125 E. National Ave.
Brian Moran is the resident chef for "Wisconsin Foodie."
A Milwaukee chef for 20 years, he has worked in private clubs and The
Pfister Hotel, and is now a chef at St. Paul Fish Co. in the Milwaukee
Public Market and a culinary arts educational assistant at Milwaukee
Area Technical College.
La Merenda is really unique. International Tapas — what a simple
but great concept. Chef Peter is so good at what he does, he lets the
food speak for itself. I love a humble chef, and Peter is not flashy,
just confident and very good with his customers. All of his foods and
Laid back, comfy setting that isn’t formal. The servers all seem
very friendly and really like what they do — and that’s hard to
find theses days. The interior is hip and well lit, with warm colors
and nice artwork. It’s not so dark that I can’t read the menu.
Anyone who is open to great food, small plates and will try to
educate their palate to new exciting flavors. As chefs, we need to
constantly challenge not only ourselves but our customers in ways that
are enjoyable. Good food that makes sense, that’s La Merenda.
If you want a salad, entrée and dessert in a traditional setting,
the typical restaurant experience, stay away from La Merenda.
307 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Jessica Bell, owner of The Midwest Wine School, brings her
"spirit and cheer" to the "Wisconsin Foodie" table
by sharing her insight on wine, beer, spirits — and most anything
that can be paired with them. "In spite of my extensive studies
and experiences around the world, I value most my innate and
insatiable curiosity to learn about the world through food and
drink," she says.
The food is slow-cooked by its Ethiopian owners with spices,
textures and temperatures not commonly found on other Milwaukee menus.
All meals are served alongside rolls of a spongy, gluten-free mild
sourdough bread called injera, which will also serve as your utensils
for the night. The owners deliver service with so much passion that I
was once kindly reprimanded for suggesting that I might re-heat my
takeout with a microwave rather than a skillet. For your first visit,
try one of the combo platters, meat or vegetarian, and pair it with an
Ethiopian beer or herbal tea while grooving to the Ethiopian jazz in
This diamond in the rough excites the palate in an unpretentious,
if somewhat awkward ambience, only adding infinitely to its charm and
authenticity. The communal and manual (no utensils) style of eating
reminds us that food is not only for sustenance, but also for bonding
with friends and family while physically connecting with our most
Those who enjoy sharing their food and are not afraid of getting
their hands a little dirty (wet naps are provided at the end). A fan
of Alem will also have culinary curiosity and be willing to give every
dish at least a couple bites before passing final judgment.
This is not the place for people who want to see and be seen,
admire impressive interior design or appreciate the presentation of
the food over its taste. Alem is hip and cool in an understated,
uniquely Alem way.
222 E. Erie St. Suite 100
Kyle Cherek is the host of "Wisconsin Foodie." His first
true foodie experience was during the summer of 2000 when a friendship
with a highly lauded local chef exposed him to
exceptional ingredients, the alchemy that food and friends can
have on life, and cooking for the sheer pleasure of it.
Chef Dan Van Rite is the only chef I know of in the state with a
bent that incorporates the game, western and ranch influences of
American cuisine, as well as blend-ing in spot on fish and regional
dishes. That adds up to guts (sometimes literally) with ingredients
but great restraint and balance, too. It seems unlikely that the same
restaurant could pull off fish tacos, elk tenderloin, smoked balut
(the street food version of the hot dog in Southeast Asia) and big eye
tuna all on the same menu. The best part is that Hinterland does it
without haughtiness. It has somehow managed to blend a fine dining
approach with a hipster environment.
Think Northwood’s rustic meets French Country meets minimalist.
Like the menu, the décor hits just the right balance of each. The
back lounge is a great respite from the crowded scene, and feels like
a secret speakeasy with its end-of-hall location away from the dinning
room. I’ve seen corporate tables, rehearsal dinners and hipsters
kicking back all in the same room.
who loves it
Foodies who appreciate a well-curated environment with warm service
and a menu that pushes flavors against each other in an adventurous
but unassuming way.
The big portion crowd. There is no paucity of serving sizes, but if
you are looking for lack of white space on the plate to trump taste
and timing of ingredients, you might be disappointed.
1901 E. North Ave.
As a producer for "Wisconsin Foodie," Theresa Kopac
researches and brainstorms potential stories, develops relationships
with featured subjects, organizes shoot schedules and develops the
show’s production schedule.
This place is no secret and satisfies the palates of vegetarians
and nonvegetarians alike. Wake up with a traditional lox plate or a
seasonal specialty like golden pumpkin pancakes. Catch up with a
friend or have a work lunch over one of Beans’ burrito options or a
walnut burger. Or have a glass of wine and pasta primavera with red
bell pepper cream for a comforting end to the day. You can trust that
your vegetables have arrived from a local farm and the people behind
the scenes take care with what they put in front of you. And the deli
rotates fresh options for carry-out.
From the produce and ingredients that make the dishes to the light
that fills the space, Beans & Barley is a lover of things natural.
The great room design of the dining area, complete with a high,
arching ceiling and a wall of glass, can easily move from casual to
romantic depending on the time of day and your dining partner. Chances
are you will see someone you know.
If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind neighborhood destination
that supports relationships with local food growers and local
businesses, like Rishi Tea. Those who love to establish a favorite
staple (works burrito) and suddenly take a chance on a new dish and
get your socks knocked off (shrimp gazpacho).
If to you quality means an exceptionally fancy meal with a ticket
price to match.
1818 N. Hubbard St.
Mark Escribano is the co-director and co-cameraman for "Wisconsin
Foodie." Brought on by producer/director Arthur Ircink from the
beginning, he is the creative collaborator and one half of the
It must have been around 2001 that I first met chef John Raymond.
He was the new executive chef at a restaurant called Vinifera and I
was at the midpoint of my five years of employment there. Up until
that point I wasn’t that familiar with fusion cuisine or what can be
called "Contemporary American." It wasn’t a new concept,
but it was definitely a twist on the traditionally regional and ethnic
approaches typically found in most local restaurants. John not only
seemed to have quite the knack for this creative approach but, more
importantly, he had the love for it. A few years later, he opened
Roots, where he had free reign to hone his technique and repertoire
substantially. It’s here that John, with an impressive fervor,
continues to produce some of the most mouth-watering and unique —
yet somehow familiar — dishes I have ever discovered in Milwaukee.
Roots is hip, upper-end casual that can feel both inviting and
Everyone who cares about creative dining and quality ingredients.
Especially those into contemporary fusion dishes.
Diners who crave more traditional ethnic fare or white table
19555 W. Bluemound Rd. (262) 780-2998
3401 S. 13th St. (414)383-3553
Arthur Ircink is the creator of "Wisconsin Foodie," as
well as cinematographer, co-director and editor. He brings his passion
of story telling to an area that has many stories to tell. His goal is
to get more people talking about food issues as well as to showcase
all the amazing things that are going on in our backyards that we had
no clue were there.
I have a dark secret that I will fill you in on — I’m a
vegetarian. I have been since I was 14 and it is one of the biggest
reasons why "Wisconsin Foodie" was created. Living in
Milwaukee and being a vegetarian is a difficult task. What is not
difficult is eating at Bombay Sweets. Bombay Sweets is a small out of
the way, all vegetarian, cheap eats Indian eatery. This place is
completely authentic and comes with a giant wall menu that colorfully
lists all of the dishes. Being a vegetarian and having more than 50
items to chose from (all under $6) is a dream come true. Honestly, you
could eat there every day for a year and have a different meal each
day. As I share this with you, I have a feeling my secret spot may be
Small, colorful, mirrored and delicious. The décor isn’t
pretentiously trying to be something it’s not — it’s pretty
simple, but when the food is so good who cares. I always gauge an
ethnic restaurant by the amount of that ethnicity that actually eats
there. At Bombay Sweets you more than likely will see a very diverse
crowd, but mostly Indians.
who loves it
The people that know about it and the people that don’t want to
spend a ton but feel like they did. "Delhi Belly" is a term
I affectionately use to describe my stomach after dining at Bombay
The unadventurous and boring. One drawback of this place is they
serve food on Styrofoam and paper plates that are disposed of after
every meal. Environmentalists close your eyes, please. m