On recent trips to Milwaukee, we checked out some old favorites and tried a bunch of new recommendations. Here's a short list of things we can't forget.
1. Tonkotsu ramen at Red Light Ramen: Justin Carlisle's cozy modernist cuisine restaurant Ardent becomes a ramen house at 11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Be ready for lines, crowds and delicious heritage pork ramen for $10 a bowl.
2. Chicken and the Egg at Bass Bay Brewhouse: This old-style Wisconsin lakeside supper club is transitioning to an updated, seasonal Wisconsin comfort-food joint. Try the best fried chicken we've eaten in the Midwest, here served over mashed potatoes ($14) as an entree or sandwiched between a fried egg and buttery biscuit ($11) for brunch.
3. Salmon on a Stick at St. Paul's Fish Co.: We loved the lobster roll and bowls of plump Prince Edward Island mussels at this fish house in Milwaukee's Public Market, but our kids can't stop raving about the rich, smoky and convenient salmon on a stick ($3.95) St. Paul's sells from the fish case.
4. Burgers at Solly's Grille and Mazos Hamburgers: Whether you want a silky butter-soaked burger from Solly's ($4.69) or a fresh, plump patty ($6.25) from Mazos, where a portrait of Engelbert Humperdinck graces the walls, Milwaukee has a delicious historic burger for you.
5. Burnt ginger tofu at The Vanguard: Milwaukee's coolest come here for the funky sausages (think octopus chorizo), many styles of poutine and draft cocktails, but I can't stop thinking about these warm, crunchy, chewing tofu bites ($6) in an addictive ginger sauce with roasted garlic.
6. Tomato soup and grilled cheese at Benji's Deli: We came for the matzo ball soup, brisket hash and lox plate (which didn't disappoint) but the winner on the table was the winter special of Parmesan tomato soup and cheddar grilled cheese on sourdough.
7. Pork shank at Mader's: Milwaukee has no shortage of traditional German fare in Teutonic surroundings, but one of the oldest and most theatrical is Mader's (founded in 1902). Here we enjoyed a hearty bowl of liver dumpling soup ($8) and the restaurant's most popular dish for a century: the pork shank tower ($35) in an apple demi-glaze. Plan to share the large portions.
8. Seaweed chips with pepper jelly at Goodkind: This cozy corner tavern turned seasonal eatery focuses on rotisserie meats but also eclectic dishes like cashew phyllo pie, Champagne-battered oyster mushrooms and braised octopus. We'll try those next time. In the meantime, we can't forget the thick, battered seaweed chips with sweet and spicy jelly ($4).
9. Coffee at Hawthorne Coffee Roasters: Milwaukee has an abundance of handsome cafes and great local roasters. But if, like me, you aren't crazy about the high-acid coffee trend, Hawthorne is the place to go for a great balanced pour-over cup — our favorite being the Colombian.
10. Tin roof at Leon's Frozen Custard: Some believe that Al's diner in "Happy Days" was patterned after Leon's old-fashioned neon design. But we come here for the old-fashioned tin roof ($4.20), featuring salted Spanish peanuts, chocolate syrup and a cherry over Leon's famous frozen custard.
11. Roasted broccoli at Wolf Peach: This hip small-plates eatery is known for the pizzas that come out of its powerful wood-fired oven. But that oven also slaps a nice caramelly singe on fresh broccoli topped with apricots, Calabrian chilies and almonds ($10) to lovely effect.