With the Pittsburgh Pirates in town this weekend, and the fact I lived in the ʻburgh for ﬁve years, OnMilwaukee.com has asked me to compare Milwaukee to the Steel City.
Since fantasy football season is upon us, I thought Iʼd do it in a CBSsportsline.com-inspired matchup style. Iʼll give the lowdown on a number of categories and give my opinion on which city has the "edge" in a head-to-head throwdown.
Let's get started ...
Letʼs face it, Milwaukee hasnʼt had this much fun on the diamond since mullets and Members Only jackets were in style. (Oh wait, I still see those at the ballpark!) At the time of this posting, the Brewers had sold out a franchise record 19 straight and 34 total games.
All three games against the Pirates are also sellouts. Brewers fever is all over Milwaukee. You canʼt walk into a store, restaurant, bar, etc., without seeing a number of true blue fans or bandwagon jumpers donning a Brewers hat, T-shirt or jersey.
The talk of the town in late August is (honestly!) more about the boys of summer and less about the men of fall. On the contrary, the Pirates have once again fallen victim to Steelers training camp. My friends in the ʻburgh canʼt tell you the score of the game, let alone the Bucs' place in the standings. PNC Park is one of the most beautiful in all of baseball, but when you can hear a pin drop, pretty isnʼt enough. While the Brewers are quickly approaching 3 million fans for the year and an average of more than 37,000. The Pirates are averaging just over 20,000 a night and probably wonʼt reach 2 million tickets sold. As the Brewers make a playoff push, the Pirates are just riding another one out.
OVERALL SPORTS SCENE
I am a die-hard Brewers, Bucks, Golden Eagles and Packers fan. In my mind nothing beats a Brewers game on a warm summer night (or hopefully a chilly October one!), a fall Sunday in Green Bay, or a day-night double header of hoops at the Bradley Center.
With that said, Pittsburgh has been one hell of a sports town the last few years.
The lone exception being the Pirates, the other "big three"-- Steelers, Penguins, and Pitt Panthers experienced tremendous success during my tenure in Pittsburgh. The city was alive and kicking all winter long thanks to a Super Bowl and NHL playoff appearances. Nothing cures the winter blues like touchdowns and lighting the lamp. I cannot even begin to describe what it was like to become a hockey fan or cover a team going all the way.
Plus, all three sports venues (Heinz Field, Mellon Arena, and PNC Park) are downtown and the "Pete" (aka Pittʼs Peterson event center) is right on campus. The locations alone allow the city to really get involved in the game, even if you donʼt have a ticket to get in the door.
I used to describe downtown Pittsburgh like this: During the day it seemed like a bustling metropolis with heavy auto traffic and people crowding the streets. Turn the clock forward to 5 p.m., though, and I'd swear someone called in a bomb threat. An overhead view of the city would reveal folks running to the exits. Itʼs a shame too, because downtown Pittsburgh is beautiful in its architecture and location on the Three Rivers.
One of the main reasons I moved back to Milwaukee was my longing for city life. OK, OK, we are not even close to New York City or Chicago, but compared to Pittsburgh, weʼve got it pretty good. Considering we are a "mid-sized" city, Milwaukee has a really great downtown. It is convenient and walk-able; we were rated 13th out of 40 cities in walk-ability. Pittsburgh was not ranked at all.
Milwaukee also has a decent number of available taxis. On any given night you can hail or call for a cab and will be whisked to your destination in 10-15 minutes. In Pittsburgh -- forget about it. Give yourself an hour or more. Better yet, use a car service.
Milwaukee has a plethora of apartments, houses, and condos in the Downtown area for a wide price range. On the ﬂip side, Pittsburgh is still sorely lacking in quality city housing. In the heart of downtown, there are a handful of luxury high rise apartments, but mid-range housing is few and far between.
Even when a potential city dweller checks out areas such as Shadyside or the South Side, they are met with limited resources. I would say that while in Pittsburgh 80 percent or more of the people I knew lived outside the city. In Milwaukee, I would say that number is closer to 40 percent in the ʻburbs, 60 percent city. (And 99 percent of the suburban friends are married. I only have two single friends who live outside the city limits.)
Another plus to Milwaukeeʼs Downtown -- its ample use of green and water space. I love that on any given night you can bike, run, eat, or drink outside. From the cityʼs dedication to keeping our parks and trails clean and open, to our townʼs restaurants and bars taking full advantage of nice weather with outdoor patios, Milwaukee really is a great city by a Great Lake.
Along with diamonds, good shopping is a girlʼs best friend. Iʼve been impressed upon my return to Milwaukee with the new options that have popped up all over downtown.
There is a great selection of locally owned stores; Alla Reed, Stephanie Hoerner, Lela, Envy, etc ... What is also encouraging are the number of bigger chain stores that have made the moved to Brew Town. Itʼs great to have an Anthropologie, Urban Outﬁtters and American Apparel all within walking distance or a short car ride from the center of the city.
However, Pittsburgh slightly trumps Milwaukee in retail. In addition to great boutiques, the city limits also boast a Saks Fifth Avenue, GAP, Banana Republic, JCrew, REI, Cole Hahn ... you get the point. Bigger names in the business of fashion dot the cityscape, and that has done wonders bringing more people downtown. Oh, and coming this fall to the ʻburgh is Nordstrom. Enough said.
I am a self proclaimed foodie. I love to eat and will try any cuisine at least once. I crave good Thai, Ethiopian and Mexican food; but also love a great burger or slice of pizza.
While in Pittsburgh, I went through MAJOR Mexican food withdrawal. In Western PA, Mad Mex" (aka TEX MEX) was considered "authentic." I took trips home for the enchiladas alone. Milwaukee takes the blue ribbon on its variety of ethnic foods.
Within walking distance of my apartment I can taste Thai, Mexican, Ethiopian, Chinese, and even Middle Eastern. I also love the number of outdoor dining options and incredible brunches. I could eat out in our fair city every day and never get bored.
With that said, Pittsburghʼs food scene was pretty darn good. Pittsburgh, much like Milwaukee, is a melting pot of European immigrants and the tastes of those countries followed. It was easy to ﬁnd a great meal -- especially if it was American inﬂuenced. Add to that, Pittsburgh had more than a dozen places to ﬁnd a great slice of pizza. (Not a whole pie, just a slice ... perfect!)
And if you plan on venturing east next weekend to watch the Crew take on the Pirates, be sure to stop by Primanti Bros. in the strip district or on Carson Street. I swear on my Nanaʼs grave, you wonʼt have a better sandwich than a steak and cheese with fries and coleslaw smothered between the bread. Heavenly!
Simply put, Milwaukeeans are known for their, umm, talent of throwing a few back. I love, love, love that you can ﬁnd a good spot any night of the week and the beer served in Wisconsin is second to none. Itʼs nice to know you can always discover a laid back scene where jeans and T-shirt are just as accepted as a sundress.
Even with its shot-and-a-beer mentality, Milwaukee has managed to balance out the late night scene with great spots like Balzac and Indulge where wine takes center stage.
I feel like every time I pick up the paper or check online, a new haunt is opening up. The best part of Miltownʼs nightlife? The summer patios. Heck, even if a bar doesnʼt have a patio, almost every place in town throws a few tables and chairs on the sidewalk encouraging residents to enjoy a drink under a bright moon and warm breeze.
Pittsburgh again is much like Milwaukee in its blue collar drinking habits, but the lack of patios and more low key bars hurt the cityʼs overall score. Also lacking after dark, young and single professionals. Pittsburgh has been dead last or in the bottom ﬁve of Forbes "Best Cities for Singles" list the last ﬁve years running.
OVERALL CITY LIFE:
Milwaukee is my home, and it was just named Americaʼs sexiest city. Game over.
Trenni Kusnierek is a sports reporter and radio host who has worked for networks such as ABC, Big Ten, MLB, and NFL. She is currently on 540 ESPN in Milwaukee on both the D-List and Broad Side. Kusnierek is also freelance writing and reporting until January, when she will leave on a service trip to India.
A graduate of Marquette University, she holds a degree in Broadcast and Electronic Journalism. An avid marathon runner, Kusnierek qualified for the 2010 Boston Marathon by running a 3:37:02 at the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee.