The Washington Times - January 14, 2009, 11:25PM

By Lisa Ruth and Jacquie Kubin, Donne Tempo Magazine

Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel is a magical place.


A gorgeous, gilded lobby features a grand “Great Gatsby” era staircase. Breathtakingly beautiful, the lobby’s domed ceiling mural greats guests with celestial cherubs, ornate golden accents and intricately designed wood floors.

“Salve,” or welcome, is proclaimed.

Here is where hallmarks of Victorian opulence abound.  Furniture is encased in warm textures and colors. For the mid-winter visitor, The Pfister emanates an old world, big fireplace kind of warmth.

Nowhere to be found is the slick cold steel and glass of new-age hotels where everything, from the reception desk lobby to the room has been designed to minimalist standards.

Sumptuous floral hues and warm textures envelop from the very first step.  With temperatures dipping into the low teens, thick carpeting, carved wood furnishings and gilt all visually wrap visitors in a comfort reinforced by a staff whose only concern is your well being.

Which leads to The Pfister being a truly great historic hotel.

Staircases, wide enough to accommodate the wide profile of the late 1800’s bustled walking gown, lead to expansive halls where each doorway is a measured distance apart.

Rich tapestry-like carpeting is plush. Antique crystal chandeliers and highly polished warm woods and crisp brass accents are plentiful.

From the front desk to the housekeeping staff the hotel boast lovely personalities and exceptional knowledge of both the property and the surroundings. It seems as this has been the destination of the elite, the quest of the hoi polloi, for decades.

And it has.

The grand hallways of The Pfister (Photo by Jacquie Kubin)

Simply, The Pfister is one of those properties that can transform a hotel stay into an event. It is a place to dream about. A place that, before leaving, you begin planning your return.

The property also houses the largest collection of 19th century Victorian art of any hotel in the world.

Once beyond the hall, the Pfisters’ guest rooms are exceptionally large and well appointed. This is not a room filled with the modern cruise-ship designs utilized to maximize space. 

This is a room designed with the comfort and luxury of a bye-gone era in mind. Remember those rather substantial dresses the ladies wore.

The original building and the recently renovated tower both offer guests rooms boasting fine linens from the bed to the bath, comfortable seating areas, high-speed Internet connections, leather-topped writing desks, and flat screen televisions.

Renovations have intelligently retained crown moldings and the original red and white marble bathrooms.  Each room includes reproductions of two paintings on display in the hotel’s common areas.

Our favorite detail, lovingly retained, is the convex guest room doors. A clamshell like “door-on-the door” was designed for guests to place their laundry or dry-cleaning, flat against the room’s door, behind the clamshell.

From that anterior spot, items would be collected, cleaned and returned without disturbing the guest inside.

Dining and cocktail options at the Pfister are outstanding for either lunch or dinner. On this cold winter-day the Mason Street Grille offered plenty of warmth and savory choices.

At the helm, Chef Weber works hard alongside his crew who are all dressed in crisp ivory with blue piping jackets and vests.  Here again the smallest detail is given full regard.

Chef Weber is a master of his art.  A wood oven sits at the center of his universe and from it are created wonderful flat bread pizzas.  A favorite being the bacon and caramelized onion with onions sliced so very thinly and swirled onto the cheese next to deep mahogany colored squares of apple-wood smoked bacon.

From the neighboring Lake Michigan comes crisp lake perch, perfectly fried retaining both moisture and flavor of the fish. 

Fried Clams at Mason Street Grill (Photo by Austin Kam-Chee)

From the Atlantic comes razor claims, dressed in buttermilk dressing and again fried to perfection.

Chef Mark explains that his clams are moist, meaty and flavorful because he demands the fresh, whole clams that he prepares. Yes, they are more expensive and require much more preparation than those delivered pre-sliced and floating in brine.

But the taste is incredible.  Neither chewy nor salty they are well worth the order.  This extra bit of culinary care speaks volumes on the Chef’s dedication to his craft.

When is a salad not just a salad? A very favorite flavor imbued dish is the Mason Street Chopped Salad.  This delight can only be described as having the flavors of the most wonderful egg-salad sandwich in the world — minus the bread!

Meticulously chopped lettuce – served at room temperature not icebox cold and tasteless – with tomatoes, onions and eggs layered with a wonderful mustard vinaigrette-dressing offer all the flavors of comfort food without the carbs.

If you can catch the chef’s ear, ask him his story of love and salad.  It will invoke a smile. Lunch is only a preview to dinner where wood grilled steaks and walleye pike are complemented by a truly robust wine room. (See our full Mason Street Grill review here)

Blu, voted Milwaukee’s most romantic bar, is truly spectacular.  The 23rd floor views are magnificent, and the atmosphere is impressive.

A Well Spa private shower (Photo by Jacquie Kubin)

Comfortable leather couches and a fireplace complete the setting.  Gregory Browning, one of the bartenders at Blu, is an added bonus. Here again, seek a story or two. 

This former Army infantryman and Pfister bellman, has many along with his awards for Best Bartender in Milwaukee.

The Pfister has a large variety of public spaces, from traditional meeting rooms to the enchanted Imperial Ballroom.

The Imperial Ballroom is the epitome of luxury.  Its crystal chandeliers, 32-foot ornate ceilings and in-room balconies create a breathtaking atmosphere for the most special occasions.

There is also a unique space on the 23rd floor, which offers a full-wall of windows and a panoramic view of downtown Milwaukee.

Well Spa and Janice Salon, located on the ground floor of the Pfister meet the standards set by the rest of the hotel.

Well Spa is a full-service spa with several unique features.  Guests remain in their private spa-room for all treatments, with therapists coming to them.  Service rooms conveniently include private bathing rooms with showers offering the epitome of private indulgence.

It is also the perfect location for bridal parties to receive pampering.  The Orchid Room acts as the center location for both spa and salon treatments.

There is simply no more special destination than the Pfister.  It is plush and comfortable, ornate and welcoming, and all around outstanding.
The Pfister Hotel
424 East Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
Phone:  414-273-8222
Fax:  414-273-5025


Lisa Ruth and Jacquie Kubin, editors Donne Tempo Magazine were both once mid-westerners and Milwaukee holds a special place in their hearts, no matter the season.