Restaurant – Honeypie, Milwaukee, WI

Bay View is in many ways a quintessentially Milwaukee neighborhood. Within a year of the opening of The Milwaukee Iron Company in 1868, the village of grew as a company town around the steel mill. According to the Bay View Historical Society, “Cottages erected for mill workers became the center of the village. Many of these cottages are still occupied today and are a part of the diverse architecture of the Bay View neighborhood.”

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The neighborhood borders Lake Michigan and the factories shown billowing smoke in the picture above have long ago been replaced with far more modern industry. Portions of the neighborhood fell into disrepair beginning in the 1970s as the entire Midwest began to adjust to the changes in heavy industry, but a recent resurgence of the neighborhood has been lead by chef-led restaurants, craft beer bars and craft brewers. Thankfully, much of the architectural identity of the area has not only been retained, but highlighted.

One of the early chef-led restaurants in the area was Honeypie. Long a personal favorite for lunch, we recently returned for dinner and were reminded of the reasons we love this place. The description offered on their own site captures many of the key ideas we treasure in Great Lakes Cuisine:

Honeypie was opened in 2009 and from the very beginning our goal has been to make great, Midwestern-inspired food from scratch. From our pickles to our pie crust we believe that good food is rooted in the way our grandparents used to cook. Real food made by hand with real ingredients. We use as many local meats, produce and other ingredients as we can. In fact, the majority of our ingredients at Honeypie are sourced from Wisconsin.

Local, scratch-made, inspired by generations of culinary traditions – these are many of the elements in our definition of Great Lakes Cuisine. What their self-description does not capture is the inspired innovations they also bring to their menu. Our dinner consisted of the following:

 

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Pork Fries – thin cut french fried potatoes topped with succulent shredded pork, a decadently rich and creamy cheese sauce, and green onions.

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Mac & Cheese – Just because we can never get enough of that decadently creamy cheese sauce, we went with bacon topped macaroni.

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Hot Brown – Thick sliced toast is topped with sliced turkey and then loaded with a mushroom cream sauce and topped with dressed arugula. More an open faced turkey sandwich than the classic Louisville Hot Brown, but still comfort food in the very best sense.

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Burger – A return of the fries, but this time as the side show to the main attraction, a burger of Wisconsin grass fed brisket, fresh ground, topped with cheese, bacon, and a dripping sunny side up egg. Impossible to eat with any delicacy, it’s so good you will end up just mopping up bits of goodness with the house made, brioche bun.

More recent menu offerings have included the Cornish Pasty, house-made pretzels with aged-cheddar beer cheese sauce, and chicken pot pie. All items we have featured here as well. They also serve a wide array of award-winning pies, so keep that in mind as you order.

The menu at Honeypie definitely brings a fair amount of global fusion, and it seems that same sense of culinary adventure infuses even their local offerings, which fits them into our vision of Great Lakes Cuisine. Much like the Bayview neighborhood, the cuisine of Honeypie has adapted to new flavors and new approaches with out loosing the character of long-standing traditions from the area.

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New Restaurant Added – Morel, Milwaukee, WI

Morel is a gem of a space. On a recent dark and stormy night, we ducked inside. The lights were low, the conversation was vibrant. The small restaurant space was full, but we were able to grab the last two spots at the bar, which looks into the cooking space. Here is how they describe what they are trying to do:

“Morel Restaurant is a modern American farm-to-table restaurant that finds inspiration from Chef Jonathan Manyo’s roots: Wisconsin. Morel explores natural flavors, colors and textures from local farms, purveyors, foragers and artisans.

The wild morel mushroom marks the start of a new growing season and is the delicious reward of those who forage in the woods of Wisconsin. Like the hunt for morels, Jonathan enjoys the adventure of finding and preparing locally grown, raised and produced food for Morel’s diners.”

The menu the night we stopped in was inspired by local foods, many of the dishes were modern American. We ordered the pheasant terrine, the duck confit, and a beautiful dish of sauteed mushrooms over polenta. Each dish was thoughtfully composed and full flavored. The mushroom dish inspired an attempt at reproducing it the next weekend at home, as a vehicle for serving pulled pork.

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We started with whole kernel corn, half of which we shallow fried in corn oil until beginning to turn caramel brown. We then blended fried and non-fried corn together, with just enough chicken broth to allow it to blend. Back into the pan and added grated Sarvecchio Parmesan. The mushrooms are cremini and shitake, sauteed in butter with onions, savory, and oregano. The pork had been roasted for over four hours, studded with pieces of garlic, and covered with fresh oregano and sea salt. It was excellent, but Morel was better.

A few dishes of note from a recent menu:

Duck Confit, Sage, Ricotta, Pumpkin, Apple, Maitake Mushroom, Duck Jus

Pork Shoulder, Bratwurst, Horto Beans, Bacon, Kimchi, Herbs

Beef Short Rib, Celery Root, Brussels Sprouts, Garlic, Watercress, Bacon, Beef Jus

A worthy addition to our collection of Restaurants which exemplify Great Lakes Cuisine.

New Bar Added – Stubby’s Gastrogrub and Beer Bar, Milwaukee, WI

“We’re kind of like your favorite local dive bar — but with a killer craft beers and a robust menu packed with locally-sourced offerings.” – Stubby’s Gastrogrub and Beer Bar website

Yeah, that about covers it. Stubby’s has a great selection of draft beers with healthy selection of local Wisconsin brews, an equally healthy selection of some of the best Great Lakes brews, all supplemented with a number of world beers which are high-end representatives of their style. It took me ten minutes to select my first beer because I knew I was limited to only having a few. I’m glad I started with Karben4 Fantasy Factory.

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Karben4, out of Madison, WI, has created a beautifully balanced IPA which leans towards the citrus end of the hop spectrum, but the English malted barley adds plenty of body. Stubby’s is located on the Milwaukee River, on the edge of a newly revitalized neighborhood. It was a sunny, breezy, happy hour kind of night. We ordered a selection of appetizers for the group – fried mac-n-cheese, fried cheese curds, and nachos topped with pulled pork.

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Apart from the obvious artery destroying power of this display, it was ton of fun. The fried mac-n-cheese were lusciously creamy and complemented with a spicy marinara-style sauce. The nachos were topped with pulled pork and a ridiculous amount on cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. This is not subtle folks, this is a full-on bar food binge. And yes, those barrels are painted with the Central Waters logo. So what do you pair with deep fried cheddar cheese cords with a Parmesan bacon dipping sauce?

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Well, the Black Husky Pale Ale was exceptionally nice as the bright hop flavor cut through the richness of the deep-fried cheese and bacon sauce. Then you slip slowly and blissfully off into a food coma. Oh, it’s so worth it. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend it. We’re happy to add Stubby’s Gastrogrub & Beer Bar to our Restaurant page as another representative of Great Lakes Cuisine.

New Restaurant Added – Storyhill BKC, Milwaukee, WI

We have discussed before the difficulty in parsing what fits and what does not in Great Lakes Cuisine. Hopefully, we have been clear this site is not a review of “The Best of the Great Lakes”, it is specifically not intended as a restaurant review site. We are not claiming an exhaustive list of the best restaurants. We are highlighting a few of the very best examples of an emerging trend in local traditions, local flavors, and local chefs – what we call Great Lakes Cuisine.

So, when we added Graze in Madison, WI, it was a praise of style and in no way should be seen as a slight to Tory Miller’s flagship restaurant L’Etoile, one of our all-time favorite restaurants in the Great Lakes area. But L’Etoile is French. Not just in name or in theme, but in the very heart of everything the restaurant does. It feels French, it tastes French. As a genre of restaurant it is most clearly French. A similar occasion arises once again with the addition of Storyhill BKC, in Milwaukee, WI.

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The restaurant is the most recent collaborative effort between Joe & Meg Muench and Dan Sidner. We couldn’t be more pleased to have one of their restaurants listed on our site, as their two previous offerings are fantastic, though outside our scope. Maxie’s serves excellent low-country Carolina, Creole, and Cajun cuisine as well as one of the best fresh oyster bars in the city. One might make the argument their other offering, Blue’s Egg, already belongs on our list as they feature a current take on traditional immigrant breakfast and lunch. The food is excellent and the menu creative, but has always seemed more fully “American” diner than specifically Great Lakes.

Storyhill BKC is undeniably Great Lakes Cuisine. Here the breakfast can be simple. Perhaps just a nice latte and a danish filled with cheese and house marmalade.

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The lunch menu changes constantly, though the breakfast entrees are served through lunch as well. The dinner offerings provide some wonderful examples of creativity, flavors, and tradition. We could start with recent offerings of Great Lakes Bisque or Steamed Walleye. Perhaps we’ll have the Whipped Clock Shadow Quark, served with pureed carrot, cranberries and spiced nuts. Quark is a unique creamy cheese produced at Milwaukee’s only urban cheese factory, Clock Shadow Creamery (Good story on it here). We can move to entrees such as Lake Superior Whitefish which is ham crusted, or Pork Country Spare Ribs served with sour cabbage, or perhaps Lake Trout with tomato jam. Maybe we should have them carve us a slice of Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin with a Founder’s Apple Rye sauce. Don’t forget to pair your entree with a regional brew such as recent offerings of O’SO Brewing (WI) Don’t Turn My Brown Eyes Blue IPA or Central Waters (WI)Le Petite Morts Bourbon Barrel Weizenbock. The current line-up also features Bell’s (MI), Founder’s (MI), Summit (MN), Potosi (WI), Capital (WI), Ale Asylum (WI), Hinterland (WI), Three Floyds (IN) and more.

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The space is divided into bar, restaurant, and store. Heavy on the re-claimed wood and friendly service. The menu changes often, but the focus thus far has been on local ingredients, creative presentations, and traditional flavors. We’re pleased to add Storyhill BKC to our Restaurant list at Great Lakes Cuisine.

New Restaurant Added – Odd Duck

Odd Duck in Milwaukee, WI is an absolutely wonderful little restaurant.  If this were a restaurant review, I would gush about the diversity of the menu, the inventiveness on display in nearly every dish, the brilliant execution on each small plate presentation. But this is not a restaurant review so our focus here is on the dishes reflecting the ethno-culinary traditions of the Great Lakes region.

Here are a couple of recent dishes featured on the evening menu – Kale Salad, Dried Cranberries, Roasted Pear, Maple Vinaigrette, Pecans, Aged Cheddar Mornay or perhaps you would prefer Chicken Schnitzel, Handmade Bratwurst, Cheesy Pork Belly, Spätzle, with Brussels Sprout Sauerkraut. Their cheese selection includes many of my local Wisconsin favorites such as Hook’s Cheddar, Carr Valley Mobay, and Saxon Creamery Big Ed’s Gouda. The charcuterie selection features Underground Meat Company (a true favorite here) as well as house-made options. All these are clear markers of local traditions being re-invented and re-imagined leading to, based on my recent dining experience, truly wonderful results. This is Great Lakes Cuisine and we’re happy to include them in our Restaurants section.

The menu is really global fusion with so many different cuisines seamlessly and beautifully brought together. For a longer discussion of how the Odd Duck stretches our definition, see this post. For pure enjoyment, simply go to Odd Duck and enjoy.