10 Signs You're a True Milwaukeean

Milwaukee skyline
••• Milwaukee skyline. Tate Bunker

If you grew up in Milwaukee, or in its surrounding ‘burbs, and are speaking with someone for just a few minutes, eventually your born-and-bred Cream City personality will shine through. You know what a bubbler is, that fresh cheese-curds squeak, and that frozen custard is even better than ice cream.


You’ve bought beer in the morning.

I still remember one of my first Milwaukee moments. I was riding the bus and it was packed with people, including a seemingly intellectual person (reading a book!) with a six-pack of beer on his lap.

But with liquor laws dictating that no alcohol can be sold after 9 p.m., what’s a drinker to do?


You know what a bubbler is.

No, a “bubbler” is not a water fountain. It’s a drinking fountain! Do you know how this moniker came to be? Apparently back in the late 1800s, Kohler picked up the patent that was developed by Harlan Huckleby for a spout and dubbed it The Bubbler. At first, the water shot straight up but over time, an arc was formed, thank goodness.


How you pronounce the name of your town.

It’s Milwaukee (with an emphasis on the “l”) to out-of-towners but born and bred Milwaukeeans know that it’s really Mawaukee.


The suburbs have their own nicknames.

Stallis is West Allis and Wauwatosa is Tosa. The Sha is Waukesha, in Waukesha County. Pronouncing them in full just shows you’re not from here, period.


You’ve been to a fish fry.

This is where my Illinois upbringing failed me: I didn't know what to do with the applesauce.

My first fish fry was at American Serb Hall, on Milwaukee’s South Side, where patrons file into a banquet hall (or cruise through the drive-thru or approach the walk-up window) every Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. What you get are fish (usually cod) that’s deep-fried in beer batter or pan-fried with breading, either French fries or potato pancakes, applesauce, coleslaw, tartar sauce, lemon wedges and rye bread.

(By the way, you put the applesauce on top of the potato pancakes!)


You can weather a snowstorm.

The South shuts down when two inches of snow hits but we ram our car tires through the white fluffy stuff anyway. We also say things like, “Hey, it’s supposed to get up to TWENTY DEGREES tomorrow!” and rejoice in the fact that we don’t need to don a face mask or, for some of us, anything to cover our hands.


You’ve been to Leon’s or Kopp’s

Biting into a scoop of frozen custard is the best way to feel like this is your home. If you’re a real diehard then you check the flavor forecast at Kopp’s with three locations (Greenfield, Glendale and Brookfield) like you might the stock market.  And you don’t have to be told about the once-a-year flavors. For example, on St. Patrick’s Day it’s “Bailey’s Irish Cream Coffee”: Irish mocha custard with yogurt walnuts. Leon’s is so rooted in the past that a retro neon sign still hovers above the custard stand on South 27th Street and Oklahoma Avenue. It’s been in business since 1942. Daily flavors are always vanilla, chocolate and butter pecan—with a flavor of the day, too.


You’ve closed Wolski’s

This tiny, hole-in-the-wall tavern (http://www.wolskis.com) off of Brady Street on the East Side is as famous as its bumper sticker, which can be found on car bumpers around the U.S. as well as a Packers bar in New York City.

Nightly drink specials include $2.50 Leinekugel (“Leine’s,” as we call it) and MGD (that’s Miller Genuine Draft) on Tuesdays—and free popcorn, always. Wolski’s has been in business for over 100 years. The bumper sticker came to be during the 1970s when an all-day crowd formed on many occasions.


You remember the Journal and the Sentinel

In 1995, the city’s two daily papers merged into the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Before that, the Milwaukee Journal was published in the afternoon and the Milwaukee Sentinel in the morning. I moved to Milwaukee in 1997 so, to me, the daily printed news has always been the Journal Sentinel (or “the JS” for short). Hometowners often slip into calling the paper the Journal or the Sentinel


You’ve tasted the glory of fresh cheese curds.

These clunky wedges of cheese must be eaten shortly after they are made, which is why Clockshadow Creamery owner Bob Willis set up shop in the city’s Walker’s Point neighborhood—instead of Cedar Grove Cheese, his other creamery, in Plain (a two-hour drive from Milwaukee).