Jeffrey Merlot
New Column

Mr. and Mrs. M.

By - Aug 11th, 2009 01:04 pm
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The savvy, saucy Mr. and Mrs. M. will be dining out all over Milwaukee and issuing regular reports from the field. In this edition: Milwaukee restaurant dishes we’d miss if we left. Bon appetit!

Just call us “Mr. and Mrs. M.” What does the ‘M’ stand for? Could be anything – maybe Milwaukee, maybe meticulous, or even mmm … mmm … good. Depends on the food, depends on the flavor. But as far as the brains behind this article, we’re two East side professionals in the 30 to 40-something range, and we like to eat – in moderation, of course, but food is frankly fun, whether cooking or enjoying delicious restaurant favorites from local chefs. Our dinner conversations revolve less around “How was your day, honey?” and more to the delicacy of saffron or the authenticity of lamb in Shepherd’s Pie.

We would like to start off this column by asking our readers a simple question: Can you name a food item unique to any restaurant in our area that you would miss if you had to move away from Milwaukee? In other words, list one or more restaurant dishes that you could not find anywhere but here. If you lived in New Orleans, you might say the famous garlic chicken from Tujague’s restaurant on the eastern edge of the French Quarter. Memphis folks might say Beale Street tamales. Residents of Lincoln, Nebraska know that they won’t find a loose-meat sandwich anywhere else on the planet that comes even close to those served up in that little grease-hut known as the Tastee Inn on North 48th Street. We’d bet that some Milwaukeeans would trip all over themselves at first to name the German food at Mader’s, Karl Ratzsch’s and Weissgerber’s Gasthaus.


Comet Cafe, home of the Cheesy Tomato

Mr. M’s answer is the Cheesy Tomato sandwich.  This is an original of Fuel Cafe (818 East Center Street) and Comet Cafe (1947 N. Farwell Avenue). If you’re a tomato lover, like Mr. M., then the Cheesy Tomato is paradise on a plate, consisting of an artisan baguette roll filled with just the right amount of tangy tomato slices covered with rich, melted mozzarella and provolone cheese, onions, olive oil and Italian seasoning. They broil it to perfection and top it with zesty mayo and fresh, shredded lettuce. If you like, it comes served at Comet next to a generous helping of their special seasoned French fries for a buck extra. Throw in one of Comet’s rich, tall Bloody Mary cocktails, dressed up with a thick, crisp slice of smoky bacon (of course!) and you’ll want to just move in for good.


The cozy, but ever-elegant Sanford

On the opposite side of the dining-room spectrum, buried deep in the heart of a low-key neighborhood on Milwaukee’s East side, is Mrs. M’s pick – not a dish, but a place – Sanford (1547 North Jackson Street). This cozy but ever-elegant bistro has won national and international accolades for our fair city,  and even a recent shout-out in the Wall Street Journal. At $85 per person, the “Seven Course Chef’s Choice” is actually a good investment for you on a very personal level, but throw in an additional $40 per person for the wine pairing and they’ll perfectly match a different glass of wine to each course (highly recommended!).

Though variations of this type of multi-course meal can be ordered at other high-end restaurants, what makes Sanford’s version so  special is the element of surprise – where others tell you what each course will be, each course of this meal served at Sanford is like a Christmas present. Generally only available Monday through Friday, we know from first-hand experience that an especially polite plea from you, plus a genuine interest in it, may find this meal served on Saturdays. It must be ordered by and for everyone at your table, and each course is uniquely created by the chef with whatever is on hand in the kitchen at the time: do not expect to be served the same range of dishes on a second visit to the restaurant. Though the price might be a bit up there for some, keep in mind that it’s like eating a series of seven rare and unique little artworks in a row (and not just any kind of artworks, but creations savored by the eye, nose and mouth). Sanford makes it a very special experience, and we believe it merits saving up the money to treat yourselves at least once before you die.

Ah, the Cheesy Tomato and the artistry of Sanford. It’s good to eat in Milwaukee.

Fuel Cafe
818 E. Center St., 414-374-FUEL

Comet Cafe
1947 E. Farwell Ave., 414-273-7677

Sanford Restaurant
1547 N. Jackson St., 414-276-9608

Categories: Dining, Life & Leisure

0 thoughts on “New Column: Mr. and Mrs. M.”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ok. As much as I love the Comet, it’s that Bacon Bloody Mary that I miss when I travel. Nueske’s goodness, the perfect balance of Guinness, worcestershire & hot. Plus the stuff olive, cheese & pickled treats…

    My sister (in LA) misses two things which I am forever hauling in luggage or shipping. Speed Queen BBQ & Racine Danish Kringle.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Mine was the mac N’ Cheese with chicken and Rosemary at The Social, now that it’s gone, I hear that Cafe Centraal has a similar dish, but I have not tried it just yet!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oh my! for god’s sake, Comet? you can’t find a more mediocre line food if you tried. what has happened to discerning taste of Milwaukeeans??????

  4. Anonymous says:

    I HIGHLY recommend the Rosemary Goat cheese mac from Centraal– it’s amazing.

  5. Anonymous says:

    There are 2 things for me I would miss immensely if I were to leave Milwaukee–

    1. Koppa’s Jupiter sandwich. OMG.
    2. And Slim McGinn’s Chicken Po’Boy salad. Not a signature Milwaukee dish, I guess, but I don’t think anyone would ever make it as delicious as they do..

  6. Anonymous says:

    sarah’s smiling face behind the deli counter at Koppas. she makes a mean Whoopie Pie…

  7. Anonymous says:

    I would say smoked chubs, which are so rare nowadays it’s almost like I’ve moved away. That is a truly distinctive local food. Out of Milwaukee, it’s as hard to find as a bar dice game.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Looks like a lot of Koppa’s and Comet comments from my ‘hood! Bravo! But for the kind of classic, local, unique, down-to-earth food that grabs ahold of you like an addiction – where once in awhile, you just HAVE to get a fix, no matter how aghast your doctor may be – my vote goes to REAL CHILI.

  9. Anonymous says:

    In most health food stores abroad I always wish to find the equivalent of the Beans & Barley’s Super Burrito. Alas, I never have.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Burek is one food that I was introduced to since moving to Milwaukee. Several delightful versions of the Serbian dish are available at Three Brothers in Bay View. Listening to owner Branko Radicevic recount stories from his eventful life is an added bounus. But don’t go if you’re in a rush. This food is freshly prepared and may take awhile; no worries, though, just get Branko started with a question.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Definitely the tureen of Tom Yum Gai from Thai Palace. Nobody else comes close. Also, but not really in Milwaukee, are the fresh-baked rolls at the Pine Cone Restaurant in Johnson Creek. You could die immediately after one of those and not regret a thing.

  12. Anonymous says:

    AH! I have a list of 25 favorite Milwaukee foods for when I can’t remember where to take out of town guests…
    I’ll keep it to three (I agree with Ted B. above)
    1. Amaranth Bakery scones -best in the world (33rd and Lisbon)
    2. Outpost Natural Foods’ Italian sausages
    3. Lopez bakery tamales

  13. Anonymous says:

    I may be a little bias, but the Big Boy Burger at Kil@wat is so good. I know there are Big Boys everywhere besides Wisconsin, but its cool to get one right in Milwaukee.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The caesar salad at Osteria del Mondo (in the Knickerbocker Hotel on Juneau) is simply perfect. The ingredients mesh perfectly with one another. The dressing is delicious, and you’ll have just the right amount of it every time. If you love anchovies, ask for a few extra – these are white anchovies…nicely marinated, super-tasty, and substantial rather than tiny and mushy.

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