Digging into Milwaukee’s best barbecue and the city’s Memorial Day dining specials

Digging into Milwaukee’s best barbecue and the city’s Memorial Day dining specials

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Each week on Radio Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine dining critic Ann Christenson and 88Nine’s resident foodie Tarik Moody discuss Milwaukee’s culinary and restaurant culture on This Bites. This Bites is supported by Society Insurance.

Read more and listen to the episode below to hear all the city’s best barbecue and this weekend’s Memorial Day dining specials.

This month in Milwaukee Magazine, Ann highlighted her favorite barbecue spots in the city. We discuss her picks, which include iconic old staples like Speed Queen, newcomers like Iron Grate on Howell Avenue and even a chain: DOC’s Commerce Smokehouse, a newcomer Downtown at 754 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.

Also, it’s not every episode we get to announce a new opening in Riverwest, but this week saw the addition of Bar centro to the neighborhood at 804 E. Center St. It’s a compliment to the ever-popular Centro Cafe next door, and will feature dozens of varieties of amari, which will be used for cocktails and spirits (or served on the rocks).

Also discussed: this weekend’s Memorial Day dining specials and Bucks-related specials, and the new brunch service at Iron Horse Hotel. The menu reflects the involvement of DanDan chefs Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite, with an emphasis on comfort food staples like chicken and waffles, biscuits and sausage gravy and a smash burger breakfast (served over a bed of hash browns).

Heaven's Table Catering and BBQ Heaven’s Table Catering and BBQ
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Ca’Lucchenzo brings fresh pasta to Wauwatosa and Little Duck gets snacky

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Each week on Radio Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine dining critic Ann Christenson and 88Nine’s resident foodie Tarik Moody discuss Milwaukee’s culinary and restaurant culture on This Bites. This Bites is supported by Society Insurance.

Read more and listen to the episode below to learn about Wauwatosa’s newest Italian restaurant, Strange Town’s Rosé All Day block party, Little Duck’s monthly Quack Snacks event and Crazy Water’s new Taco Thursday specials.

Owners Sarah and Zak Baker this week opened their new Italian restaurant Ca’Lucchenzo Pastaficio & Enoteca at 6030 W. North Ave., in the building formerly home to Juniper 61. A carb-lover’s paradise, the restaurant specializes in house-made pastas and will also serve snacks, appetizers, risotto and various polenta-based dishes, in a setting with a homey, casual feel.

In other news, Strange Town will celebrate the most summer-friendly of all wines, rosé, at its Rosé All Day block party on Sunday, May 26, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event will feature hand-selected rosés, as well as beer and craft summer cocktails and food from several local restaurants. 88Nine DJ Amelinda Burich will provide the music, and like all great block parties, there will be a bouncy house.

Then Ann shares some vegan recipes featured in the May issue of Milwaukee Magazine, including an unforgettable cauliflower and baked tofu dish and a recipe for aguachile, a brothy Mexican dip served with tortillas or tortilla chips.   

facebook.com/littleduckmke Quack Snacks at Little Duck

We close the episode by noting two days food lovers should mark on their calendar. The first Monday of each month, Odd Duck’s special events offshoot Little Duck hosts Quack Snacks, a casual drink and snack pairing series. No reservation is required; just swing by and see what the kitchen has created.

And finally there’s Crazy Water‘s new Taco Thursdays. Inspired by her trip to Mexico, chef/owner Peggy Magister offers a different selection of tacos and margaritas each week. Tacos are just three for $10.

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Treat your mom right with these Mother’s Day brunches in Milwaukee

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Mother’s Day is this Sunday, one of the busiest days of the year in the restaurant world. And brunch is queen.

Each week on Radio Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine’s dining critic, Ann Christenson, and 88Nine’s foodie, Tarik Moody, discuss Milwaukee’s culinary and restaurant culture on This Bites.

This week, we talk about places to take your mom for brunch on Mother’s Day, plus vegan dinners, pop-ups and more. Read more and listen to the podcast below.

This Bites is supported by Society Insurance.

Mother’s Day Brunches

Brunch at The Iron Horse Hotel

MILB: Mother I’d Like to Brunch @ The Iron Horse Hotel
Sunday, May 12, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Iron Horse Hotel will be hosting a Mother’s Day brunch that will include a raw bar, carving stations, from-the-kitchen menu, desserts from Batches and a regionally inspired buffet. Plus, enjoy a playlist of beats by famous moms!

Crazy Water’s Mother’s Day Brunch
Sunday, May 12, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Call (414) 645-2606 for reservations

Crazy Water is hosting a Mother’s Day brunch featuring 3 courses:

  • First course – tuna crudo; mixed greens salad with blue cheese dressing and daikon, carrot and radish; a celery-root bisque
  • Second course – eggs benedict, steak and eggs with mushroom compote, fresh basil omelet with house-made burrata, salmon with napa cabbage salad, lemongrass reduction and green rice; sourdough French toast
  • Dessert: chocolate chip-marshmallow bread pudding; maple mascarpone cheesecake; Door County cherry croustade

I.d. at the Delafield Hotel Mother’s Day Brunch
Sunday, May 12, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Call (262) 646-1620 for reservations

I.d at the Delafield Hotel will host a Mother’s Day brunch, featuring a buffet including prime rib and Maple Creek ham carving stations, dessert stations, and more.

Vegan dinners and pop-ups

Maya Ophelia’s vegan pop-ups and truck takeover

Maya Ophelia’s is a new vegan option in Milwaukee. Owned and operated by Chase Roldan and Jack O’Grady, Maya Ophelia focuses on vegan dishes inspired by their Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Filipino roots.

Maya Ophelia’s have been hosting pop-ups for a few months, like a ramen pop-up at Cactus Club back in March. On May 10, they will host a Pancit and Lumpia pop-up at Lost Whale in Bay View at 9 p.m.

On May 11, they will host a loaded nachos pop-up at JustGoods in Shorewood from 12 – 2 p.m. and at Cactus Club at 9 p.m. On May 26, they will host a Sio Pao (Filipino steamed bun) pop-up at Strange Town at 11 a.m. and at 9 p.m. at Cactus Club.

Maya Ophelia’s Sonoran Cheesesteak (Mexican-style cheesesteak)

On May 13 and 14 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Maya Ophelia’s will take over Taco Moto (818 S. Water St.). They will feature their take on Mexican and Filipino-style cheesesteaks. They will also have a house salad and chips to dip.

Vegans Rejoice! Lazy Susan vegan wine dinner
May 16, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Call (414) 988-7086 for reservations

Lazy Susan will host a night of vegan wines and excellent veggie pairings from Chef and Owner AJ Dixon, including a five-course dinner with amuse-bouche and reception. Here is the menu:

Ramp hummus, housemade crackers and spring crudite

Course One:
“Oysters” Rockefeller
Oysters mushrooms, wild nettles, Finocchietto, pea milk, cashew parmesan and shallots

Course Two:
Smoked Jackfruit Huarrche
Fried masa, cumin beet puree, apple salsa, smoked jackfruit and strawberry ancho hot sauce.

Course Three:
Fennel, celery root, tomato and king trumpet stew with charred baguette and green garlic aioli.

Course Four:
Eggplant Mousaka
Lentil ragout, eggplant, potatoes and cashew bechamel sauce, wilted swiss chard.

Course Five:
Cocoa nib “Cheesecake”
Almond crust, cocoa nib and coconut filling, Fabbri cherries

Balzac Vegan Wine Dinner
May 14, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Call (414) 755-0099 for reservations

Learn all about it while enjoying five beautiful South African wines from Longridge Winery paired with five vegan dishes lovingly prepared by Chef Taylor. Courses include spring salad, ravioli bolognese, grilled seitan steak, curry cauliflower broth and more.

Batches will close storefront on May 10

Batches bakery in the Third Ward will close its storefront to focus on wholesale business at places like The TandemAvenue Coffeehouse in South Milwaukee and the Anodyne cafes in Walker’s Point, Milwaukee Public Market and Wauwatosa. You can learn more at Milwaukee Magazine.

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African and Jamaican restaurant, Irie Zulu closes its doors in Wauwatosa

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Each week on Radio Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine’s dining critic, Ann Christenson, and 88Nine’s foodie, Tarik Moody, discuss Milwaukee’s culinary and restaurant culture on This Bites. This Bites is supported by Society Insurance.

Read more and listen to the podcast episode below to hear more about the closing of Irie Zulu, Debry Day events, and more.

Irie Zulu closing in Wauwatosa

Earlier this week, Yollande Deacon, the owner of Irie Zulu, announced that she has closed the restaurant located at 7237 W. North Ave. Opened in 2015, Irie Zulu became one of the go-to places to get West African and Jamaican cuisines.

Irie Zulu owner Yollande Deacon
Yollande Deacon

Deacon plans to launch a new venture called Yollande Deacon Brands LLC, which will focus on product development, content development, events and strategic consulting. Before Irie Zulu, Deacon sold sauces and sausages under her Afro Fusion Cuisine brand.

88Nine featured Deacon in our video series about empathy, “National & North.”

Laughing Taco closes their Crossroads Collective location

Laughing Taco owners Lucia Munoz and chef Justin Carlisle (Ardent, Red Light Ramen) announced May 5 will be the last day for their Crossroads Collective location.

The couple plans to focus more on their first location at 1033 S. First St and the Fiserv Forum location. They also mention there will be some menu changes to the First St. location.

Derby Day events in Milwaukee

  • Talk Derby to Me at the Iron Horse Hotel – It’s the Derby party that tops all Derby parties. And this year The Iron Horse Hotel and Maker’s Mark are pulling out all the stops. On Saturday, May 4, the hotel will be offering a lavish party experience, featuring additional bars, bottomless Mint Juleps, VIP table service, two DJs, a living wall for all those “Instagrammable” moments and jumbo screens showing The Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports.
  • Monarch Lounge Kentucky Derby Party – 2 Horses and Jockey on 6th and Green for Photos! (3pm-6pm), Live Music by Liv Held Quartet, Derby on Big Screen TV’s.COMPLIMENTARY Derby-Inspired appetizers including cucumber tea sandwiches, pimento cheese dip with crackers and vegetables, hot chicken sliders. mini hot browns, and Bourbon meatballs.
  • Maxie’s Derby Day – Party for Hunger Relief – Your entry fee of $15 goes entirely to Hunger Task Force. Doors open at 1 p.m. and The Jackson Park Jazz Orchestra, our friendly neighborhood Big Band, will lead the party tent in a swinging good time. We’ll have pre-race coverage on screens throughout the restaurant and party tent leading up to coverage of the 145th Kentucky Derby, with race time at approximately 5:50 p.m.

Kidshare 2019

Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, KidShare: Milwaukee’s Finest Culinary Event will bring together over 30 of Milwaukee’s best restaurants, chefs, bakers and caterers for the much-anticipated event on Thursday, May 9 from 6:00 – 10:00 pm at The Pfister Hotel.  Proceeds from the event will benefit scholarships for the programs of the JCC.

New for 2019, the theme of “Perfect Pairings” invites KidShare’s talented culinary participants to create unique menu items that celebrate a JCC program area, like early childhood education, camping, or after-school programs.  Chefs will use their creativity and inspired childhood memories to bring a new twist to their delicious dishes at this year’s event.  At KidShare, guests will also nibble and nosh on a myriad of savory and sweet food offerings from popular eateries like Carnevor, Lake Park Bistro, The Cheel and Mila’s European Bakery, as well as a number of new event participants, such as Birch + Butcher, Char’d, Fauntleroy, Fresh Fin Poké, and Giggly Champagne and Wine Bar at Saint Kate the Arts Hotel. The evening also includes a silent auction, as well as a raffle with a wide variety of themed prizes.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Through chefs he mentored, Joe Bartolotta’s legacy lives on in Milwaukee

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Joe Bartolotta photo

Joe Bartolotta passed away April 23 at age 60.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

We’re obsessed with mushrooms this week on ‘This Bites’

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88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Step into the ‘Milwaukee Kitchen,’ a new YouTube cooking show about community

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Milwaukee Kitchen

milwaukee kitchen show

From the Milwaukee Kitchen “I Don’t Mind Sour” episode

Milwaukee Kitchen is a new made-for-Youtube cooking program set in Riverwest, Milwaukee. Homemaker ChefD is busy in the kitchen, yet always has time for neighbors and friends. Those circles are growing now that the word is out. The program has been described as “Mr. Rogers for the 21st century cooking crowd.” Deep-rooted traditions like reverence for Ruth Berolzheimer and the “American Woman’s Cook Book” meet contemporary interest in hybrid flavors, resulting in a singular contribution to the eclectic history of human experiments with food and socializing.

Watch the first episode here:

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

The culinary art coming to the Saint Kate hotel this spring

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Restaurants at the new Saint Kate Arts Hotel

Photo courtesy of Saint Kate

Tuesday, Saint Kate—the new arts hotel opening this spring in Milwaukee—released its plans for four new restaurant and bar concepts coming to the former Intercontinental. Here they are:

Aria Café & Bar

The heart of Saint Kate’s food and beverage program will be Aria Café & Bar. The all-day neighborhood café and restaurant, located on the second floor of the hotel, will specialize in simple, classic American cuisine handcrafted from the freshest, seasonal ingredients. Whether enjoying blueberry granola pancakes or house made corned beef hash in the morning, the return of the Milwaukee favorite Big Boy Burger for lunch, or sugar and spice crispy Amish chicken and shareable plates like charred Octopus with romesco for dinner, Aria will offer a friendly environment for socializing while noshing on humble, rebooted classics. The restaurant will also feature several select partnerships with local butchers, bakers, brewers and potters to celebrate art in all its forms. Just like the expressive melodies of an operatic aria, Aria Café & Bar will be a performance of sight, smells and flavors.

Proof Pizza

Located adjacent to Saint Kate on Water Street, Proof Pizza will be Milwaukee’s newest neighborhood pizza joint – a pizzeria perfect for a quick lunch during a busy work day or a casual dinner before a performance. Inspired by the regional cuisine of southern Italy, Proof Pizza will be known for its specialty and build-your-own hand-made Neapolitan-style pizzas featuring 48-hour slow-rise dough and homemade tomato sauce, all cooked in under two minutes in a handcrafted 800-degree brick oven. Other menu items include Italian-style pocket sandwiches known as “tascas,” fresh seasonal salads, antipasti, playful desserts and other Italian classics reinterpreted with an artistic twist. Proof Pizza will also feature a simple and fun selection of imported and craft beers, as well as tasty wines.

the Bar

The focal point and primary gathering area at Saint Kate, “the Bar” will welcome artists of all stripes and walks of life to work and play around the clock. During the day, the Bar’s evocative collection of art and comfortable seating creates the neighborhood’s go to spot for work or casual pop-up meetings. Guests can sip on locally roasted coffee, fresh squeezed all-natural juices and cocktails, or nibble on house-made pastries. In the evening, the convivial space will transform into a vibrant, social spot, where guests and locals alike will mix, mingle and commune around the intimate bar while sipping cocktails made by expert craftsmen and experiencing pop-up sets from local DJs, performers and other artists. From the ice, juices and bitters made in-house, to “outside-of-the-glass” presentation, each hand-crafted cocktail will be created with the care and attention of an artist. The Bar will also feature draft cocktails with shareable drink options, nitro cold brew cocktails, local craft beers on tap, a crowd-sourced beer can art program, approachable wines, and a special focus on non-alcoholic drinks. Guests will be able to enjoy bites from the Proof Pizza throughout the night. Also, for guests who prefer to enjoy a drink in the privacy of their room, the Bar will provide “Do it Yourself” cocktail room service.

Giggly Champagne & Wine Bar

Also found on the second floor of Saint Kate will be “Giggly Champagne & Wine Bar,” Milwaukee’s first and only champagne bar. A hidden gem overlooking Milwaukee’s theatre and entertainment district, Giggly (for short) will tickle the senses. Giggly will be the place to make every day a party – to “faire la fete.” A collection of champagne and international sparkling wines from the world’s finest vintners will be available by the glass and bottle, as well as a full selection of cocktails, beer and bar bites. An inviting wine list will take guests from sweet to dry and showcase different variations of sparkling wine, while the cocktails will highlight the fun you can have when pairing sparkling wine and spirits. You will be able to find some non-alcoholic fizzy lifting drinks and bubbly desserts, too!

Other Milwaukee food news and culinary events

Black Restaurant Week

Community members, black-owned restaurants and BlankSpaceMKE have come together for the fourth year to showcase African American entrepreneurship and promote local businesses by hosting MKE Black Restaurant Week, April 14-20, 2019. Get more information about the restaurants participating here.

Iron Horse Hotel’s Smyth

The Iron Horse Hotel’s restaurant, Smyth, will be closing in May 1 and reopening as a new restaurant. It’s still unnamed, but it’ll be created by the team behind many downtown restaurant like DanDan and Fauntleroy. We did get one clue: they’re putting in a hearth for wood-fired cooking. We can’t wait to see what that means.

Gamba wine dinner at Blue’s Egg

Thursday, April 11, Blue’s Egg in Shorewood will be hosting a dinner featuring wines from Gamba Vineyards and Winery, including its Etrusca Wines. Agostino Gamba, owner, grape grower and winemaker of this fine wine estate will also be there. Dinner will be prepared in collaboration between Blue’s Egg Shorewood and Story Hill BKC’s culinary teams, under the direction of co-owner Chef Joe Muench. Get more menu details and tickets here.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Travel around the world in three Milwaukee restaurants

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Travel around the world without leaving Milwaukee

Sze Chuan in West Allis, Photo courtesy of Google user PM chang

In the April edition of Milwaukee Magazine, Ann put together an “itinerary” of how to travel the world by fork through Milwaukee. Here are the three restaurants she picked:

Sze Chuan

We love Sze Chuan because it is one of the only places you can get authentic hot pot in Milwaukee. This soup cooked at the table is hot in temperature and in spice. The rest of the menu features foods from the Sichuan province in southwest China, but also has a wide range of other Chinese cuisine. This is a restaurant where it is easy to get creative and build your own meal too.


Holyland is well, the holy land of Middle Eastern cuisine in Milwaukee. It’s a store that sells all the spices, meats and dry goods you need to make a meal at home and its small counter service restaurant has some of the best shawarma, falafel and baklava around.

Indian Delight

Head to Indian Delight in Oak Creek for some delightful, fresh, affordable and meatless Indian food near Milwaukee. Try the thali, deep-fried samosas, chaats, pan-fried paratha and baked naan.

Other Milwaukee food news and culinary events

New foods at Miller Park

Move over hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks…There are some new foods that you can get at a Brewers game in 2019. They include tamales, fried BBQ corn, Pete’s Pops, waffles and more. See the full list here.

Teens Grow Greens

Teens Grow Greens’ annual chef dinner is coming up on May 30, 2019 at the Ivy House. This is always a creative dinner with fresh, local foods, top chefs and it benefits an organization that makes a difference for youth in Milwaukee. So save the date! We’ll have more information soon.

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Where to dine solo in Milwaukee

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Where to dine solo in Milwaukee

beans and barley milwaukee

Photo courtesy of Beans & Barley

In Milwaukee Magazine’s Ask Ann column, Ann was recently asked, “Can you name some places where you feel comfortable dining solo?”

Here’s what she said:

“For bars, I like Beans & Barley, where I often see solo diners eating and reading; recently expanded Buckley’s, where there’s a new, small bar but it’s cozy and inviting; Elsa’s on the Park, which offers the bonus of great people-watching; and Bavette la Boucherie, which has an active solo-dining crowd, particularly at lunchtime – and no need to bring reading materials. With meal prep and butchery happening behind the counter, this place is a feast for the eyes.

“If you’d rather solo it at a table, try warm, bright Tre Rivali at the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, Celesta (plant-based eats in a tiny, friendly space), Cafe at the Plaza (for a diner-y breakfast or lunch), Le Rêve Patisserie & Café (on the open, breezy first floor) or Harbor House, because the days are getting a little longer and there is no better restaurant view of Lake Michigan.”

Other Milwaukee food news and culinary events

Fish Fry season

Speaking of things that Ann has written in Milwaukee Mag, we’re revisiting this article on the best fish fries in Milwaukee in honor of Lent. Check out her guide to the anatomy of the perfect fish fry and a list of the best restaurants with a fish fry here.

Amilinda’s new brunch

Just as winter appears to be ending, Amilinda is doing a limited-time winter brunch series of warm comfort foods to get you through the last of these chilly days. It started in early March and runs through April 28. Take advantage of the seasonal specialties like torrijas (Spanish-style French toast), carcamusa (braised pork shoulder), the fried piri piri chicken and waffles, smoked salmon coca and more before they’re gone. See the full menu and get reservations here.

Vegan Expo

If you’re curious about how to be vegan in Milwaukee, the fourth annual MKE Vegan Expo is your one-stop shop. It will take place March 30 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The expo will be held in the UWM Student Union. Get more info on the events, speakers and more here.

Lager & Friends Festival

A good lager is underrated. They’re often overshadowed by IPAs, even though lagers are harder and show better beer craftsmanship. So we were excited to hear there’s a whole festival dedicated to this brew coming to Brew City. The Lager & Friends Festival features some of the best lager brewers in the country and celebrates the men and women whose passion, skill and technique go into creating these well-crafted brews. Experience it at Turner Hall Ballroom on March 30.

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