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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

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Oriental Pharmacy's iconic T.
Oriental Pharmacy's iconic T.
An original Fuel Cafe T-shirt, circa 1994.
An original Fuel Cafe T-shirt, circa 1994.
It's true: Koppa's feeds the planet. Maybe even a few aliens, too.
It's true: Koppa's feeds the planet. Maybe even a few aliens, too.
I'm biased, but I think this old-school T-shirt is fab.
I'm biased, but I think this old-school T-shirt is fab.

Classic East Side T-shirts

This week, I plan to buy a commemorative Atomic Records T-shirt because the indie music shop, which opened in 1985, announced last month that it’s closing. I’ll add this T-shirt to my small but adored stack of classic East Side T-shirts.

My all-time favorite local T is my forest green "I’m Hooked On Oriental Drugs" shirt that I bought the day before the iconic pharmacy went out of business. At the time, I also had a light blue shirt just like it, but bought the extra one to have as a keepsake. I’m glad I did because around 1997, a former roommate snagged the light blue version.

My Fuel Café shirt is at least 13 years old, and it shows. I might have to retire this classic black-with-white-lettering gem because I don’t want to completely trash it. After all, I plan to will it to my grandchildren.

My Koppa’s Farwell Foods shirt is eight or nine years old, and I still love it, even though the capped sleeves are dated now. Finally, I included the shirt because we’ve created a number of really cool shirts, but this was my first OMC T-shirt and remains my very favorite to this day.

Certainly, there are many other time-honored East Side T-shirts out there, so if you have one or know of one, fill us in via the Talkback feature.

OK, that image is a little too optimistic.
OK, that image is a little too optimistic.

New Year brings thoughts about optimism

Recently, I’ve had a couple of discussions about optimism, probably because this word is floating around so much these days that it’s randomly infiltrating my bar talk. For the record, I consider myself to be an optimist, however, I know there is such a thing as too much "bright side" banter.

For example, I remember a high school guidance counselor having sickeningly optimistic posters in her office. You know, the one with cat hanging from a ball of yarn that reads, "Hang in there!" or another that reads, "If you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on."

Seriously, hog-tie me if I ever start saying stuff like this.

Timing is important with optimism. Naturally, when a friend tells you she has cancer, you wouldn’t pat her on the shoulder and say, "Don’t worry, be happy!" However, a reasonable amount of optimism is refreshing, especially considering the older I get, the harder it is to find.

People -- including myself -- sometimes become jaded after, oh, 30 or 35 when we realize life is, for most of us, a little less grandiose than we thought it might be.

I try to teach optimism to my kids, but like most things, it has to be modeled. Words alone are not enough, even though saying positive things is ideal if they are said with sincerity.

It’s annoying, for example, when Facebook "friends" continuously post negative status updates, yet nobody wants to read, "Molly is smelling the roses, making lemonade from lemons, practicing positive internal dialogue and sipping from a half-full glass."

I suggest more optimism in '09, but indeed, there’s a point when it becomes flat-out annoying. Optimists beware.

More delicious 'za in '09, I say!
More delicious 'za in '09, I say!

10 bars / restaurants I want to frequent in 2009

I just made a list of places I want to check out -- or spend more time in -- during the New Year. Here are my ’09 destinations, and feel free to add your own using the Talkback feature.

1.    BD’s Mongolian Grill, 598 W. Northshore Dr. or Genghis Kahn Mongolian Barbeque Restaurant, 725 N. Mayfair Rd. My kids love feeling in control of their diet and picking out what they eat, so it occurred to me that restaurants such as these -- where diners select raw meats and vegetables and then watch the chefs cook the food -- would be fun for them on a few levels.

2.    Blackbird, 3007 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Every time I go out in Bay View, I end up at Burnhearts or Sugar Maple. I really love both of these places, but I’m itching to visit Blackbird, a new, non-smoking bar that opened a few months ago. I’ve heard rumors of a Guns ‘N' Roses pinball machine that’s calling my name.

3.    Botanas, 816 S. 5th St. This is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Milwaukee and yet I only ate there once in 2008. I hope to triple my attendance rate in ’09.

4.    Bryant’s, 1579 S. 9th St. I stopped in the new Bryant’s shortly after it reopened this fall, but I’m already craving another Brainbuster. I’ll be there before the first thaw.

5.    Hector’s on Delaware, 3040 S. Delaware Ave. I’ve been to the Hector’s in Wauwatosa, but never the Bay View location. The Magic 8-Ball says it’s time to journey there, en pronto.

6.    Juniper 61, 6030 W. North Ave. I love Lulu Café & Cocktails, so I have no doubt this new restaurant that’s operated by the same ladies is worth visiting.

7.    La Merenda, 125 E. National Ave. I have never dined here, but my friend and coworker Julie Lawrence assures me I won’t be disappointed.

8.    Transfer Pizzeria, 101 W. Mitchell St. I walked into Transfer one time, just to eye it up, and it looked and smelled very appealing. I have a sitter line up for later this m…

Taco dip is top dog in the world of appetizers.
Taco dip is top dog in the world of appetizers.

Popular appetizers: 1960-present

This month has been a blur of holiday parties and gatherings, and during this festive timeframe, I make more appetizers in a few weeks than I usually do the rest of the year.

Because I’m in snack-making mode, I thought a lot about hors d'oeuvres lately, and for an unknown reason, challenged myself to find the top appetizer for each of the last four decades. How did I do?

1960s -- Cocktail franks floating in a sweet / spicy sauce and served in a chafing dish.
'70s -- Ham roll-ups made with ham, cream cheese and pickles.
'80s -- A bread bowl filled with spinach dip.
'90s -- Hummus with pita triangles or chips and salsa.
2000+ -- Sushi or in-season fruits /veggies.

Top timeless appetizer: Taco dip, sometimes referred to as "trailer trash taco dip," is loved by even the foodiest of foodies.

Other popular apps: Bacon-wrapped water chesnuts (aka rumaki), "pigs in a blanket" (mini hot dogs wrapped in a biscuit / crescent roll), fondue and  hot wings with blue cheese dressing.