There’s makers, shakers, and bakers in Milwaukee, and they’re supplying locals with a steady stream of fresh-made food. Whether farm or factory, it’s all Milwaukee-made.
Every morning should start with fresh-baked bread, but Milwaukee’s many ethnic enclaves and burgeoning craft scene are hand-rolling the dough into even more. Though fresh breakfast can be had at nearly any coffee shop, Italian delicacies at Peter Sciortino’s Bakery on Brady Street and Polish paczskis (pooch-keys) at National Bakery off Oklahoma Avenue transport diners to Milwaukee’s past neighborhood-level nationalities.
As you’re eating about town, make sure to ask for any burger, brat, or hotdog you get to be on a Miller Bakery Pretzilla. Wisconsin’s original pretzel-bun adds decadent salty-sweetness to every bite. In the same vein, match up a cold brew about town with a giant, Bavarian-style soft pretzel from the Milwaukee Pretzel Company.
While you’re undoubtedly imbibing along with your food adventures at one of Milwaukee’s many watering holes, occasionally you’ll stumble across a free bowl of salty snacks or pub food to help continue the thirsty session. Ask for the addicting Gardetto’s by name, or if you’re lucky some Knight’s Gourmet Popcorn.
Palermo’s Pizza is a frozen pizza-pie empire; in fact, the vast majority of frozen pizza styles available nationwide originated in Wisconsin homes and bars. Palermo’s newer production facility in the Menomonee Valley offers cheap, informative, and delicious daily tours.
Nothing pairs better with a Milwaukee beer than a Milwaukee brat. Klement’s Sausage is omnipresent in the city, and Miller Park’s Racing Sausages bear their name. Just as prestigious a meat-family in town is the historic Usinger’s Famous Sausage, still located on the banks of the Milwaukee River downtown as it was over 100 years ago.
A trip to Milwaukee would not be complete without sampling some fresh cheese curds (we personally like them squeaky, as our name suggests). Wisconsin’s first urban cheese maker, Clock Shadow Creamery, makes a new batch each day. You can even get a tour to see how these glorious little cheese nuggets are born.
Spice Things Up
If you’re cooking a meal at home, you’ll want to grab some locally-made spices to keep things interesting. The Spice House on Old World Third downtown smells like walking into a foreign bazaar. Nationwide-brand Penzey’s Spices is based in nearby Wauwatosa, and occasionally hosts factory tours.
We really should’ve started here: life’s short, eat dessert first. The Walker’s Point Indulgence Chocolatiers is setting the standard for high-end chocolate experiences; wine/whiskey pairings and private events are common, though their store also welcomes walk-ins. Buddy Squirrel in St Francis is running the retail route locally with their packaged salty snacks and creamy chocolates.
While Wisconsin is more of a custard-loving state, Purple Door Ice Cream is starting to turn the tide locally. Expect a long list of interesting flavors (personal favorite: mixing whiskey and salted caramel), and an equally-long line of sugar-seekers.
Speaking of custard, no visit would be complete without a taste of The World Famous Leon’s Custard. This classic drive-up hasn’t changed in centuries, and Milwaukee residents wouldn’t have their favorite frozen custard any other way.
All photos by Joe Powell for The Squeaky Curd unless otherwise noted.