In Search of the Best Food at Summerfest
From chicken in a waffle cone to lobster BLTs, we hunted for the Big Gig's true bargains
No one goes to Summerfest just to eat. That's what State
Fair is for. But after eight hours of rockin' out, you're going to need a
little something to get you through those 10 p.m. headliners. I tried a
smattering of offerings so you don't have to. Here's our rundown of this year's hits and misses.
Burke's Lakeside: Lobster and shrimp BLT ($9)
This sandwich had real lobster in it! Color me surprised. I'm not totally sure that fits the Summerfest crowd, but if seafood is your thing it's a good option if you want something fresh and not coated in fryer oil. The seafood salad was not too heavily dressed in mayo, and surprisingly had mostly real lobster, including a whole claw. I did find a small amount of what I suspect is imitation lobster, though, so maybe I just got lucky. There's lots of greens and a token tomato slice, but who cares because the bacon is tasty and crisp. The only problem is that you only get half a sandwich, for NINE dollars.
Verdict: Eat something at home, then splurge on this to get you through the night.
The King & I: Thai eggrolls, beef and vegetable ($1.75 each)
I love a great eggroll, especially when they're wrapped with thin, super crackly rice paper as they are here. However, I also like my eggrolls filled with something besides air. My first thought when I picked one up was how light it was; not a good sign. My worries were confirmed when I took my first bite and the poor roll deflated. The only discernible difference between the vegetable and beef eggrolls was a few pieces of bland ground beef that failed to make that roll any more substantial. I spied the fried squid and pad Thai that other people had ordered though, and those looked pretty delicious.
Verdict: Try anything but the eggrolls.
Botanas: Mexican taco ($3.50)
What makes this taco Mexican by name is the traditional cilantro and onion topping the chopped carne asada. The fact that they ask if you'd prefer corn or flour tortillas isn't exactly authentic but hey, it's a music festival. My advice is to always choose corn when there's an option, and in most cases, you get doubled tortillas for tacos. Score! The carne asada is really actually finely chopped braised beef, but the side of fruity, slightly hot salsa makes up for it.
Verdict: A solid snack.
Mille's: Italian slider trio ($7.75)
Three baby sandwiches are served with potato chips: Italian beef with jus, chicken parmesan and meatball. All have a small piece of mozzarella on top, and the beef has one lonely piece of green pepper. The best of the three was the chicken, even though it was a surpreme disappointment when I realized the chicken parm wasn't breaded and fried. Still, it's a solid little platter of Italian-American goodness, and great for sharing.
Verdict: Get it if you have problems committing to a single sandwich.
Trinity: Chicken in a waffle cone ($6)
This is maybe the most talked about new item at the fest, and the gimmick does draw new customers in I'm sure. Lucky for me, the fried chicken strips were homemade and actually quite good—lots of seasoning and a bit of heat as well. Really though, this should just be called "slaw in a waffle cone" because that's what you get the most of, by far. The cone itself isn't very flavorful, but there's also candied bacon hiding in there somewhere, along with that delicious chicken.
Verdict: Everyone has "that friend" that will get this. At least it's cheap.
Ultimate Confections: Turtle cheesecake ($6.50)
There aren't many dessert options at the fest that aren't of the frozen variety. So on a cold opening day like this year's, I jumped at the chance for some cheesecake. It turned out to be the best thing I ate all day. The turtle variety is topped with warmed caramel, chocolate and lots of crunchy pecans. The cheesecake isn't too dense and they don't skimp on the toppings. It's a little too sweet though, so plan on sharing.
Verdict: Obey the siren song of the constant long lines at this booth.