Benji's – 4156 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood, Wisconsin

Open every day – 8am to 8pm – Saturday and Sunday – 7am to 8pm

This is my most frequented restaurant in Milwaukee, though it's in Shorewood (there's one in Fox Point, but I haven't eaten there yet), as it's my favorite diner, locally—and in the ongoing discussion of what a “diner” is or isn't—this is the example of what it is and what is good. It's also a deli, and I suppose there are many loyal customers who never eat here, who just get prepared or unprepared food to go. I've had the corned beef, and it's excellent, but I almost never eat corned beef. Much of the menu is off-limits to vegans, celiacs, vegetarians—but I still highly recommend finding what you can eat here and eating it here. There are loyal customers who do come here—I'd bet some almost every day, or once a week, or just more often than anywhere else. That's one of the things that makes it a diner. What makes it an excellent diner is no TV, no (noticeable) music, no high-top tables—you can sit at a counter, booths, or tables—some always-excellent wait-person takes your order. It's a great place to come with someone, or a great place to come alone and observe the diner-world. My favorite is “Super Hoppel Poppel”—you know it—or, look it up, try it. If they ever add the “Supper Hoppel Poppel,” I may never leave (though it maybe as well be, because breakfast is served, as it should be, all day). I also might just move in here if they ever incorporate a really good gluten-free bread, because this menu just goes on and on, particularly the sandwiches: the “Hear-O Israel” looks like my kind of thing, as does “The Gonzo” and “The Epiphany”—and really, on and on. Is there a pants store or a tailor in the crappy, dated shopping plaza (I mean, I love it) where Benji's makes its home? If Benji's was situated in one of Milwaukee's apartment-hotels, it would remind me of nothing so much as my former home-away-from-home, the mourned Cafe Edison in the Big Rotting Apple. As it stands, Benji's is still the real heart of this exploding neighborhood where new restaurants open faster than ad agencies can brand stupid names over $15 Bloody Marys. Fortunately, young people are still people, and for some, the new trendy will always be the untrendy—vinyl records are not chopped liver anymore—and neither is chopped liver, borscht, matzo ball shop, potato pancakes, on and on...

Richard Skiller 9.15.18