I visited Milwaukee over the weekend under less-than-ideal circumstances. My paternal grandmother passed away last week, and I was in town to attend the funeral. While there, I visited relatives who are, thankfully, still with us and who I hope will be for a long time yet to come. Because Milwaukee is a great food town and most of us take comfort in food in stressful times, I ended up visiting some of the city's iconic food landmarks with friends and family for some measure of solace. I'm glossing over them here before I forget where I went. These aren't really full-on "reviews"; eating wasn't the point of this trip.
Breakfast, Part 1: A cheese bagel and coffee (black) from Le Pain Quotidien at LaGuardia (preflight).
Breakfast, Part 2: Pancakes and sausage at the George Webb near Mitchell International in Milwaukee (postflight).
Snack: Nachos at the Applebee's near our motel.
Dinner: Beer-battered walleye with hunter's noodles and rye bread at Beer Belly's. I was happy I got to take my girlfriend, who traveled with me, to a Friday night fish fry during Lent, which is totally Milwaukee. I think Beer Belly's would have been good, and it was, up until the point I found some tiny bones about three-quarters of the way through my first fish fillet. Really, they were barely thicker than a hair, and missed bones are to be expected with fish, but I have sensitive teeth (a cracked molar I need to get fixed), and I was afraid they'd give me problems. Also, I was already a bit stuffed. See above. But, OMG. The onion rings here? Amazing. But I agree with this Yelper that the drinks are a little weak.
Breakfast: Skipped. Was busy steaming my suit, ironing my shirt, and struggling to get the neck button buttoned. No, not because I've gotten fat but because the neck size on this shirt has always been too small. I knew I should have brought along one of my other white shirts.
Lunch: Junior club sandwich with fries and a cup of chicken dumpling soup at Andrea's Family Restaurant in Cudahy. The chicken dumpling soup was clearly made from scratch and was incredibly chickeny, thick, savory, full of umami, and had nice, large pieces of chicken in it. I could have gone for a full bowl of this and skipped the junior club.
Snack: A couple bites of Leon's frozen custard from the girlfriend's scoop. I was busy taking pictures of Leon's instead of lining up for it and I missed the fact that my Cousin Tim said he was buying. And since I had only $2 in cash on me (ATMs aren't everywhere in Milwaukee), I figured I couldn't afford a cone. Turns out $1.84 would have gotten me a single-scoop. Oh well. I can get damn fine frozen custard here at the Shake Shack. (And it really does pain me to say that Shake Shack is an acceptable substitute because I want Milwaukee frozen custard to rule supreme.)
Dinner: Maria's Pizza. I touched on much of what makes Maria's special in my Slice review, but I may do a review remix soon, since I feel like I've glossed over why Maria's is truly important to me. (Basically, it's my dad's Holy Grail of pizza—the pizza he always tried re-creating at home while I was a kid, which therefore makes it the seed of my pizza madness, a madness that would eventually lead to the creation of Slice.)
Breakfast: The free breakfast in the motel—a hard-boiled egg, fresh waffle from the motel's waffle station(!), bagel with cream cheese, coffee. Our motel had a surprisingly diverse continental breakfast—I mean, a make-your-own-waffle station? Gooooood morning!
Lunch: Three tacos (one ground beef, one roast pork, and one chicken) from the Taco del Fuego stand in the Potawatomi Casino. We were there to play bingo with my Aunt Mary and Cousin Aimee. Bingo there is awesome. The bingo hall accommodates up to 1,800 players. I wish I could have taken pictures inside the casino, because some of the folks there are a sight to be seen, with their good luck charms filling entire tables and their arsenals of bingo daubers. I won a $25 gift certificate in the door-prize raffle but nothing on actual bingo. Back to the food. What can you really say about tacos from a bingo casino's food court? Yeah. Not much. The roast pork one was the best.
Snacks: Cheetos and a Snickers bar from the snack concessionaire on the bingo hall floor, plus several complimentary Cokes.
Dinner: Marco's Pizza that Aunt Mary ordered as take-out while we were visiting her, my maternal grandmother, and my Aunt Linda post-bingo. Marco's was OK, but the sauce is a little too sweet for my taste. (Sorry, Aunt Mary! You really should be getting pizza from Maria's. ;) )
Breakfast: We missed the free motel breakfast and went to IHOP for some reason. And that reason was that I was influenced by my Aunt Kathy and Cousin Dan's belief that IHOP was awesome. Those two don't have an IHOP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and they'd been raving about it and how much they liked it. I think this is a case of absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder on their part. Anyway, the girlfriend and I went, even though we've both eaten at IHOP several times before and have found it mediocre at best. We would have been better off at George Webb again. I had the Three and Three—three pancakes and three eggs (scrambled), plus coffee (black). My pancakes were lukewarm and barely melted the butter, and the cook forgot to mix the blueberries into the girlfriend's blueberry pancakes. Fail.
Lunch: After an attempt to visit my Cousin Lisa's vintage store (alas, Tip Top Atomic Shop is closed Mondays) and a trip to a Whitefish Bay yarn store the girlfriend wanted to visit, we ate a late lunch at the Glendale Kopp's Frozen Custard stand. I had a Kopp's single cheeseburger, onion rings, and a thick chocolate malt. I'll blog about my Kopp's burger on A Hamburger Today later today. For now, I'll say that it was good but not the best I've had and that I wanted it to be great.
Dinner: We ate Kopp's around 4:45 p.m., so maybe that counts as an earlybird dinner rather than lunch? Regardless, I was too full from Kopp's to eat a third meal anytime soon, and with the flight at 7:05 p.m., we didn't have time to grab something before the airport. The flight was delayed, though, and by the time I was hungry again, all the food kiosks had closed. Oh well.
Snack: I just made do with two of Midwest Airlines' chocolate chip cookies and some water. Those cookies are always a welcome snack on Midwest, but I don't know if they're spectacular the way that everyone raves about them. Basically, almost any warm, soft-baked chocolate chip cookie is good. And they sure beat a lame bag of peanuts, pretzels, or Terra Chips.
Things I Didn't Eat (or Drink) in Milwaukee But Want to Next Time
Zaffiro's Pizza: Daniel Zeman's review of Zaffiro's had me wanting to try it this trip, but you only get so many meals in a day, and I didn't want to backtrack on ground already tread on Slice.
At Random: This old-school bar is, apparently, only open at random and has beautiful vintage decor and strong specialty drinks. Looks like a fun place to visit—in fact, I think one of my cousins may have taken me there when I visited once in the early '00s. I want to go back and see if I have indeed been there.
Solly's Grille: Solly's has a crazy-looking butter burger. Taste of the Town has more on it. And it was in George Motz's Hamburger America documentary. I've had butter burgers before, and they can leave you feeling a little sloggy, so I figured I'd skip it this trip. But next time, yes, next time.
Kewpee Lunch: Aunt Mary told me about Kewpee Lunch in Racine. "They're little burgers that start out as balls of meat that they smash down—but only after you order, so they're nice and fresh," she said. "And they're served with onions and pickles."
"Do you mean sliders?" I asked.
Looking at the website, it looks like Kewpee serves not sliders, per se, but a good ol' smashburger. I'm so there next time I visit Milwaukee. Plus, I can go look at the Johnson Wax Building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Pepperoni and cannoli: Apparently there's a wandering vendor who travels from bar to bar late at night in Downtown Milwaukee selling pepperoni and cannoli. I'm not sure if he's still around. The latest reference to Frank Pecoraro that I could find was from 2004, when he was 69. He's gotta be 73 or 74 now. But I hope he's still going strong.
Miller Beer: Yeah, you can get Miller anywhere. But I want to get it from the Miller brewery after taking the tour. I've toured Coors, Budweiser, and Heineken. Might as well tour Miller now.
Hot ham and rolls: Hot ham and rolls are totally a Milwaukee thing. My family always gets a pound (or more) of ham at National Bakery & Deli, where they give you six free hard rolls for every pound of ham you buy. Those rolls are amazing—soft inside yet hard and crisp outside. Oh, why didn't we stop for these while we were there?
Cheese curds: Both deep-fried and fresh. We didn't really go to any bars this trip, and it seems like a tavern would be the place to enjoy this Wisconsin staple. I'm bookmarking this Journal Sentinel thread, but it looks like I'll have to visit during the Wisconsin State Fair, which many commenters there (and my cousin Aimee) say has the best deep-fried curds. And I'm kicking myself for not picking up a bag of fresh cheese curds at the Woodman's that I visited.
Vegetables: I had to have a large salad for lunch and vegetable soup for dinner yesterday just to make up for the fact that the only veggies I ate while in Milwaukee were fried (potatoes) or on pizza or in a hamburger. Next time I'm in town, I'll make roughage and greens a higher priority.
What Did I Miss?
I know there are tons of places I missed here. I could reel off ten or 12 more. But I want to hear from you Milwaukeeans out there. Where should I go next visit? (I'm particularly interested in cheese curd recommendations.)