I am sure this may cause debate among the few people who visit this site but I have been thinking about some of the things that Wisconsinites rave about and why. In many cases I agree with the raves, but there are some sacred cows that to be closely examined. So here are my most overrated Wisconsin eats:
Frozen Custard – Ok, frozen custard is pretty good but come on! The worship of the stuff is sickening. Speaking of sickening, my stomach usually feels that way after eating frozen custard. It is rich and decadent and I understand that is why people like it so much, but I’d take a couple scoops of Gelato from Divino Gelato Cafe in Waukesha before custard any day.
Polish food – Polish food is bland. Polonez is supposedly the holy grail of Polish eats in Milwaukee. I found the food to be authentically Polish, which is to say dull. I hate pierogies too (who wants ravioli stuffed with kraut or mediocre cheese?). Ok, Polish sausage is pretty good, but that is it.
Summerfest food – Most of the food at Sumerfest is watered-down versions of dishes that are actually quite good if you actually eat at the restaurant. On the grounds the food is produced in mass quantities and quality is sacrificed. Some exceptions are Saz’s combos (mozzarella marinara, cheese curds, and chive fries), most things at Aladdin, and Venice Club fried eggplant. I think the real reason people rave about the food is because they are drunk and greasy food tastes best after downing 14 beers, which explains why George Webb is still in business, which brings me to the next overrated eat.
George Webb’s – Have you ever eaten at George Webb’s while sober or not completely hung over? The slow service, surly wait staff, and mediocre food isn’t quite as charming when you have all of your faculties. Webb’s isn’t terrible, but it isn’t anything special either. For some reason when drunk or hung-over Webb’s transforms into something magical. Nothing beats a combo of 2 eggs (sunny side up please), toast (wheat), and hash browns or a couple of Webb Burgers with a cup of chili.
Miss Katie’s Diner – Maybe I just have an aversion to diners, but I never got the allure of this place. I don’t want to go out to eat and order meatloaf (unless its the veal meatloaf at Coquette) or a breaded chicken sandwich. I also don’t think Pitch’s ribs are anything to write home about. Rachel Ray ate here, which is another reason to avoid it.
The majority of the cheese stands along the interstate – Most of them sell mediocre cheese (usually never revealing where or who made it) at obnoxious prices. The curds are usually not that good either. I do like Mars Cheese Castle, but in general the state highways are littered with these tourist traps masquerading as cheese emporiums. You want a great roadside cheese place? Check out Carr Valley in LaValle, Fennimore, or Mauston. Some of the best cheese in the country is made and sold here. They are always winning awards for their tasty, innovative cheeses especially their mixed milk variety. They are by favorite cheese producer in the state. Oh, and their curds are made fresh daily and they are really really good.
Racine Danish Kringle – Ok, they don’t taste bad, but they are not worth all of the accolades either. There are far better sweet breakfast treats than the kringle. Maybe its because I am not a huge fan of sweets, but I could take or leave this Wisconsin “must-eat.”
The State Fair Cream Puff – Quite possibly the most overrated food ever. People wait in line to get their hands on these extremely bland sandwiches of whipped cream and flaky puff pastry. I think they don’t taste very good at all, in fact I find them very boring. Spend your calories on something better at State Fair, like fried cheese on a stick or 6 cups of Old Style.
However to be fair, there are some things that I believe live up to the hype.
The Door County Fish Boil – The Fish Boil is something that many people rip on, saying that the fish is bland and its all about show for tourists. True, and I have only eaten at one fish boil in my life at Pelletier’s in Fish Creek but I loved the experience. The fish was moist and flavorful. All it needed was a sprinkle of salt and some butter. It was awesome sitting outside drinking beer, watching the flames shoot up, and being served freshly made fish and kickass cherry pie. It was fish reduced to its most basic state. There is no crispy batter or lavish sauce to mask not-so-fresh fish or overcooking. The whitefish at Pelletier’s was fresh and delicious.
Bratwurst – I love brats. Johnsonville is my favorite, but Klement’s and Usingers make killer brats as well. Some real gems can be found at independent butchers across the state, especially the onion and pepper cheese brats at The Meat Market in Tomahawk WI.
Fried Fish & the Friday Fish Fry – Walleye, Perch, Bluegill, and Crappie battered and fried. It doesn’t get a whole lot better, unless you are eating it at a supper club in Northern Wisconsin or your favorite bar while sipping an Old Fashioned or a ice cold Leinenkugels Red.
Fried Cheese – Is there anyone on the planet that doesn’t like fried cheese?
Beer – Quite possibly the best drink ever invented. I enjoy all kinds from bland, yet satisfying Miller products to small batches of craft brews released in limited numbers by places like Tyrenena.
Beer Cheese Soup – Take Wisconsin’s two most popular exports and blend them into soup. What is not to like?