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The Chancery on Downer. It felt like it would be there forever.
The Chancery on Downer. It felt like it would be there forever.

The old Milwaukee restaurants I miss most

For the ninth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, dining guides, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as voting for your "Best of Dining 2015."

Though some restaurants have long lives – in Milwaukee one thinks of Mader's or Karl Ratzsch's, for example, many more seem to come and go, victims of poor economies or bad management or changing culinary tastes, among other reasons.

Here are a few from the past that I miss...

Joe Wong was well-known in Milwaukee's Chinese community, but thanks to his popular restaurants, he was a familiar face to non-Chinese here, too. Wong immigrated to the U.S. in 1916, landing in Madison and studying engineering at Wisconsin. Fortunately for Milwaukee, Wong came here, where his dad had opened a restaurant Downtown. Later, the Wong's added a place on Third and North.

In 1945, Joe Wong opened La Joy at 4720 W. Lisbon Ave. and for decades it was perhaps the best Chinese restaurant in town. I visited a few times and each time it felt like a great treat and a splurge. I remember the food being delicious and the atmosphere being mysteriously dark.

Though La Joy (and its building) are gone, its owner's name lives on, immortalized in the name of Wong's Wok, founded by his grandson's Paul Wong and Edward Chin.

For about five years, I worked second shift Downtown at Milwaukee's daily morning newspaper, the defunct Milwaukee Sentinel. Thankfully, for some of those years there was a pizza by the slice restaurant just west of the old Grand movie house on Third and Wisconsin called, I think, New York Pizza Express. I remember eating a lot of pizza in the place, that had a long counter along the right side and a seating area a few steps up in back.

During those same years, I lived just off Downer Avenue and I spent a lot of time at The Chancery, especially on all you can e…

Help decide the future of Happy Hill Elementary at a pair of upcoming community meetings.
Help decide the future of Happy Hill Elementary at a pair of upcoming community meetings. (Photo: Milwaukee Public Schools)

MPS seeks input on a new program at Happy Hill

The former Happy Hill Elementary School has been closed since 2006. But don't think folks at MPS haven't been thinking about it.

In recent years, the school has come up in a number of discussions about sites for expanding high-performing programs like language immersion and Montessori. In fact, one school board member and a now-retired veteran principal worked to create community support for a new Montessori program in the building a few years back.

Banner School of Milwaukee, a non-instrumentality MPS charter school, occupied the building for two years, from 2013 until June.

Now, the district is again turning to the community as it seeks to re-open the school – built in 1958 – at 7171 W. Brown Deer Rd., just east of the former Northridge Mall site.

The district hosts a pair of information sessions at the school: Saturday, Oct. 10 from 2 to 4 p.m.; and Thursday, Oct. 15, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

What we know so far is that the school – which has 21 classrooms and a respectable 425 capacity – will reopen next September, accepting 3K and 4K students and will add a grade level each year until a full K3 through 8 program is created.

Because – like all Montessori and language immersion programs – Happy Hill will be a citywide specialty school, the program will offer transportation.

But will it be a Montessori program – the K3 component would seem a strong indication of that because these schools always offer K3 – or will it be a language immersion with an unusual – but very, very welcome – K3 option?

That's for you to help decide. You can start by taking the district's survey here and then attending one of the sessions.

In addition to offering a much needed specialty option on the far northwest side, the program will ultimately also add middle school seats in an area that could really use them. And, hey, if a high-performing specialty school draws a few kids in from the nearby suburbs, the increased enrollment will help the bottom line for the …

Headed across Lake Michigan toward the rising sun.
Headed across Lake Michigan toward the rising sun.

Video: A Lake Express Ferry journey

Our first stop on a long road trip east? A 15-minute drive Bay View to board the Lake Express Ferry. The two-and-half-hour trip not only saved us navigating Chicago on a Friday morning, but was also great fun in itself. And there's definitely something to be said for arriving in Michigan ready to go with a full tank of gas.

The ferry season ends at the end of October, so you still have time this year to enjoy a sail on our great lake. It starts up again after the lake thaws next spring.

In the meantime, take a trip across with me ...

Pabst's new Milwaukee home is slated to open in 2016.
Pabst's new Milwaukee home is slated to open in 2016.

City Plan Commission approves Pabst's new microbrewery project

It’s official. Pabst is coming back to Pabst.

Milwaukee’s City Plan Commission yesterday approved architects’ Engberg Anderson’s plan to rehab and add onto the former First German Methodist Church – later dubbed Building 23 after Pabst purchased it – at 1037 W. Juneau Ave. That means the project can now officially move forward.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) has also issued a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) for the project, according to Vanessa Koster, planning manager at the Department of City Development.

Built in 1873, the roughly 3,000-square foot first floor became the Forst Keller Restaurant when Pabst bought the building in 1892. The brewery used the slightly smaller upper floor as a training area.

Building 23 is part The Brewery complex – the site of the former Pabst Brewery – and is owned by Blue Ribbon Redevelopment. The Forst Keller closed in the early 1970s.

The work will transform the long-shuttered building into a small batch brewery, tavern and restaurant that will serve as the new Milwaukee home for Pabst Brewing Co.

The plan, announced in July, includes a micro-brewery on the first floor and a restaurant and tasting room upstairs. Mike Eitel, owner of Nomad World Pub, had signed on to run the restaurant but has since stepped away from the project.

Costs for the new brewery and restaurant – which is slated to open next year – are expected to run to more than $4 million and create roughly 122 new jobs.

"This project will provide a destination that boasts the rich history of this district," reads a project description statement prepared by the architects.

"By providing a small batch brewery by the very company that originally used the buildings in the district for beer production, it revitalizes the historical value of the building and the district. The use of the building, as it has been used in the past as a restaurant and gathering place, returns the building to what it was used as for most …