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Maximum man meals
The hungry man’s guide to pizza, burgers, barbecue and more

By MARTIN HINTZ

 

Speed Queen


A manly man has simple needs. There are times when such a guy simply needs a hind quarter of this or loin of that. With sides and dessert. A comforting, belt-loosening meal is appreciated both by corporate titans and mastodon slayers.

So skip the iceberg lettuce and tofu for a change and check out some of Milwaukee’s top spots, where real men feel free to go for the gut-so.

BARBECUE

Isaiah’s Bar-B-Cue, 7272 N. 76th St., Milwaukee

Isaiah’s is bright and cheerful, with plenty of windows and lots of table seating for spreading out over an Adam’s Rib dinner, with a side of red beans and rice. The restaurant is named after the 3-year-old son of owner Larry Wade, whose family has restaurants in his home state of Louisiana and in Dallas and Port Arthur, Texas. Of course, Wade’s sauce is a secret, as is his special catfish batter. Ribs and tips are the big sellers, value-added with greens and yams.

Silver Spur BBQ, 19990 W. Greenfield Ave., Brookfield

Since its launch in 1992, the Silver Spur has been doing barbecue the Texas way. Warm sauce is served on the side, so as not to detract from the smoke-hearty flavoring of the ribs, brisket, hot links, pulled pork or chicken. Some guys go for the "all seven meats" platter, featuring one of everything, such as links, turkey, brisket, pulled pork, ribs and more. A quartet of hungry halfbacks can tie on the Smokehouse’s "feed bag," a meal with a full slab of ribs, an entire chicken, brisket, slaw, potato salad, beans and french fries served on a garbage can lid. And don’t forget the corn muffins.

Speed Queen, 1130 W. Walnut St., Milwaukee

Speed Queen might not win architectural awards for its décor, but patrons come here for the food, not the view. For 53 years it has been Milwaukee’s answer to the best in Southern cooking, including pork shoulder, spare ribs, mixed greens, yams, black-eyed peas and mac ’n cheese. Some diners ask for the mustard-based sauce on the side rather than the thick lathering that is generally applied. Yet slabs of white bread lining the bottom of takeout containers perfectly sop any excess. The sauce itself can be mild, hot or mixed. Calling ahead eliminates waiting, but give the folks here at least 30 minutes to get everything ready.

Ashley’s Bar-B-Cue, 1501 W. Center St., Milwaukee

Ashley Darnell’s dad, Thomas, started the first Ashley’s back in the 1960s, favoring his own red sauce recipe, rather than one with a mustard base. Who needs Memphis when this Milwaukee-style barbecue keeps Ashley’s a go-to place when brisket beckons and there’s a cry for well-smoked tips or pork ribs? Ashley’s is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday, just when the urge hits hardest for something tasty, homemade and finger-licking ’licious.

Sobelman's


BURGERS

Solly’s Grille, 4629 N. Port Washington Road, Glendale

For its fans, Solly’s has been burger paradise since 1936, with prices that can’t be beaten, even by today’s mic-mac chains. Be forewarned about the dripping-in-butter bun. Quality sirloin provides the burger base, done up in no-cholesterol fry oil, to salve the conscience. Yet scare your personal trainer by treating him or her to an original Cheesehead Burger, a juiced-up two-thirds pounder with grilled mushrooms, stewed and raw onions, and Wisconsin-made Swiss and American cheeses. Fries included.

Sobelman’s, 1900 W. St. Paul Ave., Milwaukee

Sobelman’s Tallgrass Grill, 952 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee

The original Sobelman’s in the Menomonee River Valley is a kickback former Schlitz saloon, while its East Side grill is a contemporary carry-out. In either place, it’s the meat that counts. Some folks prefer the juicier Valley version while the new Sobelman Tallgrass Burger is a bold one-third pound of lean beef, from either a black or red angus, Hereford or Red Devon. These cattle have less saturated fat, cholesterol and calories, according to owner Dave Sobelman. But, at either outlet, add cheese, jalape-os and fried onions on the perfect bun, and it’s happily to gastronomic hell in a hand basket.

Elsa’s on the Park, 833 N. Jefferson St., Milwaukee

Start with Elsa’s basic burger with grilled or raw onions, and build from there. One or all of the following cheeses transforms a simple patty into a taste delight: American, Swiss, Wisconsin-aged white cheddar or Colby. Or go continental with a Burger Au Poivre, slathered with peppercorns and sautéed in a burgundy sauce. Add crumbled bleu cheese for the value-added APV Burger II. Elsa’s chefs continue the international twist with the Burger Las Brisas, which includes melted Monterey Jack cheese, avocado, jalape-o peppers, lettuce, onions and a splash of salsa. Then they do an olivey Greek Maiden Burger; a Burger Alfredo made with spinach; and the yum-yum Daisy Mae Burger with its slivers of turnip, radish and cucumber marinated in a smooth lemon dressing.

Charro Tacos & Tequila


BURRITOS

Charro Tacos & Tequila, 729 N. Milwaukee St., Milwaukee

With its Latin fusion, cool vibes, salsa with attitude and smoothly attractive and doubly attentive staff, Charro owner Omar Shaikh knows what it takes to please the guy crowd. The "big as your head" burrito comes in vegetarian, beef and chicken styles, while the No Way, Jose is elbow-to-knuckle long, packed with both chicken and beef. If devoured "in toto," along with its glorious sides of beans and rice, this $26 behemoth burrito is free. So far only a couple of manly types have actually managed to eat such a monster ... and survived.

Jalisco’s Restaurant, 2207 E. North Ave., Milwaukee

In the shadow of the Water Tower, Jalisco’s serves eight varieties of burritos, including vegetarian. Each is large enough to more than satisfy either one hungry hombre or the entire Mayan kingdom. Open daily until 3 a.m., this is the ristorante of choice for last-call hearty partiers in the North Avenue taverna neighborhood. Fast service accommodates guys before they are missed by their significant others.

Conejito’s Place, 539 W. Virginia St., Milwaukee

In business for what seems to be almost back to the days of Father Hidalgo, diners seeking a south of the border experience just south of the Milwaukee River have long flocked to Conejito’s Place. It’s not the down-home décor that necessarily brings in the fans, but rather the inexpensive eats that are the draw. As far as burritos go, only a pork variety is served, so be sure to order sides of rice and beans to round out the plate — plus a hearty Negra Modelo beer for good measure.

Zaffiro's


PIZZA

Zaffiro’s, 1724 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee

Zaffiro’s Pizzeria & Bar, North Shore Cinema, 11700 N. Port Washington Road, Mequon

Also available at Majestic Cinema, 770 N. Springdale Road, Waukesha

With more than 50 years of service, gallons of virgin olive oil and tons of garlic bread under its belt, the original Zaffiro’s on Farwell Avenue is one of Milwaukee’s legendary pizza palaces. Go for the 14-inch "E-Is-For-Everything" thin-crust oval, laden with cheese, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green pepper, black olives, pepperoni, and — yes, yes, yes — yummy anchovies approximating the size of marlin. Call ahead or hungry hunks need to allow at least 20 minutes for prep on this jumbo. That’s usually OK because it allows time for downing two extra beers.

Balistreri’s Italian-American Ristorante, 812 N. 68th St., Wauwatosa

Long a Wauwatosa favorite, Balistreri’s always seems packed, with pizza on just about every table. The family’s Everything But the Kitchen Sink and the Anchovy Heaven are two popular varieties that come in junior, medium or large. Rugby players and weight lifters can go for the latter, with a special finale of spumoni or a homemade cherry torte. Crusty Italian bread can be purchased to take home.

Marty’s Pizza, 16680 W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield, and 2580 Sun Valley Drive, Delafield

Marty’s has been serving flying-saucer-sized pizzas favored by gents since 1957. Resuscitation might be in order after consuming a 14-inch-by-5-foot all-meat deluxe number, topped with cheese, sausage, pepperoni, hamburger, Canadian bacon and regular bacon. Or go for the similar dimensioned "garden" variety, replete with cheese, onions, green peppers, black olives, mushrooms and tomato slices. According to management, these critters feed 15 to 20 persons, although the occasional he-man might show off and try to eat at least half.

Butch's Old Casino Steak House


STEAK

Butch’s Old Casino Steak House, 555 N. James Lovell St., Milwaukee

Forget the bunker-like exterior, and gleefully enter the world of Butch’s — where meat rules. Inside the front door is a cooler packed with enough slabs and haunches to simultaneously service both the Packers’ offensive and defensive lines, plus the back bench and the water boy. Rib eyes, porterhouse and strips crowd up against the glass like longhorns on a Laredo cattle drive. The veloured décor dates back to when gram and gramps went out roaring on the town, which adds to the charm. A bourbon old-fashioned prior to dinner and a bottle of husky burgundy with dinner ensures that the clientele’s capillaries remain relatively unclogged.

Five O’Clock Club, 2416 W. State St., Milwaukee

For five decades, steak has been prepared with a passion here. The same twinkling holiday lights probably have been behind the bar since the place opened, for a whimsical touch. A bottomless salad and keep-on-eating bread, accompanied by entire sticks of butter, augment the savory package. New York strip, filet mignon and Porterhouse make grandiose guy meals whether it’s 5 p.m. or not, while the Ladies’ Petite cut could serve a Roller-blade team. As a topping, buttered button mushrooms add to the lusciousness quotient.

Carnevor Steakhouse Moderne, 724 N. Milwaukee St., Milwaukee

Whether a manly man favors Carnevor’s hearty 14-ounce, dry-aged New York strip or the even heftier 20-ounce rib eye, this eatery has the perfectly prepared slab ’o meat. Carnevor guys have been known to pump iron for days just to get their abs ready for one of several varieties of the restaurant’s imported Kobe Grade-5 filet mignons. Roasted garlic, truffle butter, shiitake and brandy reduction, foi gras or even fried quail eggs are among the menu toppings and sauces adding delightful excess.

THE ULTIMATE GUY MEAL

Sanford Restaurant, 1547 N. Jackson St., Milwaukee

Chef de cuisine Justin Aprahamian lays out a hefty selection of cocoa-glazed lamb ribs and three mole lamb tacos with tomatillo relish. Add pickled chayote squash, complemented by several Riverwest Stein ambers, for a tsunami of taste. Start this adventure with a Spotted Cow ale from the New Glarus Brewery, along with an appetizer of cured lamb coppa with ricotta salata. Conclude the repaste with caramelized plum and white chocolate bread pudding, plum broth and malt ice cream along with a hearty in-house-made blackberry brandy. Enjoy the superb service, along with the white tablecloths, while talking trash about "dem Bears" and signing deals. m