’Tis Dining Month, the tastiest time of year! This means we’re dishing up fun and fascinating food content throughout October. Dig in, Milwaukee!
Looking for new spots to try? Lori Fredrich will be dishing out her top five picks in 20 different dining categories throughout the month of October.
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).
Truth is, for as much diversity as there is in the wood-smoked barbeque category, every culture has a form of barbeque, from yakitori, kebabs, kalua and bulgogi to tandoori, lechon, barbacoa and churrasco. And they’re all worth exploring.
That said, I’m going to challenge you a bit with this one. In addition to three spots that serve wood-smoked barbeque, this list also includes a couple of global options … because, in the end, the U.S. did not invent the idea of barbequed meats.
And yes, in this category (more than most), I wish I could list more than just five.
1. Iron Grate BBQ
You’ll find exceptionally well prepared wood-smoked meats (brisket, pork shoulder, hot links and more) and southern inspired sides at this carry-out-only spot on Milwaukee’s near South Side. All meats are house-smoked daily and available until sold out. Watch for specials (they're almost always worthwhile), and be sure to check out the distinctive MKE ribs and house-made hot ham and rolls on Sundays.
2. Lucky Bakery & BBQ
This bakery doubles as a source for Chinese BBQ, a delicacy that’s just as delicious (if not smokey) as its American counterparts. Chinese barbeque isn’t wood-smoked; but it is blasted with high heat in vertical hanging ovens, a technique that results in an ultra-crispy skin and delectable, moist meat. At Lucky, you’ll find options including roast duck, pork, honey glazed bbq pork, salted and soy sauce chicken and more. Go earlier in the day for the best selection.
3. 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, a catering business turned brick and mortar thanks to the Crossroads Collective food hall. Meats are hickory smoked and served up sans sauce with sides including fried corn, macaroni and cheese and some of the best cornbread I’ve had in the North. If the housemade pastrami or Texas cut beef ribs are available, snatch those up!
Side note; Heaven's Table will soon have a restaurant of its own, coming soon to the Uptown Crossing Neighborhood.
Lao barbeque is more traditionally called seen dat, terms which translate as "seared meat." Traditional preparations include meat seared on a dome-shaped griddle; but in many cases, grilling is a fitting substitute. In every case, the meat is served with sticky rice (khao niew), a traditional accompaniment which is also used to scoop up the grilled meats, as well as accompaniments like papaya salad. At Thum, you can find three delicious examples of Lao-style barbeque: grilled chicken breast (marinated witth ginger and lemongrass); charred beef (marinated and grilled) and oua Lao (spicy house pork sausage seasoned with lemongrass, lime leaves and Thai chiles).
5. The Saucy Swine @ redbar
At The Saucy Swine, you’ll find a full line-up of dry-rubbed meats that are smoked on a mix of hickory, oak and applewood. Offerings include brisket, pork belly, pulled pork, pulled chicken, smoked sausage and pulled ham (available as platters with a choice of one side). There’s also a menu of sandwiches and appetizers featuring house-smoked items, including the 1-pound BBQ Superstack featuring pork belly piled on brisket piled on pulled pork, topped with bacon, creole slaw, Wisco 5 cheese sauce and crunchy onions on a grilled bun. Yeah, that’s a mouthful.
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.