For the fifth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2011."
By no means am I a "foodie," a term reserved for those who have a deep knowledge about food and live for the chance to experience exciting cuisines at both the new and old.
However, I do believe that I have a decent "working man's" palate and that I can easily discern between McDonald's and Kopp's.
Since OnMilwaukee.com takes the month of October to discuss the many wonderful places to eat around Milwaukee, I'm going to do a completely unofficial and un-endorsed (though Concordia University Wisconsin, which is sponsoring all the food posts this month, is my alma mater) blog about my favorite places, giving them arbitrary titles like "best," etc.
Remember, this is all opinion and based on my personal tastes and it's restricted to what I seek out to eat on a regular occasion. I hardly expect anybody to agree with me but if you see a place that you haven't heard of on the list, or a place you haven't visited in a while, maybe take some time out of your busy dinning schedule to check a few of this joints out.
Let the fun begin.
Best Burger: AJ Bombers
I have never kept my love for AJ Bombers and their burgers secret. I am one of the few people to have consumed everything on their menu and while I enjoy a large portion of their menu, I keep going back to their burger. It's juicy and the meat has a nice crisp on the edges. The flavor is great and eating a double or triple – or even a quad – is worth it if you are a big eater.
Runner-Up Burger: Red Rock Saloon
Right next to AJ Bombers, the addition of Red Rock Saloon to the block that Bombers is on made it one of the most delicious blocks on Water Street. Even though the waiters and waitresses are dressed pretty trashy, the burger is worth the silly dress and décor.
Best Wings: Magoo's
The "Tough Guy" wings, with their homemade ranch or bleu cheese dressing, are simply the most flavorful I've had in the Milwaukee area thus far. Though they aren't the meatiest of wings, the fact that they taste so good picks up the slack in the size of the wings. The rest of the flavors one can get their wings in at Magoo's are good, and I've had all but two, but the "Tough Guy" wings are hands down the best.
Runner-Up Wings: Red Rock Saloon
I love smoked food and Red Rock Saloon smokes their wings to the right amount of tenderness. You get just enough smoke that complements the natural flavor of the meat and the sauce you choose. They have lots of options for sauce including some that are so hot that I'd not ever be brave enough to try them.
Best Pizza: Lisa's on Oakland
That thin crust, with that great sauce, those cute and flavor-packed pepperonis and that lovely cheese make Lisa's the best pizza in Milwaukee. The downside about Lisa's is that they open at 4 p.m. which has led me and many of my friends to make impulsive decisions to purchase pizza from lesser places. I have millions of great things to say about Lisa's, but my words could never do justice to their 'za. It's just fantastic. Oh yeah, their ranch is off the hook as well.
Runner-Up Pizza: Pizza Shuttle
Sure, sure, sure. You can call this a rookie mistake all you want or a pizza that only a college kid could eat but you're selling Pizza Shuttle completely short. I firmly believe that if you say you don't like Pizza Shuttle's pizza, what you're really saying is that you don't like the college kid reputation that Pizza Shuttle has. Get over that and try it again and get some fresh crushed garlic on your 'za for free, and garlic butter crust which is also free.
Best Appetizer: Stack'd – Pulled Pork Nachos
Replacing your standard tortilla chips with deep fried wontons turns out to be an ingenious idea. Add jalapenos, a wonderful cheese sauce, some great BBQ pulled pork and other ingredients into the pot and you have an appetizer that's worth eating as an entrée.
Runner-Up Appetizer: AJ Bombers – Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls
When these three non-traditional egg rolls come to you and you bite into them and their mix of hot sauce and chicken, you might be tasting a little slice of appetizer greatness. At least, I believe you are.
Best Beer Cheese Soup: The Chancery
This soup is thick, cheesy and packed with the right amount of beer flavor. You get a soft pretzel to dip into the soup and it's all enjoyment from the first spoon/dip to the last.
Runner-Up Beer Cheese Soup: Miller Time Pub
Whenever I'm going to an event at the Milwaukee Theatre, U.S. Cellular Arena, Bradley Center, etc., I always do my best to jump into Miller Time Pub in the downtown Hilton for a quick cup or bowl of beer cheese soup. Unfortunately you don't get a soft pretzel to go with it, but it's still good.
Best Gyro: Oakland Gyros
Stop your groans now because Oakland Gyros is NOT just for UW-Milwaukee students and drunkards after bar time. Their tzatziki sauce is smooth and delicious. You can get what looks like a quarter-pound sized stick of butter in feta cheese. Their meat is seasoned well and it makes for a good meal at any hour of the day, not just after 2 a.m.
Runner-Up Gyro: American Euros
I dig a street cart/truck that serves good food and American Euros gives me my gyro fix when I'm making my way around Milwaukee later at night on my way home and I have no desire to wait in the long lines at Oakland Gyros. At times, I may or may not break the law as I double park on the street to hop out of my car to grab a gyro really quickly from AE, but the convenience is awesome. The gyros themselves are also pretty darn exceptional. With the burning down of Grecian Delight, American Euros moved up on my list.
Best Seafood Entree: Izumi's
Their sushi is of course delicious, but it's the Salmon Butter Yaki that takes the cake and is my favorite seafood entree in Milwaukee. This is another one of those dishes that I can't describe appropriately because it's that good and I lack the proper food vocabulary. I'll just make a bold claim and say that I believe Alton Brown would enjoy it.
Runner-Up Seafood Entrée: Molly Cool's
Fish tacos may have started on the Pacific coast of Mexico, but they completely fit in in the Midwest. On Mondays they have $1 fish tacos and you get the fish of the day, which is always a fun surprise. I know that their menu considers the fish tacos to be an appetizer the rest of the time, but honestly, tacos are a meal. Just go check the menu at a Mexican restaurant. I can't be fooled.
Best Coffee Drink: Alterra Coffee Roasters
The espresso shake at Alterra is one of those wonderful coffee drinks that I love during every season of the year, especially of course in the summer. Ice cream, little flecks of espresso beans, etc., and a smile from your local barista and you've got magic.
Runner-Up Coffee Drink: Alterra Coffee Roasters
Almond. White. Chocolate. Mocha. Yes, I do know that that's not proper Alterra ordering code. There's just something about almond that kicks any coffee drink up a couple levels.
Well, that looks good. I think I'll end my list there.
Okay you finicky foodies, that should be enough fodder for you to want to crush my soul. Have fun, if you so choose (typed in sarcasm, of course).
Born in Milwaukee and raised in the Milwaukee suburb of Brown Deer, Concordia University Wisconsin alumnus Poppe has spent the majority of his life in or around the city and county of Milwaukee.
As an advocate of Milwaukee's hip-hop community Poppe began popular local music blog Milwaukee UP in March 2010. Check out the archived entries here.
Though heavy on the hip-hop, Poppe writes about other genres of music and occasionally about food, culture or sports, and is always ready to show his pride in Milwaukee and Wisconsin.