Three locals — an award-winning newspaper columnist, a nationally known funnyman and one of the biggest collectors of self-taught art — share why they call Milwaukee their home.
Stingl is a beloved Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist who covers everything Milwaukee, from the weird to the wonderful. His column earned him the National Headliner Award for best local column in the country with its uncanny ability to track down the real stories behind all those oddball things that make Milwaukee.
What's your favorite Milwaukee hangout? "I don't think I've ever missed a Summerfest or a State Fair. I found evidence in my mother's diaries that I went to Summerfest even before it moved to the lakefront. In the summer, I love hanging out on a pontoon boat in the Milwaukee River. You pick it up in Pere Marquette Park, and you drive it up and down the river and into the harbor. Sometimes you can stop at bars along the way, but I'm not much of a bar guy."
Not a bar guy? This is Brew City! How about landmarks, since there are so many odd ones. "I love showing visitors that boathouse on [3133 N] Cambridge, and, of course, I get a kick out of those cars that are half-buried on the lawns at 2659 N Humboldt Avenue and 4531 S Lake Drive. The one on Lake Drive has a phone booth, airplane parts and all sorts of things."
What do you think surprises visitors about Brew City? "People are surprised at the wealth of food options. At the paper, one of the most common lunch trips is to go to the El Rey grocery story on Chavez Drive (elreyfoods.com). Their lunch counter serves the best tacos in town."
This art collector has amassed one of the most significant private collections of outsider and self-taught art in the country. He recently donated most of it — 312 pieces to be precise — to the Milwaukee Art Museum (www.mam.org). A special exhibit,Accidental Genius: Art from the Anthony Petullo Collection, runs through the first week of this month.
Your collection is featured at the Milwaukee Art Museum; you must have spent a good amount of time there. Any special tips? "Always take the headsets. The little placards don't tell you very much. If you spend an hour in the special exhibition, take another hour and go see something in the permanent collection. It's really worth it. And when you walk through Windover Hall [the main Calatrava addition that almost looks like a ship], turn around when you get to the bow and look up again. It's a very different sight."
When you're not looking at art, collecting art or listening to commentary about art, where do you go for an extra helping of culture? "The Milwaukee Rep (www.milwaukeerep.com). I'm a longtime subscriber of 30 years. I love the repertory theater. If we have visitors with kids, a great place to go is the zoo (milwaukeezoo.org). I also love the lakefront. My wife and I love dining, especially at the Lake Park Bistro (www.lakeparkbistro.com). I recommend the chef's menu of the day, but I also gravitate towards the trout or roasted chicken."
Any other favorite restaurants? "Crazy Water (www.crazywatermilwaukee.com) — Peg, the chef, makes great food with a good wine selection."
Filmgoers may remember him from The Princess Diaries, but here the local legend is best known for his one-man shows, including Emmy award-winning The Early Stories of John McGivern, which is about growing up as the third-born of six kids in an Irish Catholic Milwaukee family, and his Wisconsin-centric show on PBS, Around the Corner with John McGivern, in which he explores Milwaukee neighborhoods with his trademark breakneck comic speed.
You moved away from Milwaukee for a time, what changed? "I moved back in 2001. I had been away since 1978, and what I knew growing up, the smells of the breweries — Pabst, Schlitz — that was all gone. In its place was a much more active city. People are always surprised at just how rich downtown is. The Milwaukee Rep put Milwaukee on the map, and there are six union theater companies. For a city of this size, that's a lot."
Having been drawn back to the city, what are your favorite places? "The public market [where local vendors sell fresh food] (www.milwaukeepublicmarket.org). Then, in the Third Ward, the Broadway Theater Center (broadwaytheatrecenter.com), and, across the bridge, the new Next Act Theater (nextact.org). In my neighborhood, I always go to Buckley's on Cass and Wells (www.buckleysmilwaukee.com). It's a family- owned sort of place that reminds me of an Irish Pub. The owner, Mike, and his wife and their kids all work there. They've got great food and a great brunch."