Thanks to many dedicated people and businesses, Downtown is the heart of Milwaukee and the entire state of Wisconsin. This week, OnMilwaukee presents Milwaukee Downtown Week, sponsored, aptly, by Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21. For seven days, we will share stories, videos and photography profiling some of the neighborhood's best offerings and celebrating those who make it so great.
Milwaukee Downtown Employee Appreciation Week, by the way, runs July 31-Aug. 4.
419 E. Wells St.
Type of food: Chili, hot dogs and subs.
Prices: Chili, $6-7 (sides cost extra); hot dogs, $3-4.25; subs, $5.
Vegetarian friendly? Yes, and in fact, the new veggie chili is very convincing.
Hours: Monday through Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to midnight; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 a.m.; Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Real Chili: It’s not just for breakfast anymore.
That’s true. Even though it tastes better as a breakfast after bar-time, the iconic chili spot is pretty damned good for lunch, too.
Real Chili opened in Milwaukee in 1931, but technically speaking, the recipe goes back even further. Founder Francis Honesh worked at Chili John's in Green Bay, which opened around 1910 and is still in business. He sold the company to the Helfer family in the mid ‘70s.
Feel free to argue, but I contend Real Chili is the best chili in America. And it’s still pretty cheap.
You can get a bowl of chili with one 75-cent topping for under $7, but a soda will push you over.
My personal favorite: a bowl of mild, beans only, with cheese, onions, sour cream and oyster crackers. The cruets of chili-infused vinegar take this concoction to the next level, and I douse my bowl liberally. Along with a small Diet Coke (ya know, to keep it healthy), my lunch comes out to just over $10.
By the way, the ubiquitous "Real Chili: It's Not Just For Breakfast Anymore" bumper stickers have literally been plastered all the way to the South Pole (a wall of fame graces the northeast corner of the Downtown shop). The slogan actually comes from the late '70s, when the bars used to close at 4 a.m. Patrons stuck around till 7 a.m., and the legend grew from there.
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. 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.