Images of the tiny ethnic grocery store and the specialty food shop exert a powerful pull on our inner-foodie-the narrow aisles, the neighborly chitchat at the deli counter or bakery case, that specialty food the place is famous for, the owners and cashiers who know the regulars by name. Mammoth supermarkets the size of a city block offering low prices and convenient one-stop shopping are swallowing these little gems, leaving a homogenized foodscape in their wake.
Thanks to conscientious citizens unfazed by the tempting fluorescent glow of corporately owned groceries, Milwaukee's cuisine-with deep living roots in our state's agricultural production and our city's unique cultural diversity-is being preserved. Shopping for spices, ingredients and groceries in Milwaukee's mosaic of neighborhoods is like visiting worldwide ports of call. As immigrants settled into their neighborhoods, they set up shops that sold the familiar comforts of home.
The demographics of those areas have shifted over the years, but a few of the businesses remain. On the East Side, Brady Street is home to two locally famous Italian institutions: Sciortino's and Glorioso's. Between the two, cooks can prepare a spectacular Italian dinner, complete with fresh bread, homemade meatballs, red wine and picture-perfect cannoli. For an unrivaled variety of authentic old-world German sausage, take a trip Downtown to Usinger's on Third Street. Across the street, the Spice House sells an impressive selection of high-quality, hand-selected and hand-prepared spices and herbs.
Travel west on North Avenue to Viet HOA Supermarket for a nice choice of Asian groceries. Continue into Wauwatosa for Indian staples, snacks, spices and sweets at Indian Groceries and Spices. And these options are just the tip of the iceberg. In Milwaukee and its surrounding areas, shoppers can find stores that specialize in selling authentic ingredients of, among others, Russian, French, Polish, Mexican, Colombian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Australian, Irish and Puerto Rican descent.
Specialty food markets aren't relegated to the ethnic variety, either. For all things organic, natural, vegetarian and vegan, visit Riverwest Co-op in Riverwest, Whole Foods Market or Outpost Natural Foods at one of its multiple locations.
Milwaukee's taste buds comprise an unending collection of foods that represent a multitude of ethnicities, history, culture and character. It's a feat no one supermarket could ever satisfy.
Check out these specialty food shops and grocery stores of Milwaukee:
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