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Foodie finds

Photos by Matt Haas

December 2015

Milwaukee’s restaurant scene is inventive, locally supported and ever-growing — a true beacon of pride for many Milwaukeeans. But what if enjoying a Michelin star-worthy meal at home is more your style? We rounded up the top spots around town to buy the freshest ingredients, sure to satisfy even the most pretentious of foodies, and talked shop with select owners and store managers.

Meat and Charcuterie

Bavette La Boucherie

Located in the Historic Third Ward, Bavette’s rotating list of meat and charcuturie options is largely derived from whole carcasses, a sustainable-friendly process that reduces waste. "I think it is very important to understand where our food, especially meat, comes from and the process of which it is raised, and to give people that option if it is important to them as well," says owner Karen Bell. 330 E. Menomonee St., (414) 273-3375,

House of Homemade Sausage

A fourth-generation, family-owned butcher shop, the House of Homemade Sausage has an impressively lengthy history as a Milwaukee mainstay — one that dates back to 1939. True to its name, the shop sells 10 kinds of brats. N112 W14934 Mequon Road, Germantown, (262) 251-9951,

Ray’s Butcher Shoppe

Another Milwaukee meat institution, Ray’s first opened its doors in 1979. The old-fashioned butcher shop only carries non-injected meats, ensuring its cuts are pure and humanely raised. 4640 W. Loomis Road, Greenfield, (414) 423-1322,

Fun Fact:

For food and wine aficionados who love to travel, Bavette owner Karen Bell and her sister, Jessica Bell of My Wine School, team up annually with Iberian Food Tours to offer guided, foodie-focused tours of the world’s most prolific culinary regions. Next year’s trip is taking the pair to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. For more information, go to

Roberts’ Specialty Meats

Paul Roberts and his wife turned their dream of opening a butcher shop into reality nine years ago, when Roberts’ Specialty Meats in downtown Waukesha welcomed its first customer. Roberts grew up on a dairy farm in southwest Wisconsin, and his extensive butchery knowledge stems from raising the meat animals on his family farm and a postsecondary degree in meat processing and merchandising. "I know what is fact and what is fiction about how animals are raised," says Roberts. "There’s a lot of misleading marketing about how meat is raised out there, and I help a lot of our customers see through some of that."

He says the shop’s meats on a stick are its top sellers, and Roberts’ website even offers a printable coupon for one free pound of boneless pork ribs on a stick with a $5 in-store purchase. "It’s the best coupon in southeast Wisconsin," Roberts enthuses. "One of the things that makes us successful is that we realize you can’t come into our store and do all your grocery stopping. You’re making a special stop to see us. We appreciate that, which is why we try to thank our customers." 135 E. Sunset Drive, Waukesha, (262) 549-6328,

Fun Fact:

"Fourth of July week is our busiest week with ribs on a stick. We’ll go through over 2,000 pounds of them," says Paul Roberts, owner of Roberts’ Specialty Meats in Waukesha. "That week alone, we sell over 12,000 items on a stick."

Manager Jeff Zupan of
Bunzel's Meat Market.

Bunzel’s Meat Market

The new year promises to be especially exciting for Bunzel’s Meat Market — the store will move from its original location to a space more than twice its size after the first of the year. The new location will be at 9015 and 9035 W. Burleigh St. "Our current lot only accommodates about 10 cars, and we’ll have parking for 48 (at the new location). We’re expanding our meat counter by 12 feet and our deli by 10 feet, and we’re trying to offer a larger variety of specialty items," says manager Jeff Zupan, who handles the purchasing for the market’s meat department.

Zupan’s father-in-law opened Bunzel’s in 1977. "We are one of the last old-fashioned butcher shops," Zupan says. "We pride ourselves in our customer service and the quality of our meats. People have asked, ‘Will things change when you move?’ But it’s quite the opposite — we intend on staying who we are. I refuse to go lower with my quality because that’s what my customers have come to enjoy, and that’s what they’re going to get." 8415 W. Burleigh St., (414) 873-7960,

Fun Fact:

In 2014, Bunzel’s Meat Market sold "somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000 pounds" of all-natural, Wisconsin-raised turkey over the Thanksgiving holiday, says manager Jeff Zupan.


Rocket Baby Bakery co-owner Geoff Trenholme at work, plus a selection of the shop’s
pastries breads and cookies


Amaranth Bakery & Cafe

Amaranth’s unassuming location in Milwaukee’s Walnut Hill neighborhood may occasionally deter diners, but its true fans are loyal — and plentiful. Artisan breads, buttery croissants and an assortment of specialty pastries, from sweet and savory scones to fruit-filled turnovers and tarts, fill the colorful bakery’s pastry cases. The cafe also serves up house-made soups, quiche and sandwiches. 3327 W. Lisbon Ave., (414) 934-0587,

Boulangerie Du Monde

A North Shore favorite since 2008, Boulangerie Du Monde is one of the only spots north of downtown that sells house-made macaroons. Its daily-made selection of breads and pastries, not surprisingly, skews French, and the bakery’s French baguettes are an M staff favorite. Specialty items include a rosemary garlic ciabatta, toasted pecan and flaxseed loaf and cinnamon raisin walnuts rolls, among others. W62 N588 Washington Ave., Cedarburg, (262) 375-1050,

A sticky bun from Cedarburg’s
Boulangerie Du Monde

Peter Sciortino’s Bakery

A Brady Street staple since 1948, Peter Sciortino’s Bakery is not only a foodie hotspot for breads and rolls, but also a leading supplier to local restaurants and wholesalers. The bakery’s Sunday special — six free, freshly baked hard rolls with the purchase of 1 pound of hot ham — remains a tried and true favorite, and its assortment of authentic Italian cookies (the amaretti are a personal favorite) is known to fly off the shelves. 1101 E. Brady St., (414) 209-7393,

Rocket Baby Bakery

Husband and wife duo Geoff and Shannon Trenholme opened Rocket Baby Bakery in the spring of 2012. Geoff, who calls himself the "bread guy," says it was his love of breads that led the couple into the bakery business. In addition to offering a plethora of breads, Rocket Baby is perhaps best known for its buttery pastries (think croissants, Danish and brioche). "I knew we could do that really well," says Geoff. "The nice thing about being in Wisconsin is that we don’t have to hold back on the butter. People welcome it."

The bakery sources many local ingredients, including Yuppie Hill eggs, Sassy Cow cream and Wisconsin butter and cheeses. First and foremost, though, Rocket Baby is a neighborhood bakery, says Geoff. "We want to be accessible and friendly," he adds. "One thing that I really like is that you can spend $10 and have a really gourmet experience — a great cup of coffee and a few pastries. It’s a nice, affordable luxury." 6822 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, (414) 502-7323 and 2434 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 897-0483,

Fun Fact:

Rocket Baby Bakery is named after the owners’ oldest son, Raiden. "His initials are RKT, and even before he was born, we were calling him the ‘rocket baby,’" says co-owner Geoff Trenholme. "When it came time to choose the name for this bakery, I was thinking about French names, but it didn’t feel like a good fit." He credits his wife, co-owner Shannon, with suggesting Rocket Baby Bakery. The store’s logo, pictured above, is a cartoon image of Raiden.

Simma’s Bakery

Craving cheesecake? Then stop by Simma’s. The brainchild of Simma herself, a Russian immigrant who arrived stateside with her husband and two children in 1979, Simma’s Bakery has served Milwaukee area dessert lovers for more than 30 years. The award-winning cheesecake is not the bakery’s only star, though. Simma’s also bakes up conventional cakes, pastries, truffles and cookies. 817 N. 68th St., Wauwatosa, (414) 257-0998,

Cheese guru Larry Ehlers (center), with his daughter, Patty, and son, Steve.

Cheese Shops

Clock Shadow Creamery

Walker’s Point has quickly established itself as the go-to neighborhood for testing out less than ordinary ideas. Case in point? Clock Shadow Creamery, the state’s first urban cheese factory. The creamery’s storefront and retail shop are truly a foodie’s (and cheese lover’s) paradise, with both in-house and Wisconsin-made cheeses filling the cases. Clock Shadow is also home to the first and only cheese factory tour in Milwaukee. 138 W. Bruce St., (414) 273-9711,

Glorioso’s Italian Market

Founded in 1946 by Eddie, Joe and Ted Glorioso, Glorioso’s Italian Market can be credited with introducing a new crop of Mediterranean-inspired flavors and foods into the local community, and its specialty cheese selection, though largely focused on imported Italian cheeses, is impressive and expansive. The market’s homemade sausage, a family recipe developed by Nonno Felice, is also a foodie favorite. 1011 E. Brady St., (414) 272-0540,

Larry’s Market

The story behind the success of Larry’s Market is one rooted in hard work and family values. Larry Ehlers, now 91, worked at the former Brown Deer Market for decades, a job he says involved everything from "scrubbing the butcher block" to delivering groceries to affluent Milwaukeeans. In 1970, he bought the store with very little cash to spare, renamed it Larry’s Market, and spent years building it into what it is today — a renowned specialty food shop. Larry’s son and daughter, Steve Ehlers and Patty Ehlers Peterson, now manage and operate the family business.

"We’re fortunate to be in Wisconsin, and we promote and sell a lot of Wisconsin artisan cheeses," says Steve. "We can have a direct relationship with the cheese producers." He says the market’s top sellers include Hook’s aged cheddars, Pleasant Ridge Reserve specialty cheeses and Marieke gouda. Both Larry and Steve are members of the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers, an inductee-only, international network of dairy professionals. "We’re the only retailers in Wisconsin in this group," Steve adds. "It’s something we’re quite proud of."

Patty, who has served as an aesthetic judge at the American Cheese Society Conference, is equally passionate about the market’s commitment to supporting local cheesemakers and to providing their customers with high-quality products. "We’ve been a real leader," she says. "We were the first store to bring imported cheeses into the state of Wisconsin, the first to bring a lot of products into this state or into this city. We follow food trends, and we try to see what’s happening next." 8737 N. Deerwood Drive, (414) 355-9650,

Fun Fact:

The priciest cheese ever sold at Larry’s Market? Hook’s 20-year cheddar. "It cost $209 per pound, and we sold 100 pounds," says Patty Ehlers Peterson, store manager. "It didn’t take long to sell out!" Currently, the shop’s most expensive cheese is Hook’s 15-year cheddar, which rings in at $79.95 per pound.

West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe

Like many of its counterparts, the West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe is a family-run, old-fashioned cheese shop. Its 40-plus year history is proof of its success, and the shoppe boasts a concentrated collection of Wisconsin-made cheeses. 6832 W. Becher St., West Allis, (414) 543-4230 and within the Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St., (414) 289-8333,

Wisconsin Cheese Mart

Tapping into what Wisconsin dairy farmers do best, the Wisconsin Cheese Mart stocks more than 200 varieties of state-made cheeses. The store’s retail location is also home to a cheese bar, encouraging patrons to sample different varieties. Beer and wine pairing and cheese tasting events are also held regularly. 215 W. Highland Ave., (414) 272-3544,

Business commentary and advice from Larry Ehlers, 91, of Larry’s Market.

— His overall business attitude: "Be honest and be fair."

— Regarding his competition: "Who’s our competition? We are. We compete with ourselves. We always maintain quality, service and a justifiable price. Amen." He says service and quality can be flip-flopped, but to "never put the price on top."

— On the market’s customers: "We’re so fortunate to have the best customers."

— When referring to his son, Steve: "He has the brain, and I have the mouth."

Smoked blufin from Empire Fish Company


Empire Fish Company

Empire has been in business for more than 100 years, operating from its current location since the early 1970s. "We have extremely high standards on what we’re bringing in," says general manager Matt Freisleben. "Through active communication with our vendors, we almost always have a choice in the various geographical areas as well as the fishing methods involved when we make buying decisions." He says the Norwegian salmon fillet is the store’s best-selling item. "Once you start buying something that’s really fresh in seafood, you will not go back to anything else," vows Sharon, an Empire employee. "You get what you pay for in this industry."

The company sells to restaurants and wholesalers throughout the Midwest. "We’re selling to the best of the best — the white linen tablecloth places," says Freisleben, adding that Empire’s position as a wholesale provider allows it to utilize those resources at any given time. "We’re trying to get our customers to understand that," he says. "It’s not just what you see in the (retail) case. On an hourly basis, we can tap into that wholesale inventory." 11200 W. Watertown Plank Road, (414) 259-1120,

Fun Fact:

According to general manager Matt Freisleben, Empire Fish Company stocks approximately 1,000 pounds of mussels at any given time.

St. Paul Fish Company

Housed within the Milwaukee Public Market, St. Paul Fish Company is a retail store, an eatery and oyster bar, and a wholesale provider. Fresh fish is flown in daily, and the retail case is regularly stocked with at least one dozen varieties of seafood, from arctic char and skate wing to sea scallops and fresh crab meat. Within the Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St., (414) 220-8383,

Farm To Table

Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs are becoming increasingly popular among foodies, who often favor organic, seasonally appropriate produce. Here are five farms currently serving the greater Milwaukee area. Sign-up for 2016 shares has begun or starts in January, so take note.

— Goldsell Farms: A 10-week spring share starting in April and 20-week full or half summer shares. The farm also offers a 20-week egg share. S105 W15585 Loomis Drive, Muskego, (414) 425-2937,

— Morning Star Family Farm, LLC: Offers a meat CSA, with organic-fed, pasture-raised meats included on a monthly basis. 4504 State Road 83, Hartford, (262) 670-6561,

— Pinehold Gardens: 18-week delivery, from early July into November. 1807 E. Elm Road, Oak Creek, (414) 762-1301,

— Three Brothers Farm, LLC: Three sizes — small (1-2 people), half (2-3 people) and whole (3-5 people); share distribution begins in mid-June and lasts 18 to 20 weeks. 34109 Mapleton Road, Oconomowoc, (262) 470-4429,

— Wellspring, Inc.: Full or half 20-week shares. Also offers a community share, which allows buyers to receive a $40 discount off the full share price in exchange for working two four-hour shifts on the farm. 4382 Hickory Road, West Bend, (262) 675-6755,


Attari Supermarket

Branded as "your local neighborhood Middle Eastern supermarket," Attari carries products from the Middle East, India, Pakistan and Turkey. The market’s meat department also sells 100 percent Halal meat, and its bakery serves up daily-made delicacies like sfiha and zaater mankeesh. 3042 S. 13th St., (414) 645-5880,

Indian Grocery & Spices

As Wisconsin’s largest Indian grocery store, Indian Grocery & Spices sells nearly 3,000 unique products and more than 150 varieties of spices. The store distributes to restaurants nationwide and offers cooking classes throughout the year. 10701 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, (414) 771-3535,

ORO di Oliva

ORO’s multiple locations throughout the city sell traditional balsamic vinegars and extra virgin olive oils, but it’s the company’s flavored variations, from blood orange and Tuscan herb oils to cinnamon pear and lavender balsamic vinegars, that are the true draw. Locations in Brookfield, Milwaukee, Wauwatosa and Whitefish Bay,

Pacific Produce

With three Milwaukee-area locations, Pacific Produce is the go-to local store for Asian ingredients. General manager Lieu Nguyen says the store even attracts many Milwaukee area chefs. "They cook a different dish every week, so they shop here every week. They’re cooking Korean, Japanese and Filipino foods," she explains.

And although Nguyen says the store’s usual customers are of Asian descent, an increasing number of curious American-born shoppers are found browsing Pacific Produce’s aisles. "We offer a lot of vegetables different from American stores," she says, citing fresh taro and rambutan as examples. "They (Americans) find different recipes online, and then they come, they see and they try everything." Locations throughout metro Milwaukee, (414) 308-1095

Fun Fact:

Pacific Produce general manager Lieu Nguyen estimates that a family of four goes through two to three 50-pound bags of rice on a monthly basis. "We eat rice every day," she says.

Panos Fresh Market

Although El Rey’s presence as Milwaukee’s leading shop for Mexican groceries is well-known, Panos Fresh Market is quietly standing its ground — and with conviction. Traditional Mexican products, from dried ancho chiles to sugarcane Coca-Cola, stock the market’s shelves, and its deli serves up authentic dishes and prepared foods. 426 W. Sunset Drive, Waukesha, (262) 513-9922

From duck heads and chicken feet to fish sauce and fresh persimmon, Pacific Produce’s offerings are varied and unique.

The Spice House

Owners Tom and Patty Erd are second-generation spice merchants — Patty’s parents, Ruth and Bill Penzey Sr., founded The Spice House in 1957. The Erds took over the family business in 1992, and The Spice House has since grown to include six locations throughout southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Locations in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa,

The Ruby Tap will open its second location in Mequon this year.

Beer, Wine & Spirits

Otto’s Wine & Spirits

With seven Milwaukee area locations, Otto’s Wine & Spirits has served locals since 1945. Stocking up on wine for the holiday season? The company offers a 10 percent discount on regularly priced bottles of wine when 12 bottles are purchased. Locations in Brown Deer, Bayside, Cedarburg, Elm Grove, Menomonee Falls and Milwaukee,

Ray’s Wine & Spirits

Ray’s not only boasts an impressive assortment of beer, wine and spirits, but is also home to Ray’s Growler Gallery. The gallery is located on site, and every beer tapped is one made exclusively for the bar, a rare brewery-only release or a selection not sold by the bottle. The two most common growler sizes are 64- and 32-ounces. 8930 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, (414) 258-9821,

Fun Fact:

Ray’s Wine & Spirits stocks more than 8,000 wines, 2,000 spirits and 1,000 beers.

The Ruby Tap

Co-owners Sarah Smith and Brooke Boomer brought a unique business model to Wauwatosa when they opened The Ruby Tap in 2012. Both wine novices and aficionados alike can try 1.5-ounce, 3-ounce or 6-ounce pours of 32 different wines housed in self-serve Enomatic machines. For those not wanting to use the machines, The Ruby Tap also offers seven wines on tap, one cocktail on tap and 30 bottled and tap beers.

"We have a very wide customer range," says Smith. "There are for sure people that are very into wine and love coming into our place because we really try to find unique and fun wines that you can’t ever try unless you buy a bottle. ... We also get the novice wine drinker. It’s the perfect place for them because they can really try a bunch of different things and start to learn what they like without committing to a glass of something that they don’t care for."

This holiday season, Smith and Boomer will open their second location in Mequon, at the corner of Cedarburg and Mequon roads. (As of press time, they hoped to be open by Thanksgiving.) "This next location will be larger and have two beers on tap, a cocktail on tap and flatbreads added to our existing menu of meats, cheeses and snacks like almonds, olives and truffle popcorn," says Smith. "We will continue to have 32 wines in self-serve Enomatic machines and seven more on tap behind the bar." 1341 N. Wauwatosa Ave., Wauwatosa, (414) 456-1300,

Thief Wine Bar & Shop

Thief’s co-founders, Phil Bilodeau and Aimee Murphy, spent years working in California wine country before opening their first Milwaukee area location in 2008. Both the flagship location and Thief’s second location in Shorewood stock more than 500 wines sourced worldwide. Within the Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St., (414) 277-7707 and 4512 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood, (414) 906-1906,


This story ran in the December 2015 issue of: