You're flying, taking the train or the bus into or out of Milwaukee, and you're hungry. Neither the airport, the new combined Amtrak and Greyhound stations, or even the Badger Bus depot, are conveniently located to much of anything within walking distance. So you're stuck with what you've got. Here's how to make the best of your limited choices when traveling to and from Milwaukee's transportation hubs:
General Mitchell International Airport
5300 S. Howell Ave.
Mitchell Field touts itself as a convenient airport and a good alternative to Chicago's O'Hare, with easy entry and exit and many non-stop flights, courtesy of its Midwest Airlines hub. And this is all true, but Milwaukee' airport dining options come up, unfortunately, a little less than world class. In its defense, many comparably-sized cities boast bigger airports because of their bigger airline hubs, like Pittsburgh and its US Airways presence, but when it comes to sit-down dining selections, Mitchell doesn't quite measure up.
Still, if you're hungry, you won't starve at Milwaukee's airport. On the visitor's side of the security checkpoints, you have basically two options: a food court with five restaurants, or one pricey restaurant / sports bar with a decent menu (and good views of the runways if you have a child that needs amusing).
At the food court, there's a Cinnabon, a Pizza Hut Express, a Usinger's stand (which may be unique to the airport) and a Burger King. Across, you'll find an Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shoppe and two Starbucks, split on each end of the main area.
The fast food options offer standard fare, while the Usinger's sells, among other sausages, a brat for $2.99 or a combo basket for $5.99.
The main restaurant in the airport is called either Gen. Mitchell's Café, Billy's Pub or the Miller Brewhouse, depending on what angle you're looking from. It actually offers a large menu, including some specialties -- like the "Old World Omelet" ($8.05), the "Brat & Knack" ($10.05) and the Wisconsin cheese soup ($4.60) -- that are locally inspired.
Other fare is equally pricey, though par for the course for other airports: a grilled cheese sandwich ($10.05), meatloaf ($14.05), Caesar salad ($5.30), Cuban panini ($10.05) and a Cobb salad ($13.05), to name a few. A cup of coffee will set you back $2.
Inside the security checkpoints, you have a handful of small restaurants and kiosks from which to choose:
Concourse C: Quizno's, Usinger's and Pizza Hut Express
Concourse D: Big Apple Bagels, Pizzeria Uno, Starbucks, TCBY and a Wolfgang Puck Kiosk
Concourse E: Usinger's and Pizza Hut Express
Amtrak and Greyhound Bus station
433 W. St. Paul Ave.
If you're underwhelmed by the airport's dining selection, you should probably avoid taking the train or the bus any time soon. The newly-renovated station claims it will be completed in November (which is but a week away). Technically, the $15.8 million public/private project is called the "Milwaukee intermodal station," and it combines the existing train station and the dilapidated old Greyhound station.
Despite the claims from the DOT's Web site, which says the station will provide "retail and food service," the station currently lacks any dining options, aside from vending machines. According to an Amtrak ticket agent, a middle area will be available for a restaurant to lease. "We heard rumors that a Subway is coming," he said, "but we're not sure."
In the meantime, your dining choices involve two soda machines, two snack machines and an ice cream machine. The soda machine includes Vitamin Water and Starbucks Frappuccinos ($2) and milk for $1.75.
The ice cream machine offers various flavors of frozen treats for $1.50. And for $2, you can get two flavors of Hot Pockets (ham and cheese, and egg and cheese), a hot beef burrito, or a sausage, egg and cheese burrito. We weren't sure how that food gets hot, since there wasn't a microwave nearby. Perhaps the machine itself heats the food, but we didn't take that chance.
Badger Bus Depot
635 N. James Lovell St.
Better eat before you hop that bus to Madison, because your only choices in this tiny terminal come from three small vending machines. There is also an unplugged, ancient and empty popcorn machine that looks like it popped its last kernel in the '70s.
You are literally devoid of food options before boarding the Megabus to Chicago or Minneapolis, because there is no Megabus station. You buy your tickets online and board on the corner by the train station or at a South Side park and ride. But stop complaining: a one-way ticket costs as little as $3. That's cheap enough to buy yourself a good meal when you get to the Windy City.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.