Zak's Cafe is new and a bit off the beaten track, but I predict that it won't be long before it's hard to get a table there.
Following a day of shopping, we showed up in early evening at this bistro-style eatery, located in a newly renovated Walker's Point building. I opted for a pair of appetizers instead of an entrée. The mix and match "slider" flight offered me a choice of three mini-sandwiches. The burger featured lean ground beef topped with apple-wood smoked bacon and rich cheddar cheese. Pulled BBQ pork was topped with cheddar cheese as well as crispy fried onions. The standout was the seared ahi tuna with arugula, caper remoulade and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Not bad for $9!
Attaching a celebrity’s name to a restaurant isn’t a new marketing strategy, but it can still work. Affiliations with sports figures, in particular, often bring faithful fans through the door.
We know – and are thankful for the fact – that former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka isn’t grilling steaks in the kitchens of his namesake restaurants in Chicago and Pittsburgh. But some diners see a certain cachet to playing in the major leagues by frequenting Ditka’s eateries.
As America's foremost gustatory holiday, Thanksgiving brings with it expectations of special celebratory foods. Topping the list is – or should be – the lowly cranberry. Even if we grew up staring with morbid curiosity as our parents plopped those quivering, blood red, gelatinous cylinders from cans onto plates, we've gradually learned to appreciate this strange fruit.
In Wisconsin, the cranberry holds special stature. In fact, it's the state's top fruit crop. We Badgers produce nearly 60 percent of all the cranberries grown in the United States, surpassing the output from runners-up Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington combined.
In 2004, the cranberry was named the state fruit, and the 2011 yield is expected to surpass 430 million pounds, or 26 cranberries for every man, woman and child on the planet, according to the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, based in Wisconsin Rapids.
"Wisconsin has an abundance of the right combination of conditions you need to grow cranberries," says Tom Lochner, WSCGA's executive director. "We have plentiful water, the right soil and weather conditions and a tradition of growing and cultivating cranberries."
In Guy Rehorst's world, "pumpkin spirit" can be quite intoxicating.
Pumpkin Seasonal Spirit is the name of the annual autumn libation from Great Lakes Distillery, the craft distillery Rehorst founded in 2004 that's currently located in Milwaukee's Walker's Point neighborhood at 616 W. Virginia St. This year's batch, distilled each fall from the Pumpkin Lager produced by Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery, is the best one yet, the distiller says.
The idea came to Rehorst and Lakefront owner Russ Klisch four years ago, when a group of brewery and distillery employees were sitting around the brewery's tasting room, located in a former city waterworks pumping station on the Milwaukee River. Rehorst expressed interest in distilling one of Lakefront's beers and, since it was fall at the time, Pumpkin Lager came to mind.
We’ve all sung the song at summer camp, or a long drive: “One hundred bottles of beer on the wall, 100 bottles of beer. At Café Centraal you could act out that song twice and still barely put a dent in the 16-page menu of beers, ales, lagers and other assorted brews. Even by Milwaukee standards the list is impressive, and these folks know their product.
Ah, but man (and woman) does not live by beer alone, and this place has got the food to go with the drink. From simple snacks to full-blown meals, the menu is designed to pair with beer, but the dishes stand on their own. You’ll find the expected – jumbo pretzels, burgers, meat loaf, chili and any variety of fried stuff. However, you’ll find some unexpectedly sophisticated dishes as well. Elegant entrée salads include roasted beet salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts, as well as a Caesar topped with slices of blackened flat iron steak.
The Dane County Farmer’s Market, which rings Madison’s Capitol Square, begins selling the state’s freshest produce, sweetest bakery and creamiest cheese at 6 a.m. each Saturday from mid-April through early November. A visit to Madison would be incomplete without starting the day early amid the towers of sweet corn, bushels of vine-ripened tomatoes and bunches of wild flowers available from the market’s 150 stalls.
In fact, it’s possible do an entire Capital City culinary tour in microcosm without leaving the square or its environs. Madison has one of the highest restaurant-per-capita ratios in North America, and the dining diversity is endless. Within the past decade the square has again captured the city’s heartbeat, and some of the finest dining – breakfast, lunch and dinner – is within easy reach of the Capitol.
Those not content to stroll the square with hot coffee, fresh fruit or Amish bakery in hand can stop in at the Marigold Kitchen, 118 S. Pinckney St. Whether your tastes run to the chile-poached eggs with French rosemary toast, prosciutto ham and manchego cheese ($6), or French toast brioche drizzled with pastry cream, seasonal berries and pure maple syrup, Marigold’s breakfast will awaken your taste buds with delightful sensations.
There is a growing number of gastropubs in cities across the country – and with good reason. Gastropubs tend to serve upscale bar fare, and are, for the most part, reasonably priced and have casual, relaxed atmospheres that people like.
Trocadero could serve as a textbook example of how to run a gastropub. We stopped by for brunch and had a nearly perfect experience.
The place was full within a few minutes of opening, always a good sign. During our short wait, we lounged at the bar over one of the best examples of the classic Blood Mary I have ever had. The tomato juice base had just enough horseradish to give it a kick, but not so much as to overpower the subtler tastes of Worcestershire and celery salt. The addition of a simple rib of celery, an olive, pickle and a green bean provided the perfect garnishment.
Michele and Jeff Green are the proprietors of this casual spot that aims to recreate the atmosphere of a laid-back Florida Keys restaurant. In this case, that means colorful art, music that would make Jimmy Buffet smile, lots of seafood and strong tropical drinks.
The ambience aims to make you feel like you are on a mini vacation just a few minutes north of downtown Milwaukee. After one of the killer cocktails you may just be “wasting away in Margaritaville.”
Sheboygan’s culinary legacy has always been the bratwurst, but over time the city has reached beyond the bun. Today the former industrial community, barely 58 miles north of Milwaukee as the seagull flies along Lake Michigan’s shore, is home to an unexpected number of fine dining restaurants. City leaders hope these culinary outposts will help drive the resurgence of a dormant downtown.
Sheboygan is legally known as America’s Bratwurst Capital, an honor of which it is proud and one that it celebrates the first weekend of each August. And the mammoth Miesfeld’s Meat Market, a staple since 1941, still sells 1.8 million brats each year.
Cempazuchi is a bright and friendly double storefront with a festive vibe. Its slogan is “comida brava” which translates roughly to mean “wild food.” If that’s true I hope they never tame it.
At Cempazuchi, you’ll find all the standards that folks love about Mexican-American restaurants. Big complimentary basket of chips with salsa? Check. All entrées served with beans and rice? Check. An assortment of meats and veggies available wrapped in or piled atop tortillas? Check. Pitchers of margaritas? Check.
It’s no wonder that brunch has become the traditional Mother’s Day meal: There’s plenty of time afterward to recover with a cocktail. Hedge your bets on having an enjoyable time by booking reservations at one of the following eateries.
If Mom is a Francophile, this is your best option, short of a flight to Paris. Amid simple but refined décor, this Third Ward eatery serves traditional French bistro fare. The onion soup with gruyere cheese is one of the best versions of the classic dish to be found in the area. A vast selection of patés and wines rounds out the experience. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (316 N. Milwaukee, 414-291-2655, coquettecafe.com)
Ever since seeing the movie "Moonstruck," I've yearned to live in an Italian neighborhood. I'm envious of River Westeners who live near Centro Café. The neighborhood isn't Italian, but they have the most important part of my dream: a cozy trattoria. Since the folks running Centro Café aren't pretentious, they don't call it a trattoria.