A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
Last night the kids and I had our only winter break restaurant meal at Juniper 61. I'd just spent $700 on car brakes, so it was one of those "what's another 40 bucks?" kind of indulgences. Enchanted by the tempura green beans, they began talking about opening a restaurant of their own. "Of course, you need a theme, a gimmick," said one. That, good food and service, enough operating capital, plenty customers, and lots of luck, I thought.
"Did you know all the Heinemann's restaurants closed the other day?" I asked. "Oh, no," they said, with some genuine sadness.
Heinemann's may have seemed old fashioned, but the food was always good, and the various Heinemann's locations had always been a part of their lives. When they were babies, Grandma and Grandpa in the White House, my parents, took them often to the Whitefish Bay location to show them off to their friends. There, they learned to eat baked oatmeal, breakfast sundaes, and turkey sausage.
Our own little nuclear family would sometimes stop at the Brookfield location after church. And once in awhile, we'd meet at the one on Mayfair Road after a school day at Whitman.
I can't remember a world without Heinemann's, either. When I was little, Dad would sometimes take me to the Heinemann's downtown. I think it was just east of the Milwaukee River on Wisconsin Avenue. And I think--I'm not checking facts here, these are just recollections--there were separate dining rooms for men only and for women and families. Imagine. Though that was before I became an indignant feminist: I was just excited to be there with my dad, he in his topcoat and fedora, me in my hat and gloves and patent leather shoes.
As ancient as that sounds, by the time I was going there with Dad, Heinemann's had already been in business some 30 years.
Sometime between my childhood and now, Heinemann's had a burst of glory years, opening all sorts of restaurants including the innovative Byron's, where Milwaukee's celebrity chef Sandy D'amato blossomed. Then over time, the Heinemann "empire" contracted. I don't know why, exactly, but I know that owner John Burns, a classmate of mine, had a major health crisis with longterm ramifications, and his then wife became the active, managing partner. I imagine it's a lot, managing an empire and a family.
Heinemann's may have been the only Milwaukee restaurant to be featured in National Geographic. Their grilled coffee cake captured the attention of writers, I think at that downtown location I visited with Dad.
In the BC years (before children), my husband and I often met friends at the Heinemann's on 76th Street for leisurely breakfast. We'd see the fathers of other friends there, having even longer and more leisurely breakfasts. I think they went there nearly every day, those old guys from Christ King.
I was there on September 11, 2001, having a spirited back room political debate with the men's group of the church I belonged to. Always liberal, they welcomed anyone, including women. It wasn't until I left for work that I heard the world-changing news on the radio.
The last time I went to Heinemann's Mayfair Road restaurant, it was closed. The building was about to be torn down and rebuilt, and there were plans for the restaurant to reopen there. Like many Tosans, I waited for that to happen, even after yet another burrito franchise opened up there and it became clear that a back lot location would be a deathkiss to anyone who dared to open there.
I think it's safe to speak for others here: we'll adjust to life without Heinemann's, but we wish we didn't have to.