By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Mar 14, 2023 at 1:01 PM Photography: County Clare

It’s almost time for St. Patrick’s Day. That means green beer, minty green shakes and lots of corned beef and cabbage… at least here in America.

In Ireland, you’d be more likely to indulge in roasted spring lamb, shepherd’s pie topped with a potato crust or a stout-braised meat pie. And sure, you’d probably toss back a bit of whiskey and a good Irish stout. But corned beef? Nope.

To distil a great deal of history into just a few sentences, corned beef was never a traditional food in Ireland. In fact, pork was more broadly consumed than beef, since it was vastly more affordable.

But, when the Irish emigrated to America, things changed. In America, the Irish found that beef was much more affordable than the pork they’d eaten back home. And the cured beef they found at Jewish delicatessens shared a similar flavor profile as the lean cured pork they’d eaten in Ireland. Combined with the equally affordable cabbage, the Jewish beef became a staple of the Irish-American diet and a popular dish across the land (largely because it was a tasty one-pot meal).

These days, corned beef is as delicious as ever. And – while it’s delicious all year long – it might be all the more delectable on that special day each year when (regardless of our cultural backgrounds) we’re all a little bit Irish.

Reuben from Mae Velma's
Reuben from Mae Velma's

So, in the spirit of celebration, we’ve curated a list of places offering St. Patrick’s day fare (some expected and some not so much). You'll find recs for that good old fashioned Jewish-Irish-American corned beef, plus a variety of other delicious Irish inspired dishes.

1. Bavette La Boucherie

217 N Broadway, (414) 273-3375
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If you love a great reuben sandwich, but are open to branching out, Bavette’s beef tongue reuben is absolutely fantastic. And while it hasn't been on the menu for some time, it's back just in time for St. Patrick's Day.  The reuben has everything you crave, from succulently tender house-cured beef and creamy cheese to spicy, briny sauerkraut and a pickled mustard seed aioli to round everything out. Truly one of the best sandwiches our city has to offer.

2. Camino

434 S. 2nd St., (414) 800-5641
7211 W. Greenfield, West Allis (414) 810-4838

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Get your reuben sandwich (sans meat) at Camino, which offers a super tasty alternative in their long-running beet reuben. This baby packs in a ton of flavor with sliced roasted beets, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing all served up on light rye bread. Pair it up with one of their tasty craft stouts for the perfect combo.

3. Dairyland 

3rd Street Market Hall, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave.

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Love a good Shamrock shake? Well Dairyland can do you one better. Their mint shake features creamy, dairy-forward sweet cream custard (made in house, from start to finish) with just the right amount of mint syrup.  Prefer to celebrate with a scoop (or three) of custard? Their flavor of the day for March 17 is St. Muddycrunch, a combination of mint custard, crushed Oreos, Andes Candies, dark chocolate flakes and hot fudge.

4. County Clare 

1234 N. Astor St., (414) 272-5273

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Potatoes are king among the Irish. Take a tip from Food Network Magazine and put an order of Colcannon Poppers on your list. These crispy, creamy beauts are constructed with mashed potatoes, white cheddar, cabbage, and onions that have been rolled in panko and fried until crisp; be sure to dip them in the accompanying Worcestershire gravy. While you're at it, follow them up with a plate of roasted corned beef brisket served with creamy horseradish sauce, bacon braised slaw, and mashed potatoes. 

5. La Merenda

125 E. National Ave., (414) 389-0125

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If you’ve not had the pleasure of enjoying La Merenda’s famous Carmbomb cake (Guinness chocolate cake that’s been soaked in Guinness and Irish cream and topped with an Irish whiskey cream cheese frosting), this week is the perfect time. You can order a 7-inch round cake (feeds four for $18), a large cupcake (feeds one for $6) or miniature cupcakes (a half dozen for $15) through the restaurant’s curbside menu. You can even pair it up with a local Irish coffee kit, if you’d like, for $60. The catch?  All orders must be placed online by Wednesday, March 15 for pick-up the evening of Thursday, March 16. 

6. Mae Velma’s 

4115 N. 76th St., (414) 988-2448
7276 N. Teutonia Ave., (414) 236-5590

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If you’re hankering for amazingly tender corned beef (plus the convenience of a drive-thru or third party delivery), head to Mae Velma’s. They offer both corned beef sandwiches and reubens, along with their tasty corned beef available by the pound.

7. McBob’s Pub & Grille

4919 W. North Ave., (414) 871-5050

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If you’ve lived in Milwaukee for any length of time, you already know that corned beef is king at this West Side pub, making it one of the city’s biggest hot spots on St. Patrick’s Day. In fact you’ll find it in both the expected places (a great Reuben, delicious corned beef hash) and not-so-expected places like their deep-fried Irish spring rolls. But that’s not all. At McBob’s, you can put their award-winning corned beef on anything for just $9.

8. O’Brien’s Irish American Pub

4928 W. Vliet St., (414) 453-6200

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Who needs French onion soup when you can get Guinness onion soup at O’Brien’s? This heart-warming soup is chock-full of caramelized onions, Jameson prime rib beef stock and Guinness. And yes, it comes in a crock with all the good stuff including garlic toast and melted mozzarella and Swiss cheeses. Feel free to pair it up with a Reuben or New York deli-style corned beef sandwich.

9. O’Lydia’s 

338 S. 1st St., (414) 271-7546

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Reuben rolls anyone? You’ll find some of the best at O’Lydia’s every day of the year. But they are especially tasty on St. Patrick’s Day.  Order a full order (four, six or eight rolls) or split your order between their Reuben rolls and mozzarella sticks.

10. The Thistle & Shamrock

3430 N. 84th St., (414) 871-3977

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This pub, known for its scratch-made fare (and impressive fish fry) also serves up house-made corned beef (slow cooked overnight) as a plate or reuben sandwich. You can also honor the fair Isle’s love of seafood with their housemade seafood chowder featuring shrimp, clams and scallops.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.