Restaurants & Bars 5

Milwaukee Notes

Jim Leff | May 19, 200808:29 PM

These are notes, not reviews....I'm posting as a civilian here, just one of the hounds. Quick reports from quick bites here and there, and reaching conclusions on the fly.

I was totally disappointed by Kopp's, the mega-proud local burgers-and-frozen-custard landmark. I went to the one at 5373 n port washington rd glendale. I got a burger, which was ok (sauteed onions were made way ahead and were wet and globby). Mostly, it was a good bun well toasted with plenty of fat. The patty itself revealed its mediocrity when eaten by itself. Ick. The frozen custard was candy sweet, and had all the vanilla trueness of white Lucky Charms. I'd imagine Kopp's fans would snort and tell me you're not supposed ot look for "vanilla trueness" in this sort of populist food. Baloney. I've had populist custard all over the country that had great deep vanilla flavor, and seen kids gleefully slurping up custard with less than enormo sweetness level. There's no excuse for crappiness.

I didn't make it to Leon's, the competing custard concern. But I suspect it's similar. Just a hunch.

However, I did chance upon Omega Frozen Custard 4695 s 108 st Greenfield, WI 414-425-8520, and it was enormously classier. I'll add it to my pantheon. Didn't try a burger...just custard.

Miss Katie's Diner 1900 W Clybourn St, Milwaukee: (414) 344-0044
Decent diner but a bit slick. No real soul, and my waiter was a nasty, distracted lout. I ordered corned beef hash, and was surprised to find that it's just hash browns with some cubes of grilled corned beef in it. But I have to admit: just hash browns with some cubes of grilled corned beef in it tastes pretty good!

Ma Fischer's Family Restaurant 2214 N Farwell Ave Milwaukee (414) 271-7424
ok, this was much better. I had some of the most perfect diner homefries of my life....I think these are the homefries I've always been secretly hoping for in my heart of hearts. No bell peppers or onions or anything....slices of potato with a deeply caramelized spuddy ridges. I loved the barely-detectable subtle grassy tang from the butter which only was apparent thanks to restrained application of salt. They're unafraid to go bland. It's beautiful. Ma Fischer's is the sort of place that's so famous and ubiquitous that locals underrate it. I've seen that happen so many times. No one will ever send you here. But you must go.

Public Market is yuppie foodie wonderland. I liked the chopped pork sandwich at the Hawaiian conecssion (not sure how they do it, but the chopped pork is actually b aked in to the unbroken roll). Nice people there, too. Across the aisle is a bakery making some high-faluting stuff that looked showy but tasted disappointing. Exception: their Midwestern guilty pleasure dessert bars, hidden with shame on the lowest shelf. They're great, don't miss them. The Wisconsin products concession carried Door County Kettle Cooked Chips from Milwaukee. Excellent, clean, richly soulful. Worth looking for.

Saz's State House 5539 W. State Street Milwaukee 414.453.2410
I ate my first-ever plate of fried cheese curds at the bustling bar with an aromatic glass of microbrew from Milwaukee Ale House and was in heaven. Unfortunately, they don't serve bratwurst sliders until nighttime.

Water Street Brewery 1101 N Water St, Milwaukee - (414) 272-1195. Beers are kind of bleh. Menu turned me off, too.

Stonefly Brewing (formerly Onopa) 5 E. Center St. Milwaukee (414) 264-3630. I never made it into this place...they keep odd hours and it's in an out-of-the-way corner of town. But I have a real good vibe about the beer and the idiosyncratic food menu. I later found this review at mkeonline, an excellent local community site:

In that same part of town (which looks run-down at first glance, but actually is rife with interesting bohemian stuff):

Club Timbuktu 520 E Center St. Milwaukee 414-265-7000 African restaurant/nightclub. looked good.

Riverwest coop and cafe - 733 E. Clarke St., Milwaukee (414) 264-7933
Artsy/activist cooperative grocery and restaurant. The latter has excellent homemade ginger beer & veg chili. http://www.riverwestcoop.org

Quick non-food note (please, if you want to discuss this, start a thread on "Not About Food"...and then post the link to that thread in reply to this posting). Milwaukee Art Museum was a huge surprise. Their modern collection is small but really wonderfully chosen. Then you finally get to the top floor and find the expansive realm of a deseased rich local collector. It was like finding the promised land. Tons of German Expressionism and Georgia O'Keefes and much more...and totally totally empty on a weekend afternoon.

Places I sadly missed:

Three Brothers (no Serbian for me, alas)

Karl Ratzsch's (looked great, but arrived 9pm Friday and was too late!)

Buckhorn Supper Club (supposed to be a fun scene, though not for food)

Milwaukee Ale House - www.ale-house.com 233 N Water St # 1, Milwaukee - (414) 226-2337. I liked the beer I had at Saz, but never made it to the mother ship.

Bunzel's Meat Market 8415 West Burleigh http://www.bunzels.com
Bratwurst steeped in beer and onions then grilled on an outdoor grill Saturdays only. Arrive early...or be disappointed like I was :(

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