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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Finding Ethnic Breakfasts in Milwaukee

More to the morning meal than fried eggs and toast

plantains
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A city of Milwaukee’s size and ethnic diversity offers many choices from around the world for lunch and dinner. But for the first meal of the day the pickings get considerably slimmer—unless Canadian bacon is counted. Our neighbor to the south, however, steps in to fill the gap.

One of Mexico’s less favored meats among American diners, goat, sits saucily aside eggs at the restaurant named for the roasted kid specialty of Mexico's Nuevo León region, Taqueria El Cabrito (1100 S. 11th St.). For a sweeter way to break the fast, there's the sopapilla at Jalisco (1035 S. Cesar E. Chavez Drive), though what's called sopapilla can vary from restaurant to restaurant and region to region. At Jalisco, it’s a whopping burrito/crepe hybrid stuffed with banana and strawberry surrounded by sweet cream and garnished with orange slices. Listed in the menu’s dessert section, it makes for an ample alternative to doughnuts or cinnamon buns. Jalisco offers one of Milwaukee's most extensive Mexican breakfast listings overall, especially showcasing some of the humble egg’s versatility.

Yolks and whites make for a good many of the desayunos at El Salvador Restaurant (2316 S. Sixth St.), at least a couple of them not dissimilar from Mexican dishes. For something perhaps more representative of El Salvador's unique way of breakfasting that’s also—why not?—vegetarian, the campesinos platter is worth a try. Plantains fried lengthwise come together with beans, and sides of a white cheese and a bread akin to a denser sort of tortilla or pita. A number of sides and pastries can be combined for a filling combo as well.

Diners yearning more for Eastern Europe than Central America will want to get to Benji’s Deli & Restaurant (4156 N. Oakland Ave.; 8683 N. Port Washington Road) for some Yiddish delight. Keeping kosher? Try fried matzo and eggs, fruity or cheesy blintzes, potato pancakes and an omelet with cured Nova lox. The highlight of Benji's morning menu is the hoppel poppel. Like a wonderfully lumpy frittata, scrambled eggs are blended with chunks of browned potatoes and fried salami. A dollar more makes it a super hoppel poppel with onions, mushrooms, green peppers and five cheese choices (four individually or the lot of them together).

Family eateries of Greek ownership or theme are common enough. Typical is the El Greco Family Restaurant (9143 W. Appleton Ave.), proffering omelets in several Grecian variations, from the vegetarian Athenian (spinach, tomato, mushroom, feta) to the simple spinach and feta and the meat-rich gyro. A Mediterranean skillet features gyro, tomato, onion and feta served together in another form. And if the main courses aren’t enough of an incentive, the complimentary spice cake offered with breakfast on some days merits attention. 

While the Irish contribute significantly to Milwaukee's cultural life, our city needed a reminder that there’s more to starting the day on the Emerald Isle than oatmeal. Two Irish pubs present their own versions of a traditional big Irish breakfast. At Brocach (1850 N. Water St.), the spread includes a subtly spiced banger (thick Irish sausage link), a couple of rashers (bacon slices resembling ham), medallions of black and white puddings (more sausage!), a grilled tomato half, a cup of baked beans, plus eggs and toast made from hearty bread. The iteration of the same meal served only during weekend brunch hours at County Clare (1234 N. Astor St.) substitutes sautéed mushrooms for the beans, and instead of toast, there’s a choice of potato. The most intriguing of the ’taters must be bubble ’n’ squeak, understandably named for its combination of mashed spuds and cabbage fried in bacon oil. Breakfasters and brunchers more conscientious about cholesterol or longing for a bowl of comforting carbs can still find, yes, oatmeal prepared distinctively at each location.

You’re likely not alone if you want to taste how folks in many other countries start their day. Fortunately, something of a culinary world tour in that regard can be booked nearby, and without the expense of plane tickets.