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Epicurian escapes


March 2012

II Mito

You could go American for brunch — eggs, bacon and pancakes — but why not opt for edibles off the beaten path and take a virtual vacation? Several of Milwaukee’s ethnic eateries, whether German, Dutch, Italian or Irish, don’t hold back on creativity — without losing hold of tradition — when devising their breakfast menus. These places are perfect spots for a cold, overcast morning, when you’d rather escape to somewhere warm, but instead find yourself home (and hungry) in Milwaukee.

Il Mito launched Sunday brunch service last year, successfully fusing rustic, Mediterranean flair — right on down to hand-painted maps of Italy on the wall and Old World music piped in — with contemporary recipes courtesy of chef-owner Michael Feker. Slow-braised short ribs, grilled Portabella mushroom or braised fish of the day are topped with "Chef Feker’s poached egg" and Il Mito carbonara sauce, with a slice of toasted Ciabatta bread underneath. Three pizzi varieties are pre-noon versions of pizza, one of those a sweet concoction (hazelnut butter spread on cinnamon flat bread). An order of the Bloody Mary bar, an opportunity to customize this spiked tomato-based drink, will nail your palate’s nuances, or order fresh-squeezed orange juice instead.


For a more casual Italian breakfast, cruise on over to the Menomonee Valley any weekday morning and pull into the parking lot at Palermo’s Pizzeria & Café (Yes, this is where the frozen pizzas are made.) Walk under the archway that screams Tuscan style and place your order for breakfast panini: Italian pancetta and white cheese pressed between slices of sourdough bread. Another casual ethnic brunch can be had at Mykonos Gyro & Cafe, on Van Buren Street in downtown Milwaukee. Like Palermo’s, you order at the counter and have the option to dine-in. Included in the Greek Village breakfast is a delicious mess of scrambled eggs, Feta cheese and French fries, with toasted Pita triangles on the side.


A new ethnic-dining niche — Europe’s Lowcountry, including Belgium, Netherlands, Luxenbourg, Northern France and Western Germany — arrived in Milwaukee with Café Hollander on Downer Avenue in 2006. (It was followed by another Café Hollander in Wauwatosa and Café Centraal in Bay View, each promoting similar foods but with minor tweaks.) Benelux Grand Café & Market, on Broadway across from the Milwaukee Public Market, is the newest sibling in that restaurant group and open since last summer. Although touting the city’s only rooftop dining space, during winter the interior dining room warms up bellies with Pannenkoeken, which is a Dutch-style crepe, offered in eight varieties for Saturday and Sunday brunch. Toppings range from sweet (Brugse, with bourbon cream, banana, chocolate sauce, Nutella and hazelnuts) to savory (Brussels, with asparagus, fried eggs, pancetta, Parmesan and Belgian beer-cheese sauce). Should you find yourself there on a weekday morning, don’t fret: five solid options with equally tempting ingredients are available on those days.


Bite into a chunk of Milwaukee’s history by sampling a lineup of traditional German dishes at Mader’s on Old World Third Street during its Sunday brunch. Long a host restaurant to an eclectic list of visiting celebrities like John F. Kennedy, Jack Benny, Justin Beiber and Kid Rock, and filled with German beer steins and other antique décor, the Sunday brunch is the best method to peruse the menu because most of it is available to you buffet style for a flat fee. Meat choices include Bavarian sauerbraten, kassler rippchen, Hungarian beef goulash, bratwurst and knackwurst, along with red cabbage, boiled potatoes, smoked salmon and internationally procured cheeses. Wash the feast down with flutes of strawberry-infused sparkling wine.


To warm up a cold morning, try a Latin style breakfast at Café Corazon in Riverwest, open since late 2009. Offered on Saturday and Sunday only, the brunch menu’s unique items range from a breakfast taco (choice of ingredients includes plantains, jalapenos and carne mechada, which is pulled beef) to empanada plates where the turnovers are stuffed with meat, vegetables or chicken. Even the scrambled eggs have Latin flair as they are tossed with chorizo. Cubanitas on Milwaukee Street in downtown Milwaukee, with its chandeliers overhead and bright orange walls, celebrates Cuban flavors day and night but the Saturday brunch menu introduces something different: an egg sandwich and egg platter. Pair that with a minty mojito and you’ve instantly transported yourself to the tropics.


For a taste of Irish food year-round, and not just around St. Patrick’s Day, Brocach — on Water Street between Humboldt and Water streets — rolls out a special brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday. Two classics are on that menu: corned-beef hash and Big Irish Breakfast (exactly what you’d find in Ireland: Irish sausage, rashers, black and white pudding, grilled tomato slice, baked beans toast and two eggs). Of course, you’ll want to match that meaty meal with a pint of Harp or Guinness, because it wouldn’t be a weekend brunch without an alcoholic component. That’s something the folks who dreamt up these brunch menus — whether inspired by Italy or Ireland — understand.


This story ran in the March 2012 issue of: