Though long renowned for its family-friendly attractions like its zoo, museums and German restaurants, Milwaukee has a less-well-known destination with appeal to those whose tastes tend toward the arts of visual design, performance and (not surprisingly for Milwaukee), drinking and dining. The “Historic Third Ward,” for decades a district of produce warehouses, was transformed over a period of some twenty years into a vibrant collection of shops, art galleries, eating and drinking establishments and the Broadway Theatre Center, home to the Skylight Music Theatre and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. One the most recent additions to the area is the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, a newly constructed hotel right in the middle of the Third Ward and completely in sync with the vibe of the neighborhood. That vibe is in large part, a celebration of visual art as it is applied to modern urban lifestyle. The Third Ward is home to a number of art galleries, to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, to upscale home and office furnishings stores, fashion apparel boutiques, and to many of the city’s advertising agencies and graphic design firms. As the Third Ward’s first and only hotel, one would expect to see a distinctive architectural and interior design, and the Journeyman delivers on that expectation. A member of the Kimpton chain, the 158-room Journeyman follows the Kimpton philosophy of creating one-of-a-kind boutique hotels designed especially for each hotel’s location.
The Journeyman Hotel is smart, but unpretentious
This two-year-old hotel, though constructed from the ground up, matches the look of the mostly red brick buildings of the Third Ward. The hotel’s sleek look is evident as one enters the inviting lobby. Even after two years, the lobby looks brand new and shiny. The dark wood paneling, tan-colored wall coverings and the soft white tones of the granite counter and floors and wood ceilings give a warm, comforting feeling.
There’s even a touch of whimsy in the front desk, designed to look like a giant chest of drawers. It’s the sort of touch that together with smiles and friendly greetings from the hotel staff, is likely to make a guest feel relaxed and welcome upon their arrival. The lobby also includes a fireplace and comfortable lounge seating for conversation, and the nightly complementary beer and wine happy hour makes a good occasion to meet with friends or associate before leaving for a dinner or night out.
The Journeyman’s visual aesthetic, while appearing very much of “today,” is simple and unpretentious, neatly balancing the challenges of creating a special and memorable experience for guests while maintaining a comfortable and friendly environment. The “King Spa” room, which this writer sampled, is, as is typical of boutique hotels, not large, but large enough for two. The room decor follows the brown and soft-white color palette established in the lobby and rooms are decorated with art celebrating Milwaukee’s history. The room’s most unique feature is its bath spa – a walk-in shower room with a contemporary design free-standing tub (pictured). Windows of nearly floor to ceiling length look out on the busy and still-evolving street scene below.
Tre Rivali restaurant honors the neighborhood’s Italian-American heritage
The hotel’s single restaurant is Tre Rivali, with an Italian theme appropriate to the neighborhood’s history as an enclave of Italian immigrants. Tre Rivali’s Executive Chef is Heather Terhune, a former contestant of TV’s Top Chef, and she’s created a menu encompassing everything from simpler Italian fare like hand-made pastas and wood-fired pizzas to large plates of seafood, pork chops, chicken and steaks. Regional Wisconsin foods like cheeses and butternut squash apple soup are also featured. This writer enjoyed a flaky swordfish, accompanied by a rich and creamy corn flan. The menu also includes a selection of tapas that can be ordered as appetizers or in lieu of a single entrée. A particular highlight of this writer’s dinner was a dessert of a warm sticky toffee pudding cake, served with vanilla ice cream. Servers are dressed in a casual-chic uniform of perfectly pressed jeans and white and blue checked shirts that project a feeling of professionalism and friendliness.
Tre Rivali is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. With a décor of clean and bright white tiles, and a kitchen visible through a large plate glass window, the environment is perfect for any time of day. There’s even a special counter for quick orders of coffee and baked goods. Its bar is open from 5 pm to midnight daily, but late-night drinkers will likely prefer to head up to the ninth-floor rooftop bar called The Outsider. It includes indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating warmed by fire pits as well as a plastic enclosure that allows the deck to be used all year. Reports are, though, that the Outsider’s deck is one of Milwaukee’s most popular drinking spots during the warmer months.
Accessible to attractions and business centers
As comfortable as are the guest rooms, The Journeyman seems designed for travelers planning to explore outside them. While the Journeyman Hotel is perfectly situated for a short Milwaukee getaway focused on shopping, eating or show going in the Historic Third Ward, it’s also convenient to downtown offices, the Milwaukee Lakefront, downtown offices and professional sports team venues. It’s a short cab ride to the just opened (in August 2018) Fiserv Forum, home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks; and a longer, but manageable ride to Miller Park, where baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers play. The brand-new downtown streetcar, called “The Hop,” connects the Third Ward to the downtown business district, the Water Street nightlife area, the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and historic Pabst Theatre, and to the Amtrak station. The Journeyman’s central location makes it easily accessible to those arrive by car or who will be travelling around the metro area by car, which is not difficult given the usually light traffic and reasonable parking fees of the city.
While Milwaukee may not have enjoyed a reputation for big city sophistication, it has always maintained a level of vitality in its downtown that vanished in so many other American cities. The rise of the Third Ward and other parts of the downtown have given today’s Milwaukee more of a big city feel albeit at a slower pace and on a smaller scale. The Journeyman is both an example of that urban vibe and home base from which visitors can explore it.
Editor’s Note: Please also see Mr Olson’s review of nearby Skylight Theatre’s production of Hairspray
6:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
BREAKFAST:Monday – Friday
7:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
BRUNCH:Saturday & Sunday
8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
LUNCH:Monday – Friday
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
DINNER:Sunday – Thursday
5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Friday – Saturday
5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Photos provided by Journeyman Hotel except as noted
About the Author:
John Olson is an arts carnivore who is particularly a love of music, theatre and film. He studied piano, trombone and string bass into his college years, performing in bands and orchestras in high school and college, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While working as an advertising agency account manager, he began a second career as an arts journalist and is now principal of John Olson Communications, a marketing and public relations business serving arts and entertainment clients.