Milwaukee is justifiably famous for its handcrafted beers and locally made bratwurst—but if you’re looking for a souvenir of your visit, there are plenty of other fabulous ideas where those came from. From stylish men’s shoes to stunning stained glass, check out these 12 homegrown finds, and take a little piece of Cream City home with you.
Eat & Drink
Long a local favorite, the Spice House always delivers fresh herbs and spices, along with custom flavors to brighten up your cuisine. The Jumbo Ethnic Milwaukee variety package ($45.95) includes 10 different blends, each fashioned according to a local ethnic neighborhood. We love Old World Third Street—made from 31 ingredients, including sweet Hungarian paprika, garlic and Tellicherry black pepper.
You can’t visit Milwaukee without indulging in Wisconsin’s favorite snack: cheese. And there’s no better place than the Wisconsin Cheese Mart on Old World Third Street, which claims to have the “world’s largest selection of Wisconsin cheese.” You decide, after perusing the 175 flavors of wheels and wedges—and tasting them at the cheese bar, where you can pair your picks with wine or beer before wrapping up a hunk to go. The popular Artisan selection ($64) makes it easy to choose: 2.5 pounds of six Wisconsin farms cheeses, including the award-winning Gouda Marieke, a full-flavored, nutty cheese with crunchy bits of aged texture; and Dante Aged Sheep’s Milk, fresh from naturally grain-fed Wisconsin sheep.
Sure, you’ll want to toss back a few beers while in Milwaukee, but you’ll crave it again when you get home. So we say take a few with you. The Milwaukee Ale House offers six brews (sometimes more), all made on-site or at its new facility on Second Street. You can have a great meal, listen to live music, and then purchase six-packs of your favorite, like the flagship brand, Louie’s Demise ($8 per six-pack), a richly flavored amber whose name was inspired by an 1886 bar brawl.
In an old limestone Wisconsin wool mill from the 1860s, Cedar Creek Winery produces wines that are barrel-aged in a cool stone cellar. They use Vitis Vinefera grape varieties purchased from Washington, California or New York—think Chardonnay, Cabernet and Syrah—and French-American hybrids grown in Cedar Creek’s own Prairie du Sac vineyard along the Wisconsin River. Tour the winery, sample a few wines, and take home your favorite, like the award-winning Vidal (from $8.50 per bottle), a semi-dry white.
Feel like something a little stronger? Hemingway fans take note: Though absinthe was banned in the U.S. from 1912 to 2007 because the wormwood it’s derived from was thought to cause madness, it turns out that distilling wormwood makes it harmless—so Great Lakes Distillery does just that. Wisconsin’s first active distillery since Prohibition, Great Lakes was founded in 2004 and recently created the smooth, fennel-flavored Amerique 1912 Absinthe, based on a pre-ban recipe. Owner Guy Rehorst recommends drinking the 126-proof spirit as part of a cocktail, such as Great Lakes’ Corpse Reviver #2, which mixes gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, lemon juice and just a dash of the absinthe.
It’s not often that you’d want to spend $19K on an 8-inch-tall trinket. But if you do, we say go for the Man in the Moon, an objet d’art glass sculpture by Stueben, representative of the high-end selection at George Watts & Son. From Wedgwood to Vietri, you’ll discover rare, delicate works of art and china for your tabletops at Watts, open since 1870 and now in its fifth generation of family ownership. After shopping, hit the second floor Watts Tea Shop for a piece of scrumptious Sunshine Cake—an affordable $6. Also at George Watts—in fact, available only in Wisconsin at this store—are Dermond Peterson Design’s fine linen pillows ($200). Made in Milwaukee by sisters Sandra Dermond and Susan Peterson, these whimsical creations are hand-blocked with images of citrus fruits, fish or leafy geometrics. Each has a button or zipper enclosure and features water-based, environmentally friendly inks.
You never know what you’ll find at Rubin’s, Milwaukee’s favorite warehouse showroom for contemporary home furnishings, and an exclusive distributor of Italy’s Calligaris line. Our favorite? The glass-topped Florence table ($849) and lacquer Deja-vu chair set ($360 each), which can be customized with your choice of fabric such as “Agadir,” a geometric fleur-de-lis pattern.
Milwaukee men know that some of the finest shoes around are made just up the road in Port Washington at the Allen Edmonds factory. The six stylish designs of the Executive Collection ($285) feature 270-degree welted heel construction for a slimmer look. Added bonus: Each Allen Edmonds shoe in this line can be re-crafted, meaning that a pair of shoes you absolutely love can be made to look like new after years of wear.
Milwaukee artist Laura Goldstein’s great-grandfather Jacob Grotta began creating collars, cuffs and scarves back in 1890, and she carries on the tradition today in her artisan manufacturing studio in the Third Ward. Her scarf collection ($175) includes patterns like Tulip Garden, featuring lovely flowers superimposed on delicate text; Paris Street Map, with images of architecture in southern France; and, to commemorate your trip, the Milwaukee skyline.
Milwaukee architect and stained glass artist Michael Hecker has poured his creative energies into his tiny Oxford Studios—as well as into many historic Milwaukee homes. On a visit to Hecker’s East Side atelier, you can design your own stained glass art, have one custom designed or purchase something in stock, such as a 12-by-30-inch panel of irises.
And here’s one just for fun: The wacky, life-sized Racing Sausages have been rousing Milwaukee Brewers fans since the 1990s, and now you can bring one—or all five—home with you in bobblehead form ($19.99) from Wisconsin Active Sportswear. The latest addition to the group, Chorizo, is a sizzling fan favorite that adds zest to your dashboard, but Polish Sausage and Bratwurst are always hot on his trail. Each 9-inch figure is in his finest racing attire, in active pose on a Milwaukee Brewer pedestal.