West of the River

If you’ve been Milwaukee for a substantial amount of time, chances are you’ve heard about “Riverwest”. It is a neighborhood that is exactly as the name implies: west of the river. What you probably don’t know, unless you’ve spent some time there yourself, is just how neat this area is. Here are my top 10 favorite things about this unique little neighborhood.

 

  1. Live music!

I’m a lover of live music. If you want to get me out of the house on a Friday or Saturday night (or any time of the week, really), this is one of the best ways to bribe me. Luckily, there are always events in RW with live music. Some of it is original music, and some are cover-bands, but all just as enjoyable as the next. Try Uptowner, Circle A Cafe, Riverwest Public Cooperative House, Art bar, or Highdive, among many others, to hear some great music. Another great way to find out about live music is by searching the events nearby on facebook!

 

 

  1. It is home to the oldest continuous running Tavern in Milwaukee

Uptowner is an old white building with chipping paint on the corner of Humboldt and Center street. It was established by a local family in 1884. During the prohibition era, Landmark and Puddler’s hall closed, putting them out of the competition for oldest continuous running Tavern in Milwaukee. Uptowner however, morphed into a local pharmacy. They were well known in the neighborhood for the special prescription, whiskey! Uptowner is known in Milwaukee as “home of the beautiful people” for the diverse crowd it brings in. You will always be out of place there, but so is every other customer. Everything about this unique bar encompasses the diversity and community feeling  in the Riverwest neighborhood.

  1. It’s kind to your taste buds  

After being a proud Riverwest inhabitant for over 6 months, I am still constantly finding new places to eat that are not only incredibly affordable, but will satisfy your tastebuds and soothe your soul. Want your date night to resemble an evening in Italy? The food at Centro Cafe is as close to the real thing as you’ll find in MKE. For taco Tuesday and discount margaritas, head to Cafe Corazon. Looking for something quick but refreshing? Swing by Fuel cafe for the Garden of Eatin sandwhich, or stop in on on Wednesdays for a burrito with MASHED POTATOES in it... yep you read that right! Other popular food spots include Dino’s restaurant, Kabob hut, the Riverwest Filling station, Company brewing, and Beer Bistro.

 

  1. The Historic pumping station

Since the 1870’s, the Milwaukee water supply has been drawn from Lake Michigan. At the time, there was only one location that pumped water from the lake to the community. In 1921, construction for the the Riverside Pumping Station began with floodwall which was 2 ft higher than the highest recorded flood. Although this may have seemed excessive initially, it proved to be very useful. In 1937 there was a flood just 2 inches short of the top of the wall, which saved the pumping station (aka the city’s only water supply YIKES!) You can see this historic station while taking a nice walk down riverwalk way, accessible on the west side of the river off of Locust Street. Given the amount of graffiti the wall has acquired over the years, it is now featured in an abundance of photographs found in articles, art projects, instagram news feeds, and art galleries.

  1. It IS safe neighborhood

Often times when I tell people I live in the RW area, I get a negative reaction regarding my safety. While Riverwest has had its fair share of crime including robberies and shootings, I challenge you to name a specific area of Milwaukee that has not faced its own challenges. Unfortunately, this is part of living in an urban neighborhood. However, RW is an incredibly tight knit community with a caring nature, and a strong passion to keep it as safe as possible. Not saying that other neighborhoods don’t strive for safety, but instead of turning a blind eye or saying “thank goodness it wasn't me” to crime, RW inhabitants turn to elected officials, organize neighborhood watch, and come together as a community to inform and protect one another. In this area, everyone looks after one another; it's by far one of the most inclusive and aware neighborhoods I've ever been a part of.

  1. It’s kind of the Art Mecca of Milwaukee

Because of its location in relation to downtown, and the UWM campus, Riverwest has had an increase in the amount of young adults living in the area. With its classic architecture, affordable housing, and creative community, it also attracts a number of local artists. Some great places to check out local art include Art Bar (on Burleigh Street), Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts (on Center Street), and Cream City Collectives (on Clarke Street).You can also see plenty of street art wondering around the neighborhood by Snail’s Crossing Playground, along the Beerline Trail, or down on the riverwalk. If you browse facebook, you can always find local art shows to hangout at as well!

 

  1. Talk about a melting pot!

The Riverwest community was known as an industrial based community with heavy German and Polish heritage until the 1960’s. When the Urban Renewal administration and Milwaukee County Expressway Commission programs began in the 60's and 70's, a large number of Puerto Rican and African American community members from the Southwest region of Milwaukee were displaced, and found their new homes in Riverwest. Shortly after, the lower east side had a significant increase in rent, prompting the "hippie" population to join the mix. In the last 3 years, it has become difficult to define Riverwest as one specific demographic given its great diversity. While there is a large population of blue collar workers, there are just as many artists, professionals, and students that inhabit the 1.7 square mile area. It is one of the most diverse neighborhoods socially, racially and economically, and it hold a strong sense of heritage and community that is bound to make anyone feel welcome.

 

  1. 21 and older

While water street is known well for it’s weekend festivities, most weekends I prefer a local watering hole or a small bar with a fun theme. Riverwest has plenty of poppin’ places to check out on your night off. Feeling tropical? Foundation (on Bremen) has fruity drinks and Tiki themed decor that’ll have you convinced you’re on a beach instead of surrounded by snow! Pool enthusiast? The Riverwest Tavern (on Auer Ave) has free pool all night Thursdays. On Mondays Art bar has free pool too, but that’s not all they have to offer. It’s also a unique place with decor made by local artists. Find a particular piece you like? They’re up for sale too! Other great bars in the area include Bosco’s (on Burleigh St), Black Husky Brewing (on Locust St), Riverwest Public House Cooperative (on Locust St), and Mad Planet (on Center St).

 

 

  1. Get Out of the House

Looking for something new to try? RW always has exciting, and affordable events going on, all you have to do is look! Upcoming events include:

-A variety of reading and writing workshops at the local bookstore: check out http://woodlandpattern.org/ for more information.

-Daily podcasts and talk-shows put on by locals at Riverwest Radio, tune into 104.1 or listen to previous episodes on https://www.riverwestradio.com/

-Vinyl Potluck at the Riverwest Public Cooperative House on March 15

-Comedy open mic and workshop at the Riverwest Public Cooperative house on March 18

-Chili cook off at Black Husky Brewing on March 24th

There are plenty more that can be found with a quick google search, or by looking on facebook.

  1. Dog Lovers Welcome

While everyone loves their furry friends, I think that when discussing RW, it’s especially important to note how dog friendly the neighborhood is. Nobody likes to feel torn between spending time with their friends, or their pets. Thankfully, in Riverwest there are several local bars (including Black Husky brewing, and Art Bar) which understand that pets are part of the family too. Stop in for a drink with your best bud, or swing by Roverwest Dog Park. Keep an eye out on the side of businesses if you’re out for a walk, many of them will offer free dog treats and water bowls to keep your pooch pleased!