We can still smell the sweet scents of these departed eateries
October is the fourth-annual Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2010."
Like taverns, restaurants come and go.
They close for all kinds of reasons and so it's not a given that a dearly departed restaurant deserved to shut its doors.
And sometimes, even if a restaurant didn't serve the greatest food, it was still the setting for some of the most memorable moments of our lives. And, for that, we miss them.
Here are some of the lost gems of Milwaukee dining that the OnMilwaukee.com editorial staff miss most. We encourage you to use the Talkback feature at the bottom to share your memory of a beloved, now closed Milwaukee restaurant.
Pick: The Shorewood Inn
I've waxed nostalgic about this Shorewood institution as a bar in the past. But this Oakland Avenue gem was also a homey place to go for a good, basic meal.
Chef-owner Bill Meinhardt ran a tight ship in his kitchen, and cranked out a reliable schedule of tasty meals, including a great Friday fish fry and fine Saturday prime-rib special.
It was an old-style, family place. And the North Shore still feels its loss.
Whenever my Italian grandparents drove their luxury Buick to Brew City, we would kick off the visit with a trip to Roseanne's, an Italian restaurant on Booth and Clarke in Riverwest. Because I was so young, I can't comment too much on the food other than to say that the spaghetti with red sauce somehow appeased my picky kid palate.
I miss Roseanne's cozy "mom and pop" environment -- something I appreciated in the now defunct Albanese's on Keefe restaurant, too -- that included warm lighting and garlicky aromas. What I really miss about Roseanne's were those joyful Friday nights when my grandparents were in town and my parents were young and healthy. That, along with some greasy garlic bread, was enough to make me truly happy.
When I moved to Milwaukee, I lived on 15th and Greenfield in a house my great-grandfather bought in 1924 and where my grandfather, mom and cousin were raised. I was the fifth generation to live there, though, of course, the neighborhood was no longer full of German-speaking, Lutheran Rheinlanders.
But it was still a neighborhood of immigrants and one new family opened a restaurant around the corner on Scott Street named for its hometown of Atotonilco, Mexico in the latter part of the '80s. It was a quiet, low-profile restaurant staffed by a sweet family dishing up great homegrown food. Later, when the restaurant moved to 11th Street it was much more visible and became a popular place.
It might have lost a bit of its insider vibe in the new location but it was still a great restaurant and whenever anyone raves to me about some Mexican restaurant or another, I fondly remember Atotonilco and wish it was still there. I could go for some of the enchiladas.
Pick: Coffee Trader
I've seen a lot of restaurants come and go in Milwaukee, but when the Coffee Trader on Downer closed its doors, I was truly sad. I spent so many underaged nights at the Trader drinking coffee, eating triple-decker grilled cheese sandwiches and plotting ways to take over the world. First dates, informal school reunions and some of the very early conversations about how to start OnMilwaukee.com were held there, because the food was good, the coffee was cheap -- and most importantly, the staff let us linger around for hours.
It's good to know that some of the Trader's vibe moved around the corner to Henry's, and the Original Pancake House is a worthy replacement in its space. But along with J.A.'s Cafe and the Social, the Coffee Trader is the place I'd love to have back. I made a lot of memories there and still miss it.
Coffee Trader fans can check out this Facebook tribute.
Pick: Heinemann's in Wauwatosa
I know there were a couple of Heinemann's locations in Milwaukee but to be honest, I never really went to them. In fact, my memories aren't so much from the food or service, but rather because of the memories this particular location gave me.
I grew up just a few blocks from the location at 76th and Bluemound. I went to grade school one parking lot over and to high school just next door to that. My first job, all my friends ... all in that neighborhood.
My first visits were with my father, and it was there that I gained an early appreciation for a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper. I took the sports section and my dad took the comics, but we both stopped to read the "Sentinel Files" together.
I'd walk to the bank with my great-grandmother because, if I behaved, we'd stop at Heinemann's for a piece of cake.
Then, as I got older ... it became the hangout for my friends and I before school (sometimes ... during) and after. It was "our place" and it was special.
There was no favorite dish, no house specialty for me ... just fond memories of a special place during my formative years.
Pick: Barclay Gallery & Garden Café
I still miss one of my favorite breakfast places in town, Barclay Gallery & Garden Café, 158 S. Barclay St., in the Fifth Ward. It closed in 2008.
I dined at Barclay countless times, and its Big City omelette was one of the City's best. I also loved their potatoes and the vibe inside the restaurant and on the patio.
Barclay was an innovator. With a gallery space too, and a still off-the-beaten path location when it opened, it was different, friendly and truly a part of the growth and development that the area is still experiencing.
The space is still vacant, so there's always hope that someone else will take another chance there.
I would have to say that BAYOU (Humboldt Ave) is definitely missed! Bring it back!!
I miss Gil's on Downer. Closed 4/5 years ago. Did Gil ever open a new place after he supposedly got forced out by the building's owner?
Speaking of the Shorewood Inn... why don't you poke around and update us on why the Brit Inn was never remodeled? As of today, the roof is torn off and it looks about to be bulldozed.
I miss "The Watermark" on Arlington. The restaurant wasn't the tightest run ship on the planet, but Mr. Weber knows how to prepare a piece of fish with the best of them. I have yet to find an establishment here in Milwaukee that has seafood as fresh and well-prepared. The other place that I miss is the old Chocolate Factory in Prospect Mall. I had the pleasure of having ice cream with many a young lovely there back in the day.
For me it is Ray Sol. At the time, it was arguably the best Mexican food in the city. The service and hospitality were outstanding. The place always made me smile when I walked in. I think the chef's daughter is the owner of Antigua. I really need to get over there but hopefully without the expectation that it will be Ray Sol incarnate.
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