Sophie Bolich

Milwaukee’s First Halal Restaurant Week Coming In July

15 Milwaukee restaurants will prepare special halal menus for the week.

By - Jun 23rd, 2022 04:38 pm
DanDan restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki/PLATE

DanDan restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki/PLATE

From ramen and birria to bratwurst and cheese curds, Milwaukee’s food scene has something for everyone, but Muslim diners often have to pass on some of the city’s best restaurants due to religious observances. Halal Restaurant Week plans to change that.

Milwaukee’s first-ever Halal Restaurant Week, July 10-17, will feature popular Milwaukee spots like DanDan, Five O’Clock Steakhouse and Amilinda. Participating restaurants will offer a special halal menu during the week.

Halal is an Arabic word meaning permissible. Ingredients for each dish, especially meats, must be prepared in a specific way to comply with a halal diet. Most notably, pork is prohibited.

Milwaukee already has a great variety of halal options, said Bushra Zaibak, the event organizer. “But there is stuff that people are always talking about, that foodies love. It would be kind of fun to try,” she said.

Zaibak set out to find the restaurants with the best burgers, wings and other favored dishes, and recruited them to join halal week. She said she made over 100 phone calls, eventually compiling a final lineup of 15 participating restaurants.

Zaibak said she also wanted to involve existing halal restaurants. Shawarma House, Ramallah Grille and Sweets, The Fatty Patty food truck and others maintain halal menus year round.

The week is, of course, for those who eat halal, said Zaibak. But everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate, she added.

“It’s always nice to kind of get our food out there for people that maybe wouldn’t normally think about coming to the restaurant,” said Bergen Carlson-Price, chef de cuisine at DanDan. The Chinese-American restaurant’s halal week menu will pull from its current vegetarian selections. Other dishes will include halal meat. Making the swap in the meat-ordering process is simple, said Carlson-Price.

Even before joining Halal Restaurant Week, some restaurants discovered that they already offered halal options.

“The majority of our steaks are already [halal],” said Stelio Kalkounos, managing partner at Five O’Clock Steakhouse.

The restaurant sources most of its cuts from Creekstone Farms, a Kansas-based meat processing plant that meets the requirements to be halal-certified. Further, Creekstone partners with Temple Grandin, a scientist and animal behaviorist, to optimize efficiency and humanity in the farm’s feedlots and slaughterhouses.

During the week, the restaurant will offer a selection of its halal steaks. A dish of lamb chops with yogurt, figs and a Greek honey sauce will be the weekly special.

A halal diet strictly prohibits alcohol, which posed a challenge for the steakhouse since the house au jus contains wine. For Halal Restaurant Week, the kitchen will prepare an au jus without wine to accommodate halal diners, Kalkounos said.

Another participating restaurant is Amilinda. Gregory León, owner and operator, says he plans to incorporate halal meat into the restaurant’s typical Spanish and Portuguese-inspired dishes.

León, a 2022 James Beard finalist, said he hadn’t considered that people who follow a halal diet can’t eat at certain restaurants.

“That sounds so frivolous, but it just never dawned on me,” he said. When asked to participate, “I didn’t even really have to think about it twice,” Leon said.

Amilinda is one of the founders of Tables Across Borders, a dinner series that supports and highlights refugee chefs.

Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition and Crescent Foods are among the event’s sponsors. Crescent foods is a national halal chicken, beef and lamb supplier.

The restaurant week schedule and a full list of participating restaurants can be found on the Halal Restaurant Week MKE Facebook page.

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