I make a pretty good hermit. I love my home, and I’ve made an effort to make it into a comfortable place where I genuinely enjoy spending time. So it has been somewhat easy for me to avoid feeling cooped up, even as the pandemic droned on into 2021.
And yet, even as optimism built in the new year and vaccine roll-outs in Wisconsin offered the promise of a time when we can once again explore the world unfettered, I found myself physically, mentally and spiritually fatigued.
I wasn’t sure if there was anything that could jostle me out of my funk. But, when an opportunity arose to stay at the Dubbel Dutch Hotel, 817 N. Marshall St., I decided to give the idea of a “nearcation” a try. After all, maybe a change of scenery would assist in jogging my worry-soaked brain.
Historic digs, modern amenities
We checked into the hotel on a Thursday afternoon, an easy task since – thanks to the hotel’s contactless process – we’d been able to take care of everything online and had access to the secure passcode needed to get into the hotel and our room.
The beautiful historic double mansion dates back to 1898, and if you appreciate the charm of old world detail, you’ll find plenty, along with distinctly modern touches that make the hotel a well-appointed place to stay.
We booked the Milwaukee Suite, located on the third floor, so we had to lug our things up a few flights of stairs. But somehow, our remote location on the uppermost floor of the former double mansion, underscored the notion that we were getting away (truly) from our usual grind.
The suite provided far more room than the two of us needed (after all, it sleeps up to eight with two bedrooms and two pull-out sofa beds); but the spacious quarters offered the feel of an urban apartment. It's an element I loved as I made my way through the weekend, during which I divided my time between relaxing in the suite and exploring the neighborhood on foot.
The room comes complete with a large living room equipped with a comfortable couch (which doubles as a pull-out bed), a plush rug, coffee table and myriad outlets, along with a free-standing coat and luggage rack and two walls of original windows, which made for gorgeous sunlit quarters during the daylight hours.
An attached kitchenette (with a microwave, mini fridge and a full complement of dishes) gave us the option to store beverages and snacks, make popcorn and order food from local restaurants (and eat it on real plates!) during our stay.
The main bedroom offered a comfortable king bed, bedside tables with reading lights and outlets and an adjustable television that was easily viewable from either the bed or sitting area.
Just down the charmingly creaky hardwood hallway was a second bedroom with comfortable bunk beds (I took a nap on one during our stay) and an adorable turret with a couch (also a full size pull-out sofa bed) which I found made a perfect reading nook.
Meanwhile, the modern bathroom was relatively small, but well equipped with a Kohler tub (well sized for soaking with a glass of wine and a novel), a tiled standing shower and little amenities like locally made organic bath products.
Eating, drinking, relaxing
What did we do during our stay? A bit of everything and a great deal of nothing.
On our first night, we ordered out, taking full advantage of the proximity of Buckley’s, located just a block behind the hotel. We savored a shared salad, a Nashville hot chicken sandwich and a lobster roll with a bottle of wine over the dinner hour and then watched a bit of television later while enjoying a slice of their classic carrot cake.
I slept in a bit the next morning, waking up to the smell of the coffee my husband walked over to Fairgrounds Coffee + Tea to fetch while I was still dozing. We poured it into the Jean’s Clay Studio mugs we found in the cupboard of the kitchenette and sipped them slowly on the couch.
I’ll admit that I brought work with me. So, for a portion of the day, I got to test out the hotel’s high speed wi-fi (it’s great) and outlet placement (also great). But I also found time to relax and lollygag -- all good things that I don’t always get to do at home when other potential chores remain at hand.
Later that evening, I spiffed up and we slipped downstairs and enjoyed a socially distanced dinner from the Meat & Co. deli-inspired pop-up, which happened to be serving at the hotel that weekend. (The hotel has a full kitchen, but currently no operator; so it’s a fun place to get a taste of creative endeavors in the city).
After dinner, we poked our noses into the Dubbel Dutch Tavern to see how busy it was. To my delight, it was low key, with maybe three or four people enjoying drinks at well spaced tables. It was my first visit to a bar in a very long time, so indulging in a cocktail (made by someone else), felt particularly special.
As we sat, I felt something inside of me loosen and gradually unwind. It progressed as we silently watched the others at the bar, chatted between ourselves and engaged in a bit of banter with tavern manager Kelly Burns.
Maybe an hour later, we decided to try out the Dubbel Dutch Tavern's room service, purchasing a Chai Rye kit, to enjoy back upstairs in our room. We sat around on the couch playing games as we sipped our glasses of the batched bottled cocktail (Barrel-aged Limousine Rye & Twisted Path Chai Liqueur, turbinado syrup, bitters) cooled with ice and garnished with orange slices.
Exploring the city
The next day, we headed out to enjoy more of the city. The Dubbel Dutch’s location means we had plenty of choices. Cathedral Park is just a few blocks away and provides both a Bublr Bike station (flexible passes allow access to bikes to explore the Oak Leaf Trail, lakefront or any number of locales throughout the city) and easy access to The Hop, which provides easy access to a large portion of Downtown, plus easy walkable access to dining (there are around 50 eateries within a block or two of the route) and shopping on the East Side or in the Third Ward.
Saturday turned out to be a pretty gorgeous spring morning, so we took a leisurely stroll through nearby Juneau park, where we people-watched, read all the placards on the statues and enjoyed the beautiful Lake Michigan views.
When we got hungry, we popped over to the Brewers Hill neighborhood and enjoyed a leisurely brunch on the sidewalk patio at Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern, a breakfast and lunch spot where we indulged in biscuits and gravy, breakfast poutine and a bit of bubbly.
The wind was brisk on the hill, but the views were lovely, and I felt grateful as I held my hot cup of coffee in hand and soaked it all in.
From there, we found ourselves drawn back to the lake, more specifically the Milwaukee War Memorial. There, we stopped for a few moments to meditate upon the names etched in stone at the eternal flame.
Then we walked out on the overlook straddling Lake Michigan.
We gawked at the tiny people pushing strollers and walking dogs on the lakefront walkway and stopped to appreciate the unique view, which framed out the modern architecture of the Milwaukee Art Museum (also an easy walk from the hotel) against a backdrop that included the Hoan Bridge and a billowing smoke stack that hearkens back to the city’s industrial past.
From there, we moved on to Veteran’s Park, where we watched bikers pass, families frolic with their pups and a variety of amateur kite flyers take advantage of the feisty breezes.
For a few brief days, we became tourists in our own town. Free from the urgency and obligation of daily life, it felt good to relax and just soak in our surroundings, look up at the beautiful architecture I so often miss when driving by in my car, and reflect on how unique the city truly is.
In the end, it was a brief, but remarkably restorative break that not only allowed me to rejuvenate both physically and emotionally, but also allowed me to see the city (my city) in a new way.
Plan your nearcation
Looking to get away? Dubbel Dutch is currently offering a Milwaukee Day promotional rate good for up to 30% off regularly priced rooms. The discount is valid through April 18 for any stays booked through June 30, 2021. To take advantage, head to their web site and use discount code 414MKEDAY when you book online.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.