Take a Trip Around the World: Dine In Milwaukee, Part I – Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

So what if Milwaukee is widely known as the city with all those breweries. So what if Forbes.com recently knighted Milwaukee “America’s Drunkest City”. The bottom line is this: Milwaukee is so much more than beer!

After visiting this wonderful city along the shores of Lake Michigan, I ask myself how people can even find the time to get drunk when a plethora of non-alcoholic fare exists to take part in!

I will be doing a three-part series on Milwaukee. Leading off will be a feature on some of Milwaukee’s best internationally-themed places to eat. As you’ll see, Milwaukee’s restaurants alone make a visit to this city worthwhile. They reflect its proud ethnic melting pot.

Each summer, a long Summerfest celebrates Milwaukee’s great cultures – German, Greek, French, Arab, and Mexican – to name a few. This spills over into some great cooking.

African Hut Restaurant: Many Flavors of the Continent

Yinka and Maji Adedokun are a friendly couple who have created a wonderful place for Milwaukeeans and travelers alike. They offer some great recipes from Western and sub-Saharan Africa. The Adedokuns really take pride in making sure their dishes have the right amount and best variety of spices. You’ll listen to some lively African-themed music in a laid-back atmosphere that emanates that mom and pop feel. Enjoy such appetizers as the Akara, a fried vegetable treat that includes hand-shelled black-eyed peas. It's mild, but leaves a spicy aftertaste. You cannot go wrong with the Ugandan Samosa. This is a meat dumpling with vegetables and spices, that has a fried triangular shell – oh, so tasty and smooth!

For main courses, African Hut offers a wide variety of entrees that are loaded with meat. Vegetarian choices also abound. The Jollof Rice with chicken can’t be beat. It’s really spicy and hot, but I came back for seconds, thirds and fourths!

Mindinmindin from African Hut is dessert heaven!
Mindinmindin from African Hut is
dessert heaven!

For dessert, you haven’t lived unless you try the restaurant’s house special: The Mindinmindin (pronounced Mindy-Mindy, which in the Yoruban language of Nigeria means sweet tooth). It’s loaded with banana slices, French Vanilla ice cream, apple chunks that are baked in molasses and succulent cream. This is one of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted.

To quench my thirst, I tried their imported Ginger Beer. Think of a quality root beer, except that ginger is the driving force. I could definitely taste the sharp carbonated ginger in it.

Chill Out at the Yaffa Lounge

You don’t necessarily have to go to the famed Buddha Bar Lounge in Paris, France, to get that special “chill out” dining experience. I found a place in Milwaukee that offers the same kind of feel for prices that are more affordable. The Yaffa Lounge plays Buddha Bar-style music and serves great Mediterranean and North African food, with special emphasis on Spanish, Israeli and Moroccan cuisine. Yaffa Lounge was opened late last year by a road construction worker, John Chitko, after his time in The Big Apple. The atmosphere is laid back. You can actually talk in a normal voice to your friends despite the crowds – even receive prompt and friendly service.

For appetizers, I tried both the bacon-wrapped Stuffed Dates and the Hummus Falafel Combo. The dates went well with the bacon and cabrales cheese. The hummus was mild and the falafel quite tasty. It looked like a small kiwi, though it was packed with cilantro and parsley. We received some mild and mellow tasting Zataar bread with our appetizers. This pita bread is very popular in Morocco.

Great Mousakka at Milwaukee's Yaffa Lounge
Great Mousakka at Milwaukee's Yaffa Lounge

For the main course, I feasted on Yaffa Lounge’s Mousakka. The menu describes it as a lasagna-like dish full of ground beef, eggplant and topped with Bechamel Sauce (really creamy). I liked this tomato and spicy dish. The best way to describe the flavor – it’s like eating a North African mandwich!

This establishment doesn’t offer a lot for dessert, but what they do have is very good! I tried two of their four offerings, the Traditional Crème Brulee, which is a pumpkin and cinnamon custard concoction with sugar that’s been torched into a hard shell topping. The Hibiscus Saffron Tart has a pistachio crust and contains a tart-lemony filling.

For drinks, Yaffa Lounge offers a wide selection of teas (like pear caramel and vanilla bean), wines and mixed drinks.

Partake in Some Far East Chicken Salad with the other "Spies"!

A real life Safe House is a venue where spies can have refuge or where clandestine activities take place in seemingly ordinary premises. Well, beyond the front door to International Exports, you’ll find another Safe House. It’s the kind that anyone, including, hungry spies, can eat in – if you can get through the door. This place doesn’t openly advertise its restaurant, but it still keeps on bringing in the diners through word of mouth.

Safe House just celebrated its 40th year in business of giving its patrons more than food. All you have to do is go to Safe House’s spy-themed website to begin your experience of being snared into a world of cloak and dagger. Be warned: you’ll have to know the password to visit and can’t tell anyone about this place.

You can begin your meal with a Pre-Mission Briefing, or what Safe House calls appetizers. These range from fried pita chips served with a spinach and cheese dip to chicken strips.

For the main course, I went for a Lite Mission Far East Chicken salad. This was a very delicious salad. The sesame garlic sauce and ginger dressing mixed well with my chunky chicken squares and fresh vegetables. Master Spy Sandwiches include the Ruben and French Dip. These can be ordered if you’re really hungry. For my Clandestine Caper (dessert), I had to have a Bond’s Bomb. It’s a minty chocolate chip ice cream that comes in a chocolate bomb shell surrounded by whipped cream.

Eat Cloak and Dagger style at Safe House...if you can find it!
Eat Cloak and Dagger style at Safe House – if you can find it!

I don’t want to give away all the strange and bizarre things you’ll witness at Safe House, but here are a few things I found interesting. Some of the doors marked “Men” or “Women”, are dead ends. James Bond movie posters from all over the world line the walls. When you do find the bathroom, you’ll hear live police scanner transmissions. You might end up being interrogated in a “special room”. To get out of Safe House, you have to go through a series of creepy corridors.

Three Brothers Restaurant: Savor Serbian Cuisine

In 1950, a Serbian immigrant, Milun Radicevic, opened a restaurant in a former Schlitz-run eating establishment that had been originally built in the late 1890′s. He had high hopes. They included a dream of one day seeing his three sons take over the business, so he dubbed the new Milwaukee eatery, Three Brothers Restaurant. Well, only one of his sons would end up being a part of the business (Branko). Yet today, Three Brothers restaurant has received accolades in some of the more well-known and high-end food media for its quality of homemade Serbian cuisine.

The eating establishment, which has a cream-colored brick exterior (Milwaukee is called The Cream City for such buildings), welcomes all with a friendly staff, excellent food and decent prices.

For appetizers, you can’t go wrong beginning with the Serbian hors d’oeuvre, which includes Serbian white cheese, a nice blend of smooth-tasting sheep and goat’s milk, that to me, remined me of olive oil. The Russian Salad looks like potato salad, but is chased with peas and has an exquisite peppered flavor. The house rye bread is spicy, but it has a pleasing texture and scent.

For the main course, I enjoyed the hearty ground beef dish called Pljeskavica, as I listened to a variety of Serbian folk and modern pop dance music being played over the loudspeakers. Remember those Lipton Onion Burgers? Well, this is what Pljeskavica was like, but it was grilled and it included peppers. This is where Lipton got their idea! The dish came with a Serbian flat bread called Lepinja, that registered a buttery basil flavor to my taste buds.

The Serbian delights of Strudel and Palacinka at Three Brothers Restaurant
The Serbian delights of Strudel and Palacinka at
Three Brothers Restaurant

For dessert, the homemade cinnamon custard is a must. It has the consistency of ice cream, but its spiciness complements its sweetness!

You can try an imported Serbian beer or drink a popular sparking water in the old country called Radenska.

Get a Taste of Cuba at Cubanitas

This is Milwaukee’s first Cuban restaurant. It was named one of the Top 50 Hispanic Restaurants by Hispanic Magazine (October 2005). The amosphere is anything but low key. Many of the patrons are rather boisterous, and with the Cuban Salsa music blaring in the background, that will definitely add to your Cuban dining experience. You won’t leave hungry. The appetizer, entrée and desert portions are muy grande!

For appetizers, we started with the Cuban Guacamole and Plantain Chips. The Guacamole was very fresh and the chips tasted like a salty wafer. Besides hearty entrees and Cuban sandwiches, Cubanitas serves daily entree specials. The daily special called Boliche (a Cuban pot roast with chorizo sausage inside each slice of roast that comes with white rice) looked appealing. The white rice was the best I’ve ever tasted. It was light and had a great flavor, especially when mixed with the roasting sauce from the semi-tender meat.

For my beverage, I savored the lightly bitter, non-alcoholic herbal Iron Beer, which is Cuba’s national beverage, according to the can. The person I was with told me that her Mojitos, Cuba’s National Drink (consisting of ingredients like white rum, fresh lime juice, and mint leaves), was the best she ever had.

For dessert, I dare you to try the Coco Loco Brownie. It’s so big that two people will have trouble getting through this concoction – three large brownies topped with ice cream, chocolate, raspberry, and coconut shavings. This treat has just the right amount of sweetness. Three people next to us were having trouble eating this tooth delight!

Roy’s Travel Tips

Having trouble sleeping on an airplane or in an automobile while traveling? Do you desire more comfort for your head and neck as well as a more qualitative sleep? Try the dream helmet. It helped me!

There are many accommodations in Milwaukee, but if you desire a really clean and functional hotel near Lake Michigan and Milwaukee’s attractions, check out Comfort Inn and Suites Downtown Lakeshore. It has comfortable beds, free WIFI internet, a 24-hour fitness and busines center that’s free.

Other Resources

* Budget accommodation in Milwaukee
* Milwaukee Visitor Information
* Milwaukee Travel Deals
* Milwaukee Summerfest
* Pils-grimage: Meet Your Wisconsin Brewers

Roy’s next Milwaukee article will be on some of the city's one-of-a-kind attractions. He writes from the windy plains of southeastern Wyoming, and has frequently contributed to Bootsnall.com. His favorite chill out album is Buddha Bar IV.

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