By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Mar 17, 2021 at 9:01 AM 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. Beef in general, and corned beef in particular, has long been a popular choice at Jewish delis in the U.S., and that’s where Irish immigrants got their first taste of the delicacy. 

When Irish immigrants came to America, they found that beef was much more affordable than the pork they’d eaten back home. And, in fact, the cured beef found at delicatessens shared a  flavor profile that was similar to 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

To help you celebrate, 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, including options for gluten-free and vegetarian diners.

1. Bavette La Boucherie

330 E. Menomonee St., (414) 273-3375
If you love a great reuben sandwich, but are open to branching out, Bavette’s beef tongue reuben is absolutely fantastic. It has everything you want from a sandwich, from succulently tender 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. Campbell’s Irish Pub 

4068 S. Howell Ave., (414) 483-4546

Looking for something hearty? Warm up with Campbell’s Guinness beef stew featuring tender slow-simmered chuck, carrots and onions slowly simmered in a thyme-scented Guinness-enriched base. Pair it up with some of their Irish brown bread and an Irish brew.

3. Camino

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

4. County Clare 

1234 N. Astor St., (414) 272-5273
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. Pair them up with a plate of roasted corned beef brisket served with creamy horseradish sauce, bacon braised slaw, and mashed potatoes. The Irish root soup is also a delicious bet!

5. Emerald City Catering 

3555 S. 13th St., (414) 672-3434
If you’d like to do some good while enjoying a plate of corned beef and cabbage, Emerald City will be offering plates of corned beef and cabbage to go from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 17.  Come a bit early and enjoy a drink at the bar when you pick up your order. Even better, 50% of proceeds from the day will be donated to Street Angels Milwaukee.

6. Mae Velma’s 

4101 N. 76th St., (414) 988-2448

If you’re hankering for amazingly tender corned beef, head to the drive-thru at Mae Velma’s on the West Side. They offer both corned beef sandwiches and reubens, along with their tasty corned beef by the pound.

7. Mor Bakery & Cafe

2018 S 1st St., (414) 249-3316

Gluten-free is the name of the game at Mor, which keeps a gluten-free kitchen and offers a variety of allergy-friendly offerings. Pre-order their house-made (nitrate and gluten-free) corned beef  with braised cabbage, root vegetables, and potatoes) by the pound online. Deadline for online pre-orders is March 6, with pick-up on Saturday, March 13. Order here.

8. Mo’s Irish Pub - Wauwatosa  

10842 W. Bluemound Rd., (414) 774-9782
Ever tried a boxty? This delicious dish is essentially a potato pancake stuffed with deliciousness. And Mo’s is among the only spots in the city where you can find one. Their reuben boxty features slow-cooked corned beef, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing tucked into a seasoned potato pancake and covered with Mo’s Zesty 4-Cheese Sauce.

9. O’Lydia’s 

338 S. 1st St., (414) 271-7546
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.

10. The Thistle & Shamrock

3430 N. 84th St., (414) 871-3977
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. 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.