Out-of-towners may not be aware of this, but there’s more to be had in Wisconsin than cheese curds and beer. Between Scandinavian delicacies and fish fries that are worth spending a Friday night in church basement for, here are some of the spots where you’ll find Wisconsinites eating some of the best grub in the state.
1. Al Johnson’s, Sister Bay
It doesn’t even matter how long the line is, we will wait patiently, staring lovingly up at the goats or buying Swedish knick knacks that grandma will love until our name is called. It’s your fault that we are all addicted to lingonberries.
2. Oakland Gyros, Milwaukee
If it’s not 3 AM and you’re not coming straight from the bars you may not fully appreciate the ambience of this Milwaukee East Side establishment. If you are, the gyro will hit the spot.
3. El Rey, Milwaukee
I once witnessed three grown Mexican men weep with joy upon entering and seeing that they could find their favorite gel AND tamales all in one place. Also, when your day’s crap, their delicious horchata and carnitas make everything feel just a little bit better.
4. Joe Rouers, Luxemburg
The air outside this country road joint smells like cow dung but it’s only to remind you of just how close to the source of the tastiest hamburgers around you really are. The delicious and ridiculously cheap classic dishes — chicken booyah and poppy seed torte — make you feel like you are in your Wisconsin family’s recently remodeled (circa 1980) basement, complete with the timeless wood paneling and Packers’ game on the TV.
5. A church basement
The specific name of the church and the location don’t matter. Friday night, fried perch, coleslaw, tartar sauce… the more fluorescent the ceiling lights and the more uncomfortable the folding chairs, the better. Bonus points if the affiliated Catholic school is holding a bake sale.
6. Colectivo Coffee, Milwaukee
The name says “Colectivo” but we all know it should really still start and end with an “A” and the old stamp cards should still be valid. Despite the name change, the overpriced breakfast sandwiches and the responsibly-sourced coffee are still delicious.
7. Juice Kitchen, Milwaukee
We all know that it’s not just juice. With a Purple Haze or Soul Food in your hand, you will see Milwaukee with brand new eyes, and not just because of all the Vitamin A.
8. Fox River Brewing Co., Appleton
Specialty Craft Beers. Captain Crunch chicken. Outdoor seating by the Fox River when it’s warm enough. What more could you want from life?
9. Old Post Office, Ephraim
Earl, the Fish Boil Master (official job title on his business card), is now enjoying retirement but the new guy makes just as good a fish boil. Boiled potatoes and onions, coleslaw, pumpkin bread and melted butter by the bucket full… This is must-go spot in Door County.
10. Maricque’s Bar, Green Bay
There nothing like eating Maricque’s fries, fish fry, and a thick slice of raw onion on rye bread while listening to the waitresses’ thick Wisconsin accents.
11. Deep Water Grille/South Shore Brewery, Ashland
With beer that good and whitefish that tasty, everyone should want to live in our state.
Whether you order a burger or a bloody mary you will go home stuffed.
13. Jake’s Deli, Milwaukee
This place has kept us fed for many, many years. Of course, the only Bud served here is Bud Selig.
14. Memorial Union, Madison
If you haven’t had a beer on The Terrace or had a brat in Der Rathskeller, well then you haven’t lived yet. And don’t get us started on the Babcock ice cream.
15. Norske Nook
Their mouth-watering homemade pies would make great-grandma back in Scandinavia proud. Throw in a lefse salmon wrap and some Norwegian meatballs and you’ll swear you’re looking at a fjord instead of the Buffalo River.