Best of Milwaukee 2012
The original Discount Liquor, across from Serb Hall, has long been the city’s one-stop supermarket for all things alcoholic. Along with all the usual brews and brands, Discount is the place to find anything unusual, including German mead, Armenian pomegranate wine, Serbian slivovitz, Brazilian berry liqueur and gluten-free Belgian amber ale. It’s a great place to find wines from every continent where grapes are cultivated. And yes, true to its name, the prices are right. (David Luhrssen)
Beer Selection Runners-up:
Liquor Store Runners-up:
Wine Selection Runners-up:
This tasty local favorite comes from a 19th-century Austrian family recipe, named (the website tells us) for the Wisconsin town where butchers Ralph and Alice Stayer opened shop in 1945. In 1970 the family started shipping brats around the state, and from there, they began introducing the familiar Badger Stage sausage and tailgate favorite to the world beyond. Today, still privately owned and headquartered in Sheboygan Falls, Johnsonville is a popular brand around the nation and is available in 30 countries. (John Schneider)
West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe
Being named best cheese shop in a city that takes its cheese seriously is a high, high honor. And West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe has earned it. Whether you like them stinky or mild, you can find cheeses from all over the world or local favorites, such as prize-winning offerings from Carr Valley Cheese of La Valle, Sartori Cheese of Plymouth, or Roth Kase of Monroe. (Lisa Kaiser)
South Shore Farmers’ Market
2900 S. Shore Drive
Every Saturday morning from late spring through early fall, the South Shore Farmers’ Market occupies one of the most beautiful spots in metro Milwaukee for an outdoor event: the lakefront. Farmers from across much of the state maintain booths for fruit and vegetables alongside such local vendors as Lopez Bakery, Wild Flour and West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe. You can find mushrooms and honey, homemade soap and fresh-baked pies and some of the best corn in the Badger State. (D.L.)
West Allis Farmers’ Market
Riverwest Farmers’ Market
St. Paul Fish Co.
400 N. Water St.
St. Paul Fish Co. is more than just a fish market. It also boasts a small oyster bar and a few tables for dining. You will find much variety in the display cases. Blue mussels are in bags and the live lobsters are in tanks. There usually is a selection of fresh wild salmon, ahi tuna and even precious sand dabs, which have such a delicate flavor. Cold-water lobster tails are remarkably inexpensive, as is the $13.95 Maine lobster dinner. (Jeff Beutner)
El Rey’s popularity isn’t a surprise to anyone who has shopped there. El Rey’s prices will be kind to your wallet, whether you are planning a Mexican feast or just doing the weekly grocery shopping. With fresh meat, bakery and produce, as well as more exotic items like whole pig’s heads and edible cactus “leaves,” El Rey stores have it all. Choose from hot handmade tamales, authentic deep-fried churros and freshly made chorizo alongside ordinary grocery items. Buy your favorite, locally produced El Rey tortillas, chips and salsas—about as close to the source as possible. Treat yourself to some unique Mexican soda flavors (guava!) or some Mexican Coca-Cola, which is still made with real sugar. (Susan Harpt Grimes)
Sendik’s is known by Milwaukee for its fresh variety of groceries, the finest cuts of meat, the very best selection of produce and, of course, its signature red bag. Looking for a specific cut of meat or fish? Ask the available butcher or fishmonger to accommodate your request. If you are craving the freshest fruit and vegetables in town, the grocer’s hand-selected assortment will hit the spot. For any discerning buyer, Sendik’s is the place to shop. (Amanda Sullivan)
Gourmet Grocery Runners-up:
Meat Selection Runners-up:
Ray’s Butcher Shoppe
Bunzel’s Old-Fashioned Meat Market
Outpost Natural Foods
Outpost was a Milwaukee pioneer, both for natural foods and as a customer-owned co-op. Now serving the city from locations in Shorewood, Wauwatosa and Bay View, Outpost remains one of the city’s best one-stop shops for all things organic, locally made, macrobiotic and gluten-free. Along with produce and meat, supplements and snacks, Outpost stocks canned and frozen goods, wine and beer, cheese and cereal and even Racine kringle. (D.L.)
Sprecher Brewing Co.
701 W. Glendale Ave.
Sprecher Brewing Co. was Milwaukee’s first brewery established after Prohibition and has been crafting award-winning beers and gourmet sodas since 1985. In a marketplace saturated with large soda corporations, Sprecher has successfully promoted its soft drinks and mastered a variety of soda-pop favorites. The brewery is known for its classic root beer, but also for its unique seasonal flavors such as blueberry and red apple. With quality as top priority, it is no wonder Milwaukee prefers Sprecher over the rest. (A.S.)
Peter Sciortino’s Bakery
1101 E. Brady St.
The operative word is “neighborhood.” Sciortino’s is a Brady Street monument, but it’s still small, personal, casual and friendly—and you pay in cash. Everything’s perfectly fresh; the aroma outside the building induces intense euphoria. I’ve come to realize it doesn’t matter which of the visually lovely, surprisingly flavorful, maddeningly varied Italian cookies you select. Close your eyes and point or ask the friendly staff to pick their favorites. They’re sold individually. Amaretto, chocolate tutu, vanilla coconut—you can’t go wrong. There’s homemade gelato, too, as thick as ice cream and inventively flavored. Oh, and the bread is legendary. (J.S.)
National Bakery and Deli
National Bakery and Deli
This South Side destination bakery has expanded to Greendale and Brookfield, but its traditional paczki are still the star offerings. National Bakery and Deli celebrates the Polish Catholic tradition of eating jelly-filled donuts on Shrove Tuesday, before Lenten fasting begins, as “paczki day,” when all are encouraged to indulge. But take it from an expert—National Bakery’s paczki are so good that they should be enjoyed throughout the year. (L.K.)
Wild Flour Bakery
Wedding Cake Designer
Aggie's Cakes and Pastries
1800 E. Howard Ave.
Since 1977, the skilled cake designers at Aggie’s Cakes and Pastries have turned out towering confections of buttercream-frosted cakes and tables of artfully decorated cupcakes. For weddings, birthdays or whatever the occasion, they can create an original design or one inspired from customers’ ideas or photos and turn it into cake perfection. The designers are totally willing to work with customers to make sure custom designs are exactly right. Aggie’s also specializes in homemade pastries and sweets including fresh fruit tarts, Italian pastries and turnovers to die for. (S.H.G.)