Mr. and Mrs. M.
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.
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.
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.
818 E. Center St., 414-374-FUEL
1947 E. Farwell Ave., 414-273-7677
1547 N. Jackson St., 414-276-9608