Looking for new spots to try? Lori Fredrich has dished out her top five picks in 20 different dining categories, from brunch to BBQ and everything in between.
People often ask me: What’s the best barbeque in the city? I’m more than happy to answer that question based on the quality of the meat used, combined with technique and execution.
But, more often than not, what people really want to know is: What barbeque tastes the best? And that, my friends, is largely based on what style of barbeque you like. (Alabama, fire-smoked with white sauce; the Carolinas: smoked meat, vinegar-based sauce; Kansas City: variable, served with sweeter sauce alongside; Memphis: pit-smoked with tangy sauce; West Texas: wood-smoked with tomato-based sauce...I could go on).
So what I've provided here are a few of the styles you can find in Milwaukee, all of them executed with a high level of technique and attention to detail.
And yes, in this category (more than most), I wish I could list more than just five.
1. Heaven’s Table BBQ
Milwaukee’s BBQ game has gotten stronger over the past few years. Among the newest spots to tackle the art of smoked meats is Heaven’s Table, which just acquired a brick and mortar location of its own at the end of last year. Meats are hickory smoked and served up sans sauce with sides including house baked beans, macaroni and cheese, delicious greens (weekends only) and some of the best cornbread I’ve had in the North.
Highlights include the Texas-inspired smoke brisket, juicy smoked chicken and pastrami (buy it by the pound for sandwiches). Be sure to place your order early; like all good BBQ joints, when Heaven's Table is sold out, they're sold out.
2. Double B's BBQ
7420 W. Greenfield Ave., (414) 257-9150
This family-friendly West Allis staple has been turning out smoked meats, sandwiches and sides since 2015. Largely inspired by Memphis-style barbecue, meats at Double B's are pit smoked with hickory, giving them their distinctive flavor.
Highlights include their St. Louis spare ribs and brisket, though I'm especially fond of their smoked wings, which are tender with a nice little exterior snap. And their smokehouse beans (made with drippings from the smoker) are delicious enough that the side portion always feels too small.
Looking for an indulgence? Try the brisket burnt ends sandwich featuring bite-sized pieces of smoked brisket points, coated in Kansas City style sauce and double smoked. They're topped with crispy onions.
3. Pat's Rib Place
151 E. Sunset Dr., Waukesha (262) 544-4099
Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St.
The folks at Pat's have made a name for themselves with excellent Southern style barbeque. Meats are smoked daily (often for as many as 14 hours) over a combination of apple, cherry and hickory woods, often in two batches to meet demand.
The result is tender fall-off-the-bone baby back and spare ribs which are unlike any others in town. And while I'm not big on sauced bbq (the meat shouldn't need it), Pat's housemade sauces are pretty darn delicious.
Oh! And be sure to order dessert. Their peach cobbler is absolutely worth every single calorie.
4. Iron Grate BBQ
4125 S. Howell Ave., (414) 455-1776
Milwaukee lost a good one when Iron Grate BBQ closed this past November. Not only did it take my list of five BBQ spots down to four; but it left a discernable hole in Milwaukee's nascent, but swiftly growing scene.
5. LD's BBQ
If you're in the mood for a scenic road trip, head to East Troy for a taste of Leon Davis' smoked meats. Birthed as a mobile BBQ business that served its goods at gas stations in Big Bend and East Troy before establishing a brick and mortar restaurant in 2018.
Davis slow smokes his meats over oak, imparting a flavor that’s stronger than fruitwood, but more subtle than hickory or mesquite. I'm a big fan of their smoked chicken legs (which are occasionally on offer as a Sunday special); but the half chicken will do in a pinch (it's great to take home for sandwiches). And you need to call ahead (the day before) for the burnt ends, but it's worth it. They also make a pretty mean mac & cheese.
Of course, if it's your first time, it's not a bad idea to order the combo platter which gives you a bit of everything including chicken, ribs, brisket and custom smoked sausage.
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.