There are many kinds of dinosaurs out there and we are fans of all of them-- the prehistoric kind, the train and streetcar kind, and the restaurant kind, just to name three. Being on our own yesterday, the boys and I decided to take a road trip to Wisconsin, revisit one museum we'd liked earlier this year, visit another we'd never been to, and try some places people had mentioned, where else, on LTHForum.
First stop was breakfast and this discovery
by Cathy2, The Coffee Pot. The Coffee Pot is the Edgebrook Diner of Kenosha, an old-time diner given a light coat of modern times by new owners but very true to its comfy, unpretentious diner-food heritage, and spot-on in terms of quality and preparation. Not surprisingly, it was packed the whole time we were there.
Younger son had banana bread French toast, which he loved (I'm sure the 1/4 cup of butter on his plate influenced him). Banana bread was fluffy enough that this worked and wasn't too heavy. The waitress (probably, actually, one of the two women who own it) mentioned that next week they'd be doing cranberry bread French toast. I'm seriously considering the drive.
Older son had biscuits and gravy-- terrific fluffy biscuits, good gravy if a little thin on actual bits of sausage, slight livery tang which I took to be a sign of old school locally-made sausage (at least it's pleasant to think that's the reason). Dad, alas, screwed up--
I wanted corned beef hash, they were out by then, I ordered this thing which they called a strata, it had apple cinnamon sausage in it, I forgot I like savory more than sweet at breakfast, it was sort of like a big hunk of bread pudding for breakfast, just not my thing. But that was my fault, not theirs. This is a great little place, exactly the kind of all-American place that the Sterns would go on and on about, and it would be worth the trip on its own for anyone who lives in the northern suburbs-- it's going to take 20 minutes to get to your nearest Le Peep or something probably anyway, what's another 20 or 30 for something really good?
Incidentally, I noticed from the signboard that The Coffee Pot was defending its title in the 2nd Annual Kenosha chili cook-off last night. Wonder if they held onto it?
Next stop was the Kenosha Public Museum, a small, free museum which Myles had been asking me to go back to-- he really liked the exhibits about Native American daily life in the midwest, which are very nicely done in a small-scale, practical-aspects-of-life kind of way. It also has a nice exhibit of a woolly mammoth found in the Kenosha area, and some rather random stuff upstairs-- a bunch of stuffed wild animals, some Lorado Taft dioramas of ancient and medieval artists' studios, etc. While there, we learned that they've just opened a second small museum (also free) in the old post office, devoted to dinosaurs-- basically one room, but between that and some activities in the basement (digging for plastic dinosaurs in boxes of soil), it was fun for them.
The Coffee Pot
4914 7th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53140
Kenosha Public Museum
5500 First Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53140
Dinosaur Discovery Museum
5608 Tenth Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53140
Truth be told it was less than two hours since breakfast but that was okay, we had another LTHForum spot to hit in Racine:
How could I turn down an old burger place like this? Especially given the chance to sit next to a chunk of the Berlin Wall (not really) and an eerily silver-skinned Kewpee ornament.
I can't really improve on Jim in Logan Square's comment "it's everything Steak & Shake wants to be" except to say that it's what McDonald's ought to be, too. Maybe because they overdid my ketchup a bit, mine tasted an awful lot like the old, traditional thin hamburger at McD's, except with the real taste of fresh beef-- which is, of course, all the difference in the world. (I think I might order it with everything except ketchup next time, and add that more sparingly myself.)
I must admit, I'm not a huge kringle fan, I admire it more for surviving as a regional specialty than for its actual taste (which is like shortening covered with frosting), but sheesh, we were there, so I spun the wheel, selected O&H as one mentioned in that thread I hadn't had before, and picked up a pecan one for this morning. It's fine... just like every other kringle I've ever had.
Kewpee Sandwich Shop
520 Wisconsin Avenue
Racine, WI 53403
O&H Danish Bakery
1841 Douglas Ave.
Racine, Wisconsin 53402
Phone: 1-262-637-8895 | 1-866-637-8895
Our plan for Milwaukee was the science museum at the Discovery World complex. Got there and... the science museum had decamped for other quarters on some pier or something, presumably near the Calatrava art museum and all that. That left us with the Milwaukee Public Museum, which is sort of half Field Museum, half historical museum-- and a big hit with all three of us. Myles' favorite part was a butterfly room, where he quickly became quite adept at getting butterflies to land on him and taught Liam how to catch them and treat them gently.
They both also really liked the street scenes of old European houses, which you can walk among, peering in the windows; it segues into streets of old Milwaukee (no, not that kind), and Liam seemed quite captivated, asking me (as he did on the steam train in Santa Cruz), "Is this the olden days?" I think he thinks it really is, for a moment.
Never let it be said that Dad doesn't know an opening when he hears one, though, and so I seized on that moment to ask, "Would you like to eat at an olden days restaurant?" That made my next stop a much easier sell than "How about German food tonight?" would have.
I have to say, I'm surprised Karl Ratzsch's hasn't gotten more love, or any, on this board. I recognize that Wisconsin is full of old mittel-Europäischer places, and only one person
has made it a personal mission to try them all, but even so, here's a 102-year-old restaurant still packing them into its over-the-top steins-and-antlers-everywhere interior for German food that's surprisingly good and non-tired.
The food, and the popularity, is a direct rebuke to everything the Berghoff had declined toward in its last years (and its new incarnation). It's not cheap compared to other such places, I gather, but you're certainly not going to go out hungry when dinner starts with a basket of bread and liver dumpling soup:
Though Liam ate off the kids' menu, Myles was game for German food, and so I ordered a special platter for us to share (and for a $1.50 split plate charge, they gave us two generous servings-- an investment in repeat business from a place which has seen many customers' entire lives, no doubt). It included roasted goose (the best thing on the plate, so succulent and roasty-birdy-good), cranberry relish, what they called an Oktoberfest strudel (which was kind of like a reuben in pastry), very good sauerbraten, purple cabbage, spaetzle, and a dollop of sweet potato puree...
Plus ice cream and a trip to "the famous Treasure Chest" for candy.
As Myles said, Ratzsch's was our fourth museum of the day, and a fine end to it. I hope this will inspire a few more LTHers to join other celebrities starting with L:
in paying Karl Ratzsch's an overdue visit. The place is 102 years old, and you're
not going to be around to eat there forever.
320 E. Mason Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Milwaukee Public Museum
800 West Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233