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High on the hog
Pork belly's rich flavor is making it a popular dish at area restaurants

Photos by Matt Haas

October 2015

Call it baconís upscale cousin. Pork belly, which comes from the same part of the hog as bacon, is a tasty delicacy that has local chefs and foodies swooning. As its name suggests, it does indeed come from the belly of the pig and is typically served with the skin on, which when cooked gives it a nice sear.

"Itís a very fatty piece of pork, and thereís a very rich flavor that comes with the fat," says Scott Pod, manager of Rayís Butcher Shoppe in Milwaukee. Pork belly really started coming onto the Milwaukee food scene about two years ago, Pod says.

For cooking pork belly, he recommends first marinating the meat, preferably with a sweet ingredient like brown sugar or teriyaki sauce, then searing it in a very hot pan. The combination of sugar and high heat creates a nice sear.

"My wife and I first tried it at a Milwaukee restaurant, and we loved it so much we told other people, ĎYou have to try this,í and they had the same reaction," Pod recalls. "Word of mouth has led people to try it, and it has taken off."

If you donít feel like preparing the dish at home, here are five restaurants where you can try this tasty treat.


Chef Jonathan Manyo smokes his pork belly first and serves it with seasonal ingredients. Recently, heís offered it with aromatic chanterelle mushrooms, fresh corn, crisp bacon, savory scallions and fresh basil before finishing it off with just a touch of pork jus. 430 S. 2nd St., (414) 897-0747,


Pork belly has been so popular at chef Michael Fekerís Il Mito that he began serving it at his Hartland establishment. At Zesti, he sears it until the skin is golden crisp. Then he tops it with chopped onions, tomatoes, capers, kalamata olives, fresh basil and fresh parsley. He adds white wine, red wine, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce before slow roasting it for three hours. The pork belly is served with a freshly made, creamy risotto, either fennel or Parmigiano Reggiano. 130 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland, (262) 367-3333,

Crazy Water

It was here that butcher Scott Pod first tried pork belly, and chef Peggy Magister still cooks it in a similar manner. She marinates it in a yuzo sauce before serving it over a bed of bibb and frisee lettuces and finishing it with a honeyed balsamic vinaigrette. 839 S. 2nd St., (414) 645-2606,

Wolf Peach

The pork belly here is roasted in a wood-fired oven, then served with delicate fingerling potatoes, corn and garden peppers. 1818 N. Hubbard St., (414) 374-8480,

Merriment Social

Here you can try pork belly two ways. Enjoy it slow roasted and served on a bed of sweet corn and spicy pickled peppers with a honey mustard aioli or savor it in a pancake with maple butter. 240 E. Pittsburgh Ave., (414) 645-0240,


This story ran in the October 2015 issue of: