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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

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Water Buffalo, the first stop on Alissa's Third Ward birthday pub crawl.
Water Buffalo, the first stop on Alissa's Third Ward birthday pub crawl.

A birthday "spin" around Third Ward bars

This past weekend a group of friends and I went out to celebrate my birthday. While I'm not 30 yet, I just haven't enjoyed getting older the past few years (who does?) -- so it was great to have the day and night filled with close friends, great food and great drink. I'd stopped in the Third Ward earlier that afternoon to try and find something cute and new for the evening, but was unsuccessful this time around and mostly window shopped.

A friend from Chicago and her husband showed up Saturday afternoon with their puppy and a beautiful bouquet of flowers she'd designed herself (she's a professional landscape architect, by the way). I'm wondering what a personalized bouquet says about the person that receives it. She knows me well, so I'm guessing my personality is somewhere in those flowers. After watching the Badgers eke one out over the Hawkeyes, we piled in a cab down to Water Buffalo, 249 N. Water St.

I'd only been there once before for a surprise birthday party in the lower level. We had to wait a bit for our table, but since college football was on in the bar it didn't much matter. They have at least three TVs in the upstairs bar area, but even though the place was packed, neither the televisions nor the crowd noise overwhelmed the space, which was nice for talking and catching up. The decor is great, dark and modern but not pretentious, and we got a spot with a river view and some very interesting art on the walls.

Not surprisingly, the guys in the group went for the meat and potatoes entree. I had a bite of the potatoes and some asparagus. Delish! I opted for the grilled eggplant sandwich; just the right size, since it turned out my friends had pre-delivered a carrot cake for us to all split.

After dinner we stopped in at Spin, 233 E. Chicago St., the newer hot spot known best for its celeb investor, Susan Sarandon. It was the first time any of us had ventured in and, I have to say, from the first time I'd heard about it, I had my doubts. However, I'm ha…

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The Badgers huddle during their win over Minnesota at homecoming.
The Badgers huddle during their win over Minnesota at homecoming. (Photo: Wisconsin Athletic Communications)

Getting juiced up for a Badgers homecoming romp

Having grown up in Madison, I've always bled Bucky Badger Red, so when I get the opportunity to go home for a game, whether it' s football, basketball, volleyball or hockey, I just can't pass it up.

Although I was away at a wedding for the victory over Ohio State on Saturday, but I was there Oct. 9 for Wisconsin's homecoming game vs. Minnesota. Anyone that keeps up with college football knows the tradition between these two rivals includes passing the ceremonial axe to the winning team. If you know that much you probably also know that Wisconsin has pummeled the Gophers six straight wins in a row to keep the giant axe.

This year, minus the unseasonably warm weather, wasn't any different, making it seven wins over Minnesota.

The seven of us began our morning with a choice of a Bloody Mary or a whiskey and Coke for the trek down the bike path to Camp Randall. It' s easier than trying to drive down and pay $20 for parking just to risk getting your car thrown up on or dented, plus leaves you without the option to make a dumb decision like drinking and driving. So we opted for a little pre-game speed walking / drinking.

A breakfast of champions at this point in the day consisted of cheese curds (of course), "W" shaped sugar cookies and a handful of baby carrots. Tailgating is what it is and, let' s face it, it's not known for its low carb, low fat items. That plus more bloodies and chasers and, by game time, we were in "good shape." And by "good shape" I mean we were buzzing but still made the smart move to stay clear of the four story beer bongs after witnessing the after-effects it had on the students around us.

The game was great, the band played all the favorites, the student section did Jump Around and, of course, the Badgers won.

After the game the usual meeting spot is The Stadium Bar. Less than a block from Camp Randall, it's packed before and after every game and the
warm weather was perfect for a little outdoor drinking in the huge outside complex. The por…

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Seeing Milwaukee by boat offers a new perspective on the city.
Seeing Milwaukee by boat offers a new perspective on the city.

Milwaukee by boat

Just over a week ago, I took a little boat ride. Something of a three-hour tour actually around the harbors and inlets of the Milwaukee coastline. I've done the booze cruise thing a few times before, but this was a small, unscheduled trip on a friend's boat. Booze was definitely included but the point wasn't happy hour. It was to view the sights of the city from a new perspective, and perhaps get a buzz along the way.

Milwaukee isn't a huge city by any means. With more than a million people taking up residence in the area, it's definitely not NYC or Chicago. But, when seen from the water it looks like a much larger city and it's obvious just how much the skyline has changed over the past 10 years.

As I hopped onto the "Minnow" there were a few unnervingly large fish jumping clear out of the water not ten yards from the boat. Images of Asian carp launching themselves onto the deck and biting off my toes began to enter my mind, but I cooled my sea monster anxiety with a glass of wine and we were off.

Two glasses of wine (well, really only about one and a half since JD didn't warn me he was going to floor it and most of glass two wound up on my jacket, boots and lap) I began to feel pretty poetic about our little city. The scene was quiet but not silent. Just inside the breakwaters, as we floated past the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World, the air turned from windy cold to warm and still and it felt like we were in Florida, a nice treat for October.

We traveled south and got up close to the Lake Express and took bets on how much jail time one would face for driving underneath it, which would've been more than doable even if we'd all been standing, but figuring arrests would put a major damper on the trip we decided better of it.

I've seen the Lake Express a handful of times cruising into the harbor on a clear day, but I was amazed at how big and stealth looking it really is. I'm definitely hoping to enjoy a quick ride to Michigan on that boat someday.

We w…

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"This is such a great part of town," says Flirt's owner Jenny Gehl, of the Historic Third Ward.
"This is such a great part of town," says Flirt's owner Jenny Gehl, of the Historic Third Ward.
The shop is fashioned with periwinkle clothing chests, twinkling chandeliers and iconic Cream City brick.
The shop is fashioned with periwinkle clothing chests, twinkling chandeliers and iconic Cream City brick.
"I might buy things in another color, but I never want to have my customers see themselves coming and going," says Gehl.
"I might buy things in another color, but I never want to have my customers see themselves coming and going," says Gehl.

New Flirt boutique keeps styles fresh

Consider the opening of Flirt a sign. Literally.

Owner Jenny Gehl, previously a co-owner of Gossip in Mequon, moved to the Third Ward after her previous store was literally struck by lightning, and opened the new boutique just a few weeks ago at 317 N. Broadway.

"This is such a great part of town," says Gehl. "My real passion is working with and interacting with the people in the shop, and the people in this neighborhood are really friendly."

The shop is fashioned with periwinkle clothing chests, twinkling chandeliers and iconic Cream City brick. Gehl's clothes encircle the room, organized by item style, so it's effortless to find what you're looking for, but the quantity is not overwhelming as can be the case in many stores.

The Third Ward has definitely become a home to many new shops in the past several years, but it's not just the locals that stop by for retail therapy. The proximity to Downtown, hotels and several of the tourist attractions the city has to offer means many out-of-towners visit the Third Ward for shopping and dining, says Gehl. She says she regularly has customers from Chicago and even a handful from other countries.

From formal cocktail dresses and blouses, to jeans and comfy sweaters, Flirt offers a bit of everything in all price ranges. Gehl says she wanted to have on hand a little of something for everyone and she keeps styles fresh and limited by only buying a select number of items -- and she buys them only once.

"I might buy things in another color, but I never want to have my customers see themselves coming and going," says Gehl.

Flirt is open Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.