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Milwaukee or Birmingham?

I have the option to move to either Milwaukee or Birmingham. All else being equal in terms of my career opportunities, which place has the best: food (high priority), affordable shopping(high priority), travel options, affordable salons, cost of living, job options for significant other, etc...? BTW, I'm from the East Coast close to NYC. Looking for opinions about all or any of these things. Thanks!

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  1. I'd consider weather and regional culture, too - you're used to seasons not unlike Wisconsin's, including winters. As much as I loved Nashville, I dreaded winter, because in the South snow and rumors of snow shuts everything down; the stores run out of bread and toilet paper and parties get cancelled. Then when the locals do go out they don't know how to drive on it. And while summer in Wisconsin can be muggy, the Southeast INVENTED muggy.

    Birmingham has come a long way, and there've been some fine young chefs there over the last thirty years or so, but leave the city and you'd better like Southern; I do, but I like variety, too. I know more about Madison's food and culture than Milwaukee's, but I'd expect more similarities than differences, politics aside. It's also more like your current area in that there are several large metropolitan areas grouped fairly close to each other; not as sharply adjacent as NYC's satellites, but not hundreds of miles apart, either. In my estimation the good part about that is all the good stuff that's grown in between those cities, the cheese and butter and bacon that's made, the fish that are pulled from the lakes.

    You do need to do your own digging and ask your own questions, of course. As you are here.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Will Owen

      Thanks for the reply! I am considering the weather and I have to say, I've never been accustomed to the cold. I just can't do it. It's only out of habit that I'm still in the Northeast :) But I also don't know how I'd feel about really humid summers either. Probably better than really cold, snowy winters...

      1. re: shadesnarts

        The Southeastern winter is much less cold than yours, but a lot more miserable in that it's mostly chilly and wet, and then you'll get a warm false spring followed by ice storms, invariably AFTER the wisteria or peach or whatever spring thing you like has begun to bud. On the other hand, we made one trip to Chicago and loved it, but Mrs. O is so cold-averse (and badly affected by lack of daylight) that we just couldn't possibly live there year-around. You pays your money …

    2. My only comment is that Milwaukee is only about 90 minutes from Chicago, easy enough to do on a day trip. There's even a direct Amtrak train. I guess Birmingham is about 2 hours from Atlanta, and while Atlanta is cool, I'd rather live closer to Chicago :)

      1. Do you need to live in Milwaukee proper or in the burbs?

        Milwaukee and surrounding areas have outstanding dining options and other cultural attractions. Definitely not NYC caliber tho.

        General Mitchell Int'l Airport is a nice airport and very accessible.

        Salons = dirt cheap in comparison to NYC.

        Cost of living depends on where. Property taxes are high.

        Winters SUCK!!! BUT, it's a quick 3 hour, same time zone flight to Mexico.
        ;)

        1 Reply
        1. re: Scoutmaster

          Haha! Mexico=nice work. I think I'd want to be in Milwaukee proper. And the airport was so stress-free in comparison to, say, JFK.

        2. Hi folks. We'd like to ask that replies to Shadesnarts be focused on the chow in the cities of his/her choice. Sorry, but the other requirements are really off topic here. Thanks so much.

          1. I've never been to Birmingham, so I have no basis of comparison, but my sister lives in Milwaukee and the food options there are just amazing. They've got all the "traditional" food: fish fry, German and other ethnic food, custard, etc. And, they've also got some really great newer restaurants doing some really creative stuff. Add in the breweries and even a distillery and it's just a great food town.

            1. If you are from the NYC environs, both of these places will be a culture shock. You will only have a fraction of the options on the criteria you mention in your original post.

              That being said, the weather in Milwaukee is COLD. Lots of SNOW. Wind blows off Lake Michigan, freezing!! Long winters. Much milder weather in Birmingham, AL.

              A few years back, the NYTimes offered a guide for dining in Birmingham. Sounds pretty good, and is probably even better now.

              http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/12/15/...

              And this local current guide:

              http://www.birminghamrestaurants.com/

              Also, looks like Birmingham is within driving distance of the warm Gulf beaches, and also New Orleans. I'd personally vote for Birmingham, given that choice of the 2.

              1. I spent three days in Milwaukee last summer. It was kind of hard to find exciting food. One tapas restaurant really was hyped, but when I excitedly ordered the local vegetables dish there, it came out as soggy potatoes and not much else.

                We stayed in the heart of downtown. I kept asking the hotel employees where all the people were. The streets were almost deserted, both during the workday and the evenings. It was so sad; my 35 YO memories of living there happily for 7 months were so violated.

                That wind really does blow off the lake in the winter!

                I don't know anything about Birmingham, except that it must be warmer!

                EDIT: Yes, Chicago is a great town that you might really enjoy living next to.....great food, albeit weight-gaining food!

                1. I've never been to either of these cities. However, I was reminded of this thread when I got this Zagat link in an e-mail this evening.

                  http://blog.zagat.com/2013/03/7-up-an...

                  Birmingham makes the 7 Up-and-Coming food cities in the US.