Yum-yuck: Local foods that are tasty and wrong
Can you think of a food that's addicting but tastes weird or wrong? For some, it's fried bologna or Funyons, or basically any food you eat although it's a teence disturbing.
Milwaukee is loaded with such foods. Take "Pepperoni-Cannoli" Frank for instance. How often do you think he cleans out his plastic coolers? How many other hands touched those pepperonis and for how long? Do cannolis go bad, or are they immortal like Twinkies? With that ricotta cheese filling, we suspect they don't have a long shelf life.
Regardless, Frank's foot-delivered fare is fab-o at bar time as long as you don't ponder their origin.
And then there's herring, specifically Ma Baensch's in the sour cream and chive brine that looks deceivingly like comfort food. The stuff swims off the shelves around Christmas and the New Year, and out-of-town friends and family often request it. Do they really love herring, or do they too have a love/hate relationship with what some might call "the haggard stepmother of sushi?"
"I always think I like herring," Bay View's Sarah Burns says. "At first, it's like 'yum!' but then it's more like 'yuck.'"
Usinger's takes the cake when it comes to scary, mushy-textured food that many of us would still eat in a New Berlin minute. Liver sausage? Braunschweiger? Who wouldn't say "yes" to the po' people pate if it was served up on white bread thick with mayo?
Bombay Sweets -- and other local Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants -- have small and provocative-looking desserts in their bakery case, yet these mysterious confectionaries could go either way. Are they weeks old and taste like matchboxes, or are they little squares of afterlife? In any case, you want one but you usually don't buy one.
On the other hand, Art Altenburg's Concertina Bar's pickled eggs are simply "yuck." These yolk-filled orbs floating in cloudy liquid look like a C-minus science project. Tony's Tavern has nuts under a warmer, and although a sober mind might worry they'd test positive for human urine germs, the soaked noggin thinks they look scrumpdillicious.
Any edible item from Goldmann's lunch counter is automatically "yum yuck" in nature. The concept of eating there seems OK, yet any place still selling muumuus might have food that's a meow past its prime. Our advice: Don't order the tuna sandwich, and you should be fine. Maybe get the hot dog, but even that's iffy.
"Goldmann's candy counter is pretty good. The Swedish Fish are rarely stale," says Erin Frye of Wauwatosa.
Many Milwaukeeans love the "cannibal sandwich," a barbaric combination of raw ground sirloin served on dark rye bread or crackers and topped with thin-sliced raw onion. This must be similar to ring bologna and scalloped potatoes in the box -- yuck-o foods from childhood that are connected to so many warm feelings of both ignorance and bliss that they still score a "yum."
I know that to some, the local foods may sound a bit rash. However, one must remember that Milwaukee was a true melting pot of many cultures. I grew up with all of these wonderful, crazy foods, and am so glad that I had the chance to try them all. I feel sorry for anyone that hasn't been raised with the open mindedness to experiment with different foods. They miss so much.
Phil Carroll said: I heard that cannibal sandwiches are no longer legal or served. True?
Herb Allen said: I recall the cannibal sandwich from Green Bay 1958-62. Here's a variant: leanest ground sirloin between pump rye. Layer one slice with Texas Pete, the other with horseradish. Great!
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