’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.
Some days nothing hits the spot like a really great sandwich. But what makes that sandwich great? The best of the best (even the simple ones) are as well thought-out as a fine dining dish.
It starts with high quality ingredients; and that applies from the bread right down to the condiments. It’s also about balance. A badly built sandwich offers little in the way of texture; its flavors are muddy and it provides little in the way of a true "wow" factor.
Fortunately, Milwaukee’s sandwich game is pretty solid. And these five spots serve up hand-held treasures that are more than just good.
1. Allie Boy's Bagelry & Luncheonette
A great bagel sandwich is definitely something, and you’ll find a number of notable choices at Allie Boy’s, from full-on breakfast sandwiches with all the fixin’s to deli standards like lox with tomatoes, capers, dill, labneh and herb smear. Among my favorites is the Rubeneski, a lovely sandwich that begins with a housemade pumpernickel bagel stuffed with house brined and smoked pastrami brisket, melted Gruyere, caramelized onion sauce, house kraut and dill. It’s savory, tangy and sweet, nutty and fresh with an amazingly deep pop of umami goodness. In other words: yum.
Head to aperitivo for drinks and you’ll find great noshable items, low abv cocktails and lovely wines to savor as they would in Italy. But at lunch, this gem of a spot has a full menu of delicious sandwiches. You’ll find gems like the Medianoche, a take on the Cuban sandwich featuring panini pressed pork shoulder, ham, swiss, yellow mustard and pickles; as well as the Chicken Caesar, which pulls all the things you love about a Caesar salad into a sandwich. I’m particularly fond of The Pritzlaff, a warm sandwich featuring braised beef, caramelized onions, blue cheese, roasted mushrooms and mayo. It’s the sort of lunchtime sandwich that calls for a nice bottle of earthy red wine.
3. Riley’s Sandwich Co.
I have a love hate relationship with steak sandwiches, which can run the gamut between tender and flavorful to tough, gristley and mealy. Such is not the case at Riley’s, a take-out only shop where beef filet is treated to a sous vide bath, ensuring tender mid-rare meat that’s consistent every time. You can find the tender beef on numerous sandwiches, from Philly-style sandwiches to over-the-top options like their Lumpia City Collab (cheese, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers and a five-cheese mac lumpia for good measure). But if you’re looking for a good classic option, grab the Steak Kensington, which is gussied up with roasted mushrooms and onions, melted mozzarella and creamy horseradish spread (the Oakland Style version subs out garlic for the horseradish).
The sous-vide treatment is also used on Riley’s organic chicken breast sandwiches, which can be ordered up as a Philly, cajun, bbq, taco dip, jerk chicken or “wannabe banh mi”; I’ve not yet tried them all, but their chicken parmesan option is a solid choice topped with garlic bread crumbs, a tasty marinara sauce and melted mozzarella. Trust me when I suggest adding the spicy giardiniera; it ramps everything up a notch.
4. Meat & Co.
This ghost kitchen sandwich shop has limited hours at the moment; but you can order up their great sandwiches (and sides) on Wednesday and Thursday evenings between 4 and 8 p.m. for pick-up at The Box Downtown. And it's worth it to set aside the time to grab an easy dinner as the mid-week slump sets in.
Options range from a classic well-prepared BLT to the Lunch Box, a substantial sandwich featuring griddled mortadella, aged cheddar, Duke’s mayo, Zapp’s Voodoo chips and fresh vinegar-based slaw served up on thick-cut toasted white bread. It’s a textural wonder that brings on all the good deli sandwich feelings. That said, I’m particularly fond of the Veg & Co. which features crisp breaded eggplant topped with house pomodoro sauce, kalamata olives fresh mozzarella and basil served up on a tender seeded Italian roll spread with garlic confit. It’s fresh and comforting all at the same time. You must also try the beautifully crisp potato latkes, which put many others in the city to shame (the herbed creme fraiche that accompanies is lovely too).
5. Bavette La Boucherie
Bavette has been one of my top sandwich picks for years, and it’s because they build phenomenal ones. You’ll see variations move on and off the menu; but it seems you can’t go wrong. Among my favorites is the roast beef with truffled mushroom duxelle, braised kale, roasted grapes and onion, which is a sweet and salty melange of deliciousness (with ultra tender beef, to boot). And I can be tempted by their banh mi, especially when it features tender braised pork belly. But what gets me every time is their Corned Beef Tongue Reuben, which I’d put against any other in the city thanks to the flavorful house-brined beef tongue (so tender it practically melts) and spicy house sauerkraut which tones down the richness and beautifully complements the pickled mustard seed aioli. To seal the deal, it’s served on toasted rye with plenty of melted cheese.
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.