For the sixth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2012."
Recently, I started thinking about a few restaurants that I don't eat at anymore, but I realized it wasn't because I was unsatisfied with the food or the experience. It seems that, more than anything, life changes have a way of affecting where we eat.
So here are five restaurants I used to frequent, but don't anymore, and why.
Rio West Cantina â€“ The main reason I stopped dining at Rio West, 2730 N. Humboldt Blvd., is because I no longer rely on the kids' playroom which was once a savior when my sons were small. My usual M.O. was to get there early so I could secure a table right next to the play room before the rest of the diners came in, and then enjoy a margarita while I watched my boys play with the toys or draw on the chalkboards with chalk. It was low-road parenting, for sure, but back then, I really had to play the occasional Get Out Of Parenting Free card. I remember wishing more restaurants had outlets for squirrelly kids, but these days, they're satisfied to doodle with crayons on their place mats or simply hang out and chat before the food comes.
Los Paisa â€“ There are certain restaurants I only eat in during the winter months. Although I do not consciously decide this, I just don't find myself heading north to this cozy Mexican eatery, 600 W. Brown Deer Rd., in the summer because I really enjoy the kitsch and glow of the fake fireplace. I'll have to go there soon, though. I miss the three different kinds of salsa served with the basket of usually still-warm chips.
Benji's â€“ This place, 4156 N. Oakland Ave., just reminds me too much of my dad, who ate there regularly, and passed away in 2010. I'll get back there soon, though. The Hopple Popple's too good to give up. My pop would agree.
Maria's Pizza â€“ I love Maria's, 5025 W. Forest Home Ave., but mostly for the wonderfully cheesy decor rather than the food. I also really like the older waitresses in their red dresses and friendly smiles. My kids, however, do not like the food, so we don't go very often. Once in a while, I can bribe them by promising they can order a blue soda if we go, but they don't eat well so it turns out to be a waste of money. However, I do love the paint-by-number Jesus paintings and the over-the-top holiday decorations.
Kopp's â€“ Between my annoying and very un-Milwaukee intolerance for lactose and the fact I don't eat very much red meat anymore, I have not been to Kopp's in ages. We live closer to Leon's now, anyway, so when I take my kids for custard, that's our place. I really need to change this, though. Kopp's is a Milwaukee tradition and the fact I didn't sit outside on the concrete steps once this summer to chow down something ridiculously bad for me makes me sad.
I was at Kopps just last week, and I agree it is a Milwaukee icon. However, I would like Milwaukee to give Leon's it fair share of recognition. Personally, I like Leon's custard better than Kopps (Too sweet). Like loves, Leon's was my first and I don't think I wll ever change my loyalty to them. Plus, you havbe to love teh White shirts and ties.
I had the same experience at Maria's. I suspect that people might have themselves conviced that it's really great pizza when, actually, they've been waiting so long and are so hungry that they'll eat anything at that point. With all of the pizza variety in this town it's a wonder they stay in business.
We don't eat at Cafe Hollender in Tosa anymore. Of all the restaurants owned by that management group, they're the weak link - consistently slow service, waiting forever while an entire seciton of tables is left open for no apparent reason, no "give a care" from staff when an order gets mess up. Ugh!
We don't eat at Maria's anymore because when I took my family in on a Tuesday night, we finally woke up on Friday and still didn't have our pizza!
I have never waited so long in my entire life (pickup or eat-in) to receive food. One night I called at 4:30, was told it would be 45 minutes, and had to wait until almost 8:30 to get a single pizza. Stood there, too for 3+ hours in the place just waiting (nicely!). We kept thinking "oh, let's try again - it can't be like this all the time", but we were wrong. After trying time and again over two years or so and getting the exact same results, it was time to move on to someplace else in the neighborhood. Too bad, they seem really nice but the operation is a complete mess. Just bizarre.
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