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Festival Foodie Finds


 June 2014

The Milwaukee restaurant scene may have come into its own over the past few years, but plenty of foodies will agree some of the best local cuisine can only be found on the cityís summer festival circuit.

"Sampling the food is a must at Milwaukee festivals," says Kristi Chuckel, media relations manager for Wisconsin State Fair. "Iím always amazed by the inventive and exotic culinary creations our fair food vendors come up with."

From simple street eats to ethnic fare to cutting-edge cuisine, thereís no shortage of choices being served up at area festival kiosks in the coming months.

Here, weíve rounded up six festival eats worth seeking out. A mix of must-have mainstays and inventive menu items, they all extend beyond the standard beer, brat and cheese offerings non-Milwaukeeans typically associate with our city.

1. Often overshadowed on its restaurant menu, AJ Bombersí buffalo chicken egg rolls take center stage at the popular burger jointís Summerfest kiosk. Served up alongside Bombersí signature burgers, this travel-friendly appetizer is a traditional egg-roll wrapper stuffed with Buffalo-style chicken and oozing cheddar cheese. Pair it with ranch or bleu cheese dipping sauce for savory bliss.

2. At a festival known for its penchant for deep-fried anything ó chocolate-covered bacon, anyone? ó itís a gluten-free dish that is capturing fair-goersí attention. Last year, Island Noodlesí island slaw won a Sporky in the Best Tasting category in the State Fairís first-ever Fair Food Competition. Made with rice vinegar, mandarin oranges, pineapple and teriyaki chicken, the dish is glazed with an extra light wasabi sauce and topped with garlic Macademia nuts.

3. From calamari to cannoli, Festa Italiana is the place for festival-goers to indulge in their favorite Italian dishes. "Festa is a foodie favorite," says Gina Spang, chairperson of Festa Italiana. Among the staples at this ethnic festival are traditional Italian rice balls or arancini. Riverwest-based Nessun Dorma serves up some of the best: filled with spinach and mozzarella, then heaped with marinara sauce, youíll have to snag a picnic table to enjoy them.

4. While authentic French cuisine is difficult to prepare in a street-fair setting, the beignet has staked its claim as "the cream puff of Bastille Days." Made from deep-fried dough and covered in cinnamon or powdered sugar, itís no wonder these sweet hot fritters draw a crowd at the Alliance Francaise tent.

5. Sausage is in the "haus" at German Fest. Though German Fest visitors devoured more than 20,000 Usinger brats last year, the currywurst is where itís at. An 18-inch bratwurst thatís curled and served on a stick with a rich curry sauce, or "saucisschen," itís a true culinary sensation.

6.The Greeks take their sweets seriously. Weeks before Greek Fest sets up at State Fair Park, yia-yias ó aka Greek grandmas ó prepare thousands of loukoumades by soaking the pastry puffs in honey, then drizzling them with cinnamon. The result is a mouth-watering treat that literally melts in your mouth.


This story ran in the June 2014 issue of: