What To Eat in Wisconsin
You know you are in the Dairy State when hamburgers and charcoal-cooked brats (bratwursts) come glistening with butter, and when cheese curds are served in every bar. Cool, smooth custard is another creamy specialty; and cream pies are superlative. Fruit pies – apple, cherry, rhubarb, berry – also are memorable, even if not served a la mode. Friday night is fish fry night in virtually every restaurant; and if you’re up in Door County in the summer, do avail yourself of the pyrotechnical spectacular known as a fish boil. Milwaukee is rich in ethnic foods and is one of America’s top corned beef cities.
Other than butter-sculpture contests at the state fair, there is no better demonstration of Wisconsin's passion for butter than the butter burger, which is so popular that many restaurants where it is served don't even bother to call it that. Order a hamburger and it automatically comes soaked with melted butter. Not margarine, not flavored oil: pure, dairy-rich butter. Words cannot describe the wanton opulence of hoisting one of these big boys from plate to mouth and feeling commingled butter and beef juices running hot rivers down one's chin, fingers, and wrist. Similarly, charcoal-cooked bratwurst served in Wisconsin sandwiches comes glistening not only with its own fat, but with that of a few melting butter pats as well.
Nearly every Milwaukee restaurant has a Friday night fish fry. From the humblest corner tavern to the finest fine-dining restaurants, count on fried fish with all the fixins (preferably potato pancakes).
If you think of custard as the commonly-found franchised soft-serve fare, come to Wisconsin and have a cup of vanilla. It is dense, smooth as alabaster, sweet and simple. Mix-ins and silly flavors exist, but they are peripheral. Purity is what people in Wisconsin demand; and in fact it is rare to find bad ice cream or custard anywhere in the state that likes to call itself America's Dairyland.
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Milwaukee is a city of excellent custard, and Kopp’s is one of the top purveyors, offering a unique flavor every day. Precede it with a butter burger.
Beerntsen's is a glorious little Wisconsin candy store where you can have a nice, inexpensive lunch and spoon into expertly-made sundaes.
O & H is home of the original giant Racine Kringle. Of many tasty fillings, the best is tart Door County cherries.
Ray's is a small town dive bar with tavern sandwiches and peasant soups that recall simpler times. White-hot house-made mustard is memorable.
The Wurst Bar is a gem of a butcher in the Milwaukee Public Market making excellent sausage to fill buns or to top brick-oven pizza.
Babcock Hall ice cream, made on campus since 1951, is a Badger student favorite available to all who appreciate the art and science of frozen dairy treats.
LeDuc's is a good taste of Wisconsin favorites, including tasty burgers and silken custard. Sundaes are particularly recommended.
Winghaven offers Wisconsin-style pizza (extra-extra cheese) on cracker-thin crust cooked in a brick oven on a pastoral corn farm.
Mader's is a virtual museum of Milwaukee German culture with atmosphere galore. Reuben rolls are the must-eat.