The votes are in, and the winners have been selected for OnMilwaukee's Best Dining 2009. The results of this readers' poll, including an editors' pick, are available in this series of articles that run all October long during Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com.
The number 13 is supposed to carry unlucky overtones.
Tell that to Steve Sazama.
Sazama is the proprietor of Saz's State House, 5539 W. State St., which defeated Speed Queen for Milwaukee's best ribs in the 2009 survey of OnMilwaukee.com readers.
Saz's margin of victory was 13 votes, making this year's ribs competition one of the closer battles in the history of the poll.
Diners are passionate about ribs. While some prefer the chewy, gnaw-off-the-bone texture that comes from smoking, others are more partial to the succulent, fall-off-the-bone variety like the pork ribs served at Saz's. (Saz's also offers a St. Louis-style rib).
Part of Saz's advantage may be his signature line of sauces, which have been available at local grocers for years, allowing home grillmasters to approximate the creations of the kitchen on State Street.
The secret to the sauce? Sazama uses real sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup favored by other purveyors. "It's a sweeter sauce," Sazama said. "And you get that caramelization on the grill."
Though thousands of people consume Saz's food during the summer festival season -- particularly at Summerfest and State Fair -- the ribs provide the backbone of the menu.
"You always want to be known for something," Sazama said. "We're known for ribs."
OnMilwaukee.com Editors' choice: Jerry's Old Town
2. Speed Queen
3. Jerry's Old Town
5. Five O'Clock Steak House
6. Silver Spur
7. Jackson Grill
9. Bigg's Roadhouse
10. Fire Pit Sports Bar (Potawatomi)
11. Buckey's Kiskeam Inn
12. Pizza Man