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Milwaukee Restaurants


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I lived in Milwaukee for a couple years and return regularly.

for an "old school" German experience go to Karl Ratzsch's...not great food but worth trying once.

the best restaurant in Milwaukee is the Sanford. his casual bistro Coquette Cafe is fine and cheap.

Roots is pretty good. ditto for Bacchus, Dreamdance, the Social and Lake Park Bistro (beautiful setting...worth it for the view). none of these are great by any means but they're worth trying.

Campezuchi on Brady is one of the best Oaxacan restaurants in the country and better than any east coast Mexican.

the sushi sucks.

the pizza at Zaffiro's is pretty good.

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Sanford is absolutely wonderful. I don't care about hype; I care about trying a place and judging for myself. I had one of the very best dinners of my entire life at Sanford a few years ago. It's the real deal, a spectacular world-class restaurant in every way, one that should make all Milwaukeeans proud. A visitor from Philly can think of it as "Le Bec Fin of Milwaukee". :wink:

Sanford Restaurant

1547 N. Jackson Street

Milwaukee, WI 53202

(414) 276-9608

Milwaukee has a very nice public market, which you can read about on its website at http://milwaukeepublicmarket.org One media resource you might want to take a look at is the searchable restaurant listings and reviews in the Journal-Sentinel, their largest newspaper, at www.jsonline.com/index/index.aspx?id=126 Their annual articles on the "best restaurants" and "best new restaurants" have been insightful. Unfortunately, their excellent restaurant reviewer, Dennis Getto, passed away earlier this month, and he will be missed. Milwaukee Magazine occasionally has some good dining write-ups as well, at www.milwaukeemagazine.com

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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Three Brothers, 2414 S St Clair St. is usually cited as the go-to Serbian restaurant in Milwaukee. I've not been there, but friends did take me to Old Town Serbian Gourmet House, 522 W. Lincoln Ave., about 10 years ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hearty food, well-prepared.

I urge you to spend half a morning for a quick round-trip to Racine, about half an hour south on I-94. Take the Washington Avenue (Rt. 20) exit and head east about five miles to Bendtsen's Bakery, 3200 Washington Ave. for some of the best Danish pastry in the world, including Denmark.

Forget Frank Lloyd Wright's Johnson Wax buildings -- Racine is famous for its kringle, the ultimate danish pastry, and among Racine's kringle-makers Bendtsen's is the best -- the only one that relies on real butter. The kringles from O&H and Larsen's are very good, too, but only Bendtsen's has that old-time buttery flavor. They have a cafe attached to the bakery, so get there in the morning or during the day for a treat. You'll want to bring some home or back to your hotel room. For the flight home, I recommend avoiding most of the fruit kringles, not because they aren't delicious (especially the classic raspberry), but because they don't travel as well as the pecan or almond (which is marzipan-like and my favorite). TSA and Midwest Airlines give special dispensation to MKE travellers exporting kringles.

Do not, under any circumstances, get a generic "Racine Kringle" or a Lehmann's. The Entenmann's coffee cake you get at the Shop Rite is supeior.

If you insist on a taste-test, Larsen's is just across the street and down the block from Bendtsen's. To my tastes, Larsen's does best on its cakes, though there are plenty of other tempting goodies. O&H's Danish Uncle store is about a four or five minute drive away at 4006 Durand (just head back west on Washington to Lathrop, turn left onto Lathrop, then turn right on Durand and you're there). My wife, a Racine native, favors O&H's poppyseed sweet rolls. I always walk away with a couple of pounds of rollepolse, a classic Danish cold cut, usually from lamb, but not always, in which the meat is rolled with Scandinavian spices, brined like corned beef, then simmered and pressed for slicing onto sandwiches. I've got about a pound and a half still in the freezer from this past spring's trip to Racine.

The reason for this wealth of Danish pastry is that once upon a time more Danes lived in Racine than any other city in the world, save Copenhagen. No longer true, but the Danish presence remains strong, especially in the West Racine business district where Bendtsen's and Larsen's are located.

Wherever you eat (or drink), be sure to get some Spotted Cow on tap. This brew from New Glarus Brewing is one of the nation's great beers.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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the best restaurant in Milwaukee is the Sanford.  his casual bistro Coquette Cafe is fine and cheap.

I second Coquette. It was our "go-to" place in college for special occasions, but we at their for casual lunches and dinners as well when we could.

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

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I grew-up/lived in Sheboygan, WI (55 miles north) until 3 years ago. Milwaukee is like my 2nd home (although, I live in Chicago now). Please remember that Milwaukee's dining landscape isn't as modern as other restaurant-hubs. This advice should NOT sway your decisions. Its an amazing city to eat-around. There're some very, very talented chefs doing wonderful things, within Milwaukee's edible terrain! Here is my list of "best eats" for Milwaukee.

1. Sanford.

www.sanfordrestaurant.com

2. Coquette Cafe.

www. coquette cafe.com

3. Elliot's Bistro.

http://www.elliotsbistro.com/

4. Cubanitas.

http://www.cubanitas.us/

5. Tess.

http://search.cityguide.aol.com/milwaukee/...ess/v-118131341

6. Roots.

www.rootsmilwaukee.com

7. Cempazuchi.

http://www.cempazuchi.com/

8. Bacchus.

http://www.bacchusmke.com/

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  • 9 months later...

hello kiddies,

im a new trasport from nj to wisc. tell me some great dining placs to hit up. help a lil man out...

im game for anything good,fast and fun...seafood, we all hang after

but lucky for us...god bless the midwest (wow am i buzzd trypin)

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Slightly off topic (because it's about foodstuffs rather than restaurants), about a half-hour drive from Milwaukee is Racine, which at one time was home to more Danes than any city in Denmark except Copenhagen. It's worth the short drive just to try and acquire kringle, the ultimate Danish pastry. It's just a coffee ring, but the best one you'll ever try. Comes in a variety of flavors, though the pecan is the classic, and raspberry is a big seller, too.

My favorite kringle bakery is Bendtsen's on Washington Ave. (Rt. 20), which has the best old-time flavor and texture (because they use butter and lots of it; the other kringle bakers don't appear to use butter, or as much of it.). I'm partial to Bendsten's almond, which derives its flavor not from sprinkled sliced almonds, but from almond paste. Down the block and across the street is Larsen's, which also makes a fine kringle, but I think particularly excels in their cakes. The third recommended kringle emporium is O&H Bakery which has a couple of locations. The kringle is good, but my wife will kill for the sweet poppyseed rolls. The Durand Avenue store is also known as Danish Uncle and features some other Danish foods, including one of my favorite cold cuts, rollepolse, a brined, herbed, rolled and pressed mix of either lamb, beef or pork flank, or any combination thereof. Except for Berndsten's, which has an adjoining cafe, none are at-in places.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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  • 2 months later...

I was in Milwaukee early July and went to Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro (my review in another thread), Sanford, Coquette, Usinger's and Ilija's Grill.

See my Flickr set for photos.

Both Bartollota's and and Sanford were well-executed but boring. I'd rather have saved my money and spent it next time I was in New York or California.

Coquette was a bit better, the pizza was a decent value.

Usinger's sausages are rather mass-market quality, only a cut above Boar's Head. The summer sausage is inferior to brands like Schaller & Weber. I tried their headcheese and blood and tongue sausage. Those were much more palatable than the summer sausage but still inferior to the Karl Ehmer and Schaller & Weber versions.

Kopp's was ok, but Amy's Ice Cream here in Austin is tastier with a greater variety of flavors.

Ilija's Grill, a Serbian restaurant, was by far my best meal. Lots of offal dishes like sweetbreads, liver and calf brain though I thought the prices were at least $5 more than they should have been. I actually spent more at Ilija's than Bartollota's. I would recommend trying this place or some of the other Serbian restaurants.

I didn't go the German restaurants as I was about to go to Germany the following week, but I think they would have been a good value compared to the boring high-end restaurants in Milwaukee.

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Both Bartollota's and and Sanford were well-executed but boring. I'd rather have saved my money and spent it next time I was in New York or California.

"Boring"? Wow, then I guess I'm a fan of boring food. While the dishes at high-end restaurants on the coasts may feature more esoteric ingredients or preparation techniques, the last dinner I had at Sanford was every bit as delicious and satisfying as the best meals I've had on the coasts (and I've eaten at most of the famous high-end places in both coastal states mentioned).

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I recently had a fabulous meal at Umami Moto in downtown Milwaukee. The chef used to work with Beau McMillan at Elements (Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain in AZ). The lobster chowder was to die for. Also very good were the Ahi sashimi (loved the pairing with watermelon), the heirloom tomato salad (with olive oil ice cream). The diver scallops and and the sea bass were also outstanding. For dessert, the pistachio ice cream with champagne sabayon was sooo good. We really enjoyed our meal(s - ok, I admit, we went twice in one week when I was in town a few weeks back since we liked it so much).

http://umamimoto.com/

I have also heard great things about Hinterland from my family, but have not made it there yet. http://www.hinterlandbeer.com/restaurantmilwaukee.shtml

I moved away from Milwaukee maybe 4 years ago and it seems like there has been an explosion in restaurants since I left. The area near Umami Moto has a number of interesting restaurants. I'm going to try Carnevor next time I'm in town. If anyone has had any experience, I'd love to hear about it. http://www.milwaukee.com/carnevor-steak-house/

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I recently had a fabulous meal at Umami Moto in downtown Milwaukee. The chef used to work with Beau McMillan at Elements (Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain in AZ). The lobster chowder was to die for. Also very good were the Ahi sashimi (loved the pairing with watermelon), the heirloom tomato salad (with olive oil ice cream). The diver scallops and and the sea bass were also outstanding. For dessert, the pistachio ice cream with champagne sabayon was sooo good. We really enjoyed our meal(s - ok, I admit, we went twice in one week when I was in town a few weeks back since we liked it so much).

http://umamimoto.com/

I went into Umami Moto (the other location in Brookfield) thinking it would be overpriced and mediocre. While it might be more expensive than its worth, the entrees were very good. The appetizer was very dull and the service kind of sucked. You can check out my review here:

http://eatwisconsin.wordpress.com/2008/06/...oto-brookfield/

Explore the food, beverages, and people of Wisconsin EatWisconsin.com

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  • 4 weeks later...

hello all, i just moved to the milwaukee area from the land of italian food-new jersey.

anyway, my wife and i have been touring the town and have dined at some wonderful locations but are always looking for new spots. its a weekend ritual since we have no kids :cool:

love to hear some suggestions, reviews, hidden jems...anything related to wines and dining

thanks in advance,

tom

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  • 2 weeks later...

One of my favorite places to take people is Crazy Water. Very small intimate place with outstanding food and excellent service. Its hard to pigeonhole it into a specific category because the menu takes its cues from all over the world. They do an awesome job with seafood and if you get a chance to try their Blue Cheese Bread Pudding, I would highly recommend it.

Another great place is Maxies Southern Comfort in Wauwatosa. Its menu is southern/Creole/Cajun. The food is great and the place is very fun.

For a great burger try Sobleman's. Its located in an old corner pub. Order the Sobleman burger, it might just be the best in the City.

For Brunch, I love Lake Park Bistro (more fancy) or Harry's in Shorewood (more casual)

Explore the food, beverages, and people of Wisconsin EatWisconsin.com

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I recently had a fabulous meal at Umami Moto in downtown Milwaukee. The chef used to work with Beau McMillan at Elements (Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain in AZ). The lobster chowder was to die for. Also very good were the Ahi sashimi (loved the pairing with watermelon), the heirloom tomato salad (with olive oil ice cream). The diver scallops and and the sea bass were also outstanding. For dessert, the pistachio ice cream with champagne sabayon was sooo good. We really enjoyed our meal(s - ok, I admit, we went twice in one week when I was in town a few weeks back since we liked it so much).

http://umamimoto.com/

I am happy to read this as the pastry chef at this Umami Moto is my niece. :smile: Unfortunately, I haven't been myself yet.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Here you go, Doc!!!

4-stars awarded to Umami Moto. The article was taken from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Savory flavors fused with beauty...Service and food make downtown Umami Moto a delight.

By CAROL DEPTOLLA

Oct. 9, 2008

I was in Umami Moto on N. Milwaukee St. for all of, oh, 10 seconds before I thought: Dynamic. Modern. Gorgeous.

And that was just the staff and clientele.

The same can be said for the surroundings, and the food, too. Ever sit back and give up a contented sigh after finishing a plate of deeply satisfying food? I did that a lot at this restaurant.

This is the second Umami Moto in the area. The first, which opened in Brookfield early this year, is owned by Michael Polaski; its chef is Peter Alioto. The restaurant's color palette is mellow earth tones with vivid exclamation points of red.

The Milwaukee St. Umami Moto, which opened July 11, is owned jointly by Polaski, Omar Shaikh and Tom Wackman. The chef is Dominic Zumpano, recently arrived from Arizona. The interior is anything but subdued.

On the walls are undulating, curvaceous white-painted wooden forms and celery-green glass tiles. Stacked, black river rocks cover massive columns. Long, comfortable couches and chairs of embossed black leather stand stark against white tables.

Groups sit at a few communal tables. At the back of the restaurant are large booths, big enough to seat six comfortably. Their backdrop is a rear-projection screen that shows Japanese anime and vintage martial arts movies. No one's watching. It's merely movable art.

Comparisons are inevitable, but the two restaurants are fairly different. The menus intersect occasionally rather than completely - and where they do, preparations often vary - but their common thread is a borrowing of pan-Asian flavors for Western-spun dishes. Zumpano is trained in French cuisine, and the influence comes through.

Umami refers to the Japanese term for a fifth taste (after salty, sweet, sour and bitter), which translates loosely to savory. Certainly, that fullness of flavor was evident from the beginning, with appetizers such as won tons ($9) filled with tender Strauss veal from Franklin. They were served on a bed of pureed parsnip and flavored with a wild plum gastrique, the glaze dotted with bits of plum.

The Kobe-style slider trio ($13), served with tomato jam, thick Nueske's bacon and mildly pungent taleggio cheese, might be the city's best, which is saying something.

Dangerously juicy beef burgers - watch your shirtfront - perch on the house-made buddha buns. They're not the traditional steamed buns, but a cross between that and a French baguette: sturdy but tender and a little sweet. On the side were a sweet Chinese mustard and wafer-thin pickles, both made in-house. Smoky, savory, sweet, sour - it was a symphony of flavors. Wisely, the sliders also are on Umami's late-night menu.

A velvety lobster chowder ($9) offered full, if slightly salty, flavors in every spoonful, with a heaping garnish of fresh lobster, grilled potato and snow peas. Another seafood appetizer, calamari "curly fries" ($8), were thin, crisp and tasty with the lemon-sriracha mayonnaise, but I still like the Brookfield location's version better, with its wider strips of squid.

Seafood was of the highest quality (true of all the ingredients at Umami) - so important for sushi especially. Any of the raw fish could have stood on its own - indeed, the many flavors could mask the fish - but the preparations were intriguing.

Among them were fluke ($9), rolled around Asian pear and red onion and topped with red-pepper jelly, and a crispy shrimp roll ($11), an inside-out roll with cream cheese, tempura shrimp and cashews for crunch. A daily special of walu sashimi ($11) didn't need any enhancement; the silky fish tasted so pure and slightly sweet. But its accompaniments were fun: truffle oil chips and sea bean with vinaigrette.

An heirloom tomato salad ($9) of red and yellow wedges with blue cheese was rendered extraordinary by three small peeled tomatoes marinated in sugar, chile flakes and cinnamon. Meant to be reminiscent of Red Hot candies, they were topped with a subtle olive oil ice cream - a bit of joy to celebrate the tomato season. It wasn't Asian, but it was a memorable, fun moment by chef Zumpano, and it stands out among a host of memorable dishes.

Beef entrées flaunted savory flavors, such as the tender short ribs ($18) with creamy sharp-cheddar grits and slaw. Char sui, the Chinese barbecue, supplied the Asian accent here.

Grilled pork tenderloin ($21), fragrant with spices and a sour cherry reduction, was a lovely dish, particularly with thin, spiced apple slices and watercress. Stealing the show, though, was a cloudlike sweet potato-mascarpone puree.

Again, seafood was done superbly. Cutting into the ruby-red seared ahi tuna ($27) was like cutting butter; it sat in a pool of potato-dashi broth (made with bonito flakes) along with bacon, sliced asparagus and beech mushrooms, a small mushroom that grows in clusters. The broth was so flavorful I wished for a spoon; it was too good to leave in the bowl. A Chilean sea bass fillet ($23) with bamboo rice drew bold flavor from a small salad of shaved fennel dressed in a vinaigrette made with yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit.

The most traditionally Asian of the entrées included tofu chow fun ($12, also available with chicken), a satisfying noodle dish with long beans and bell pepper. A shrimp pad Thai ($12, lunch only) contained some of the best shrimp I've had, but the sauce didn't have the same complexity and balance that other dishes did.

Whatever you do, order dessert. Pastry chef Tatiana Sconzo clearly is having fun, and that means you will, too.

Umami is one of the few places around town where you can find a dessert soufflé ($12), big enough for two. In summer, it was mint, with a dark chocolate sauce; lately, it's apple pie soufflé, with a tiny dice of apple scented with cinnamon, and a scoop of streusel-vanilla ice cream.

A red wine-sweet cherry sauce enhanced scoops of creamy ice cream with pistachio ($8); for a bit of theater, a champagne sabayon was poured around it.

Other charmers were three fresh raised mini-doughnuts ($8) drizzled with blueberry syrup and served with lemon curd, and a white chocolate mousse ($8) - so light - served between two thin meringues that were crisp even on a wretchedly humid late summer's day. On top was some piney yuzu sorbet; on the plate, complementary pale green basil oil.

Umami is the place to go on the weekend if you want to absorb some energy. It's not the place for a quiet little meal then; you'll want to visit on a weeknight or at lunchtime for that, or dine early. With a thumping beat in the forefront and increasingly lively chatter as the night went on, I could barely hear our soft-spoken server by meal's end on a Saturday.

Service and the kitchen never flagged on that busy Saturday night, and the meal was well-paced. But dinner on one slower midweek night had a couple of stumbles and felt a bit rushed. One order was mixed up, but the mistake was corrected swiftly; a soufflé arrived after it had begun to deflate, though soufflés on two other visits were nothing short of perfection.

Even on the night of mishaps, service otherwise was consistently knowledgeable about the most intricate of dishes, pleasant and attentive, really top-notch. Staff clearing plates could offer detailed answers about the menu as easily as the staff who took our orders.

On the whole, dishes and service at Umami offered satisfaction rarely obtained for less than $30 an entrée these days. The menu will change somewhat in the coming weeks to reflect the change of seasons; look for a duck dish among them. And look, too, for more great things from the head chef and pastry chef here; they're ones to watch.

http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=804367

Edited by KendallCollege (log)

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

I ate at Crazy Water this last weekend and it was pretty awesome. Almost all the food comes out from behind the bar by two guys in a little kitchen. There were six burners, a convection oven, and a mini fridge. The food they put out was impressive. I ordered some stuffed dates and braised short ribs. Both dishes were outstanding. I highly recommend this place.

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  • 2 months later...

Heading to Milwaukee this weekend and I'm wondering where to eat. Seems that Milwaukee likes its fish fries, chili, gyros... what am I missing? Any strong opinions on the best in each of those categories? Looking not just for great food but also a good experience. Happy to hit the VFW posts and social clubs (Serb Hall, etc) if that's where I have to go... Any help would be appreciated.

THANKS

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Heading to Milwaukee this weekend and I'm wondering where to eat. Seems that Milwaukee likes its fish fries, chili, gyros... what am I missing? Any strong opinions on the best in each of those categories? Looking not just for great food but also a good experience. Happy to hit the VFW posts and social clubs (Serb Hall, etc) if that's where I have to go... Any help would be appreciated.

THANKS

Turner Hall is my favorite fish fry, but is only held on Fridays. I love their perch (they will send you a free refill of any fish if you ask) and I think they have the best potato pancakes in town. I also like Serb Hall, but for entirely different reasons. I had really great service there and really liked the classic feel of the restaurant. I recently hit Stonefly Brewery for fish fry and had my first experience with fried smelt. Absolutely delicious!

My cheap guilty pleasures consist of the butterburger (double with cheese) from Solly's, the parriada from El Senorial, 2 for 1 oysters at the Milwaukee City Market on Thursdays, the asian slaw with the ramen in it from Juniper 61 or Cafe Lulu, custard from Kopp's, and breakfast at Ted's or John's Sandwich Shop on North. Oh, and I really love Sonic.

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  • 5 months later...

I spent the weekend in Milwaukee for a wedding and traveled the gamut as far as food choices are concerned. A couple of the places we visited:

On Saturday night, we visited Coerper's Five O'Clock Club on State Street near 24th. I couldn't find any references to Coerper's in the eGullet forums, which amazed me (perhaps the search is not completely operation with the new forum version?). In 2007, Saveur named it one of their 7 favorite steakhouses in America, and from the two meals I've had there, I'd say it is entirely deserving. On this trip, I had one of the best ribeyes I've ever had, cooked exactly to my specification (ordered rare-plus and arrived just perfectly shy of medium rare). All the steaks arrive charcoal black on the outside, but with uniform temperature throughout (and, according to the regulars I was dining with, always the exact temperature you request...the type of thing you take for granted until your favorite steakhouse messes up once or twice). The steaks are topped with buttered mushrooms and a jus which certainly includes red wine, balsamic vinegar and garlic. The vibe of the restaurant is entirely 50's supper club, with everything that entails. Complementary salad and relish tray, huge baked potatoes for a couple dollars more. This place is phenomenal. The cut of meat itself probably isn't the equal of some of the nationally recognized steakhouses, but the finished product can certainly compete with those restaurants. That said, if you're looking for a 6-month dry-aged Prime steak, this probably isn't your place.

At the other end of the spectrum, on Sunday morning, I broke my fast at 9:30 AM at the counter of the restaurant inside the supermercado at El Rey Plaza on the corner of 35th and Burnham. Huevos con chorizo, tacos de carnitas, a giant bowl of complementary flash fried jalapeños and cinnamon-flecked horchata were dispatched with reckless abandon. Fresh corn or flour tortillas were warmed on the griddle to order. The tacos were huge, with thick hunks of pork that fell further apart with each bite and a giant wedge of avocado. A sign advertised $0.99 tacos after 2 pm...if I lived in Milwaukee, this would be a dinner spot at least once a week. Yes, you are eating inside a supermarket, but it is delicious, and cheap. Two large gents ate themselves nearly sick for under $20...and then were able to wander the aisles and procure semi-exotic treats like Kola Champagne and Mexican Coca-cola.

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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