Local Life and Lore in Milwaukee

Everything you need to know to eat, drink, and talk like a Milwaukee local.
By: Kristine Hansen
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To eat, drink and talk like you were born and bred in Milwaukee, learn these terms, abbreviations and location nicknames.

Brew City: An affectionate term for Milwaukee given its history of hosting some of the country’s first beer barons, and that it’s the headquarters for Miller Brewing Company and, formerly, Pabst Brewing Company. Today there are a handful of microbreweries in the city, such as Lakefront and Sprecher.

Bubbler: The way to determine if your new friend or co-worker is a true Wisconsin native is to overhear him or her refer to a drinking fountain as a “bubbler.”

Cream City Brick: This off-white brick with a creamy hue, believed to be unique to Milwaukee, still exists inside many warehouse and loft buildings downtown, in the Third Ward and in Walker’s Point. Many condos and restaurants retained the brick as an ode to the city.

Cheesehead: What Wisconsin residents are often called by their Illinois and Minnesota neighbors. There’s even a foam hat in the shape of a wedge of cheese that’s often seen in the stands at Green Bay Packers games.

Fish Fry: You can blame the city’s deep German and Catholic roots for inaugurating -- and supporting -- this Friday-night tradition. Almost every restaurant in town offers a fish fry, from Japanese-style (with maki) at Izumi’s to a traditional buffet at the American Serb Hall, where there is even a walk-up or drive-up window. Depending on where you dine, the staples with your fish (which range from battered to deep-fried, broiled or baked) include coleslaw with mayonnaise and potato pancakes with applesauce.

Frozen Custard: It’s far more common to find frozen custard (a fluffy concoction made with eggs, plus the usual cream and sugar that ice cream contains) than ice cream and frozen yogurt at most places, and the best spots to try this delicacy out are at any of the dozens of Culver’s restaurant locations or the three Kopp’s Frozen Custard locations, where the flavors include such ingredients as red velvet cake, pretzels or Kona coffee.

Polish Flat: A housing style mostly found in Milwaukee, this is a two-story home with separate entrances, and with the units stacked instead of side-by-side.

Racing Sausages: During the seventh-inning stretch of each Brewers home game, a group of costumed actors representing ethnic sausages -- The Bratwurst, Polish Sausage, Italian Sausage, Chorizo and The Hot Dog -- run the bases while fans go wild, cheering their pick on.

The Shepherd: A weekly arts/entertainment paper with a liberal bent towards politics and officially called The Shepherd Express. It’s a good place to turn for movie times, restaurant reviews and community listings.

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