There are four historic districts for travelers and locals to tour in Kenosha, WI. On these tours everyone will see landmarks, famous buildings and historic homes that provide insight into Kenosha’s rich history and culture. More information about these four historic districts is found on the Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau’s website. These Kenosha Historic District Tours are #29 on 101 Things to See & Do for $10 & Under in the Kenosha, WI Area.
51. Try one of 16 different varieties of Panini sandwiches at the iconic Tenuta’s Delicatessen, grilled in-house and served up at the outdoor grill. $5.99
52. Swim in Lake Andrea, or build a sand castle on the beach. $4-7 daily pass
There are differences between being a tourist and being a traveler. Read my article “Oh Those Unhappy Tourists” before heading to Kenosha or anywhere else in the world. Don’t be a tourist, be a traveler.
If it keeps on rainin’, the levee’s going to break. If keeps on rainin’, the levee’s going to…sing to me Robert Plant as I type these words. Bonzo, pound those drums. I look out my window to see yet another overcast day here in Kenosha, WI. Ah yes, Kenosha, WI. Halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Kenosha’s culture, music, literature, construction and architecture influences date back to the start of the 20th century through the 1930’s when Irish, German, Italian and Polish immigrants settled in the area. With most cities, people come and go but roots run deep and generations of families stay in areas for a lifetime. This is true of Kenosha.
There is plenty to see and do in and around the Kenosha area that is nominally priced or free . Working in cooperation with Meridith Jumisko – my contact, friend and Public Relations Manager at the Kenosha Convention and Visitors Bureau, I’m sharing 101 things to do and see for $10 and under. Many of these are free. If you are driving through the Chi-Waukee corridor, take a detour and visit Kenosha. Here are the first 25 of 101 things to do and see in this four-part series.
See the 2015 Northwoods League Summer Collegiate World Series champions – the Kenosha Kingfish – play baseball at Simmons Field! $8+
Visit Kenosha to experience fine Midwestern hospitality, take a stroll along Lake Michigan and stuff your face with bratwurst while having the skin on your face melt away from the live music acts at the world-famous Brat Stop. Visit the Brat Stop last because a food coma will ensue.
“I haven’t eaten a hot dog in over two years,” I say to my dad. This may be hard to swallow, no pun intended, considering I grew up in Chicago with its world-famous Chicago-style hot dog. Today, I eat. Not a Chicago dog or a store-bought beef frank you nuke for a minute in the microwave and slap on a bun creating simple condiment art with mustard squeezed from a plastic bottle. No, no, no. We are going to relish in the take down of two Sonoran Dogs apiece at El Guero Canelo in Tucson, AZ.
“I’m ready,” I say as we walk through the entrance of the restaurant. Three sides of the building are comprised of glass walls with the condiment bar lying in the middle. I eye the condiment station knowing I’m going to be dipping lightly colored crunchy tortilla chips into the hottest mouth-watering salsa I can find. Napkins will be in abundance to wipe away not only the galactic mess made from chowing down two Sonoran Dogs and a hearty portion of chips and salsa but also the volcanic runny nose that will ensue. Why settle for anything less.
I walk up to the queue line with Dad. We weave back and forth staring aimlessly at the colorful menus above the registers as if some strange universal force is going to change our minds from eating something other than a Sonoran Dog. As my dad holds his money clip in his hands I hear him say, “You can have Burros, Tacos, Tortas, Caramelos, Quesadillas.” His words travel in my right ear and feverishly escape out my left without provocation. He knows this, he knows I know this, but this is the action that takes place in line while waiting to order “The Cinnamon Blonde’s” (El Guero Canelo) specialty.
“Can I help you?” asks a soft-spoken Latino woman with a smile.
“Four Sonoran Dogs, two orders of tortilla chips, I’ll have a diet coke,” Dad says. “What will you have to drink son?”
“I’ll have lemonade,” I say.
I grab the red plastic tray our tortilla chips and drinks are lying on and make a B line for the table where Dad lays down our napkins. I know he is not messing around. He knows to park our hungry bellies right next to the condiment bar for fast easy access to all the salsa we can possibly chow down with our chips as we wait for our Sonoran Dogs to come off the flat top grill.
A woman looks at me as I glare over the various salsas. “I’m scanning for the hottest salsa,” I say.
“Me too,” she says.
“Good luck and enjoy,” I say smiling.
I trek to the other side of what I refer to as ‘salsa central’ and scoop spoonful after spoonful into three small plastic cups and scamper back to our table. I came here to eat a Mexican version of a hot dog and there is no better way to prepare for this feast than by starting off with a scorched tongue from this spicy sauce and living with the joyous pain for a few hours.
While we crunch down on our chips, I grab the receipt inquiring what our order number is.
“Let me see that,” Dad says.
I hand him the paper and he stands up and walks away. “Here they come,” I say to myself. A few seconds later, without fanfare or glory, Dad places the red tray of four bacon wrapped hot dogs stuffed in a steamed bun on the table. The Sonoran Dogs are topped with a ladle size scoop of pinto beans, diced onions, tomatoes, golden mustard, jalapeño sauce and mayonnaise. With my tongue on fire, my nose running and a spicy induced cough clearing my throat, I pick up my fiesta in a bun, look at different angles for my initial approach, hone in and bite down. Dad looks at me with his eyes wide open moving left to right and back again. His facial expression and his eyes are all that needs to be said for what we both understand.
I pick up a triangular block of a light yellow colored cheese from the refrigeration floor case. I bring the cheese close to my nose to smell the pungent aroma that is the alluring scent of Tenuta’s extra sharp provolone. I pull it away to see the familiar logo and tag line: Tenuta’s – A Kenosha Tradition. I grin at the cheese and murmur, “you’re always my favorite.”
Tenuata’s is an unassuming one-story orange brick building whose shelves are densely packed from floor to ceiling with the bottles, cans and packages of the staples of Italian cooking. While busy during the week, the weekends find the store bustling with customers rolling their carts through the narrow aisles, ordering the cheeses, meats and prepared salads that fill the air with their tantalizing smells and stocking up on their liquor & beer needs.
I ask second generation owner Ralph Tenuta about the variety of cheeses and the aging process. I tell him I am really interested in hearing about the 325 pound chunk of cheese hanging from the ceiling. Family ownership in Tenuta’s is tradition that started decades ago and continues to this day.
It was 1920 and John N. Tenuta left his native Italy to fulfill a dream of owning a business and seeking fortune in the United States. After meeting and marrying his wife Lydia, his dream was realized when Tenuta’s Delicatessen opened in 1950 in a building that was not much larger than a two car garage. Together they served sundaes, malts and deli meats along with other grocery and non-grocery items. Through the years as the deli continued to expand, John’s son Ralph became the chief promoter of the store, eventually taking it over from his father.
My family has been traveling to Tenuta’s for three generations to savor the epicurean delight of fresh quality meats, cheeses and other Italian favorites. Our favorites included garlic flavored genoa salami that may or may not be heartily crusted with black pepper, capicola (an Italian cold cut that is dry-cured from whole pork shoulder or neck) edged with crushed red pepper to shock your tongue, sharp or mild provolone cheese and jars of roasted red peppers.
Every year when I was a child my family hosted our annual Christmas Eve party. We laid out plates of homemade lasagna, meatballs, hot Italian sausage, braciole, garlic bread, olives and antipasto, as well as Tenuta’s meats and cheeses and melon slices wrapped in prosciutto. I was always excited knowing I was traveling to Tenuta’s with my Dad in anticipation not only of the upcoming party but the smell of the meats and cheeses that would make my mouth water and hair stand on end the instant we opened the door.
I drive east on 52nd St. with the front windows of my Nissan Altima rolled down halfway. The sun is shining as I pass businesses, restaurants and homes on both the north and south side of this suburban-to-urban route. I cross through the intersection of 39th Ave. and look for Tenuta’s signature green, white and red sign that stands feet away from the curb with its digital display highlighting the specials of the day.
I turn right into the parking lot and slam on the brake pedal. There are cars everywhere trying to find a parking space. I knew Saturday lunch hour was a great time to shop for some groceries. The outside grill is open and the staff is cooking Polish and Italian sausages, roast beef, chicken, Panini’s and other combo sandwiches for patrons. I head to the back of the parking lot. A driver in a giant SUV has a hard time deciding whether he could fit in, and gives up. “Perfect,” I say.
I walk toward the sidewalk where I see a couple sitting on one of the concrete picnic tables. I make my way past the window where the staff is grilling, round the corner and see more people sitting at the picnic tables in front of the store. Everyone is engaged in light conversation as they eat their hot sandwiches while cars drive by on the other side of the iron fence. I reach for the door and walk into a crowded front entrance where I immediately see Ralph Tenuta standing in front of a cigar case.
Ralph has probably seen me in the store before, but I walk up to him and reintroduce myself.
“I have been coming to your store for over thirty years,” I say, “and my family has been coming here for three generations.”
“Thank you,” Ralph says.
“I am curious to know, from your years of experience, how far away do people travel here to shop at your store?” I ask.
“Oh, they travel from as far away as thirty-five to forty miles.”
“Forty miles – I believe it. I know your store delivers. How far have you delivered your goods?” I ask.
“We have delivered our products to people all over the world.”
“Do you mind if I ask you some questions about some of the cheeses?”
“Well it is a busy Saturday and I might get pulled away, but go ahead,” Ralph says.
“The balls of cheese that hang from the ceiling, is that Auricchio Provolone?”
“No,” Ralph says, “follow me, I will show you the Auricchio.”
Ralph pushes through a small gate behind a cash register and walks towards the refrigerated cases of cheese. He leans down and grabs a wedge of the Auricchio.
“We keep the Auricchio provolone in here,” he says rubbing his finger across the name on the plastic covering the cheese.
A chubby guy dressed in black stands by the case. “Would you like to try a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano?” He says.
“Of course,” I say.
“This is Chef Steve,” Ralph says, “he is here offering samplings.”
“What do you think?” Steve asks.
“I love it!” I say.
“I’m not a chef,” Steve grins, “but Ralph thinks I am. I’m an Italian Culinary Specialist. Not a chef.”
“Boss.” says a man standing next to us.
“Yes,” Ralph says.
“We need more…,”
“If you have any questions, please let me know,” Steve says, “I will be here for a while.”
“Thank you,” I say.
“I have to leave for now Tony,” Ralph says as he walks away.
“Go, go,” I say, “I’ll see you soon.”
I walk over to a liquor aisle and grab a small silver cart with a yellow handle. “Time to do some shopping,” I say to myself.
I wheel my cart over the tiled floor to the last aisle on the opposite side of the liquor section. Turning the corner I see Ralph’s cousin Tony Bonanno and immediately strike up a conversation.
“I have been coming to your family store for over thirty years and I just wanted to say thank you for the consistency in the quality of food and service you provide everyone.”
“Thank you!” Tony says.
“I remember as a kid when this store used to be divided with the grocery store on one side and there was a separate entrance to get to the liquor and beer. Every time I walked in here the smell was amazing, then one day I walked in and could not smell it as much anymore because you guys opened up the wall between here and the liquor store; the deli counter used to be back over there.” I point towards the southwest corner of the store. “The smell, I miss the smell.”
“Yeah, we heard that from a lot of people when we removed the wall and expanded,” Tony says, “we were growing and needed the space, what are you going to do?”
“I can understand the decision,” I say, “I’ll see you around.”
I wheel my cart over to the deli counter and set it flush against a liquor cabinet opposite the deli counter.
“Can I help you?” A woman with dark rimmed glasses asks.
“Yes, can I have four links of the Usinger Polish sausage?” I ask.
“I have to grab some from the cooler.”
I admire the 325 pound chunk of provolone cheese hanging off to my right.
“Anything else?” she asks.
“Yes, half a pound of genoa salami and a half a pound of mild provolone.”
After the salami and cheese are weighed, she hands me the packages.
“Thank you, I appreciate it,” I say, “have a good day.”
“Thanks, you too,” she says.
As I approach the cash register I see Tony again and stop him to ask about the 325 pound chunk of provolone hanging by the deli.
“Tony – that chunk of provolone, it ages for 20-24 months?” I ask.
“About 18 months,” Tony says, “we get it from Park cheese.”
“What kind of milk is used?”
“Thanks,” I say and roll my cart to the counter to check out.