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Milwaukee: Fantasy vs. Reality

Milwaukee: Fantasy vs. Reality
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  • Milwaukee: Fantasy vs. Reality

    Post #1 - July 20th, 2012, 5:49 pm
    Post #1 - July 20th, 2012, 5:49 pm Post #1 - July 20th, 2012, 5:49 pm
    Chicago Sun-Times wrote:In my imagined Milwaukee, bratwurst stands are as ubiquitous as hot dog stands in Chicago; scores of cheese-focused restaurants take advantage of Wisconsin artisanal cheeses; dozens of great German eateries exist, and Konditoreien serve pastries as luscious as the descriptions of Baumbach's in Edna Ferber’s 1910, Milwaukee-based novel, Dawn O'Hara. But no....

    Where Milwaukee triumphs is in taverns and frozen-custard stands.

    I originally started writing this as an LTH post, but it wound up somewhere else. But I'm still interested in a discussion of the differences between the perception of Milwaukee and its reality. I continue to be intrigued by the amount and quality of Milwaukee's Asian food, something I knew nothing of before I started spending time there, and bemused by its taverns.
  • Post #2 - July 22nd, 2012, 7:04 pm
    Post #2 - July 22nd, 2012, 7:04 pm Post #2 - July 22nd, 2012, 7:04 pm
    I live in Wisconsin between Milwaukee and Chicago. Chicago is much better able to support its ethnic restaurants and we spend most of our time when dining in Chicago and Northern suburbs where many of the city restaurants are moving. Today, my son and I went to China Town and brought take home from Lao Sze Chaun, we do not eat in any Milwaukee Asianrestaurants at this time finding that these restaurants invariably can't get or use less expensive ingredients than similar restaurants in Chicago.
    But perception is reality and I suppose if you have never eaten in any of the more authentic asian restaurants of whatever culture than your perception may be very different.-Dick
  • Post #3 - July 22nd, 2012, 7:50 pm
    Post #3 - July 22nd, 2012, 7:50 pm Post #3 - July 22nd, 2012, 7:50 pm
    Leah,

    As someone born & raised in Milwaukee, and who spent the first 30 years of his life there (save the 5 years going to school in Stevens Point), I think your observations are fairly accurate and I've asked myself many of the same questions that you pose.

    I'm reminded of something I've learned in the 8 years since I moved south of the "Cheddar Curtain" is that no group of people (for good and/or for bad) have a more powerful voice in "defining Milwaukee" as Chicagoans. Most Chicagoans I know have a rather substantial opinion of what defines Milwaukee and Wisconsin in general. When I meet folks from around the country and the subject of Milwaukee comes up, very often what they know comes either from the national media or from a friend/relative/coworker who lives/lived in metro Chicago. It's just a matter of Chicago's size, and the number of folks who spend part of their careers here, before moving on to other parts of the country.

    Milwaukee hasn't always had a strong voice to define itself, but has been defined by some rather unique factors. Take the handful of cheese & sausage shops along I-94 in southern Kenosha county for example. They are an extension of the tourist traps of the Dells and of Door County; designed to separate Chicagoans from their money. Locals don't visit them, but they have helped to define what Wisconsin means to many entering from the south.

    For years the smell of yeast many encountered while driving between downtown and what is now Miller Park was said to be from the breweries of Milwaukee. Pro golfer, and struggling alcoholic, John Daly once stated that he didn't like coming to Milwaukee because the smell of beer brewing as he made his way from the airport to the golf course because it triggered an immediate desire for a beer. Ask many Milwaukeeans, and they'd tell you the smell came from the breweries. It didn't of course; it came from the breweries, but from the Red Star Yeast plant that I-94 ran past. Beer supposedly is what made Milwaukee famous, and that could be associated with the brewery business became part of the culture. Many Milwaukeeans believe that the term "Cream City" had to do with either the dairy industry or frothy beer foam; a far cry from the real meaning of the term.

    Milwaukee was never historically part of Wisconsin's cheese industry, which really was just an extension of Wisconsin's larger dairy industry. What role has the creation of the "cheesehead" and the rebirth of the Packers to national relevance played in the ever-growing association with cheese to Wisconsin, and to Milwaukee? Has the cheesehead replaced the cow as the symbol of Wisconsin agriculture?

    I had to chuckle at Carol Deptolla's comment about fried cheese curds in your article being a restaurant staple. It may be that way today (even that I'd challenge a bit) but I don't remember seeing them served as a kid. Maybe they were in the taverns, but taverns were not exactly the highlight of culinary creativity. They certainly were not served in most restaurants/fast food joints/hamburger & custard stands. I remember seeing them pop up in maybe the early '90s. Heck, fresh curds were fairly rare as a kid. You had them when you went to the dairy on school field trips, and maybe if you stopped at one of the few stores focused on cheese (mainly in vacation towns) but you certainly didn't see them like you do today; no ranch-flavored cheese curds in the convenience stores of my youth.

    I've too have often wondered why a society so focused on sausages never produced a commercial restaurant culture focused on them. Always surprised that Culvers doesn't put them on the menu. It's been interesting watching Culvers flirt with their Wisconsin connection. They play up the fact that they use Wisconsin cheddar and Wisconsin dairy products, but don't mention the Milwaukee connection to the butter burger. Given Wisconsin's perception nationally as a state that doesn't exactly "scrimp" on the quality and quantity of its foods (i.e. see WI obesity rates, heart disease rates, etc) I'm surprised that Culvers doesn't play up on the Wisconsin connection more than it does.

    The importance of frozen custard is much greater today than ever before. When I was young, the only places that served it were basically Kopps, Gillies and Leons. The overwhelming majority of Milwaukee stands served ice cream. I spent my youth eating ice cream at A&W and a number of local ice cream stands; frozen custard was pretty rare. And the idea that frozen custard was common in the central core of Milwaukee is wrong; Gillies is on the far western edge of the city, Kopps is in suburban Glendale and Leons is deep in the heart of the far south side. Frozen custard is expensive to make, compared to ice cream. Frozen custard started to expand first with Oscars opening up in West Allis & Brookfield in the '80s and the expansion of Kopps to Greenfield and Brookfield. It wasn't until Culvers got started that frozen custard became commonplace throughout the city and the state. Overall, Wisconsin is an ice cream, not a frozen custard, state. The same is true for most of southeastern Wisconsin.

    The Milwaukee of your dreams might have been possible if the metro area was more compact than it is, if the collapse of the manufacturing base had been mitigated by the growth of some tech sector, and if there was some major university or other element to keep much of the upwardly mobile young professionals from being drawn elsewhere; Chicago being the most obvious "culprit".

    I'll stop here, as I've babbled on far too long. But you are very correct in saying that the perception of Milwaukee from a foodie perspective is far, far different than reality.

    JMO,
    Dave
    Last edited by BadgerDave on July 22nd, 2012, 10:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #4 - July 22nd, 2012, 8:18 pm
    Post #4 - July 22nd, 2012, 8:18 pm Post #4 - July 22nd, 2012, 8:18 pm
    budrichard wrote:I live in Wisconsin between Milwaukee and Chicago. Chicago is much better able to support its ethnic restaurants and we spend most of our time when dining in Chicago and Northern suburbs where many of the city restaurants are moving. Today, my son and I went to China Town and brought take home from Lao Sze Chaun, we do not eat in any Milwaukee Asianrestaurants at this time finding that these restaurants invariably can't get or use less expensive ingredients than similar restaurants in Chicago.
    But perception is reality and I suppose if you have never eaten in any of the more authentic asian restaurants of whatever culture than your perception may be very different.-Dick

    Dick,

    For Cantonese, try Fortune in West Allis. Their eggplant & saltfish casserole, salt & pepper squid, beef chow fun & crispy walnut shrimp are as good as any in Chicago.

    ETA: Tasty dao miu, as well. I believe they have two different menus. If they give you the menu with the chow mein & egg foo young, ask for the other...
  • Post #5 - July 23rd, 2012, 9:46 am
    Post #5 - July 23rd, 2012, 9:46 am Post #5 - July 23rd, 2012, 9:46 am
    I think there are some things that article gets wrong. The comment about stuff in Chicago costing twice as much? Not sure where that comes from. Maybe at some of Chicago's higher end places like Alinea or Spiagga but across the board I would say that Chicago's menu prices are maybe in the 10-20 percent higher range.
    Visit my new website at http://www.splatteredpages.com or my old one at www.eatwisconsin.com
  • Post #6 - July 24th, 2012, 8:50 pm
    Post #6 - July 24th, 2012, 8:50 pm Post #6 - July 24th, 2012, 8:50 pm
    budrichard wrote:we do not eat in any Milwaukee Asianrestaurants at this time finding that these restaurants invariably can't get or use less expensive ingredients than similar restaurants in Chicago.
    But perception is reality and I suppose if you have never eaten in any of the more authentic asian restaurants of whatever culture than your perception may be very different.-Dick


    I think I'm pretty up on what's authentic. I have been to most of the restaurants in Chicago's two Chinatowns, as well as many other Asian restaurants across town, and I've visited Chinese restaurants in New York; San Francisco; Toronto and Windsor, Canada; and Hong Kong. The Cantonese food I had at Fortune and Peony was as good as any I've eaten in Chicago, and better than many.

    Moreover, the Hmong and Laotian food I've had at places such as Mekong Cafe cannot be found in Chicago and there's nothing in Chicagoland quite like Milwaukee's Asian Markets.

    Milwaukee can't hope to match the numbers and breadth of a much bigger city like Chicago, but it has some excellent Asian choices.

    Fortune Chinese Restaurant
    http://www.fortunerestaurant.net
    2945 S. 108th St., West Allis, WI 53227
    (414) 328-9890
    5512 S. 108th St., Hales Corners, WI 53130
    (414) 529-9988

    Peony

    http://www.peonychinesefood.com
    11120 West Bluemound Road, Wauwatosa, WI 53226
    (414) 443-6455

    Mekong Cafe
    Thai, Laos and Vietnamese cuisines
    mekong-cafe.com
    5930 W. North Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53208
    (414) 257-2228

    Milwaukee’s Asian Markets
    6300 N. 76th St., Milwaukee, WI 53218
    (414) 760-3771
  • Post #7 - July 24th, 2012, 9:01 pm
    Post #7 - July 24th, 2012, 9:01 pm Post #7 - July 24th, 2012, 9:01 pm
    BadgerDave wrote:I've too have often wondered why a society so focused on sausages never produced a commercial restaurant culture focused on them.

    Dave, thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    The scarcity of places to buy a hot bratwurst really surprised me more than anything. All the grocery stores and butcher shops emphasize them. I suppose that most restaurants think that brats are something people make at home. But so are hot dogs. In fact, it seems easier to get a Chicago-style hot dog (if you don't want a natural casing) in Milwaukee than a bratwurst, outside of the ballpark. Miller Park is the only ballpark in the country that sells more sausages than hot dogs.

    Interesting that the expansion of frozen custard is so recent. I'm astonished by how much there is and how good it all is. Kopp's is still my favorite, but I haven't had a bad one yet, and all of them are better than what passes for frozen custard in Chicago.
  • Post #8 - July 24th, 2012, 9:03 pm
    Post #8 - July 24th, 2012, 9:03 pm Post #8 - July 24th, 2012, 9:03 pm
    LAZ wrote:Moreover, the Hmong and Laotian food I've had at places such as Mekong Cafe cannot be found in Chicago and there's nothing in Chicagoland quite like Milwaukee's Asian Markets.

    I'm excited to see this because of the lack of Hmong food in Chicago. What Hmong dishes can you recommend at Mekong?
  • Post #9 - July 24th, 2012, 11:45 pm
    Post #9 - July 24th, 2012, 11:45 pm Post #9 - July 24th, 2012, 11:45 pm
    eatwisconsin wrote:I think there are some things that article gets wrong. The comment about stuff in Chicago costing twice as much? Not sure where that comes from. Maybe at some of Chicago's higher end places like Alinea or Spiagga but across the board I would say that Chicago's menu prices are maybe in the 10-20 percent higher range.

    There's certainly some hyperbole in that quote, but routine restaurant prices are definitely much lower in Milwaukee. And drinks are a lot lower. Maybe if you compare the trendier spots in the Third Ward and on the East Side with Chicago prices, there isn't such a disparity, but if you check out the fish-fry joints and the taverns, you won't find those kind of bargains at many places in Chicago.

    For example, L. Woods in Lincolnwood offers a "Wisconsin-style" perch dinner on Fridays. It's $23. The perch dinner I just had at Taylor & Dunn's in Mequon, pricier than many, was $15.

    I just had a very good meal at Smoke Shack in the Third Ward, so far the best barbecue I've had in Milwaukee. (Not as smoky as I'd like, but excellent texture, nice sauces, good sides. They're using hickory and cherry wood in a Southern Pride.) The food prices were about what they'd be in Chicago, but my cocktail (a well crafted bourbon old fashioned) was only $8.50, about 2/3 of what I'd expect to pay in Chicago, and that's more than many Milwaukee places charge for mixed drinks.

    On the other hand, some places are even higher. I was astonished to see that steaks at Carnevor cost more than those at David Burke's Primehouse. What's up with that?

    L .Woods
    http://www.lwoodsrestaurant.com
    7110 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincolnwood, IL 60712
    (847) 677-3350

    Taylor & Dunn's Public House
    http://tayloranddunns.com
    10365 N. Cedarburg Road, Mequon, WI 53092
    (262) 242-8030

    Smoke Shack
    http://smoke-shack.com
    332 N Milwaukee St., Milwaukee, WI 53202
    (414) 431-1119

    Carnevor
    http://carnevor.com
    724 N. Milwaukee St., Milwaukee, WI 53202
    (414) 223.2200.

    David Burke’s Primehouse
    http://davidburkesprimehouse.com
    606 N. Rush St., Chicago, IL 60611
    (312) 660-6000
  • Post #10 - July 25th, 2012, 9:13 am
    Post #10 - July 25th, 2012, 9:13 am Post #10 - July 25th, 2012, 9:13 am
    LAZ wrote:
    BadgerDave wrote:I've too have often wondered why a society so focused on sausages never produced a commercial restaurant culture focused on them.

    Dave, thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    The scarcity of places to buy a hot bratwurst really surprised me more than anything. All the grocery stores and butcher shops emphasize them. I suppose that most restaurants think that brats are something people make at home.


    I think you are right on target with this one. People here think of brats as sporting event fare, festival fare, and, most of all, something you make at home. I think restaurant people are missing out on an opportunty to give visitors to Milwaukee what they want, a taste of Wisconsin. Something special from the City that reflects its German heritage.
    Visit my new website at http://www.splatteredpages.com or my old one at www.eatwisconsin.com
  • Post #11 - July 25th, 2012, 10:45 am
    Post #11 - July 25th, 2012, 10:45 am Post #11 - July 25th, 2012, 10:45 am
    Rene G wrote:
    LAZ wrote:Moreover, the Hmong and Laotian food I've had at places such as Mekong Cafe cannot be found in Chicago and there's nothing in Chicagoland quite like Milwaukee's Asian Markets.

    I'm excited to see this because of the lack of Hmong food in Chicago. What Hmong dishes can you recommend at Mekong?

    The food at Mekong encompasses cuisines of Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, three countries among which the Hmong have been scattered. Like other ethnic groups of no fixed abode, Hmong cooking draws from the countries they've resided in. I confess it's not always clear to me which dishes are Hmong-Hmong vs. Hmong-Laotian, etc. The menu does not emphasis the Hmong connection, and I've received differing stories from the staff. I was told the chef is from Laos.

    Here are a few dishes I've enjoyed there, mostly from the "Laos" section of the menu.

    Image
    Nam kow. Deep-fried, seasoned rice with eggs, young coconut, curry paste and ham, served with lettuce for wrapping.

    Image
    Grandma Chanta's Special. Hmong-style sausage.

    Image
    Stir-fry of vegetables and dumplings. I can't find this on the menu now, so I think it was a special.

    Image
    Lemongrass roast duck.

    Mekong Cafe
    http://mekong-cafe.com
    5930 W. North Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53208
    (414) 257-2228
  • Post #12 - July 25th, 2012, 10:55 am
    Post #12 - July 25th, 2012, 10:55 am Post #12 - July 25th, 2012, 10:55 am
    eatwisconsin wrote:I think you are right on target with this one. People here think of brats as sporting event fare, festival fare, and, most of all, something you make at home. I think restaurant people are missing out on an opportunty to give visitors to Milwaukee what they want, a taste of Wisconsin. Something special from the City that reflects its German heritage.

    Not only visitors. A properly char-grilled bratwurst is a thing of beauty, and not everyone has the facilities or patience to cook them well at home. I'm not a sports fan, but I may have to go to a Brewers' game to try a brat with Secret Stadium Sauce in its natural habitat.
  • Post #13 - July 25th, 2012, 12:33 pm
    Post #13 - July 25th, 2012, 12:33 pm Post #13 - July 25th, 2012, 12:33 pm
    I was interested in learning more about Hmong cuisine due to this thread, so I googled around. Not far down the page was this article about Hmong food, and a list of places to get it in the Milwaukee area. Interestingly, Mekong Cafe is absent from the list.
  • Post #14 - July 25th, 2012, 1:54 pm
    Post #14 - July 25th, 2012, 1:54 pm Post #14 - July 25th, 2012, 1:54 pm
    I was glad to see rhino foods as the main picture in that article. One of my favorite places.
    Also there is a Hmong mall at 76th and Mill. Both sell finished food as well as groceries and supplies.
  • Post #15 - July 25th, 2012, 2:49 pm
    Post #15 - July 25th, 2012, 2:49 pm Post #15 - July 25th, 2012, 2:49 pm
    exvaxman wrote:Also there is a Hmong mall at 76th and Mill. Both sell finished food as well as groceries and supplies.

    I found out that the official name is "Milwaukee's Asian Markets." Not that the name appears anywhere on the outside of the building. Thanks again for showing me the place.

    Milwaukee’s Asian Markets
    6300 N. 76th St., Milwaukee, WI 53218
    (414) 760-3771
  • Post #16 - July 25th, 2012, 3:21 pm
    Post #16 - July 25th, 2012, 3:21 pm Post #16 - July 25th, 2012, 3:21 pm
    Huh, interesting that they have 76th street address - they are actually on W. Winfreid.

    In any case, if people are looking to go there, they are between the CVS, Remy Battery, and directly across the street from Spartan Gyro (another good place to stop). For the old timers, Spartan is where Abe's Corned Beef used to be.

    As LAZ said, unmarked building. East of 76th and south of Mill. If you are going west on Mill, cut through the CVS parking lot. Going East on Mill, do NOT turn on 76th, but go through the intersection and then make an immediate right.

    Oh - LAZ, rumors that Super H is looking into the area :)
  • Post #17 - July 25th, 2012, 3:48 pm
    Post #17 - July 25th, 2012, 3:48 pm Post #17 - July 25th, 2012, 3:48 pm
    LAZ wrote:Image
    Lemongrass roast duck.



    That photo has an awesome 1960s feel!

    Just like most of Wisconsin, I guess...
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #18 - July 25th, 2012, 5:18 pm
    Post #18 - July 25th, 2012, 5:18 pm Post #18 - July 25th, 2012, 5:18 pm
    Great post BadgerDave!

    It's kind of similar how the rest of the county now thinks Chicago pizza is only deep dish, and they don't realize that our main pizza was always thin crust cut in squares (like in Wisconsin! :wink: ). But there's no way around that anymore.

    Culver's has definitely made custard and cheese curds part of what we think of Wisconsin food, but ironically it's Steak N Shake that does an true Solly's type butterburger (they have a Wisconsin Buttery on the menu). And where is the sausage connection at Culver's? Good call.

    I don't think any state is known for their custard, I think that ice cream dominates the country (custard is somewhat limited in the flavors available - most stands have 2), but many of us are guilty as charged for only thinking of Kopp's or Leon's when we are in Milwaukee. And it's the usual getting something that you can't get better at home mentality, so Chicagoans will want cheese curds in Southern Wisconsin for example. It's fun for us and gives us the sense that we are on a little vacation once we cross the border. Just as much as someone coming to Chicago for deep dish because they can't get it anywhere at home.
  • Post #19 - August 1st, 2012, 1:14 am
    Post #19 - August 1st, 2012, 1:14 am Post #19 - August 1st, 2012, 1:14 am
    The importance of frozen custard is much greater today than ever before. When I was young, the only places that served it were basically Kopps, Gillies and Leons. The overwhelming majority of Milwaukee stands served ice cream. I spent my youth eating ice cream at A&W and a number of local ice cream stands; frozen custard was pretty rare. And the idea that frozen custard was common in the central core of Milwaukee is wrong; Gillies is on the far western edge of the city, Kopps is in suburban Glendale and Leons is deep in the heart of the far south side. Frozen custard is expensive to make, compared to ice cream. Frozen custard started to expand first with Oscars opening up in West Allis & Brookfield in the '80s and the expansion of Kopps to Greenfield and Brookfield. It wasn't until Culvers got started that frozen custard became commonplace throughout the city and the state. Overall, Wisconsin is an ice cream, not a frozen custard, state. The same is true for most of southeastern Wisconsin.


    Dave, I have to agree with you on much of the rest of your post (Red Star Yeast really turned off a lot of folks), but keep Culvers and the the big three that every one from out of state seems to know about in their proper place. Ice cream was common, but frozen custard was common as well long before Culvers. Different households just frequent different places and enjoy different things.

    The 50s and 60s had a lot more frozen custard stands than just those three. These are just a couple more of the classic neon lit, palatial frozen custard driveins that I remember seeing from the back seat of our Chrysler as dad dragged us around town: Kitts on Capitol, Town Pride On Villard, Pig and Whistle in Shorewood, Al's by the Airport, The Crown on 27th as well as Leons, Martins on National to name a few. I know Randalls in Sheboygan and the Penquin in Manitowoc outstate as well as many others were around at that time as well. I love to visit Leducs (est 1948) in Wales http://www.leducscustard.com/uploads/clientPhotos/70556b749eacbfefee625205acc8caa66141ca6d.jpg, which incidentally has a brand new Culvers for a neighbor. We'll see how that goes.
    Dad and the Chrysler also brought home quarts of frozen custard from Dutchland Dairy (15 locations, 11 in Milwaukee, along with a very different marketing concept for the time, both restaurant and convenience store) http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19641007&id=pwcqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=hycEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2149,4084904
    Frozen custard wasn't invented here and probably gets outsold bigtime by ice cream, but I'll bet you could say its been enjoyed (and fantasized about) around here longer and on a bigger scale than most parts of the country.

    And, on a different note: Asian Food
    Mr Wok in Pewaukee/Waukesha. Don't let the name or strip mall location scare you off. They have an excellent Pan Asian menu for casual lunches (that is when I go, I don't know about later) Their Pan Asian menu features many dishes from Malaysia.
    Mr Wok
    2128 Silvernail Rd,
    Pewaukee, WI
  • Post #20 - August 5th, 2012, 12:26 pm
    Post #20 - August 5th, 2012, 12:26 pm Post #20 - August 5th, 2012, 12:26 pm
    "I think I'm pretty up on what's authentic. I have been to most of the restaurants in Chicago's two Chinatowns, as well as many other Asian restaurants across town, and I've visited Chinese restaurants in New York; San Francisco; Toronto and Windsor, Canada; and Hong Kong. The Cantonese food I had at Fortune and Peony was as good as any I've eaten in Chicago, and better than many."

    I looked at the Chinese menu at Fortune and did not find any of the items that i order at Lao Sze Chaun. The menu at Peony looked a little more promising so I called and confirmed three items would be available for carry out on Saturday that are staples at any good Chinese restaurant.
    Yesterday my son and I were in Waukesha shooting Clays and stopped at Peony on the way home.
    At 11:45 am, I was met by a restaurant completely devoid of diners(a time in Chinatown where the good restaurants are nearly filled and Phoenix has a line), Restaurant reviews on the walls, a decade or more old, live tanks with one fish(talapia?), one dungeness crab and two lobsters. Usually these signs are enough to send me packing but since I had called ahead, I picked up the food. Note that I carry a large cooler with 20#'s of ice to properly ice down the food as fast as possible on the way home)
    The Kung Pao chicken had a little heat none of which occurred from whole dried red peppers. These peppers are required not only for the heat they provide but they are charred in the wok and provide a truly unique flavor. A thin corn starch sauce devoid of most flavor except for a little ginger accompanied huge chunks of chicken about 2&1/2" inches long and very irregular from piece to piece. The same type of large irregular pieces of pork were used in the other dish leading me to the conclusion that they cook just took bulk chicken and pork and used them in whatever size provided with no attempt at any preparation. Usually Chinese cooking prepares the food to be eaten in a bite using chop sticks. None of the meat could be eaten in one bite using chopsticks.
    The Spicy Pork with Garlic Sauce was anything but. Hunks of battered, fried pork were accompanied by pineapple and a sauce with little flavor, what is was I can't say but it was not good or what was ordered and I confirmed the choice by name and by the number of menu. Mu Shu pork smelled not quite right, I tasted a little and it was again mostly devoid of flavor, my son termed it 'sub standard', I didn't eat any more. My wife ate a little. Pot stickers supplied gratuitously were unremarkable and devoid of any flavor.
    On the whole, one of the worst Chinese Restaurants I have eaten food from.
    So my questions for the reviewer are, when was the last time you ate at Peony?
    Have you eaten at Lao Sze Chaun in Chicago?
    At Lao Sze Chaun we usually get items such as pig ears, beef maw with pig blood, tripe with black bean sauce, Tony's Chile Chicken and other spicy Lao Sze Chaun dishes along with Mu Shu whatever and pork with garlic sauce. All the meats and vegetables are uniformly cut into the right sized pieces.
    Now Peony has a dim sum menu and lunch time is a popular time to go. I can't see eating Dim Sum at Peony with a restaurant devoid of people. Phoenix at 11:45am on a Saturday is filled with a line sometimes out the door and the great food along with the cultural aspect provide a dining experience. I was very disappointed with Peony.-Dick
  • Post #21 - August 6th, 2012, 2:16 pm
    Post #21 - August 6th, 2012, 2:16 pm Post #21 - August 6th, 2012, 2:16 pm
    Your experience sounds terrible. But I'm not sure I would call what you ordered "staples" of "any" good Chinese restaurant; it sounds like they are dishes that you get at restaurants that happen to have both good Sichuan AND good Chinese-American dishes. Those kinds of restaurants I don't think are too common. It sounds like of them is Lao Sze Chuan (which I've been to and it is very good but I only ordered the Sichuan dishes).

    It's a classic problem with Chinese restaurants in the US (especially outside of big cities): having a huge menu with too many (usually Americanized) dishes, because their customers demand it, which in turn aren't cooked very well.

    I am not familiar with Peony, but it appears that they are a Cantonese restaurant. Lao Sze Chuan is a Sichuan restaurant. So you were looking for Sichuan dishes in a Cantonese restaurant and also Chinese-American dishes in a Cantonese restaurant, and finding them lacking... it doesn't surprise me that they were not prepared very well, as these are likely not Peony's specialty. Where do you go for Cantonese in Chicago?

    It doesn't excuse your meal, and if the kitchen can't execute those dishes, they shouldn't be on the menu in the first place. But perhaps explains why it was so bad.

    Maybe Peony has one of those "only written in Chinese" menus that you need to order off of to get a good meal?
  • Post #22 - August 7th, 2012, 7:24 am
    Post #22 - August 7th, 2012, 7:24 am Post #22 - August 7th, 2012, 7:24 am
    budrichard wrote:I looked at the Chinese menu at Fortune and did not find any of the items that i order at Lao Sze Chaun.

    I''m sorry you had a bad meal, but if you're trying to order Szechwan food in Cantonese restaurants, you're bound to be disappointed. Restaurants have their specialties. If you tried the egg rolls at Lao Sze Chaun, they would not hold a candle to those at Kow Kow, a Chinese-American restaurant where you really don't want to order anything else. If you went to Phoenix at dinnertime and ordered kung pao chicken, I expect it would be just as bad. Why they put food they don't do well on the menu, I don't know, but they do.

    I was at Peony a couple of months ago. I ordered Cantonese dishes and dim sum, which was prepared hot and fresh to order. Yes, it's fun to go to the places with carts, but Milwaukee likely can't support that kind of service, and even in Chicago's Chinatown, most of the better places don't do that. I had a very good meal. Some things were better than others, but that's true of every dim sum place I've ever been to, including those in Hong Kong.

    Here's a selection of Peony's dishes that I enjoyed. As far as I know, they have only the one menu, but it does take a little asking and negotiating, because they don't always have everything that's on it and they have other things that might not be on it. I have no experience with carry out there.

    Image

    Salt-and-pepper shrimp

    Image

    Law bock gow

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    Har gow

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    Pork and shrimp shui mai


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    Yeung qi dze

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    Barbecue pork bao

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    Stir-fried choy sum
  • Post #23 - January 26th, 2013, 9:10 am
    Post #23 - January 26th, 2013, 9:10 am Post #23 - January 26th, 2013, 9:10 am
    BadgerDave wrote:Many Milwaukeeans believe that the term "Cream City" had to do with either the dairy industry or frothy beer foam; a far cry from the real meaning of the term.

    Hi,

    Could this term be related to the locally produced Milwaukee Cream bricks?

    Many of Fort Sheridan's historic buildings in Highland Park were made from a cream brick similar to Milwaukee. For a while, I thought they came from Milwaukee, then learned there was a brick making facility at the lake front while Fort Sheridan was built.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #24 - January 26th, 2013, 5:16 pm
    Post #24 - January 26th, 2013, 5:16 pm Post #24 - January 26th, 2013, 5:16 pm
    Could this term be related to the locally produced Milwaukee Cream bricks?

    Yes:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cream_City_brick
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #25 - January 29th, 2013, 10:17 am
    Post #25 - January 29th, 2013, 10:17 am Post #25 - January 29th, 2013, 10:17 am
    Well I still learn something every day!-Dick
  • Post #26 - July 21st, 2013, 8:06 pm
    Post #26 - July 21st, 2013, 8:06 pm Post #26 - July 21st, 2013, 8:06 pm
    LAZ wrote:I just had a very good meal at Smoke Shack in the Third Ward, so far the best barbecue I've had in Milwaukee. (Not as smoky as I'd like, but excellent texture, nice sauces, good sides. They're using hickory and cherry wood in a Southern Pride.) The food prices were about what they'd be in Chicago, but my cocktail (a well crafted bourbon old fashioned) was only $8.50, about 2/3 of what I'd expect to pay in Chicago, and that's more than many Milwaukee places charge for mixed drinks.



    My wife and I had dinner at Smoke Shack Friday night. We had the baby back ribs (very good), pulled pork (decent) and brisket (awful).

    The ribs were very good. Nice smoke ring, good texture (though *slightly* more tender than I'd like) and flavor. By far the best item of the night.

    The pulled pork was a bit dry but flavorful and had some decent bark on it. I tried their Carolina mustard & vinegar sauce with it but all I got was mustard and no vinegar.

    The brisket was, to be frank, terrible. No smoke, sliced way too thin (< 1/4") and tasted basically like pot roast. Yuck.

    The spicy/sweet baked beans were a good side.

    Overall, a pretty good meal but the "14 hour" brisket really disappointed.
  • Post #27 - July 22nd, 2013, 2:40 pm
    Post #27 - July 22nd, 2013, 2:40 pm Post #27 - July 22nd, 2013, 2:40 pm
    tem wrote:My wife and I had dinner at Smoke Shack Friday night. We had the baby back ribs (very good), pulled pork (decent) and brisket (awful).


    I'm sorry to hear that the brisket's not very good. We had the ribs and pulled pork when we were there, and had the same reaction as you did. I love ribs, so I was happy. The pulled pork is better than Ashley's, anyway.
  • Post #28 - April 11th, 2017, 12:35 pm
    Post #28 - April 11th, 2017, 12:35 pm Post #28 - April 11th, 2017, 12:35 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:
    BadgerDave wrote:Many Milwaukeeans believe that the term "Cream City" had to do with either the dairy industry or frothy beer foam; a far cry from the real meaning of the term.

    Hi,
    Could this term be related to the locally produced Milwaukee Cream bricks?
    Many of Fort Sheridan's historic buildings in Highland Park were made from a cream brick similar to Milwaukee. For a while, I thought they came from Milwaukee, then learned there was a brick making facility at the lake front while Fort Sheridan was built.

    I'm reading up on LTH threads on Milwaukee because I have several trips to there coming up.

    Couldn't pass up replying to this. When I was a kid we hunted around on the beaches in Highland Park for bits of buff-colored brick from Fort Sheridan. We'd sometimes find pieces rounded as smooth as skipping stones but clearly not natural stone. I suppose, 40+ years later, there's not much chance any more of finding any more Fort Sheridan brick stones on HP beaches.
    "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

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