Tag Archives: Restaurant

Brewhouse Inn & Suites

Brewhouse Inn Entrance

Cotton-bunch clouds find their reflection in the 300 windows that scale the cream-colored brick facade of the Victorian Gothic factory as it towers over North 10th Street. The street is so quiet on a Friday morning, I swear I can almost hear the hum of a turn-of-the-century working brewery behind those brick walls– the bubbling of the copper kettles and the chatter of brewers at work. Sadly, beer hasn’t been brewed on these grounds in over 20 years. But from 1905 to 1996, that bustling hum could be heard across the dozen brewing buildings on the Pabst property.

Boutique Hotel Milwaukee | Brewhouse Inn & Suites

Pabst Brewing Company has its earliest roots in Best and Company brewery, established in 1844 by Jacob Best, Sr. and his four sons, Jacob, Jr., Charles, Phillip and Lorenz. In 1850, Charles and Lorenz left to open their own brewery, which would later become Miller Brewing Company. (Talented family, huh?) Phillip Best’s son-in-law, Frederick Pabst, bought into the business in 1864 and became the sole owner in 1888, and the brewery was renamed “Pabst Brewing Company” a year later.

Pabst Brewery around 1900
Pabst Brewery around 1900 (AP Photo/Pabst Mansion)

Somewhere in between Frederick taking ownership of Best’s brewery and the advent of Pabst, the shiny new brewery at 1215 North 10th Street was completed (1882, to be exact). Fun fact: the same year the building was erected, Best brewing began tying a blue silk ribbon around each bottle of their “Best Select” beer to represent all of the US and international awards they’d earned. The nickname “blue ribbon” became official in 1898, though the practice of tying the ribbons on the bottles ended in 1950.

Pabst Brewery Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Pabst became the nation’s largest in 1899 through the first half of the 20th century. The brewery was one of the first to welcome visitors for tours in 1907.

Abandoned Pabst Brewery by Paul Bialas
Photo by author Paul Bialas | brewerybooks.com

Except for a stint aging cheese in its cellars during prohibition, Best and then Pabst brewed the bubbly stuff at 1215 North 10th Street until the brewery suddenly shut down in 1996 under a new owner. The Cream City-brick building sat empty and abandoned for ten years.

Photo by author Paul Bialas | Pabst Brewery
Photo by author Paul Bialas | brewerybooks.com

In 2006, its savior– local real estate developer and philanthropist named Joseph A. Zilber– purchased 1215 and all of the surrounding Pabst buildings with the grand vision of creating a charming and sustainable new neighborhood known as “The Brewery.” He purchased the entire neighborhood, made it a historical landmark, and sold off the buildings to trusted developers.

Old Pabst Brewery Milwaukee

Gary Gorman and Gorman and Company, a developer specializing in adaptive reuse and historic properties, took on the project of creating a funky, luxurious boutique hotel at 1215, and Brewhouse Inn & Suites was completed in spring of 2013.

Hotel Lobby | Boutique Hotel Milwaukee

Gorman & Co. did an outstanding job with the renovation, expertly preserving some of the unique historic details of the brewery. The first brewhouse element that stands out as you enter the hotel lobby are the exposed copper kettles in the lobby. The bottom has been sliced off to reveal the inside of the still to hotel-goers as they enter.

Restored Pabst Brewery | Brewhouse Inn Milwaukee

What was originally the Pabst employee break room is now the breakfast nook for hotel guests. Gorman & Co. used reclaimed wood from the brewery to create sturdy, history-rich breakfast tables. In the building’s brewery days, the room was filled with free-flowing taps 24 hours a day. The room was called “the Blue Room” for the police officers who often stopped by for a beer after their shifts, and it’s still called “the Blue Room” today.

Pabst Brewery Restored Brewhouse Inn

Beams from the building’s original atrium were used to make a stunning sign handpainted by a local artist. The sign provides a focal point for the lobby along with the front desk, decorated with 1500 beer bottles. Original wooden archways beckon visitors into the heart of the hotel.

Copper Kettles at the Old Pabst Brewery

The sun-drenched atrium is lined with original wrought iron beams that surround the sparkling copper kettles. The developers knew they wanted to keep the kettles, so they used them as inspiration for the subtle but effective steampunk theme of the inn’s decor. Furniture was custom made by a local artisan, but the lovely spiral staircase in the atrium is an original.

Custom Furniture at Brewhouse Inn & Suites

Fun Fact: Phillip Best worked with a local coppersmith to design the first copper brew kettle. The coppersmith, AJ Langworthy, received a lifetime of free beer in return.

Stained Glass and Copper Kettles at Brewhouse Inn and Suites

A two-story stained glass window also sparkles in the atrium. It dipicts King Gambrinus, the “patron saint” of beer and was commissioned by Frederick Pabst himself.

Guest Room at Brewhouse Inn Milwaukee

The extended-stay hotel offers kitchenettes in each of its 90 rooms, and the rooms vary in size and amenities, from standard rooms to lofts and suites. The suites feature oyster shucking tables as an added luxury, and many rooms feature original wooden beams.

Suite at Brewhouse Inn Milwaukee

The nearby First German Methodist Church can be seen from the rooftop deck of the hotel. Rumor has it that Pabst beer was once pumped right into the church for the famous Wisconsin Friday Fish Fries. A Pabst microbrewery serving old Pabst recipes and gastropub cuisine is scheduled to open in 2017.

Best Place, Pabst Brewery, Milwaukee

A building across the street awaits redevelopment and will soon become apartments. Another building in the neighborhood is used as an education and student housing complex. The original 1880 Best Brewery headquarters adjacent to the inn serves as a beer tasting room and event space and offers historical tours that feature a visit to Captain Pabst’s fully restored office and the old infirmary-turned-speakeasy.

Jackson's Blue Ribbon Pub

Be sure to stop by Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub for a PBR during your visit, a bar and restaurant housed in the brewery’s old carriage house!


When you hear the word “Wisconsin,” or “Milwaukee,” your mouth likely begins to water for an ice-cold brew– maybe even a Pabst Brew Ribbon. The city and state have become synonymous with the bubbly beverage, and Wisconsinites have German-American immigrants Jacob Best and Frederick Pabst. Brewhouse Inn & Suites has done a magnificent job of breathing new life into this piece of Milwaukee history, and Jacob and Frederick would be proud of this beautiful inn where their legacy lives on.

Watch a video about hotel’s renovations here.

Brewhouse Inn Milwaukee | Renovated Pabst Brewery

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Engine Co. No. 3, Milwaukee

Historic Photos of Engine Co. No. 3 Milwaukee

The Hipstory

The Engine Company Number Three firehouse was built in 1904 in a Milwaukee fur trading quarter called Walker’s Point. It was built in a time when mustachioed firemen perched in the lookout tower to spot blazes for miles around. They slid down a copper pole to harnessed horses ready to pull both men and steam pumper swiftly to the site of the flames.

Engine Co. No. 3 Milwaukee History

Milwaukee firemen served the Walker’s Point neighborhood from the brown brick building at 217 W National Ave for 25 years until its tower was dismantled in 1930 and its doors were shackled shut. Over the next 84 years, the brown brick building sat vacant, floor rotting, ivy vines crawling across crumbling brick, fireman’s pole sold for its copper. It sat lonely and deserted, like a broken toy soldier.

Abandoned Firehouse Milwaukee

Until in 2013, when Peter and Sonia Sandroni blew the dust off the old firehouse and breathed new life back into it.

The Rebirth

Peter and Sonia opened their international tapas restaurant, La Merenda, in 2007. They drove by the firehouse every day, and finally, following six successful years at their first restaurant, they rescued the firehouse that had rescued so many before.

Engine Co. No. 3 Historic Restaurant Milwaukee

The structure of the building was in good shape– the Sandronis just had to patch a brick here and there– but they were starting with a skeleton. “There were no stairs,” remembers Sonia. “You had to jump to get to the second floor.”

Historic Firehouse Memorabilia Milwaukee Engine Co. No. 3

The Sandronis went to work restoring the original wood floors, brick interior and charming facade of the building. Reclaimed wood from throughout the building was used for the rebuild and will be used on the restaurant’s new outdoor deck, opening in 2017.

Inside Engine Co. No. 3 Hipstorical Restaurant Milwaukee

The original pulley door was replaced by a shiney new black glass door that now opens to the front patio on warm, sunny days. Though the lookout tower was gone when they arrived, the base of the original shaft can be seen from inside the front door.

The Tower Shaft at the Hipstorical Engine Co. No. 3

The Sandronis’ hard work paid off, and the new-old restaurant– Engine Co. No. 3— opened on September 9, 2014.

The Details

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: when it comes to Hipstoricals, it’s all in the details.

Engine Co. No. 3 teamed up with the Milwaukee Fire Historical Society to give the place its finishing touches. Framed badges are hung above the bar, and behind it on shelves are rusty lanterns, axes, hoses, bells, boots, and helmets. A focal point of the room is a 12-foot life net, hung on the wall that evokes images of a cartoon fire brigade rescue.

Life Net at Engine Co. No. 3 Milwaukee Hipstorical

At the back of the restaurant is half of a 400-pound, 30-foot fireman’s ladder; the other half is upstairs in the private party area. All of the items have either been donated or are on loan from the museum. Photos from the museum’s archives hang in frames on every wall, including one of the original crew from Engine Co. No. 3.

Hipstorical Firehouse Restaurant Milwaukee

The Menu

Sonia Sandroni is a native of Colombia, her husband has Italian and Irish heritage, and their butcher is South African. Combine those diverse backgrounds with the success of La Merenda’s international menu, and it only made sense for the team to create a new menu for Engine Co. No. 3 inspired by flavors and dishes from around the world.

Sonia Sandroni International Restaurant Milwaukee

My visit was during brunch, and so I had the difficult job of choosing between the South African Queen Brekki, the Quiche Lorraine from France, the Kolbasz and Paprika Krumpli from Hungary, and the Wisconsin Omelet, just to name a few.

Brunch Cocktails Milwaukee Restaurant
A Company Beermosa, made with New Glarus Spotted Cow and fresh-sqeezed OJ

Sonia and her team use farm-to-table ingredients from Wisconsin farmers. Engine Co.’s locally sourced meats are prepared by Engine Co. No. 3’s in-house butcher, Matthew, and the menu changes each season based on what’s fresh.

Best Restaurant in Milwaukee Engine Co. No. 3

“We tried to create a very unique menu, and it took a little time for people to get used to it,” says Sonia. “But La Merenda welcomes curious visitors from all over the world, and that’s what we wanted to do here too.”

Best Brunch in Milwaukee Engine Co. No. 3

My friend and I decided on the Hungarian dish– smoked Hungarian sausage, Bryntag Farms sweet potato puree, and three Brothers Farm sunny eggs– and the Colombian Patacon con Huevo– smashed and fried plantains with cilantro rice, Flyte Family Farm beans, hogao (a spiced tomato sauce), and fried sunny side up eggs. The latter was also enjoyed by President Obama who stopped by for a bite to eat when he was in town, and both were inexplicably delicious and unlike anything I’d tasted before– exactly what I’m looking for on my hipstorical travels!

International Cuisine Milwaukee Engine Co. No. 3


The old-school neighborhood of Walker’s Point may have been shy at first– unsure of the international flavors on the menu at Engine Co. No. 3. But I think it’s places like these are exactly what we need right now. Engine Co. No. 3 didn’t go running. They stayed put and were true to their uniqueness. They didn’t try to change who they were to fit the neighborhood. They waited for their neighbors to come around and become comfortable with the different.

Embrace the different. Be open to newcomers and new flavors from around the world. Be your unique, delicious self.

Engine Co. No. 3 Milwaukee

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Woodford Food + Beverage, Portland

Woodford Food & Beverage

Tucked into the Back Cove of Portland, Maine on Woodford’s Corner is a crown-shaped diner. A soft glow emanates from its picture windows. Inside, a young family snuggles into a corner booth, munching on burgers and fries. A grey-haired couple slices into their steaming plates of swordfish steak and baked stuffed lobster. A troupe of hip 20-somethings gathers at the bar as the mustachioed bartender prepares their hand-crafted cocktails. Vinyl records accompany the sound of the cocktail shaker and warm conversation. 

Craft Cocktails Portland

Woodford Food & Beverage (or Woodford F&B) is at the nexus of Woodford Street, Deering, and Forest Avenue. It’s the focal point where the neighbors of Portland come together.

Birch Shambaugh and Fayth Preyer came to the neighborhood in 2007 from Brooklyn to start their family. When they spotted the unusual building that housed a mortgage company at 660 Forest Avenue, they immediately thought “that should be a…”

Woodford F&B Portland

The couple did some digging and discovered that 660 Forest Avenue was the site of the very first Valle Steakhouse, built in the early 1940s. In the post-prohibition era when the steakhouse was built, Woodford’s Corner was a vibrant and bustling neighborhood epicenter, and Valle’s was the place to go for family celebrations, graduation, prom.

Valle's Steakhouse Portland | Woodford F&B

Donald Valle would go on to open 12 more restaurants along the eastern seaboard. His menu featured surf and turf favorites like prime rib and lobster, and at one point, Valle’s sold more lobster per week than anyone else in the country.

A fire damaged the first Valle’s Steakhouse at this location in the 1950s, and the current building was erected shortly thereafter in the shape of a crown to match the Valle’s iconic logo. The building eventually became Valle’s Main headquarters until the turn of the 21st century when it was taken over by a mortgage company.

Woodford F&B Front Window
Logo by Portland design firm Might & Main

Flash forward to to 2007. Birch and Fayth, seeing the building’s potential, write regular letters to the owner for years until, in 2014, the mortgage company goes belly up. “I got a phone call almost two years ago now, out of the blue, and he said, ‘well, you are persistent. Are you still interested?’” With his 6-week-old son in one arm and his phone in the other hand, Birch looked at Fayth, and Fayth looked at Birch and they just knew they had to take the leap.

Diner and Brasserie Portland

On a truly dismal February day, the couple entered the building for the first time. They sat on some folding chairs, surrounded by eerily empty offices, wires hanging like jungle vines, gnarly carpet and a busted fax machine and watched the bustling traffic through the giant picture windows.

Portland Diner and Brasserie

“There was a cognitive dissonance between the flurry of activity out there at this notoriously crazy intersection and how deceivingly calm it was in here,” says Birch. “It really took nothing more than that for us to know we’d made the right decision.” The two pulled their friend and chef Courtney Loreg into the fray and began their transformation.

Birch Shambaugh, Co-Owner of Woodford F&B
Birch Shambaugh, Co-Owner of Woodford F&B

Their goal was to create a cross-section where American roadside dining meets traditional brasserie with a touch of old-school lunch counter– and that’s exactly what the place evokes, centered around the long wraparound counter that welcomes diners by day and transforms to a chic bar by night.

Craft Cocktails in Portland

The space and all its angles presented some challenges for Birch and Fayth, but they decided to embrace the unique design quirks, starting with the ceilings lined with the original fir planks– the same color now as they were 50 years ago. “We loved them up a little bit and all of a sudden realized what a warm glow they provided,” says Birch.

Hipstorical Restaurant Portland Maine

Then, during the building’s demolition, they pulled up four inches of adhesive, flooring, and carpet to find the floor of their dreams in the terrazzo tiles that they lovingly restored. The ceiling and floor were the first pieces of the puzzle that helped inform many of the other design decisions that followed.

Woodford F&B's Welcoming Staff
Woodford F&B’s Welcoming Staff

It’s clear upon visiting Woodford F&B that great thought went into every detail of reimagining this unique and welcoming place, and Birch confirms that assumption. “I can’t tell you how long we labored over what the finish of the tile was going to be,” he says, “but ultimately it was clear as a bell to us that it should be a matte finish on big, square tiles.” It took the team two months to arrive at that decision.

Best food in Portland Maine
Some serious Deviled Eggs

The zinc counter top reflects the glowing sconces behind the bar, another detail designed by Birch and inspired by the linestra light fixtures developed in the 1950s as lighting for movie stars’ makeup mirrors.

Hip Diner Portland, Maine

An old IBM clock above the counter takes you back to the last day of elementary school, when you watched the second hand with anticipation as it ticked its way around to summer. Birch bought several clocks before he found the perfect one.

Best Burger in Portland Maine

The same thought and themes that went into the restaurant’s design also, unsurprisingly, went into creating the menu. Chef Courtney’s menu breathes new life into old comfort food favorites and regional dishes like deviled eggs and baked stuffed lobster, with a few odd balls in the mix to keep you on your toes. “The process of resuscitating some of these things and putting a little bit of our own spin on them reflects what we’re trying to accomplish in the physical space, says Birch. “We try to bring out the best in a dish that belongs in this environment.”

Steak Tartar Portland Maine
Steak Tartar

The result of all this thought and detail is an unpretentious neighborhood place with a very special energy. A place where you can have a burger and a beer at the bar after work and the same place where you go with your family and friends to celebrate with champagne and oysters.

Foie Gras Portland, Maine
Woodford F&B’s Foie Gras


Could this be a sign of a speeding up of change in this neighborhood? “Sure,” says Birch. “But what I see when I look around is vitality and life in a space that didn’t have it before.”

That rebirth and vitality is only possible because of the vision of Birch and Fayth. It all started that fortuitous day in 2007 when they spotted an old, stuffy mortgage building that most locals drove by each day without a passing thought.

Patrons at Woodford F&B in Portland

“Sometimes there’s a kind of epiphanous, eureka moment, with old buildings in particular,” says Birch. “There’s a smidgen of foresight, but often it’s as much luck and timing. And if and when it comes to fruition, sometimes it can be truly magical.”

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Babylon Restaurant, Raleigh

Babylon Moroccan Restaurant Raleigh

A wooden swinging gate is perched open at the entrance to Babylon. Exotic aromas and romantic decor draw diners through the gate and into a palatial courtyard, where a long pool reflects images of lush vines climbing brick walls.

Raleigh Restaurant Outdoor Seating

Through the door, hand-laid Moorish tiles cling to the ceiling, and lush velvet couches beckon to be lounged upon. Twelve-foot hanging drapes in rich red hues pull back to reveal a secret party room with sparkling chandeliers, and behind another hidden door is a private wine library for exclusive tastings of the finest reds and whites from around the world.

Moroccan Restaurant Raleigh Babylon

Lovers climb a back staircase to find a celebration space fit for the most elegant of brides and grooms (or brides and brides or grooms and grooms).

This is the opulent world of Babylon.

Raleigh Wedding Venue Babylon

Babylon’s Hipstory

The structure that’s now home to Babylon’s restaurant and event space was first built in 1900. From the building’s beginnings until it closed in 1930, it was home to the Melrose Textile Mill, which manufactured underbritches and bathing suits.

Melrose Knitting Mill Raleigh History

The business thrived with the coming of Raleigh’s first public swimming pool, but like so many mills, factories, and business across the country, it was hit hard by the stock market crash and closed its doors for good just a year after Black Tuesday.

Between 1930 and 2009, the building sat vacant, sad and lonely, save for a short stint when it housed a roofing company in the 1960s. Nobody knew it yet, but hosting that roofing company would bring the mill its savior.

Event Space Raleigh Babylon

In 1969, Abdul Zalal, a recent Afghani immigrant, began working at the roofing company and, in 1979, he bought the mill.

Though Abdul was the first to truly see the potential in this historic building, he didn’t quite have the means or the foresight to undertake a restoration. Instead, he installed a new roof, boarded up the windows, and left it vacant for several more years until Samad came along with a passion for history, food, and Morocco.

Raleigh Bar Babylon Restaurant

Like many people who are hipstorians at heart, Samad Hachby passed by the Melrose Knitting Mill for years, each time becoming more and more curious about its past and more and more excited about its future. A crumbling structure that many surely passed by each day without a second thought– to Samad, it was a diamond in the rough.

Outdoor Patio Raleigh Restaurant

The knitting mill finally got its day in the sun when, in 2009, Samad befriended the building’s owner, Abdul, and talked him out of turning it into a gym. Instead, the dilapidated mill was restored and reimagined with the creative, hipstorical passion of one Samad Hachby from Casablanca, Morocco.

Lamb Tagine Moroccan Restaurant Raleigh

Babylon restaurant honors Samad’s Moroccan roots and is designed to make you feel like you’re in a Moroccan home. The menu is inspired by traditional Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes and was first created by Samad himself as he experimented in the kitchen, recreating meals from his home country: bronzed chickpeas, harrira soup, braised lamb tagine, and couscous tfaya, to name a few.

Chicken Tagine Babylon Moroccan Restaurant

Samad was passionate about creating a truly authentic North African experience, so much so that he traveled home to Casablanca multiple times to bring back decor like the handmade marble tiles that cover the restaurant’s ceiling.

Babylon Restaurant Private Party Room

The restoration took two years and, in 2011, Samad opened Babylon’s doors with a warm Moroccan welcome.

And that’s just what we received at Babylon. With my cousin and friends in tow, we enjoyed an incredible meal of lamb and chicken tagine, couscous, calamari, sausage and bruschetta. Babylon was our North African oasis, a welcome escape from the North Carolina heat, where wine flowed as freely as mirthful conversation.

Cocktail menu Babylon Restaurant Raleigh


If it were not for an Afghani and a Moroccan, the Melrose Knitting Mill may have been lost forever. It may have crumbled.

Babylon is a beautiful reminder of the hard work of immigrants that American cities are built upon. This place represents so many American businesses. It represents America. Our country’s history would not be if it were not for the hard work of immigrants– immigrants who saw the potential in a place and built it up into something beautiful.

Any hipstorian knows how important it is to honor our history and heritage, and ours is one of immigrants. Let us work together to build up what has begun to crumble and to restore it– to reimagine it as something even more beautiful.

The former Babylon Restaurant is has been reimagined to incorporate Italian cuisine under the same owner and the same roof. Learn more about Mulino: www.mulinoraleigh.com.

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The Iron Horse Hotel, Milwaukee

Venture off the beaten path to Milwaukee’s historic Walker’s Point neighborhood. First founded in 1835 as a fur trading post, Walker’s Point saw massive development from the 1800s through the turn of the century as the industrial revolution swept through Milwaukee. Today, abandoned buildings are being adaptively reused for loft apartments like River Place Lofts, office suites like the Tannery, event space like the Pritzlaff building and hotels like The Iron Horse.

Historic Iron Horse Hotel | Milwaukee

The building that’s now home to The Iron Horse Hotel was originally built in 1907 by the architectural firm Buemming & Dick as a factory and warehouse for Berger Bedding Factory. Before it opened as the Iron Horse Hotel eight years ago, it was being used as cold storage.

Walker's Point Milwaukee History | Iron Horse

The hotel’s name pays homage to the railroad nearby and to the Harley Davidson museum across the bridge (“Iron Horse” is a Victorian term for a steam locomotive and a nickname for motorcycles). The facade is original, including this capital detail that inspired the hotel’s logo.

Iron Horse Hotel | Historic Architecture
Iron Horse detail on the building’s facade

Nearly all of the decor throughout the hotel is recycled, reused or repurposed. The bar, lined with 1920s drafting chairs, is made from the building’s original doors, and a giant copper mirror that hangs behind it has been repurposed from a stained glass church window in Pennsylvania.

Iron Horse Hotel | Repurposed
“Branded,” The Iron Horse bar

Developer and  carpenter by trade, owner Tim Dixon kept as much historical detail throughout the building as he could, including the boiler room door on the lower level that hides a private office.

Iron Horse Hotel History | Milwaukee

The Iron Horse is the last original timber-beamed building in Milwaukee, and the 300-year-old pine beams throughout the lobby give the room structure and strength.

Iron Horse Hotel | Adaptive Reuse
The lobby

The lobby’s wrought iron chandeliers are made from motorcycle parts, light fixtures are made from baked bean cans, and there is an enormous flag on a nearby wall made from 32 ½ pairs of Wrangler Jeans.

Upcycled Decor | Iron Horse Hotel
Upcycled chandeliers

Milwaukee’s famous Cream City Bricks that once protected the Berger mattresses from fire now separate the cozy lobby from the hotel restaurant, Smyth, which pays homage to the blacksmith. “Since we have a lot of motorcycle enthusiasts, we want someone to be able to step off their Harley and feel comfortable eating next to someone in a business suit,” says McGinnis.

Smyth Upscale Restaurant | Milwaukee
“Smyth,” the Iron Horse’s upscale restaurant

Photos tell the story of a local blacksmith’s work, and tables built with reclaimed elm are wrapped with copper to give the restaurant an industrial feel.

Smyth Gastronomic Restaurant | Milwaukee
Blacksmith art at “Smyth”

The menu is upscale casual and honors “the blacksmith and his craft by creating cuisine that reflects the handcrafted, soulful trade of transforming raw materials into works of art.” Try the Spanish octopus for starters, then choose between entrees like lake trout or duck breast with baby leek.

Smyth Restaurant | Iron Horse Hotel
Everything is hand crafted at Smyth

The hotel is also home to The Yard, an outdoor bar and restaurant with a more casual atmosphere and menu.

The Yard Bar and Restaurant | Milwaukee
The Yard patio

Cozy up in the working library, where tables are made from reclaimed factory parts and well-worn bucket chairs from the bank of London surround what once was a money vault and now acts as a fireplace.

The Library | Iron Horse Hotel | Milwaukee
The Iron Horse’s working library

The same artist who created the denim art, Charles Dwyer, is a childhood friend of The Iron Horse’s owner and created most of the art throughout the hotel. He even mentored a homeless man he encountered on the street, Jerry Pfeil, and taught him how to draw. Jerry’s art hangs in the hotel bar: Branded.

Local Art | Milwaukee Hotel
Funky art by Jerry Pfeil in the “Branded” bar

The Iron Horse loves out-of-town visitors, but they also work hard to cultivate a community space for locals, with activities, events and workspace for Milwaukeeans. “Local is really important to us,” says Iron Horse Senior Sales Manager Katie McGinnis. That’s why the hotel bar features local beer, and their Friday happy hour offers discounts on local drinks.

Bittercube Bitters | Cocktail Elixirs
Custom cocktail elixirs made for Iron Horse by Bittercube Bitters, a Milwaukee company

A local company makes cocktail elixirs, available in your room’s mini fridge, and local artist Charles Dwyer created murals for the guest rooms that depict the beauty of Milwaukee women.

Charles Dwyer Murals | Iron Horse Hotel
Charles Dwyer murals in Iron Horse’s guest roomsEach of the boutique hotel’s 100 rooms features a desk, chair, table, and big, roomy bathrooms with walk-in showers.

Boutique Hotel Rooms | Iron Horse Milwaukee

To cater to the motorcyclists the hotel welcomes from the Harley Davidson Museum across the river, the custom-made, Iron-Horse-shaped hooks along the wall hold up to 80 pounds for motorcycle gear (or wedding and bridesmaid dresses–whatever you need!)

Iron Horse | Milwaukee Motorcycle Hotel
Custom Iron Horse hooks to hold biker gear or bridesmaid dresses

When it comes to recreating a thoughtful and inventive new space from a priceless piece of history, it’s all in the details. Iron Horse does details. From the original timber beams to the Cream City Brick, and the hand-crafted, repurposed tables and chandeliers, Tim Dixon and his team have perfectly combined history and creativity to create a cozy and inviting space for everyone from a blushing bride to a badass biker. Book a room for your next visit to Milwaukee, enjoy a meal at Smyth, or a drink at Branded or The Yard. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from– stop into the Iron Horse, and you’ll feel at home.

History of the Iron Horse Hotel | Milwaukee

As featured on Nick and Danielle’s Milwaukee date on The Bachelor.

Suggestions for more hipstorical places in Milwaukee? Email me and help me build my archives!

The Silver Dollar, Louisville

If you’ve never been to the Kentucky Derby, add it to your bucket list. It’s one of the coolest and most unique experiences I’ve found in my travels in the U.S. And while you’re in Louisville, make a visit to The Silver Dollar.

Louisville Firehouse Restaurant

Built in 1890, the Silver Dollar’s first life began as the Hook and Ladder Co. No. 3 firehouse. Named for the school board president Albert A. Stoll, it was one of the oldest operating firehouses in the country until it closed down in 2009 and became The Silver Dollar. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is located in the Clifton preservation district of Louisville.

Silver Dollar Exterior Louisville

Nextdoor is the Hilltop Theater, which has recently been restored and is looking for a business owner to give it new life. Oh, how I ache to move to Louisville to light up that vintage marquee and make this theater a snazzy speakeasy or hip music venue with craft beer and artisan cocktails. I’m working on finding an investor…

Silver Dollar Interior

My favorite hipstorical places are those that have done their best to preserve original details from the building’s original purpose. And during this restoration project, Shine Contracting did just that. From the outside, the Silver Dollar’s firehouse facade stays true to its roots, but with a fresh coat of red paint, no doubt. One of the three original fire poles is still in the building, and they’ve preserved the 60-year-old hand-painted map of Louisville used by firefighters for decades. Original call boxes still hang above the booths inside.

Silver Dollar Map

Where the kitchen now stands was once a horse stable. Yes, a horse stable. I don’t know about you, but when I think of fire station, I think of ear-piercing sirens and big red trucks. But The Hook and Ladder Co. was around far before firetrucks were fueled by gasoline. In the early days of the firehouse, fires were fought by men arriving by horse and carriage and steam pumper.

Silver Dollar Interior Louisville

The vision behind this charming little barbecue joint was to reimagine the honky tonks of 20th century California, birthed by a subculture of southerners who came to California during the dustbowl. The owners have done a fantastic job of creating a truly unique space and a delicious menu inspired by flavors of the south with modern twists. Try. the. Chicken and waffles. You will not be sorry. I didn’t even get photos of the food. There was no time. It was too delicious.

Silver Dollar Menu Louisville

I visited The Silver Dollar with cousins and friends on a lovely evening in May. We sipped Mint Juleps and Kentucky Mules on the back patio.

Silver Dollar Patio Louisville

We weren’t quite adventurous enough to try the pickled pig’s feet or fried chicken livers on the menu (exactly the two things my dad would have ordered if he were there). But from the beef brisket to the fried catfish, all of my cousins and I enjoyed our meals and the fun, honky tonk atmosphere of The Silver Dollar.

Cousins at Silver Dollar Louisville

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Hotel Tango, Indianapolis

We had flown into Indianapolis for the Kentucky Derby and found ourselves wandering down Virginia Avenue. I spotted Hotel Tango, set back from the road, and was immediately drawn to the charming brick building.

Hotel Tango Facade

I was snapping photos when a cat with no tail sprinted out from around the corner of the building and slithered under a car in the parking lot. Minutes later a man emerged from the front door. “Have you seen a cat?” We pointed to the car, he coaxed the cat out, and all was right with the world. Hotel Tango wasn’t open for another hour, but Brian, the cat chaser, was kind enough to welcome us in.

Hotel Tango is an “artisan distillery.” What does that mean? All of their liquors are made with care in small batches and distributed mostly in Indiana and neighboring Ohio. It’s like a microbrewery in the liquor world. It’s about quality, not quantity. And that’s very apparent as soon as you walk into Hotel Tango.

Hotel Tango 7

The first thing that struck me was the lovely hand-built stone fireplace that serves as a focal point for the distillery and for the community, as chilly hipsters come in from the cold to warm their outsides by the fire and their insides with a craft cocktail.

Fletcher, the cat with no tail, watched over us as he lounged on the iron spiral staircase. We sat at the bar with Brian and let the artisan liquors trickle down our throats as he told us tales of rum, passion and Indy legend.

Hotel Tango 4

The Hipstory of the Building

The building that now houses Hotel Tango dates back to the late 1800s and was originally used as a carriage repair shop. You can still see the ridges in the floor where the mule turned the turnstyle. When a funeral home was built in what’s now the Hotel Tango parking lot, the distillery served as a repair shop for hearse carriages. This is when the building falls into the path of an Indianapolis legend.

Main Hotel Tango

In the 1910s, the local coroner began blackmailing the wealthy family members of Indianapolis deceased who had been brought to the funeral home. He would threaten to tell the courts that their deaths were suicides if the families didn’t fork over a portion of the life insurance money. The coroner was eventually found guilty and sent to prison.

When cars became ubiquitous in America, the building became a car repair shop, then a machine shop in the 1960s, and a garage again for a few years before Travis and Brian came along.

Hotel Tango 1

The Story of Hotel Tango

Owners Travis (aka “Tango”) and Brian met when Travis was in law school with Brian’s (now) wife. Brian was in real estate when Travis graduated and decided to leave the struggling housing market behind to join Travis in pursing their real passion: opening a craft distillery.

Hotel Tango 2

Travis and Brian got their permit to open a distillery in 2013, found an investor in 2014, and began the 100-day construction on the building in the summer of 2014. They thanked their lawyer wives for their support, brought in Travis’s brother Taylor as master distiller, and sandblasted the thick layers of green and white paint to uncover the beautiful brick facade that is now Hotel Tango.

Old doors from the building were used to build tables, and planks from the reconstruction were used to build the bar. Travis’s father, a third generation brick mason, built the stunning stone fireplace.

Hotel Tango 6

Brian and Travis opened their doors in September of 2014 as the first distillery in Indianapolis since before prohibition. Hotel Tango started with vodka and rum and have since dabbled with whiskey, gin, and some fruity liquors. And we tried them all.

The name “Hotel Tango” comes from the monogram of owner Travis and his wife Hilary. After having served multiple tours in Iraq, Travis was intimately familiar with the NATO phonetic alphabet. “Hotel” for Hilary and “Tango” for Travis. Voila. The distillery’s liquors follow suit: Golf Gin, Victor Vodka, and so on.

Hotel Tango 3

I had planned out several Hipstorical places to visit in Indy, but Hotel Tango was one that I just stumbled upon. Every traveler knows that it’s the hidden gems and the spontaneous local interactions that make for the most memorable travel experiences, and that’s certainly what Hotel Tango was for me. Brian was so incredibly kind to take the time to talk with us before the distillery had even opened for the day. He didn’t have to open the door, he didn’t have to tell us stories or offer us a drink, but I guess that’s kind of the Indianapolis spirit.

Suggestions for more hipstorical places in Indiana? Email me and help me build my archives!

Eleven City Diner, Chicago

Eleven City Diner was created by its owner Brad Rubin to  bring its patrons back in time to the 1940s and 1950s when the country was alive with post-war celebrations, when the Andrews Sisters and Bing Crosby crooned from the radios of the family Studebaker’s radio, and neon lights beckoned diners to climb into a leather-button booth to enjoy a cozy  bowl of matzoh ball soup.

Hipstorical: Eleven City Diner Chicago Interior

You may not arrive in a 1945 Studebaker, but the neon lights still glow brightly, and the crackle of WWII-era tunes set the scene perfectly for a DELIcious meal at Eleven City Diner. Located in the South Loop, the building was once home to a printing press and then a bank before it began hosting hungry Chicagoans.


Our meal started with an incredible Knish– a light, flaky pillow of dough erupting with mashed potatos or meat, depending on which variety you prefer. (I unfortunately was so hungry upon receiving the first course that I failed to snap a picture. It was just that delicious). Next, I had my first taste of motzoh ball soup (pictured below), which immediately comforted and warmed me from the inside–as if I had a loving Jewish grandmother who’d been brewing it for me since I was a child.

Hipstorical: Eleven City Diner Chicago Motzah Ball Soup

And for the main course:  the #43: corned beef piled high, on an old-school latke (potato pancake), smear of sour cream, topped with fried onion strings on a twisted challah roll–although we switch out the corned beef for turkey pastrami. (See this stunning pile of meat below). This may have been the best sandwich I’ve ever had.

Hipstorical: Eleven City Diner Chicago Deli

A hipstorian tip: invite a friend for lunch and split a sandwich–I promise you won’t go home hungry.

Eleven offers a full menu that includes its all-day breakfast, mac and cheese, salads, deli sandwiches, melts, brisket, dinner plates, burgers and dogs, old-fashioned sodas and floats from the fountain, shakes, malts, and banana splits. Stop by the old-fashioned candy counter on the way out to fill up a satchel of your favorite sweets. Or visit Eleven’s other location in Lincoln Park!

Hipstorical: Eleven City Diner Chicago Candy Counter

Motzah ball, challah bread, knish, latke, pastrami– all firsts for me, and all in one meal. Visit Eleven City Diner to experience a vibrant culture and time in history through its hipstorical setting and incredible food!

Hipstorical: Eleven City Diner Chicago Exterior

Suggestions for more hipstorical places in Chicago? Email me and help me build my archives!