time because he's boring. Jk. Love you.
THE ICE CREAM TO END ALL ICE CREAMS.
On The Bus makes ice cream in small batches from house made almond milk & coconut milk, sweetened with organic sugar. Their rotating flavors are INCREDIBLE. No BS chocolate soy over here (sorry, chocolate shoppe). Here are just some of their flavors: butterscotch, salted caramel pretzel, birthday cake, mint chip, s'mores, espresso, pink peppermint, peanut butter chocolate ripple, chocolate cherry swirl.
I tried UNICORN which tasted kinda like fruit loops or blue moon and it was PALE PINK with pastel sprinkles. I also tried COCONUT CARDAMOM which was incredible. I also usually hate waffle cones but they gave me one by accident and it rocked my world.
I brought home a pint of pistachio because I can't help myself. Tony brought home a pint of peanut butter cookie. Although he didn't use a cone because he's wrong.
If you made it this far...
Amazing. Thank you. I love to write about food and I love you if you love to read about food or if you're just my friend and you tolerate me enough to read this.
If you live in Chicago - take the trip to Milwaukee - it's close by train or car! I think our next trip might have to be to Madison or maybe we'll look for a vegan friendly city in Michigan.
Do you know of have a midwest city with good plant based food? Let me know!