Blah-scuits and Gravy

I must admit, I usually don’t order biscuits and gravy when going to a restaurant for breakfast. I’m more of a pancake girl, but I was excited to mix things up and do a breakfast-y Take Three Tuesday. There was a clear winner of the three places we tried, therefore, I’ll put them in order of “bland” to “grand”.

Bland Number 3 Zak’s Cafe 231 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee       Aesthetically, Zak’s Cafe was great! I loved the exposed brick and duct work, tons of natural sunlight and very friendly staff. They also offered outside seating as well which really cute. To drink, I ordered a Mauimosa ($8) – pineapple and strawberry infused simple syrup, orange juice and sparkling wine. I couldn’t quite make out the strawberry, but I liked their spin on a mimosa.     The biscuits and gravy ($9) came with two eggs which I ordered scrambled.    Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not usually one to order biscuits and gravy so I was looking forward to flaky, buttery biscuits and sausage gravy goodness. That’s not what I got, however.  The eggs were good and warm. It went downhill from there. The biscuits were hot and buttery, but so dense, not flaky at all. And, in addition to my gravy being cold, it had zero flavor. I was pretty disappointed when we left, but quickly perked up when we noticed the chocolatier (Indulgences Chocolatiers) next door had opened.  I bought the Salty Milk Chocolate Toffee ($7) and have been having explicit dreams about it ever since. YUM!

Number 2 – Robert’s Roost 600 6th Street, Racine    An adorable little place inside and an outside seating area that accommodates dogs as well. GREAT idea! To drink, I just went with a chocolate milk ($2.65, large) and it came in a cute mason jar-type glass. I love little touches like that.    The biscuits and gravy ($4.45 1/2 order, $5.95 full order) didn’t come with any sides, so I ordered a scrambled egg ($1.45) to plop on top.    The staff at Robert’s Roost were very sweet and accommodating – when our waitress/owner realized someone in our party was craving something not on the menu, she said she’d have the chef whip it up. That was pretty cool. Speaking of cool – the gravy on my biscuits was cold. Is this a thing that I’m not aware of – cold gravy on hot biscuits?  I liked the flavor of the gravy, it was just wasn’t warm enough.  The eggs were good and, although there were a few hard (over cooked?) bits on the biscuits, overall they were flaky and buttery and good. I’m going to give this place another shot in the near future – I’m hoping the cold gravy was just a fluke (fingers crossed).

Grand Number 1 – Daily Dose Café 6010 40th Avenue Kenosha  

  Daily Dose is a relatively small, cozily decorated breakfast and lunch spot. When I first entered, I smelled the fresh ground coffee and was happy to learn that they offer cappuccinos and lattes (flavored upon request) in addition to regular coffee. We asked the waitress what her favorite flavor was – she suggested white chocolate caramel – and it was good.

We had two choices for our Take Three Tuesday mission – Biscuits and Gravy ($5.50 full order, $2.95 1/2 order) or Bisculicious Plate ($8.95 full order, $5.50 1/2 order). The Bisculicious Plate included biscuits, fried potatoes, eggs and gravy – that’s the one I chose.  This was a home run.  Flaky, buttery biscuits inside with a light, toasted crunch on the outside, fried potatoes and scrambled eggs covered in a peppery, HOT (not spice-wise, temperature-wise) sausage gravy. This was good. Really, really good. And there was a lot of it – I couldn’t finish the 1/2 order. And the staff were all very friendly. I’m putting the Daily Dose Café up high on my list of “regular breakfast spots”. I’ll be back very soon for this dish again.

The Best (so far) Reuben we ate in SE Wisconsin was….

Our Take Three Tuesday task this week was to try reubens suggested by our Facebook page members.   There was a clear favorite with one of the Milwaukee places making corned beef and reubens that folks travel from Chicago to sample. Surprisingly, this was not our winner.

Coming in at NO. 3 Reuben. $11.50, McBob’s Pub & Grill, 4919 W. North Ave, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

McBob’s has a load of fans as well as well-documented critical acclaim for their corned beef and their reuben.    A sign indicated that they offered Brewer’s bus trips and the interior was kind of Irish /sports bar but the drinks were a step above the average sports bar, with Moscow mules and jalapeno margaritas as well as an large craft beer menu.

McBobs craft beer menu    McBobs specialty drinks

The friendly wait staff seemed like the type of guys you would want to watch a Packer game with on Sunday.   We went during the day and although it definitely was a bar atmosphere, a few kids were there with their parents, so I think daytime would be fine.

McBobs interior

As far as the reuben goes, there was one problem – the tender, melt-in-your-mouth corned beef was beyond salty.

McBobs Reuben

Given the love for McBob’s, I can only suspect that we were unlucky and got an oversalted batch of corned beef.   If it was not for the salt level, this sandwich would have been the winner.  Here’s why:   The cheese was deliciously melted and thick.   Instead of thousand island dressing, McBob’s uses a horseradish mustard.  I was skeptical, but after tasting, I think it was the best of the sauces.   The marble rye was generously buttered and toasted to perfection, and the sandwich wasn’t overloaded with sauerkraut.   The reuben came with chips and a pickle.

Our No. 2 Reuben was from Ashling on the Lough, 125 56th Street, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Ashling on the Lough is a beautiful Irish restaurant on the harbor in Kenosha.   Because it is only open for lunch on Fridays, you will probably end up getting there for dinner.

Ashling interior

Ashling is unique in that it offers three types of reubens:  The Wisconsin (swiss cheese and sauerkraut), The Irish (Provolone and coleslaw) and the Rachel (turkey instead of corned beef).  Each was $9.95 and came with your choice of Steak fries, Sweet Potato Fries, French Fries or Whipped Potatoes.   We ordered the Irish and the Wisconsin.  Each came with the traditional thousand island dressing and marble rye.

Ashling Wisconsin Reuben

My dining partner thought this was the best reuben she had ever tasted.   I  thought it was good and clearly a lot of care was taken with the corned beef.   However, the meat had a lot of pickling spice flavor which is traditionally used in making corned beef.    I like a less aggressive pickling spice taste as a personal preference.   Additionally, I thought the bread could have used a little more butter to get that extra-buttery toasted exterior.   The sweet potato fries pictured were great.

We tried out an appetizer-Bacon Wrapped Dates.   The menu describes bacon-wrapped dates with a maple dijon sauce.  Unique and delicious and beautifully-plated app which we finished very quickly.

Bacon-wrapped dates

And our No. 1 Reuben was Finn McGuire’s Pub and Grill, 5171 S. 108th Street, Hales Corners, Wisconsin

This is a clearly visible Irish restaurant/pub on busy Hwy 100 in Hales Corners.

Finn McGuires Exterior

The interior was well-decorated with a lot of TVs and a couple bars.  I could see this being a great Packer game hangout.

Finn McGuire Interior

Finn McGuire’s makes a good-tasting reuben for $11.99.  The corned beef probably was not the quality of the other two, but it had no distracting flavors (salty or pickling spice)   This was shaved corned beef whereas the other two were more like pot-roast slow-cooked style.  The marble rye was grilled to buttery perfection and the meat to sauerkraut ratio was right on.   The thousand island dressing came on the side.   I think I would prefer some directly on the sandwich along with some on the side as it is hard to dip in the dressing.  Also, I think Finn McGuire’s could kick it up a notch by making their own thousand island and putting a little spin on with horseradish or hot peppers.   Also, I will mention that my side of coleslaw was top notch.

Finn McGuire Reuben

Finn’s also offered a Reuben soup – we cannot recommend it.  It was bland with no flavor.

Reuben Soup

I love reubens, and the three we tried definitely were above average, but the search for the all-around perfect reuben in SE Wisconsin is still on. Until next time….

New Miller Park Eats: REVIEWED

We went to Miller Park yesterday to give the new eats a try as well as to see the Brewers lose their fifth game in six tries; lets hope they right this ship.  Oh well, at least we got a rocket-of-a -Gomez home run to watch sail into the stands, as well as tasting some decent new ballpark treats.

HOME RUN:  Nachos on a Stick, $6 each; 

Nacho on a stick interior

Flavorful taco meat in the middle with a Dorito crust on the outside, with a lengthy squiggle of cheese and sour cream.  The Nachos on a Stick had good flavor, wasn’t dry and certainly gets points for being easy to eat when sitting in a cramped ballpark seat or just walking around the park.

TRIPLE:  Holey Moley Peanut Butter Jelly Time, $6

HoleyMoley Full menu

Take a Holey Moley doughnut, stuff it with custard and add some peanut butter and blueberry preserves and eat all you can, immediately.   You definitely get your money’s worth, so plan to eat with a friend.

Holey Moley Ice Cream Sandwich

I wouldn’t let my kid try to tackle one of these; its a little messy, but definitely tasty.   It would be nice to have a mini-ice cream sandwich offering as its not the kind of leftovers you can easily dispose of as you are sitting in the stands.

TRIPLE:  Kansas City Eggrolls, $6.50

Kansas City Egg Rolls

The Smoke Shack (base location in Milwaukee’s Third Ward) has a new stand on the 100 level, directly next to AJ Bombers.   We tried the Kansas City Eggrolls which were egg rolls stuffed with pulled pork and cheese.  These were not very photogenic but the taste was great.   CAUTION, do not ruin your clothes – when you bite into the egg roll some of the pulled pork liquid will squirt out, so be prepared.   Two larger-sized egg rolls for $6.50 seemed a fair price.    I could see maybe a BBQ ranch sauce as a side with these.

The pulled pork was really good and next game I am going to try one or two other items off their menu.   I understand Seitan is a veggie item and I heard a couple fans squeal with delight when they saw that on the menu.

Smokehouse Menu

DOUBLE:  Miller Park Bratchos, $10;

Bratchos

When we were walking around with the Bratchos, fans were almost visibly salivating, and at least three people asked us where we bought these in the park.  Each ingredient was inventive and tasty on its own, the problem was when you put them all together, it was SUPER SALTY.   If you are expecting slices of brats, that’s not the concept.   The menu shows that the bratchos are topped with four different sausages including brats and chorizo which are then ground into a Taco Bell meat like consistency.  It tastes fine, just not what I expected.  The brown crumbly stuff is basically like dehydrated/roasted onion crumbles which were inventive and good.   The pickled, dehydrated red peppers seemed to be the main source of the saltiness, next time I would ask for only a few red peppers.    The cheese is a movie-nacho cheese sauce, but a slightly thicker version, as well as a large spoonful of pico de gallo.  This is all resting on potato chips.

Listen, I know when you look at this picture, you will  be compelled to order the Bratchos.  Be prepared for the saltiness though.  Also, get forks.  And napkins… Lots and lots of napkins.

SINGLE:  Street Tacos, $12

Street tacos

By the time we got to the street tacos, we were almost full but had try it when we saw the meat and the veggies on the grill.   For $12, you get three tacos, your choice of chicken, beef, or a combo of both.   The taco seller STUFFED the meat into the toasted flour tortillas, basically overfilling them.   Again, you must have a friend to help you because this was a lot of taco.    The meat was fine but tasted like slow cooker Mexican chicken and slow cooker beef with too much cumin for my liking.   Also, when I hear the word “street taco” I think corn tortilla, maybe dressed with cilantro, lettuce and onion.  I really like corn tortillas so the flour tortilla, although nicely toasted, was a let down.   At $12, the price is a little too hefty to take a chance on not liking this item.

STRIKEOUT: Down Wisconsin Avenue Brat. $20

It’s supposed to be an 18-inch brat covered with gravy, French fries, cheese curds, cheese sauce, fried sauerkraut and jalapeños, then topped with sour cream and chives .  Problem is we couldn’t find this anywhere within the park, even after asking three employees.  Not sure how successful a $20 brat will be for the average ballpark fan, maybe that was why it was hidden or not available.

After reading articles from baseball park food experts, it seems clear that Milwaukee has some of the best stadium food offerings in the MLB.   I still love the classic brat with stadium sauce and next time, that is first up in the batters box for me.

Mouthwatering Mac and Cheese in SE Wisconsin

I was so excited to do the mac & cheese review.  It’s one of my all time favorite comfort foods… and you guys (members of our Facebook page SE Wisconsin Food Talk)  did not let me down because you selected excellent locations for us to try this cheesy, gooey pasta.

This was an incredibly hard decision to make – all three of these locations have EXCELLENT Mac & Cheese – but I have rated them as follows…

Coming in at #3 – Capt. Mike’s 5118 6th Avenue, Kenosha

It almost breaks my heart to put these guys at #3 – we love hanging out at this place.

Captain Mikes Interior 2

I ordered the build-your-own Mac & Cheese ($9.95) and added peppered bacon (+$2).

Captain Mikes Mac and Cheese Peppered Bacon

My friend ordered the same build-your-own Mac & Cheese, but decided to add in lobster ( + $7.95, I assume because she knew I was buying 🙂 ).  We loved the long, curly pasta Capt. Mike’s uses, and the pasta was cooked very well.  Things went a little downhill from there.  Although the cheese was very creamy, it tasted almost Velveeta-like.  And the peppered bacon was not peppered, just regular bacon – I would’ve been ok with regular bacon, but was disappointed because the menu specifically states PEPPERED bacon.  I took a few bites of my friend’s lobster Mac & Cheese and really liked the lobster addition.

The Moscow Mules were also VERY tasty.

Captain Mikes Moscow Mule

We ran into some friends while eating and they told us Capt. Mike’s used to be their favorite Mac & Cheese, but they now prefer the recipe at Mike’s Donuts & Chicken  (same owners). I’m going to check that out very soon.

Number 2 – Ivanhoe 231 Main Street, Racine

Ivanhoe

I love this place – the bartenders and servers are very friendly, the music is great and – most importantly – the food is always delicious.

Ivanhoe Interior

At Ivanhoe, we ordered the Bacon Mac & Cheese ($12).  This also came with garlic bread and choice of soup or salad (this was the only location we tried that came with extras).  We chose the salad and were very impressed with the presentation; plus HOMEMADE CROUTONS (yum).

Side Salad Ivanhoe

The Mac & Cheese came in a cute, little crock and was loaded with big chunks of bacon and creamy, cheesy shell pasta.  I like that they add smoked gouda to their cheese sauce; even if you took a bite without bacon, the smokey flavor was still there.

Mac and Cheese Ivanhoe use1

Another plus – even though this is mainly a beer/whiskey type of bar, I love that the bar staff was all too happy to make me a Mai Tai (which was also delicious, by the way).

Mai Tai Ivanhoe

Definitely worth mentioning their DELICIOUS poutine – I cannot explain how in love I am with these cheesy, gravy-covered fries.  This is a MUST ORDER for me every time I’m at Ivanhoe.

Poutine (1)

And the winner for the Mac & Cheese Challenge is….

On The Clock 4301 S Howell Avenue, Milwaukee

Before our page member’s suggestions, I had never even actually heard of this place.   This is a short drive from Racine County, on Howell Avenue, just north of the airport.

On the clock sign2015-04-04 14.44.59

At On the Clock, we ordered The Special Mac & Cheese ($9) which included bacon, grilled chicken and green peppers.  Since my hubby and I were sharing this dish, and he doesn’t like green peppers, we asked for those to be nix’d. When our order came to our table, I was very surprised at how huge the proportions were (thumbs up), and how much bacon was crammed into this dish (thumbs WAY up). The cheese sauce was very creamy, the pasta was cooked spot-on, and there was bacon in every single bite.  I was happy to discover that the grilled chicken in this dish was seasoned very well and so juicy.  On the Clock also adds a touch of stone-ground mustard to their Mac & Cheese – it added a nice little tang.

2015-04-04 15.12.11

This was our first visit to On the Clock, but we will, without question, be back. The menu looked great.  (menu link here) I also want to make mention of the interior of On the Clock because it really was gorgeous inside – clocks on the wall displaying times from cities around the world, super clean and the beautiful woodwork throughout this establishment was impressive.

On the clock bar

On the Clock interior

This Take Three Tuesday was one of the tastiest for me yet.  I can’t wait to go back to all three places to try more of their wonderful dishes.

Unique Fish Fries in SE Wisconsin

Wisfoodtalk welcomes a special contributor, Tom Graber (“The Codfather”) creator of the Friday Fish Fry Guide which amazingly catalogs every known fish fry available in Southeast Wisconsin.   He is far and away the expert on Wisconsin fish fries, and we are in awe of his knowledge.

Codfather at table   Profile Photo Chicago Seminar

If you are from Wisconsin you know what a fish fry is and what comes with one – usually cod, with a side of coleslaw, french fries or more traditionally a potato pancake, tartar sauce, rye bread and a wedge of lemon. But not every fish fry is traditional. Many times a pan fish, like perch or bluegill, is popular or walleye, since these are fish native to Wisconsin and enjoyed by sport fisherman’s family.  No matter what the fish, it’s ALL about the breading, ‘bout the breading, but I digress. Salmon and tilapia are also found on quite a few menus and many offer baked or broiled as an option too for those that are counting calories.  (Wisfoodtalk note: Tom lists every fish offered, along with sides and photos on his comprehensive website, fridayfishfryguide.com.)

The Codfather Tom Graber’s Unusual Fish Fries in SE Wisconsin

1.    Bluegill and Eggs, Captain Missy’s, 8330 Fox River Road, Tichigan, Wisconsin

Captain Missy’s in the Waterford/Tichigan area in Northwestern Racine county serves an unusual combo of bluegill & eggs for $14.95.   As a little girl, Missy’s grandfather would make bluegill that he caught with eggs for breakfast and she really loved that combination and decided to put it on her menu. The eggs are served either over easy or sunnyside up and the way to eat them is to dip the little bluegill fillets into the yolk first. This actually is a nice combination and works well.

Captain Missy's bluegill

2.      Grouper at McKiernan’s, Barnacle Bud’s and McBob’s, all in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Grouper is a fish native to the ocean around Florida but not that well known around here. The fish has a very mild flavor but it is still nice and meaty and is one of my favorites but not often available in Wisconsin. There are only three places in Milwaukee County where I know it’s availableMcKiernan’s, 2066 S. 37th Street, Milwaukee, Barnacle Bud’s, 1955 S. Hilbert Street, Milwaukee and McBob’s 4919 W. North Ave, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The grouper holds up to grilling well and takes a nice flavor as with the blackened option at Barnacle Buds and McKiernan’s (both owned by same owner and have the identical fish fry options).  (Wisfoodtalk note: dust off your GPS to get to Barnacle Bud’s because its hard to find but nothing beats it on a sunny, warmer day.  Also if you have the room, don’t miss the Milwaukee Famous Corned Beef at McBob’s)

McBob’s Grouper for $12.25:

McBob's Grouper 2

McKiernan’s Grouper for $7.95:

McKiernan's fried grouper

3Smelt at Nisleit’s Country Inn in Port Washington, Wisconsin and American Legion Post 449 in Brookfield, Wisconsin

Smelt, you either love it or hate it.  It too is a fish that people all over WI used to fish for usually at night when you’d shine a light on the water to attract and net them.   Nowadays most people are not familiar with smelt, or if they are, the fishier flavor is a turn off.   Smelt has a fishier flavor because it is an oilier fish like a sardine.  Usually the fish is gutted, the head is removed and then it breaded or battered and fried, bones and all. Since the bones are so tiny it’s not a problem and, with the right breading or batter, a very nice finger food that goes especially well with a cold beer.

Nisleit’s Country Inn, 3704 Highland Drive in Port Washington is a fish fry that still serves smelt for $9.95 and it is pictured below.

Nisleit's smelt 6

American Legion Post 449 3245 N. 124th St. Brookfield, smelt is $10.95

Am Legion Post 449  smelt fish fry 2

4.   Catfish at Bootz Saloon, Oak Creek, Joey’s Seafood, Brookfield, and Maxie’s in Milwaukee

Catfish is another one that many people either love or hate.  Catfish are bottom feeders and will eat just about anything and this will give it a very strong unpleasant flavor. Nowadays, the fish is farm-raised and, if properly done, yields a very nice, sweet-tasting fish that is very firm in texture. It also seems to be made for cornmeal breading which is one of my favorites. Cornmeal seals very tight to the fish and doesn’t soak up any oil at all. It usually gives the catfish a very crispy crust and can be seasoned which gives it a lot of flavor often missing with other breadings. Here are some nice catfish options:

Bootz Saloon , 8950 S. 27th Street, Oak Creek offers Catfish for 9.99

Bootz Saloon catfish close

Joey’s Seafood 12455 West Capitol Drive Brookfield offers Catfish for $14.49

Joey's catfish 5

Maxie’s 6732 W. Fairview Av.Milwaukee offers Catfish for $17.95 (comes with red beans and rice)

Maxie's catfish 2 EDIT

There are many more fish fry variations besides the variety fish, for example alternatives and variations to the typical coleslaw, potato, bread and tartar sauce.   That will have to be another article. When looking for fish fry ideas every week, be sure to start on the Friday Fish Fry Guide.   http://fridayfishfryguide.com/.

Why not take a cooking class?

For Christmas I got a nice gift, a cooking class at Braise Culinary School in the Walker’s Point area of Milwaukee. The school is a classroom in the back of the restaurant also called Braise, which is literally next door to the old Allen Bradley factory.
http://braiselocalfood.com/culinary-school/about-the-school

My class was Super Bowl Snacks and the price was $65. When I arrived, I was directed to an area of the restaurant reserved for the people in the class. A waitress gave us a large beer sample and an appetizer, which was a crispy potato slice topped with a crushed meatball and red sauce, goat cheese and some pork belly crisps. Based upon that delicious app, I have to check out the restaurant.

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We were led back to a classroom in the rear of the restaurant with six cooking stations. Everything measured and ready for the first dish. The room was comfortable and designed well. Each cooking station was meant for two people.

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Our instructor, David Swanson, had quite the resume. He is the owner of Braise and before that was the chef at Sanford in Milwaukee. I have never been to Sanford, but it is considered one of the top fine dining restaurants in Wisconsin.

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He was very approachable, funny and a good teacher. Questions were encouraged and he had an assistant that came around helping us out. She was great and obviously knew her way around a kitchen as well.

We made lamb sausage chocolate chili, corn dogs, and wild mushroom nachos. I learned a lot about cooking and use of ingredients. No problem if you wanted to have a drink or two during the class, it was very laid back.

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Upcoming classes include Homemade Pasta, Mexican Street Food, and Breakfast Pastries. Whatever is leftover, they give you take-home containers along with a booklet of the recipes. Braise is all about local, non-processed food and their philosophy is on the website.

If you like to cook, I highly recommend taking a cooking class at Braise.