Dear Tony

My name is Nick, and I’m from Milwaukee, WI. We’ve never met before, at least not in person. I know you’ll never read this, but I’m writing to get a few things off of my chest about you. Forgive me for rambling a bit; I’m not that good at this yet, but I’m working on it.

On Friday morning last week, your body was found by your best friend, in a hotel room in Strasbourg, France.

The world got a little darker that day.

Chefs, cooks, and food service industry acquaintances of mine, as well as travel enthusiasts, music lovers, gun nuts, immigrants, family, friends, media representatives, and both the former and the current President of the United States (ugh) have all had something to say about your passing. Not all of it was pretty, but for so many people, you were so much more than a TV show host. You were a traveling companion, a drinking buddy, a friend. To a select lucky few, you were a family member, a husband, and a father.

Out of everyone devastated by your death, it’s them I envy the least.

I first started watching Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on Travel Channel while I was in high school; a dweeb-y kid who played way too many video games, suddenly realizing that the world was so much bigger than my sleepy Midwestern hometown of Kenosha, WI. I was immediately drawn in by both the beauty of the places you were visiting, and by how relatable you were to me. You weren’t just a chef, or a writer, or a comic book producer, or a TV host. You were human, like us. You had your scars, and the stories behind them.

As I grew older, I followed your career closely, watching Parts Unknown on Netflix every time the dishes piled up in my sink, and reading Kitchen Confidential, Naked Lunch, and On The Road every time I traveled by plane or went on a road trip, and tweeting at you every now and again to come see the food revolution taking place right here in Milwaukee. When I broke up with my now ex-fiancee earlier this year, I went back and watched A Cook’s Tour to help me get over it. Even though we’ve never met, you’ve been there for me.

Every episode of every show you produced, you approached with all the charm and tact of an old-school chef, but there was a sort of Disneyland-esque sparkle in your eyes along with the gruff exterior, in the way you savored the foods and experiences you encountered. And through it all, you never disrespected the places you went or the people you met; you always treated every older woman like your own grandma, and you weren’t afraid to get your hands dirty prepping vegetables or butchering meats. If a Koreatown artist said that Sizzler was the best growing up, you went to fucking Sizzler, just to get a better understanding of that childhood influence. If a chef in Canada wanted to go ice fishing, you froze your ass off in a shanty. Whenever you went to a location, you made sure to learn the history of the place and how it influenced the culture of the people who lived there. Your approach to food preparation, to travel, and to the silly seriousness of life in general was a huge inspiration to the way I lived my life as I grew older. Your attitudes about immigration, about the underprivileged, about warmongering, about racial relations and cultural differences, and about love and humanity and life, have all helped shape me into the man I’ve become today.

As I’ve watched you over the years, what always struck me is your ability to find the heart and soul of a place, or a group of people, or a cuisine. Whether it’s the wild Latin and African musical influences and long, hot nights of Central America, or the juxtaposition of deep, revered tradition and absolute candy-coated lunacy of Tokyo, or the devastating, ancient beauty of Rome, you always had a local’s appreciation for where you ended up. Your authenticity made you a fixed point of reference for appreciating the places you’ve been for what they are, not what your producers wanted them to be. By the way, that bullshit with the frozen octopus would have eaten me up, too. Fuck that overly-produced, jumping-the-shark garbage. Tell real stories.

Since your passing, I’ve tried to live my life just a little bit more like yours; finding excuses to turn off the cartoons and old movies, getting my ass up off the couch and getting outside, going to different parts of town, and having some good food and drinks with some good friends. You’ve helped me make so many positive connections in my own life, and taught me so many lessons about acceptance, dealing with pain, keeping an open mind, and always being willing to explore new places and cultures. I would’ve loved to have the opportunity to hang out with you and toss a few back at Wolski’s, and just listen to your stories some more.

I don’t know why you chose Strasbourg, France as your final destination. Maybe it had something to do with your famed NYC bistro Les Halles, or your French heritage, or the love of rural French cooking that started with a single, fresh oyster in your childhood.

But I miss you. The world misses you.

Rest in peace, Tony.

Milwaukee: What’s new?

Boring Introduction

Ladies and gentlemen, I haven’t been totally honest with you.

I said this would be a food blog, but it’s become a bit more than that to me. This is my love letter to the city where I grew up, its food, places, people, and overall beauty.

Milwaukee was the first city I really lived in; I grew up about 50 miles south of here, in Kenosha, and I never really felt like I fit in there. I had far bigger aspirations than would fit in the woodsy bedroom community of Pleasant Prairie or the raise-your-kids neighborhoods of the city of Kenosha. I had my head in the stars too often. Being in a robotics program in high school introduced me to the city, but coming here to attend college at MSOE really made me fall in love with it.

Now that I’m a bit more worldly, I have my Bachelor’s degree, a good job downtown, and a beautiful fiancee, I’ve been meaning to give back as much as I could to the city that’s given me so much, and this blog is one of the ways I intend to do so. I wanted to get back to this in a way that I see fitting; starting off with gushing about what’s going on with the city and why I’m so excited, before taking the chance to dive back in with the food, music, architecture, events, and people that deserve to be praised.

Continue reading

Crawlin’ and eatin’ in the clock’s shadow

Earlier today, I was informed of yet another fun food-oriented event in our great city: the fourth annual Walker’s Point Food Crawl.

Starting at noon on Saturday, May 30th at Steny’s Tavern, registered attendees of the food crawl will be unleashed onto the food-centric Walker’s Point neighborhood and its many fine restaurants, for three hours of eating and drinking at some of Milwaukee’s best new places to eat. The event is hosted by MKEfoodies.com, Milwaukee Food & City Tours, and OnMilwaukee.com, and runs from 12:00-3:00pm, though VIP passes are available which allow early access to the event at 11:00am, as well as other goodies. Continue reading

Culinary landscaping – Downtown Dining Week

Milwaukee is known as the City of Festivals, and for good reason. During the spring and summer, there’s a million things to do here in Brew City, many of which center around excellent (or at least above-average) food and beer. However, one event stands out among the rest as the pinnacle of making great food accessible to the masses: Downtown Dining Week.

Starting on June 4th and ending June 11th, participating establishments in downtown Milwaukee will be offering three-course meals for $12.50 for lunch, and either $25 or $35 for dinner. The website touts itself as a “culinary tour of our world-class city”; this is to say they’ll offer a limited selection for a cheap price, to try to get rubes who’ve never dined at their restaurants before to come in and sample their line food. I fully intend to take advantage of the deal.

So far, there are 46 restaurants who are participating in this year’s event:

  • Ale Asylum Riverhouse (1110 N. Old World Third Street)
  • Benihana (850 N. Plankinton Avenue)
  • The Brown Bottle (221 W. Galena Street)
  • The Cafe at the Pfister (424 E. Wisconsin Avenue)
  • Cafe Calatrava (700 N. Art Museum Drive, inside the Milwaukee Art Museum)
  • The Capital Grille (310 W. Wisconsin Avenue)
  • Carnevor (724 N. Milwaukee Street)
  • Carson’s Prime Steaks & Famous Barbecue (301 W. Juneau Avenue)
  • Club Charlies (320 E. Menomonee Street)
  • Coquette Cafe (316 N. Milwaukee Street)
  • Distil (722 N. Milwaukee Street)
  • Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub (222 E. Erie Street)
  • Indulge (708 N. Milwaukee Street)
  • Joey Buona’s (500 N. Water Street)
  • Kanpai (408 E. Chicago Street)
  • Kil@wat (139 E. Kilbourn Avenue)
  • The Knick (1030 E. Juneau Avenue)
  • The Loaded Slate (1137 N. Old World Third Street)
  • Louise’s (801 N. Jefferson Street)
  • Lucid Lounge (729 N. Milwaukee Street)
  • Mader’s Restaurant (1041 N. Old World Third Street)
  • Mason Street Grill (425 E. Mason Street)
  • Metro Restaurant & Lounge (411 E. Mason Street)
  • Mi•key’s (811 N. Jefferson Street)
  • Miller Time Pub & Grill (509 W. Wisconsin Avenue)
  • Millioke (323 E. Wisconsin Avenue)
  • Milwaukee ChopHouse (633 N. 5th Street)
  • Mo’s – A Place for Steaks (720 N. Plankinton Avenue)
  • Onesto (221 N. Broadway)
  • Port of Call Bistro (106 W. Wells Street)
  • The Pub Club (1103 N. Old World Third Street)
  • Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery (740 N. Plankinton Avenue)
  • Rodizio Grill Brazilian Steakhouse (777 N. Water Street)
  • The Rumpus Room (1030 N. Water Street)
  • Sake Tumi (714 N. Milwaukee Street)
  • Smoke Shack (332 N. Milwaukee Street)
  • Swig (217 N. Broadway)
  • Trinity Three Irish Pubs (125 E. Juneau Street)
  • Tulip (360 E. Erie Street)
  • Umami Moto (718 N. Milwaukee Street)
  • Upper 90 Sports Pub (322 W. State Street)
  • Vagabond (1122 N. Edison Street)
  • Ward’s House of Prime (540 E. Mason Street)
  • Water Buffalo (249 N. Water Street)
  • Who’s on Third (1007 N. Old World Third Street)
  • Zarletti (741 N. Milwaukee Street)

This link will take you to a massive PDF file containing the lunch and dinner menus for every restaurant on this list. I’ve glanced over it in brief, and so far, it looks pretty good; there’s some strange and interesting standouts (like Club Charlies’ “Jambon et Fromage Pâte Feuilletée”, smoked ham and havarti wrapped in a puff pastry with maple roux sauce & au gratin potatoes) alongside safe and familiar fare, like burgers, steaks, trout, chicken, salmon, and meatloaf. Everyone seems to be playing to their strengths, which is smart; given that they will have to pound these out alongside their regular fares in mass amounts, it’s not the time to improvise or do something their line cooks can’t punch out continuously for a week straight.

Luckily for us, the event is still a ways off, so we have time to review our options (although Millioke has been calling my name, with their rustic portrait of a porker and the tagline “Meat Cheese Beer” on their sign, for a while now…) Whatever we choose, it’ll be good. If it’s not, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Until next time, then.

Meals on wheels? Sounds good to me!

For those who don’t read the Shepherd Express (and really, it’s everywhere in Milwaukee, so why wouldn’t you?), they are hosting an event this upcoming Friday at Catalano Square in Third Ward, called “Street Eats“. Essentially, it’s a gathering of food trucks from all over Milwaukee, with live music from J. Ryan Trio, beer from sponsor Lakefront Brewery on tap, and over 20 Milwaukee food trucks.

The event runs from 4-8pm on May 15th, so if you can swing out of work early that day, you’ll probably get the stuff that hasn’t sat around in a truck in May for an hour or two. (That’s not to say it won’t still be delicious, it just might not be quite as fresh.) Me? Not likely. I’ve got work until 5, all the way over in Wauwatosa, so I’ll probably be rolling in around 6 or 6:30. Keep in mind, though, the forecast calls for mid-70s and scattered thunderstorms, so if you want to come and hang around for a while, bring an umbrella and wear thinner clothes you won’t mind getting wet.

They seem inclined to mention on their site that they are selling Koozies and frisbee plates; those are cool, if you’re of a collecting nature, or you like merchandise that supports local Milwaukee ventures. For some reason, though, they don’t list prices for the strangely-required food tickets on Shepherd Express’ site.

The vendors are as follows:

*Restaurants marked with an asterisk are ones with permanent locations other than their truck.

The Facebook event is accessible here.

I am hungry, hear me roar.

My name is Nick Iannone, and I’m hungry. I’m an early-20’s software engineer living in Milwaukee, WI, with my girlfriend of two-plus years, Sydney Walker. I love to eat.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time during high school and college feeling completely envious of people like Anthony Bourdain, who is, I must admit, one of my heroes and partial inspiration for this blog. Being able to travel the world on an empty stomach? See the sights of Rome, Tokyo, Paris, and the like, and eat the things that the real citizens eat? Sign me up. My dad is also a major contributing factor; he’s an international flight captain for American Airlines, and he lives somewhere between a ski town in Colorado, Miami Beach, Orange County, California, and his own private cabin cruiser. I’m not sure exactly which one he’s calling home right now, but I’ve long been told his tales of Brussels, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Edinburgh, and all of the other places he’s been able to visit through his job.

Me? I live in Milwaukee. It was the biggest place, with the best schools, jobs, culture, and food that was still accessible to my hometown of Kenosha, WI. (Sorry, Chicago, I know you’re there, but I could never live in you… I’m a Wisconsin boy.) I’ve dreamed about being able to travel, but I could never forsake my hometown and live somewhere else; I absolutely love Milwaukee.

All that aside, the main reason I’m starting this whole thing, and calling it “Feed Me, Milwaukee!”, is that I’m hungry, and I wanted to find out more about the restaurants of the so-called City of Festivals firsthand, and maybe share that with the two or three people who might find this interesting.

As a side note: I am not a foodie. I think Gordon Ramsay is loud and occasionally fun to watch, but I could never stand up to one of those kitchen competition shows. I’m not terribly fond of celebrity chefs. I can cook a little, but I’m just as likely to pick up Taco Bell on my way home from work, and I won’t bat an eye. As such (and for financial reasons), you’re probably not going to see a whole lot of regular activity on this blog; I will, however, chronicle the restaurants I am able to visit throughout the city, be they big or small, with the exception of non-local restaurant chains. (Okay, maybe Buca di Beppo’s gets a pass, but that’s because I know some people there, and it’s one of the first in the chain.)

Tomorrow, on Saturday, May 9th, I’ll be visiting Wolf Peach, in the rapidly-revitalizing Brewer’s Hill neighborhood. I’ll be bringing Sydney, along with my mother, Patricia Gibbs. From what I’ve read, they’re a locally-sourced restaurant which specializes in oven-fired pizza, handmade cocktails and tapas dishes, with an excellent view of the city skyline from their perch atop Brewer’s Hill. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Here’s hoping it’s as good as they say.