Build-a-Breakfast/Build-a-Burger – 633 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Open every day – 7am – 10pm

You've got to love those hours, and the location, and that it's pretty much a diner, in concept and function. Or family restaurant, which is pretty much synonymous with diner in the practical sense. As soon as I finally ate here I warmed up to it, but it took me awhile, because there are so many off-putting things that stood in the way of taking the leap. First of all, the restaurant logo, which is round, has “BB” in the center, with the name around the outside; I believe it's supposed to look like a “brand”—the kind a cattle rancher would put on a cow—as it uses typewriter font and is a little crooked—but what it actually makes me think of is a bottle of barbecue sauce. Then there's the name—it's not that it's so long (though it is too long)—it's that there's a slash in the middle, and a restaurant name should never have odd punctuation in its name (unless it's an exclamation point!); though it could be worse; it could be a semi-colon. The place is also called BB's—and there are also several problems with that name that I won't elaborate on—but maybe I'm just being too particular. But wouldn't a name like, say, B's Diner just be better? And then there's my aversion to the word “burger”—which I've already written about too much in these pages. And finally, and most, I have a real problem with this whole idea of “building” your entree—both that term, and the actuality—this “build an omelette” thing, where you decide what's in your omelette. I guess a place like Subway, that's their concept. And a lot of taco places. I want the restaurant to make the dishes, not me! And even better when they give them names, like “Denver Omelette”—isn't that much better than if you build your own ham, onion, and green pepper, omelette? Though I suppose when the waitperson inevitably comes by and asks if you're still “working on it” you can always say, “I'm in the final stages of demolition.”

In spite of all these problems, BB's is a diner, an ordinary place to sit down and order simple “comfort” food (though I have a bit of a problem with that concept, too)—maybe breakfast at lunch time, or lunch too early, or at dinner time, or a side of potatoes anytime, or two eggs and French fries, whatever! I had an omelette and potatoes, it was good and hearty, if not foodie instagrammie. You sit at a table, someone waits on you. I used to occasionally come to a diner in this location, though I can't remember its name. I believe there used to be a counter—yes there was. They have remodeled, for the worse, tried to turn it from diner to restaurant, very sad. But it still has that feeling—and there are plenty of places you can sit and look out on this very active downtown Milwaukee street. It's on the corner of Wisconsin (the major downtown east-to-west route—connecting the downtown to Marquette University) and James Lovell Street (named after the astronaut—a Milwaukee native—who was on the nearly tragic Apollo 13) (I believe he was played by Tom Hanks in the movie version). You're a block away from the public library, and two blocks from the Public Museum—two of the best places in town. Also within a block of liquor stores, convenience stores, donut shops, pawn shops, very old hotels and theaters, convention centers, department stores, steakhouses, and bus stops where there's always someone waiting. You can't really find a more urban, more Milwaukee diner spot where you'll see a greater variety of human beings. Just writing this is making me feel like I should frequent this place more. I just wish they hadn't remodeled... but that's the story of my life.

Richard Skiller 5.18.18