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.
If you’re ready to delve beyond the confines of American Chinese food and explore regional Chinese fare from places like Guangdong (Cantonese), Sichuan, Shanghai and Dongbei, then you are in the right place.
These spots are repping some of the best traditional fare in the city.
1. Sze Chuan Restaurant
If you’ve never tried traditional fare from Chengdu in the Sichuan region of China, Sze Chuan will offer you a rich introduction.
Need a place to start? Can't miss dishes include their flavorful Szechuan pork dumplings, mapo tofu, twice-cooked pork, cumin-scented grilled lamb and – a dish I’ve been obsessed with for months – their special spare ribs.
If you'd like to venture farther, delve into their dry pot cauliflower, fish filet in chili pepper soup or the delightfully creamy steamed egg with beef. Another delightful surprise is the cold pork belly with garlic sauce; it's a dish that stuck with me for months after my first bite.
2. Fusion Cafe
1427 S 108th St, West Allis, (414) 257-1199
Don’t be fooled by the name. Fusion Cafe serves up cuisine representative of the Northeastern region of China, an area known for its hearty stews and pickled vegetables.
Must-try dishes include their handmade dumplings (including those stuffed with pickled cabbage and pork; or egg and chives), mala tofu, crispy sweet and sour pork (guobaorou) and garlicky smoked Harbin red sausage. Be sure to explore their collection of housemade noodle dishes as well.
2945 S. 108th St., (414) 328-9890
Fortune offers two menus. On one, you’ll find American Chinese classics like egg foo young, chop suey and fried rice. But the restaurant’s Chinese menu is where you’ll find the goods, including a variety of traditional Cantonese favorites.
Don’t miss traditional offerings like Cantonese BBQ pork, crispy salt and pepper shrimp, braised eggplant in plum sauce and spare ribs with red bean sauce.
4. Momo Mee
If handmade noodles and dumplings are among your favorite things, Momo Mee has your number.
Though their menu spans numerous countries in Asia, they are true to their representation of regional Chinese fare, offering selections like xiao long bao (soup dumplings), gua bao (try the pork belly) and Cantonese clay pot dishes (if you like it spicy, try the mala). But I’d also highly recommend their Sichuan fare, including theiir dandan noodles, which begins with springy housemade noodles flavored by an umami-rich mixture of spicy bean paste, chili sesame oil and Szechuan peppercorn spiked pork.
Jing's is temporarily closed to accommodate an extended trip to China. However, since they plan to reopen when they return in November, it seemed a shame to leave this gem off of the list.
After all, Jing’s has floated in and out of my best-of’s for years thanks to its consistency and representation of traditional fare from Shanghai, China. Glance down the menu and you’ll find a list of American Chinese dishes; but you’ll also find items like xiao long bao (just ask!), spicy Shanghai chicken and Shanghai-style duck, a dish redolent with ginger and star anise.
When you go, be sure to ask about the items on their "secret" menu including memorable offerings like hong shao rou (Shanghai braised pork belly).
Put them on your list for a visit next month!
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.