During our month on the road, we determined that the Midwest has its own four food groups: pork, cheese, beer, and fried anything.
And we’re OK with that.
You may be aware that we became big Milwaukee fans on our trip. We also liked the food and drink, even if we didn’t get to try as much as we otherwise would have because of COVID.
Let’s start with beer, a choice I think Milwaukeeans would approve of. The city got its first brewery in 1840 – before it even officially became a city. By the early 1900s, Milwaukee was producing more beer than almost any city in the world and was known as “Brew City.” The brands that made the city famous are the ones our parents and grandparents drank: Pabst, Schlitz, Miller High Life, Milwaukee’s Best. (Did you know Schlitz was the first to bottle beer in brown glass?) Obviously, many of these brands still exist, and MillerCoors continues to brew millions of gallons of beer in the city. (Though closed during the pandemic, the Miller Brewery at 4251 W. State St. normally offers $10 tours and tastings.)
These days, craft beer is also everywhere. We tried a number of local brews. MKE Brewing Company makes some nice beers – we liked Louie’s Demise, O-Gii, and MKE IPAShe is more the IPA person. I prefer something that I can drink quickly. – which you can drink in its multilevel riverfront restaurant, the MKE Ale House. Good City Brewing is another, well, good choice – of its two locations, we prefer the less-slick original spot on the East Side, which has a small rooftop bar.They have some curry fries that I highly recommend.
And Still More Beer
Lakefront Brewery – oddly, not on the lake but on the river – opened in 1987, making it one of the city’s first craft breweries. It serves up good food and tasty beers (try the Lakefront Lager or the Hazy Rabbit) in its spacious beer hall. We rarely ate inside during our trip because of COVID concerns, but we did eat in Lakefront’s beer hall and were impressed with the safety precautions. We’d love to come back when things are operating normally to hear a polka band or play some trivia. Honestly, I pestered Soyia into going here on the first day they were open because I needed to eat… well, you’ll see.
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Fish FryI needed to eat a fish fry.
At Lakefront, Fred tried Wisconsin’s legendary Friday night fish fry. (I confess I don’t love fried fish, so I got mine baked and topped with butter and capers. I discovered that, after avoiding them my whole life – surprise! – I like capers. They’re just little salt bombs!) Anyway, Friday night fish frys date to the 1860s and are tied to the Catholic Church’s prohibition on eating meat on Fridays. Virtually every restaurant in Milwaukee seems to offer a Friday fish fry option; sides usually include some form of potato, cabbage, and bread.
A Meal Worth Singing About
Before we leave the topic of fish frys: In doing research, sometimes you find something that doesn’t exactly fit but is just too good not to share. So please enjoy R&B singer Mel Waiters’ Friday Night Fish Fry, a great song about Southern fish frys.This is my new favorite thing in the world.
A Word about Curds
That brings us to cheese curds – squeaky, salty, delicious, deep-fried cheese curds. Cheese curds are a byproduct of the cheese-making process and spoil quickly. As a bonafide cheese fiend, I ate curds in at least six different spots during the trip. So many cheese curds… My favorites came from Lakefront Brewery, which uses a light batter that leaves you feeling less stuffed.Still… I ate too many cheese curds. I never knew I could tire of eating something so obviously bad for you.
Milwaukee’s Germanic roots run deep, and as a result, you’ll find huge soft pretzels on many an appetizer menu. Most come with either mustarddelicious or a cheese spreadcommunist – or if you’re lucky, both!
Dang! That’s Good
Not only does Milwaukee make good beer, it also makes good root beer. Dang! That’s Good sodas are made by the family-owned Imperial Flavors Beverage Company. In addition to regular root beer, they make delicious diet and regular butterscotch root beers, an Italian cherry soda, and a red cream soda. Some of their products can be found outside of Wisconsin; you can see if there are any near you here. If price is of no concern, Amazon carries some, too.Dang, that’s expensive!
Brunch in a Glass
Milwaukeeans do not play when it comes to Bloody Marys, serving up tomato-y concoctions laden with garnishes that are meals in themselves – and throwing in a small beer chaser. Fred tried the one at Wicked Hop (345 N. Broadway), and it did not disappoint.The only drawback is it’s impossible to get drunk on these things. But wow, are they good. The Visit Milwaukee blog offers some other intriguing ideas.
Less than 90 minutes from Milwaukee (and maybe 20 minutes from Madison), you’ll find Middleton, Wisconsin. It’s home to the National Mustard Museum and to C’s Restaurant and Bakery, a no-frills local joint serving breakfast all day every day from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. We couldn’t resist the egg, bacon, and ham sandwiches served on cinnamon rolls (!) with a generous side of hash browns. We left happy, if a little disgusted with ourselves.I would totally do this again because I have no self-esteem.
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|↑1||She is more the IPA person. I prefer something that I can drink quickly.|
|↑2||They have some curry fries that I highly recommend.|
|↑3||Honestly, I pestered Soyia into going here on the first day they were open because I needed to eat… well, you’ll see.|
|↑4||I needed to eat a fish fry.|
|↑5||This is my new favorite thing in the world.|
|↑6||So many cheese curds…|
|↑7||Still… I ate too many cheese curds. I never knew I could tire of eating something so obviously bad for you.|
|↑10||Dang, that’s expensive!|
|↑11||The only drawback is it’s impossible to get drunk on these things. But wow, are they good.|
|↑12||I would totally do this again because I have no self-esteem.|