Wisconsin Eats: Beer, Tofu, Mexican Food

We were eager to explore more of Milwaukee, but we found that we had already hit most of the highlights. After a wan continental breakfast at the hotel, we headed out to the historic Old Third Ward, which we had visited the day before, with a specific destination in mind.

Milwaukee Public Market

The Milwaukee Public Market, and in fact the entire concept of the Historic Third Ward District, seems a transparent attempt on the part of Milwaukee’s governing officials to create some kind of “comeback” brand to revitalize run-down areas of the city. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, but based on our visit it doesn’t seem to be working. Well, it did attract the two of us, so it works to some extent. Not that we spent any money while there.

The Public Market is a nice place though, and it features a lot of interesting, high-end food products like olives and wine, along with locally made cheeses. We were two of only about a half dozen people in the market, though to be fair it was about nine in the morning. We walked around the city for a while, and then headed off to our final Milwaukee destination.

Miller/Coors Brewery

One of the reasons we waned to go on the Miller Brewery Tour was to contrast the Lakefront Brewery, a relatively small, independently owned brewery, with one of the largest brewery corporations in the country. The first difference was immediately apparent: the Miller tour was free.

First we had to watch a short film about the history of Miller beer, in which the phrase “Miller Time” was used about a dozen times. During this film they made a quick mention of something which reminded me of the Bavarian Purity Law referenced by lakefront the day before; in the Miller short film, they say they use malted barley and corn, in addition to hops, water, and a super-secret strain of yeast. I thought the quick mention of corn was significant (especially after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma) but it was glossed over in a second and never mentioned again.

There were also similarities. As with the Lakefront Tour, these wasn’t much to see other than big metal vats. I do recommend waiting around after the beer tasting to see if they offer you the optional extra part of the tour — they took a few of us up a lot of stairs to see some different metal tanks than we’d seen before. We left the Miller tour and headed out of the city to a suburb of Milwaukee called Brookfield, based on the recommendation of a few Serious Eaters.

Cafe Manna

At Cafe Manna everything on the menu is vegetarian or vegan, so we were expecting something very hippie-ish. The interior of the restaurant is actually very modern looking, and the menu is quite extensive. They brought us out a complimentary starter, the coconut-cashew hummus, which was not as sweet as it sounds.

I got the grilled herb eggplant and tofu sandwich. I wasn’t sure how the eggplant and tofu would go together, but it was pretty good. My sister, true to her word, got the fennel citrus salad, which has quinoa in it. It was light and fresh, and it came in a huge portion. We enjoyed the food, though we don’t know if we’d recommend going out of your way to eat there.

After lunch we drove back to Appleton. My sister wanted to take me to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, and to make up for all of the calories we had been consuming (and would continue to consume), we decided to walk to the restaurant.

Antojitos Mexicanos

Much like she had for Koreana, my sister had built up Antojitos Mexicanos and I wasn’t sure it would live up to the billing. I should not have worried. Antojitos is a small, family-run place, serving what they call authentic Mexican food. I don’t know whether it’s authentic, but it is delicious. My sister recommended the gorditas, which were indeed wonderful — crispy packets of cornmeal dough filled with (in my case) cooked cactus, salsa, and cheese.

For dessert we wanted more frozen custard, so my sister took me to Culver’s. Culver’s is a local chain, known for its frozen custard and its Butter Burgers. They were having a buy one get the second free special on their blended custard creations, which they call Concrete Mixers, so we each got one. I got cherries and hot fudge in mine, my sister got peanut butter and brownie bits. The custard was quite rich and very good, though not quite as good as Leon’s.

Milwaukee Public Market — 400 N Water St Milwaukee, WI
Miller Brewery — 4251 West State St, Milwaukee, WI
Cafe Manna — 3815 N. Brookfield Rd, Brookfield, WI
Antojitos Mexicanos — 207 N Richmond St, Appleton, WI
Culver’s — 3631 E Calumet St, Appleton, WI

  • http://quealmorcehoy.blogspot.com 190.arch

    I can say that mexican food is pretty mexican!
    I’m mexican but I live in Italy nowdays : )
    I’ll be in NYC next days, I’ve found interesting foodie info in this blog, it’s a very nice blog, congrats!

  • Skip

    Whether a brewery tour is free or not doesn’t really depend on the size of the brewery. Take Viking Brewing in Dallas, WI. They brew only 300 barrels a year and are in a town of less than 400. The tour is free and you get to sample every beer they have available at the time of the tour.

  • http://www.eattoblog.com Howard

    @skip — thanks for the tip. if i find myself back in wisconsin i’ll give that one a go.