A Total Loss

It’s been a crazy day in Milwaukee.  Overnight, a fire consumed a few local restaurants on the East side of town.  Consumed by the fire were the restaurants Pizza Man, Grecian Delight, Cush Lounge and the Black and White Cafe.  In addition to restaurants, there were apartments on the 2nd floor.  The damage has been declared a total loss.  However, thankfully, there were only a fewminor injuries.  The pictures are absolutely amazing – and there is no question that the neighborhood around the area will be changed by it for a long time.

I’m blogging about it for a couple reasons.  The first reason is that I love the neighborhood that it’s in and the personal connection I have to it.  I used to live a few blocks away and went to UW-Milwaukee (which is close – and most UWM students spend their weekends there).  My Aunt Jane lives only a few blocks away too.  If I spend any time in Milwaukee and I’m not downtown, I am on the East side.  (Which isn’t very often anymore…)  I’ve been to Grecian Delight and The Pizza Man before.  And, judging by the amount of devastated people that have commented on the night’s events on radio shows, Twitter and other mediums, there are a lot of connections to the area.  The bottom line is that the area won’t be the same – and it’s sad.

Perhaps the biggest reason why I’m blogging about the night’s event is because of my appreciation of local history and local restaurants.  And now, I’ve really learned that I have to practice that even more within my own community.  Chains should only be visited sparingly.  I’ve always loved little local restaurants and I think they’re a remarkable link between the community and the people within it.  Unfortunately, in the age of convenience and big chains, local restaurants get lost in shuffle.  I know I am guilty of it too – I go to Applebee’s and I’m a sucker for Panera and Starbucks.

However, when my husband and I go out of town, we  will not go to any chains.  We want the local experience.  When we’re in Chicago, we want real deep dish pizza – the original.  When I’m in DC, we will travel to U-Street just to go to Ben’s Chili Bowl.  It is so important to us, we will wander for a long time until we find something that’s acceptable to us.  For Valentine’s Day, my husband asked me where I’d rather go – a local steakhouse or a chain.  We like them both equally – but when it came down to it, we’d rather give money to the local business (no matter how cramped it may be).  🙂

Local restaurants are part of a community’s history.  They tell a story, and most importantly – they are part of a story.  The story of an area, a city – a small town.  It’s the story of how two people met, how a family spends time together or the best night you’ve ever had.  And, most of the time, they have some of the best food you’ll ever eat!

I encourage you to patronize local restaurants.  Go out of your way.  Don’t be afraid to walk into a strange place.  There may be a few duds (not everyone is perfect), but I think I can almost guarantee that you’ll be able to find something that you’ll talk about for a really long time.