Friday, July 5, 2013

Eating BIG in Milwaukee

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-Eating up in a Big Time Drinking City

We love to Travel Wisconsin a whole lot over here. It's been a longtime coming that we went and ate BIG in Milwaukee which is a place I love to visit. People look at me weird or think I'm stupid when I tell them Milwaukee is a fun time over the summer and there's alot worse places one could live. Yes believe it or not you can have fun there folks. It doesn't hurt the fact if you like to eat and drink. They're pretty good when it comes those.

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Milwaukee, WI

If you've never been to Milwaukee you probably suspect they eat alot of brats. That may be the case when firing up the grill in the backyard or taking in a Brewers game at Miller Park but not necessarily so when it comes to eating out. Two things (among many) that Milwaukee does real well is tavern thin pizza and corned beef sandwiches. Enjoy the ride.
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Milwaukee's Rock Solid Corned Beef Scene

Remember McBob's?
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Jake's Deli

a Milwaukee Favorite Since 1955

If I'm taking a trip up to Milwaukee one of the first things that hits my mind is Jake's Deli. Located in a building that in the early 1900's was a butcher shop and then a deli which Jake Levin got involved in around 1953, and then bought in 1955 when it officially became Jake's. Jake ran the place until 1969 when a group of local investors one of which was MLB commish Bud Selig bought the place to save it from dying. So he has made smart moves huh? A father and son team then ran it for over 40 years and then handed it over to their then current partner who now carries on the tradition of hand carved corned beef.

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 Hand Sliced to Perfection

Jake's is still slicing their corned beef the old fashioned way (by hand) and everything else about the place screams old school. They have a matzoh ball soup approved by a friend who's a fiend for some and always on the look for a bowl that approaches the same taste as his grandmas. The menu isn't big, theres a few items that were added as the days went on such as their own version of a Philly Cheesesteak. Chopped up sauteed pieces of corned beef with peppers, onions and cheese served on a hoagie roll? Yes please.

CornedBeefSteak Sandwich

I've ate at alot of great places. If you check the tags posts with "sandwiches" is right near the top. I've also ate some good corned beef across the Midwest where we tend to have some longtime places still making it the old school way. It's been way too long since I've been to NYC but when I get back I'll eat pastrami because thats whats really good and I'm not sure there's better than Jake's. Despite coming with a side of food service thousand island I still rank their Reuben high on my all time best sandwich list.

Reuben Sandwich at Jake's Deli
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House of Corned Beef

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Located on Silver Spring Drive

House of Corned Beef came to my attention last summer when it drew rave reviews from folks I know. This places serves an excellent hand sliced sandwich. They offer extra lean meat for a little bit more so go with that if you dont like any fat. I liked what I got as far as the regular goes. I wish we had a spot like this in the city and yes I've been to Manny's. I consider it to be very good but it's a HoCB sandwich I'm craving right now. Cant say if it's better than Jake's until I try them side by side. HoCB is a player in Milwaukee's corned beef game. They have a 2nd location coming. 

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Corned Beef Sandwich with Swiss on Toasted Rye
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Deli 1614

As I was riding to Jake's recently to take a Reuben home with me I passed this place and couldn't not stop. It looks like there's a new corned beef spot in town I thought as I said it's only proper that we get it doc'd up on here. So in I went. Inside there's some really friendly folks behind the bulletproof glass and a menu with cheesesteaks and chicken sandwiches amongst the corned beef options. I went with a toasted corned beef with standard brown mustard and Swiss cheese.

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Deli 1614 "That Corned Beef Place"

Excellent! Another winner. Sure there were a few fatty pieces but that's because I didn't pay extra for lean, I dont mind a little bit of it. They seemed to season the meat with something that was pleasant and overall the sandwich was excellent. Milwaukee is a corned beef town and even cooler the places that specialize in it are all mixed. One is owned by African Americans (Deli 1614) another is owned by Middle Eastern people (HoCB), McBob's is Irish and Jake's is a Jewish style deli.

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Toasted Corned Beef with Swiss from Deli 1614
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The Old Pabst Brewery Kingdom

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Balistreri’s

Jim Balistreri opened up this place in 1968 after working in his uncles pizza places and other spots in town. The inside is straight out of the 70's and has the old school vibe going on. Lets go in.

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In the close suburb of Wauwatosa 

Zaffiro's and Maria's get most of the love but dont leave Balistreri’s out of the conversation. Super thin and cracker crispy around the edges with well spiced sausage make this tavern style pie a delight. Don't let the name scare you away. Check them out.

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Medium Sausage Pizza 
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Ono Kine Grindz

I've never been to Hawaii but have always looked forward to the day. I'd need to spend at a week minimum there since it would be hard for me to go for just a few days and lay out on the beach and be lazy. I'd need to eat and explore. The more and more I see/read about the food on the island the more it makes me want to go. After a recent trip to Ono Kine Grindz I'm thinking a vacation there may be in my very near future. Until then I got this place.

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Located in the close suburb of Wauwatosa

Ono Kine Grindz was first brought to my attention my one of the many great posters over at LTHforum. It's located on North avenue so its a straight shot from some of the other Milwaukee favorites such as Jake's Deli. Since I've never been to the island and haven't been to California in years my only real familiarity with Hawaiian food comes from Aloha Eat's on Clark in Chicago. This is a family from the Island owned place and it was almost like walking into someones home you go in. The people that run Ono are wonderful.

a peak inside

As you enter your greeted by those behind the counter which is where you can place your order and also pay for any of the Hawaiian food products which they stock for sale. My first trip I decided to buy a really good sweet and spicy brand of hot sauce that's made on the island as well as a bottle of Hawaiian Shoyu Soy Sauce to be used at home for recreating some authentic dishes. They also sell Hawaiian Sun Iced tea by the can which I was put onto by Aloha Eats. It's a tough choice as far as what to order which is why I cant wait to get back each time I've gone. Last trip I tried the homemade vegetable dumplings and tuna poke. Both outstanding.

Tuna Poke and Dumplings

My first trip I went with the char siu chicken over the beef short ribs.  I loved my lunch plate and ended up eating all of it instead of saving some for later as as my plan. The sticky purple rice hidden beneath the super tasty chicken was grand and the pineapple carrot slaw was quite refreshing since it was in the upper 80's on this day. This is the type spot I want to try the entire menu at. They do shaved ice on Saturday's when it's warm out. Its a big hit in the 'hood. Big fan! I cant wait to go back.

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Char Siu Chicken Lunch Plate: Doesn't look like your typical sconnie lunch does it? Well except for the portion size. Wow.
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Historic Milwaukee Taverns

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As seen on chibbqking

A trio of tacos from a truck as seen on 'Travel Wisconsin'

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Distil

I'd wanted to check out Distil when I first read about it in this piece by Esquire naming Milwaukee "the bar city of the year" and I can agree with them on that. Everyone already knows the fact there's great old school taverns on almost every corner and now the crafted cocktail and locally distilled liquor movement is moving into Milwaukee too. Distil is one of these newer spots. I made my way over there not too long ago.

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Downtown Milwaukee

When we got there around 6 the place was dead. I think you can attribute this to the fact that most of the other bars and restaurants around there have a happy hour that lasts until 8p living up to Esquire's billing as "bar city of the year" I would imagine Distil is a much different place on a weekend evening around 10p.

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As we enter

It's located on North Milwaukee street in the heart of the upper class downtown dining and drinking area so its right in the heart of the area. Crafted cocktails are what they do here and if you're hoping that because this is Milwaukee the price on them will be a little cheaper you're wrong. They're around $12 each which is more than most items on their food menu. The menu has a contemporary American feel labeled "Artisan Fare" She got a chicken sandwich described as "nueskes bacon, roasted garlic mayo, roasted tomato, arugula, truffle tremor goat cheese, butter-top bun".

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Cocktails and a Chicken Sandwich

She said the "bacon was great but the chicken was kind of bland". I told her that's what she gets for ordering chicken breast. It's boring. We were headed to Bryant's Cocktail Lounge after this so we only ordered one drink each. She and I very much enjoyed her Chamomile Gimlet made with Sol from nearby North Shore Distillery. Seen up above I got the "Made in Milwaukee" which consists of "Rishi Plum Cinnamon infused Rehorst Vodka, Housemade Grenadine, Lime, Sprecher Ginger Ale, topped with Schlitz-Elderflower Foam" and to go with that their Hidden Creek farms Burger.

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Distil Cheeseburger

As far as the burger goes it was as good if not better than it looks. Eight ounces of Hidden Creek Farms fresh ground beef topped with garlic mayo, bourbon onion jam, 4 year WI cheddar served on a butter topped bun. House made chips on the side. With it's double digit pricetag this falls into the "fancy" class of burgers but at $11 it's a dollar cheaper than my cocktail was. Well worth it and so far it's easily the best burger I have had in Milwaukee and one of the best in it's class. Cooked to what I requested this was a simple old school style as far as toppings go, taken to great levels by the superior ingredients used. From the fantastic fresh beef to the perfectly placed bun. This was a really good one.

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The insides
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Bryant's Cocktail Lounge

You cant do Milwaukee without getting a few drinks and I encourage all to try Bryant's Cocktail Lounge. Before this place  turned into a cocktail lounge it was a Miller Brewing Company Tied House. It was around 1938 that the then owner of this old beer hall decided to ditch the hops and only serve cocktails. In the early 70's a fire deteriorated the entire inside of the place but instead of shutting down shop the then owner built it to be even better than before.

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Since 1938, Milwaukee's oldest Cocktail lounge

It still has the old school charm today. There is no menu but they claim to be able to make over 500 drinks and if needed they still have the original index card with all the recipes. Happy Hour is Tues-Fri 5-9p and depression era drinks are cheap. Mix those with their popular old school Pat O'Brien's style drinks and its an eclectic well rounded selection. See this from their website. I asked for their most popular drink on one of my rounds and was given this big hard hitting concoction below. More good times in Milwaukee.

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Black Magic at the bar
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Chubby's Cheesesteaks

Up at a festival recently, there are many good ones in these parts, including the largest outdoor music festival in America (Summerfest), I saw this place called Chubby's Cheesesteaks. Me being a fan of them and having not tried Chubby's but liking the ones at the Philly Way in town I decided to try. Not bad. Not great either though, the bread was lacking.

Cheesesteak Wit
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Some Sights from the City

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Glorioso's 

An East Side favorite since 1946

Out next stop is a Milwaukee landmark. Glorioso's recently moved from across the street into much bigger space where it's now one of the best independent family owned Italian markets around. Southeastern Wisconsin has quite a heavy Italian presence and Glorioso's keeps many of them happy.

a peak inside

Founded by a set of brothers I'm not even sure they imagined the store becoming what it is today. Which is a Mediterranean megastore. If you need something from the old country this is the first place you check in at around here. Every time I enter, I'm overwhelmed. Aside from an amazing selection of groceries they also do sandwiches here and they're very popular for lunch. Their home blend Italian sausage is some of the best as is their giardiniera. There's a longtime bakery making fresh bread every morning down the block so if you put all that together you're getting a top notch sausage sub. The Italian is awesome too. Glorioso's got it going on.

 Italian Sausage Sandwich with Hot Peppers

Glorioso's: Great Place to Visit
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Baylor's Melon Bus

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Cafe Hollander

Belgian Beers and mussels are one of the great food/drink pairings and there's a great spot in Milwaukee to enjoy the two. Cafe Hollander is a take on the bars found in the low country area of Belgium. It's a really nice setup inside as well as a nice spot to do some great outdoor dining if the weather is behaving.

Brew and Moules
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G. Groppi Food Market

When most folks think of the people who settled in Milwaukee, the city's German heritage comes to mind but the Italians were prevalent too. Both have big festivals there. Many Italians started settling in the area in the 1890's shortly after the German's. They came by the boatload and settled in two separate areas. Bay View is where newcomers from Northern and Central Italy settled. Giocondo and Giorgina Groppi moved there and had 12 children all of whom worked at the family grocery store which was opened over a century ago. Today it's run by a former neighbor and longtime customer.

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The beautiful Bay View neighborhood

At some point the last decade they underwent a major renovation becoming a full fledged grocery store that anyone would love to live near. They kept the old floors, bakery display cases and everything that made the place charming. All sorts of Italian products as well as a huge selection of wine and local micro brewed beers and artisan cheeses are offered. There's a hot and cold prepared foods case and the same selection of fresh meats and housemade sausages and baked goods that made them famous. Hell they have a bar where you can have drinks and watch the Brewers or take growlers to go. About the only thing they dont have anymore are the pigeon races outside.

Only in Wisconsin...

In the back behind the bar is where they sell their meats which I feel like most people are there for. They're paninni's are very popular for lunch but when I've stopped in most everyone goes to the back and gets in line at some point. They offer some really nice options ranging from roasts to made in house sausage. They do Italian, Sicilian style, Hungarian, brats, breakfast and some others I'm sure I'm forgetting.

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Made in-house Italian Sausage and Cannoli

But the main draw for me is their Saltisa sausage. There's not much on this Italian style breakfast sausage on the internet except that it's found around Milwaukee and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It might be a recipe from some Italian settlers in North Carolina that made it's way to Milwaukee. It's also mentioned that its a popular holiday sausage. It has tastes of cinnamon and nutmeg in it and takes on a very pleasant flavor mixed with the pork and the other secret spices used. I always grab some when stopping thru. You should too.

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Groppi's Saltisa Sausage
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Frozen Custard Kings

Kopp's or Leon's for Custard? I'll let y'all decide...see ya next time!
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If you enjoyed this eating BIG in Wisconsin piece you need to check out our others in Kenosha, Racine, Lake Geneva, Sheboygan, the Northwoods, the Great River RoadBayfield and all across the state. Check back soon as we roll into Madison.
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Jake's Deli
1634 W. North Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53205
(414) 562-1272

House of Corned Beef
6200 West Silver Spring Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53218
(414) 461-4292

Deli 1614
1614 W Walnut St
Milwaukee, WI 53205
(414) 933-2303

Balistreri’s
812 N 68th St
Milwaukee, WI 53213
(414) 475-1414

Ono Kine Grindz
7215 W. North Avenue
Wauwatosa, WI 53213
(414) 778-0727

Distil
722 N. Milwaukee Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 220-9411

Bryant's Cocktail Lounge
1579 S. 9th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53204
(414) 383-2620

Chubby's Cheesesteaks
2232 N. Oakland Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 287-9999

Glorioso's
1011 E. Brady Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 272-0504

Cafe Hollander
2608 N. Downer Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53211
(414) 963-6366

G. Groppi Food Market
1441 E Russell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207
(414) 747-9012

1 comment:

Matthew Broderick said...

Jake's Deli is famous for serving different types of Sandwiches in the Wisconsin, if any one planning to go Milwaukee than taste these sandwiches once.

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