Food-Lovers' Milwaukee

By Manya Kaczkowski

There are lots of reasons to have breakfast at Blue’s Egg. For starters, there’s the huge sausage, tomato, spinach and potato strata, which comes with a side: petit fruit smoothie or bagel with cream cheese and capers, for example. Then there’s the crispy shrimp, bay scallops and calamari scramble. This charming eatery has won local best breakfast awards for the two years it’s been open, for good reason. They’re willing to give back, too: when customers order the daily Egg Plate, Blue’s Egg donates $1 to a local charity. Did we mention the Walking Breakfast of peanut butter, jelly, bacon and banana on egg bread? And if that’s not enough reason to visit, they also serve lunch…

Twenty- and thirty-somethings, listen up: you might want to check out the new gastropub Rumpus Room. While other popular Bartolotta restaurants attract customers age 40 and older, the relaxed, eclectic atmosphere and affordable pub food here offers something for everyone. “We’re trying to lure a different market,” says owner Joe Bartolotta. Steam-punk industrial art adorns the walls, coupled with Edwardian bar stools and gold chandeliers. The food is comfortable, but usually has a unique twist: pork belly BLTs, Sprecher cheese soup and stout-braised lamb cheeks are staples. Drink offerings include more than 100 beers—some rare—and hand-crafted cocktails. With its ideal location near the Bradley and Marcus Performing Arts Centers, it’s convenient for meeting—and eating—before or after a show or game.

A cute little corner café may not change the world, but it sure is changing the way folks think about Mexican food in Milwaukee. Almost everything served at Café Corazon is locally grown or raised, much of it on the family farm. The focus here is on natural, fresh food, sustainable growing practices and high quality. Sit at one of the half-dozen tables or belly up to the bar (you’ll have new friends by the time you leave!) and start with a Corazon Margarita, chips, red and green salsa and guacamole; you’ll soon be hooked. Don’t miss the meaty—or vegetarian—Truck Tacos, served on warm corn tortillas and accented with cilantro, onion, tomato, radish and queso fresco.

There really is a free lunch—as long as you buy a German beer at Old German Beer Hall. Monday-Friday, from 11 am to 2 pm, you’ll dine like der Konig on a tasty smoked Nurenburg bratwurst—custom-made for the restaurant by local sausage king, Usingers—served with sauerkraut and a side dish. But you may also want to come in the evenings, for a rollicking dose of gemütlichkeit. Dance to live polka music two nights each week while your dirndl-clad waitress keeps your stein nice and full. “You can dance on the tables, dance on the bar,” says bartender Tony Meyer. “It’s Oktoberfest every day in here.” Prost!

In a serene black and white room, accented by river rocks and cool tile, diners experience the fifth taste—beyond sweet, sour, salt and bitter. It’s the Japanese meaning for this restaurant’s name, Umami Moto: “deliciousness.” That’s a lot to live up to, but it happens night after night. On Thursdays, choose from a special Asian tapas and sushi menu, otherwise, you’ll feast on unique sashimi creations such as Hamachi, with cocoa nibs, orange and foie gras emulsion; beet and goat cheese salad with pumpkin seed brittle; and tender sea bass with bamboo rice, fennel, yuzu and Chinese mustard. Perhaps the meaning of Umami Moto should be changed to “heaven.”

Take It With You

If you want to taste Milwaukee at home, choose from a fine selection of independent specialty food stores, with everything from hand-wrapped pork tamales to a wedge of sharp cheddar.

Of course you’ll need some cheese, and Wisconsin Cheese Mart has the largest selection of Wisconsin cheese in the state, including Burning Melange Gouda, made from Dutch immigrants. A perfect accompaniment is German-style hard salami, which you can pick up from Usinger’s, at the same location where wurstmacher Fred Usinger opened his doors in the late 1800s. Now, a little antipasti and a bottle of Italian wine would be nice, yes? Glorioso’s, opened on Brady St. in 1947, is the perfect place to find both. Warning, you may be here browsing for hours! Pick up a loaf of crusty bread at Peter Sciortino’s Bakery down the street, then head over to El Rey for Mexican Wedding Cookies. This full-service supermercado is a Latino gem, run for more than 30 years by brothers Ernesto and Heriberto Villarreal.

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