By Alissa Lawton Special to Published Nov 17, 2010 at 9:45 AM

Having lived in Milwaukee for a decade, I’m well aware that we are very fortunate to have an abundance of amazing restaurants and bars and all within a small radius. One can enjoy any number of possibilities whether you’re a meat-and-potatoes person or an ethnic dining foodie. And of course if you like alcoholic beverages, from fine wine to $3 beer, we’ve got it.

Though I know I have the opportunity to indulge and enjoy in any food or beverage that strikes my fancy, I must admit, I often fall into location ruts. I have my handful of favorites that always pop into my mind, and I don’t bother to think about all the possibilities waiting to be discovered. It’s not a conscious or ill-willed judgment; I just have my usual spots. However, I’ve decided the saying is true; variety is the spice of life … especially in terms of food.

For instance, I went out to dinner with one of my favorite couples last Friday and concluded it was time to branch out a little. I’ve lived on the East Side the majority of the time I’ve been in Milwaukee and yet, I’ve never been to Cempazuchi, 1205 E. Brady Street.

I KNOW! For the longest time I thought it was an Indian restaurant. I knew I was in for something good when three seconds after I tweeted that I was a Cempazuchi dining virgin I had people messaging and "mentioning" back that it was a great place. Well, that, and the wait was an hour.

Once my dinner dates arrived we went up to the bar where I was immediately instructed by someone I thought could either be the manager or just an overly-friendly regular, to try the freshly made mango-pineapple margarita. It didn’t take much convincing and it was absolutely the right choice.

I love margaritas as much as the next person, but a pre-made mix margarita makes me feel like I’m at Chili’s. This was something else entirely. No syrupy sweetness or Kool-Aid artificial flavoring, just mashed up fruit and tequila … Mmm, I’ll have another, thanks!

As I said, the place was packed, so when we did finally sit down I was feeling my margarita and a half and was ready to eat. The peanut salsa was as amazing as my friend had told me it would be. I’m certain I could have had a big bowl of it with some chips and been happy. But I opted for the enchilada suiza and almost cleaned my plate.

After dinner we weren’t ready to go dancing, but we weren’t ready to call it a night either. Café Brucke, 2101 N. Prospect Ave., is a cozy little place near our two apartments and I’ve had their sangria so I was confident we’d find some good options there.

It wasn’t overly busy, but being the intimate little joint that it is, seating was limited. We nabbed a small table by the south window and while my German-blooded friends ordered dark beers with alcohol contents somewhere near nine percent, I was still in food coma bliss and went with a Pinot Grigio.

I have another confession; until last weekend I didn’t know how to play rummy. After discovering this information and a deck of cards, my friend’s husband didn’t give me the option of not learning. So, despite the fact that I always put up a fight when people suggest card or board games, I was in.

In turn, I always end up having more fun than anyone else. I had a little beginner’s luck and won the first game. It’s a really easy game to learn and though you’re supposed to play to 500 to determine the overall winner, you could play one or twenty games. This is one of those card games you can play with friends over drinks for hours or with your grandparents at otherwise boring family functions.

Either way, I highly recommend learning if you don’t already know how to play. I was less successful in the two subsequent games, and despite the lively jazz piano music filling the place we were all exhausted.

Cempazuchi was great, I definitely want to go back and try more of the menu items and drinks if I can manage not to immediately order another mango-pineapple margarita.

I’ve vowed to keep suggesting and trying places in Milwaukee, that aren’t necessarily new but are new to me, in an attempt to broaden my appreciation for our ethnically diverse local restaurant industry.

I stopped into Nessun Dorma just last week for a couple drinks. I haven’t been in there, or thought about it in over two years, and I’ve never eaten there. So, soon I will go again and partake in the menu. I’m not saying I’ll forget my old favorites, but I think it’s about time I ventured out a little. Who’s with me?

Alissa Lawton Special to

Alissa grew up on the near west side of Madison and had childhood dreams of being a veterinarian. Instead she moved to Milwaukee to attend college and attained a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from UW-Milwaukee. Previously an advertising copywriter and a marketing specialist, Alissa always preferred the writing aspect of her career.

An animal lover, a shoe lover and a white wine lover, she now resides on the much beloved East Side of Milwaukee in what she describes as an ancient apartment building full of character, but lacking sufficient electrical outlets and the convenience of an elevator.

To some she comes across as a shy wall flower, to those that know her much better she is a social butterfly, usually overdressed and wearing inappropriately uncomfortable shoes for nearly every occasion. Either way you choose to see her, Alissa has a strong desire to bring awareness to the social issues in our city while maintaining a sense of humor about herself and surroundings.