It's Halloween season, and that means everyone's getting decked in their scariest outfits and streaming the scariest movies they can find. But why stop there? Why not spread some terror to the dinner table, as well?
Here are 12 dishes that might give you a fright while skimming the menu – whether it's a gory ingredient, a killer amount of calories or cholesterol, or a bloody stab wound to the bank account. Or maybe you've overcome some of these food fears; in that case, congratulations on your iron nerves and steel stomach.
1. Brain masala curry
Food phobia: Gory ingredient
Found at: Anmol
Look, we have no doubt this curry from Anmol is delicious. Our own Lori Fredrich sings the restaurant's praises for its unique curries and knockout na'an. That being said, the first word of the dish is brain – goat brain, to be particular, boiled and fried in a tomato and yogurt masala – so there's no way we won't imagine the scene from "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" when we see this on the menu.
According to food writer Ed Smith, cooked brains can taste like "slightly set custard or runny scrambled eggs," so that ... that doesn't actually help much at all, nope. Unless "The Walking Dead" breaks out, this might just be a bridge too offal – though if you are feeling adventurous, there's never been a better time for brain as the restaurant currently offers it as its Halloween special.
2. Too Hot For A Normal Person Wings
Food phobia: Face-melting heat
Found at: Jonny Hammers
You might think the name of these wings is just some fun bar goofing around, but if anything, it might undersell how hot these little nuggets of napalm are. They're too hot for normal people. They're too hot for dragons. They're too hot for literal hellspawn.
One bite, and I was done eating these wings – and had just begun hiccuping and coughing and crying. I couldn't even lick my fingers of the sauce because I was too scared to keep burning my mouth. The cook at Jonny Hammers told me that it's technically more potent than pepper spray, and I believe him.
3. The prime rib wall of fame challenge
Food phobia: Massive meat mountain
Found at: Ward's House of Prime
If you're going to a steakhouse, you might as well go all out. And at Ward's, they mean ALL. OUT. The restaurant has a "wall of fame" section of the menu, featuring special massive cuts ranging from the 40-ounce "Baby Dane" to the 125-ounce "Holy Schmidt" and more.
Those can't even hold an artery-clogged candle next to the current record holder, however, a 360-ounce steak called the "Good Golly Miss Molly," named after Molly Schuyler, who ate the beast – 22.5 pounds for those not great at math conversions – in just an hour and a half. Feel free to try to beat her mark, though you'll probably be more cow than man by the end of it.
4. Black & white pudding
Food phobia: "BLOOD!"
Found at: County Clare
The Full Irish Breakfast at the outstandingly authentic County Clare inn and pub would be intimidating in its own right just from all the food it comes with, from eggs to bangers, rashers and more. But it especially graduates to inspiring culinary cowardice thanks to the inclusion of both black and white pudding.
White pudding is pretty standard – a sausage patty comprised typically of meat, fat, bread, suet and oatmeal – but black pudding is where things turn, taking the same recipe ... and then adding blood. It's very traditional eats in the U.K., but for many diners on this side of the pond, they'll probably think it's more native to Transylvania.
5. Solly's butter burger
Food phobia: Artery attack
Found at: Solly's
It may be a local legend – and mighty delicious – but there's no denying the terror of seeing your first Solly's burger arrive in front of you, just sitting there in a literal pool of melted butter. Doctors note it's one of the rare moments where you can feel your stomach and your heart cry at the same time – though probably for different reasons. And while Solly's has temporarily shut down its dine-in service, the Milwaukee icon does offer carry-out – including burger kits, so you can still enjoy your butter with a side of burger!
Food phobia: Pungent perfume
Found at: Pacific Produce
This may not exactly be a Milwaukee dish, but it needs to be added simply because – put as politely as possible – durian smells like farts. It's a big, spiky fruit native to Southeast Asia that smells like a garbage can of nightmares after a torrential downpour that then marinated in the heat for maximum nose murder.
Apparently, once you get past the nose-numbing odor, the actual fruit itself is quite tasty, so give it a try for yourself. Just maybe cut it open outdoors.
7. The OOMG Challenge
Food phobia: Artery attack (again)
Found at: Safe House (temporarily closed due to the pandemic)
What could be more terrifying to your heart values than a cheeseburger literally swimming in a baby pool of butter and grease? How about FIFTEEN burgers stacked between a bun?
Those were the stakes in Safe House's Mission Impossible OOMG Challenge, briefly introduced this past January at the iconic spy-themed restaurant, featuring a 15-story burger beast that at first we weren't convinced wasn't just a Photoshop prank. But no, it's real – and it's terrifying. And that's BEFORE we found out that you also have to knock back a pound of cheese curds and 60 ounces of amber lager, all in an hour if you want the feast for free. (It's $50 otherwise.)
The Mission Impossible OOMG Challenge is so imposing that even Tom Cruise wouldn't even risk it – though this guy did! It did not end well.
8. Hot pot
Food phobia: Overwhelming options
Found at: Huan Xi
For newcomers, it can be a lot to take in when headed to hot pot at Huan Xi, from discovering your table is filled with small self-operated broth burners to understanding the process of hot pot (essentially Asian fondue). And that's all before you look at the menu, which is a list of seemingly all of creation for your dipping pleasure – and all parts of all of creation, including various tripes and even that dreaded black pudding component: BLOOD!
For those cautious about exploring different culinary customs, Huan Xi can maybe feel like a lot to process. But as we learned in a recent Burning Through Brew City, take the trip, discover a new dining experience and then croon some karaoke afterwards. (At least when we return to normal times; unfortunately Huan Xi's dine-in space is temporarily closed, but you can and should still order takeout!)
9. Liver and onions
Food phobia: Timeless terror
Found at: Alioto's
Liver and onions has been a classic dinner table dread for generations. Even those who like liver and onions have had to suppress memories of the dish overcooked into oblivion – because if you're going to digest a digestive organ, it might as well be cooked tolerably. And also it's liver.
So whether you're a veteran who's learned to live with liver and onions, or a young whippersnapper who's just weirded out by eating the organ, people of all ages can agree that this is one plate that'll have your stomach puckered at least a bit. (But hey, at Alioto's, at least they cook it all with butter and bacon – and you know what they say about bacon!)
Food phobia: Creepy cuisine
Found at: Wisconsin State Fair
Most people don't even want to be in the same room as a bug, much less put them into their body. But that's exactly what happened in recent summers at the Wisconsin State Fair, where the brave folks at Exotic Meat Grill topped their tacos with lettuce, sour cream, salsa ... and these chirpy little critters. Molly Snyder tried these tacos once and gave them the rave review of "edible!"
Maybe you'd be better off sampling crickets in a beer, which was exactly Water Street Brewery's thinking when it made a special chocolate stout three years ago with cricket flour. What better way to sneak a bug into your diet than with a tasty, frothy brew? Unfortunately, Water Street stopped brewing the special beer, but we'll keep this all in mind for when the global food supply dwindles to nothing and we need to start subsisting on these crunchy critters.
11. Japanese Waygu steak
Food phobia: Wallet worry
Found at: Carnevor
Unless you're a vegetarian, there's nothing to be scared of when it comes to an impeccable slab of meat like a Japanese Waygu "A-5" filet mignon – and even if you are a vegetarian, this dream cut (fittingly found at Carnevor) might just flip you into a carnivore for a night. The nightmares will come, however, when you see your check and see the 6 oz. steak alone just cost you $168. My bank account just trembled in fear and needs a hug.
Luckily, if you're watching your wallet, you could also pinch a few pennies and try the 24-ounce dry-aged bone-in ribeye, which is just a mere $95. Look at those savings!
12. The Eldritch Horror Burger
Food phobia: I mean ... just look at it
Found at: Company Brewing
Meet the first burger ever made that might just bite back. In honor of the spooky season, the Riverwest restaurant made this culinary critter: a six-ounce beef patty topped with frisee, blue cheese, Company butter, specical sauce and fried squid tentacles for an extra food phobia, all between a midnight black bun complete with two olives for eyes. Because there's nothing soul-rattling about a dish that can make eye contact! This delicious Frankenstein monster is only available through Sunday, Nov. 1, so snag your scary burger before it returns to hell.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.