There's no shortage of articles and television shows that showcase the dishes that chefs love to cook at their restaurants. But, what do they love to eat at the end of their exhausting 16-hour days? Or on their days off?
In this series, we ask Milwaukee area chefs to share their favorite dishes – both from area restaurants and for eating at home. In this edition, we talked with Chef Jonathan Manyo of Morel. Manyo will be among eight featured chefs at the fourth annual Moveable Feast event at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
Chef Jonathan Manyo of Morel in Walker’s Point has made a name for himself with beautifully prepared, seasonally focused fare using the best local ingredients available.
Manyo, who grew up in Milwaukee, left home to earn a culinary degree from the California Culinary Academy. Afterward, Manyo spent time traveling in Europe, and it was his time in France that gave him a true appreciation for the meaning of the word "terroir." His career led him to Club XIX in Pebble Beach, Florida, the Maisonette in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Lincoln Restaurant in Portland, Oregon, before he returned to Milwaukee to open his own restaurant.
When it comes to dining out, anything goes, says Manyo, including butter burgers.
"I’m really open to eating just about anything," Manyo says. "I’m attracted to food that tends to be on the economical side, and I’ll usually go out for lunch. So I eat a lot of Vietnamese, Thai and Mexican food. It’s not typically prepared using techniques that I’d typically use, but it’s delicious.
"I really enjoy going to all the different restaurants in Milwaukee to see what other chefs are doing. I try to get out and try something at least once a week."
"D2" at Phan’s Garden
"Well, I call it D2. That’s the number it is on the menu. The English description for the dish is "grilled beef;" but it’s not actually grilled. It’s seared sesame beef. And they they serve with rice paper, rice noodles, shredded daikon, cucumber, carrots, basil and cilantro. So you take it and make your own hot spring rolls. It comes with nuac chom for dipping. It’s so delicious."
A double burger and chocolate malt at Solly’s Grille
"Growing up, as kids, we always got to choose one thing to eat for our birthdays. And Solly’s was always the place I’d choose to go. And still -- to this day -- I go there once a year to have my heart attack meal. The secret at Solly’s is, you have to order the double burger. If you get the single, there’s not enough meat to hold up to the butter.
"It’s the only time I eat that buttery of a burger… and it’s good while I’m eating it. But then I go home and regret all my decisions in life."
The carrot cake at Buckley’s
"This cake… it’s simply better than your grandma’s."
Most missed dish: The chopped steak at Supper
"This is the sort of dish you have to go to a supper club to get. It’s basically a hamburger patty that’s seasoned and served with a mushroom veal reduction, mashed potatoes and green beans. But it’s like the best meatloaf you’ve ever had in non-loaf form. It’s sheer simple comfort food. And Erik Hansen did it really, really well. Thankfully, knowing the chef and owner, I have a few of them in my freezer… to go’s, if you will. I’ll very much miss it when my stash is gone."
Special occasion dish
"Another nostalgic dish for me is rouladen. My grandmother used to make it for every special occasion. When she passed away, my mother started making it, but not as often.
"My grandmother always made it without pickles, but I’ve changed the recipe to include bacon, onions and pickles. You pound out the beef, roll it up, cinch it together with toothpicks and roll it in flour. And then I braise it in a reductio of white wine and chicken stock. We’re actually serving a version made with rabbit bellies tonight at a wine dinner at Morel. It’s a tough cut to use; you really have to braise it down because there’s a lot of connective tissue. So, this is perfect. The braising makes it really tender and delicious."
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.