Local-Sourcing Lunch Spots
Roundup by Brett Kell
Photography by Joe Laedtke
Too frequently the domain of dry sandwiches, limp lettuce and vending machine staredowns, lunch is sorely overlooked as an important meal. However, an increasing number of local restaurants are turning their attention toward the lunch hour as a means of further expressing their commitment to inventive, high-quality and tasty dishes.
More than a few lunch menus reflect diversity of flavor, with a particular focus on locally-sourced ingredients. Below is a rundown of just some spots where the lunch game is strong.
Part butcher shop, part lunch counter, part modern gastro-bar, Bavette sources whole animals responsibly raised on small, local farms. Chef/owner Karen Bell, a global traveler with a keen interest in sustainability, said she gets beef from Schmidt Farm in Juneau, pork from Kirschbaum Family Farm in Kewaskum, and lamb from Pinn-Oak Ridge Farms, LLC in Delevan, and Farm 45, LLC in Jackson.
Meats sourced by Bavette star in an impressively diverse selection of snacks, soups, salads, and sandwiches; among them a corned beef tongue reuben, pork meatball bahn mi, pressed Cuban, and BBQ pork. Bell said other hits include pate, rillette, and raw preparations. The bar features spirits from Milwaukee’s own Twisted Path and Great Lakes distilleries, Top Note Tonics and Midwest craft beers. A small shop features local artisan condiments and more.
330 E. Menomonee St., Third Ward
Chef Christian Schroeder said Buckley’s contemporary American menu, globally-inspired flavors and top-notch bar program are what draws regulars and newcomers alike. His inventive approach highlights a few carefully chosen local ingredients, such as oyster mushrooms from Milwaukee’s Big City Greens featured two ways: beer-battered with fried capers and a champagne-lemon vinaigrette, and smoked on a pizza with grilled portabellas, sheep’s ricotta, fontina, garlic confit and spinach. A blackened salmon BLT features bacon from Bernie’s Fine Meats in Port Washington. Local spirits and beer are also available at the cozy, wellstocked bar.
801 N. Cass St., East Town
Field to Fork Cafe
Field to Fork is an improbable kind of place that contains something for literally everyone—it’s a restaurant, cafe, butcher shop, bakery, deli, juice bar and grocery all at once, serving up hearty dishes like a charred BLT salad, grassfed Black Angus burgers, a chicken biscuit, and vegetarian options like three variations of the trendy bowl meal. The Asian version has brown rice, quinoa, roasted black beans, Thai-marinated soy curls, kimchi, kelp noodles, grilled bok choy, and a creamy cashew Korean hot sauce. The list of local vendors so long it would be easier to name whatever isn’t local or artisan. Highlights: Jerry Lenz Farm beef, Saxon Homestead Creamery cheeses, Rushing Waters fish, Willow Creek Farms pork, Yuppie Hill eggs and much more.
511 S. 8th St., Sheboygan
Honeypie is a torch bearer for the kind of stick-to-your-ribs, Midwestern-inspired scratch cooking that Milwaukeeans dearly love. It serves what Mom would make if she sourced countless super-high-quality local ingredients: house-cut fries topped with shredded BBQ pork, cheese sauce, pickled jalapenos, green onions and bacon; a Cornish pasty of the day; a lambwich with fontina, greens and red pepper-oregano oil on focaccia. Much of Honeypie’s sourcing is done through Braise RSA: beef from Big Ney’s Ranch, seasonal produce from Milaeger’s, Springdale, Turtle Creek, High Cross, Tipi and Bowers, and much more.
Honeypie also works directly with other vendors, like Centgraf Farms, from which it gets produce featured in a rotational “Farmhouse Trio” of soup, salad and starch. Other local connections include a custom blend coffee from Anodyne, tea from Rishi and bread from Breadsmith. Honeypie’s side business is sending piegrams, and its blackbottom banana cream was recently named one of the best pies in America by Time Out.
2643 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Bay View
Iron Grate BBQ
Chef/owner Aaron Patin, an integral part of the success of the East Side’s James Beard Award-winning fine dining restaurant Ardent, struck out on his own to open Iron Grate BBQ, a stripped-down “meat-and-three”- style joint. The meaty, where-have-you-beenall-my-life Milwaukee rib, a spare rib with the belly attached, is custom-cut by Franklin Meats in Franklin. The Angus beef brisket comes from Pritzlaff Brothers Meats in New Berlin and hot links are made by Gahn Meat Co. in Milwaukee. Even the oak and cherry wood fed into smokers Edna and Roxanne is local, and helps flavor sides including smoky grits, baked beans, smoked tomato mac ‘n cheese, smothered greens and coleslaw. Iron Grate shares a space with Hawthorne Coffee and is only open Friday-Sunday from 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
4177 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee
Lagniappe features continental cuisine expertly prepared by chef/owner Andy Tenaglia using French techniques—think veal francaise, paella and escargot. Small hoop houses and garden space behind the restaurant provide a bounty of seasonal produce supplemented by eggs, chicken, Duroc pork and greens from Field to Fork Farms in Waukesha, as well as mushrooms from Mushroom Mike LLC, honey, apples and pears from Patterson’s Orchards in New Berlin, and vegetables from a farmer who lives two doors down. Tenaglia “adores” Wuthrich Swiss-style butter from Greenwood for all Lagniappe’s bakery, pastry and butter sauces, and said that customers love the grassfed Wagyu beef burger topped with 9- year aged cheddar from Vern’s Cheese in Chilton.
17001 W. Greenfield Ave., New Berlin
A cozy, casual neighborhood restaurant specializing in regionally- and internationally-influenced small plates, La Merenda is an extension of chef/owner Peter Sandroni’s commitment to all things local, seasonal, and socially and environmentally responsible. Pork pierogi feature Maple Creek Farms pork, Brynteg Farms, Brightonwood Orchard apples and Sartori Dolcina gorgonzola. A Malaysian goat dish features LaClare Farms goat, and bacon made down the street at Sandroni’s other incredible restaurant, Engine Company No. 3. Mexican fundido de hongos include River Valley Ranch mushrooms, local onions, Clock Shadow Creamery Menonita cheese, Alsum Farm sweet corn and Flyte Family Farm beans. You get the idea.
125 E. National Ave., Walker’s Point
The National Cafe
The National is everything you want a breakfast and lunch spot to be: funky, comfy, friendly and delicious. All that and it’s within spitting distance of I-43. Chef/owner Nell Benton’s simple-yet-diverse menu includes scratch-made soups, fresh salads, and hot or cold sandwiches, among them the blackened salmon with pickled peppers and arugula; and the truffled egg salad with capers, arugula, and tomatoes on sourdough. Benton said about 75-80% of her ingredients are local, from the likes of Bernie’s Fine Meats, Vern’s Cheese, Clock Shadow Creamery, Yuppie Hill poultry and eggs, Rocket Baby bread, and more.
839 W. National Ave., Walker’s Point
It’s safe to say that executive chef Erik Malmstadt’s cuisine is atypical of a suburban restaurant surrounded by residential neighborhoods. Billing itself as “the only restaurant in Wisconsin with an on-site farm,” PS23’s ethos is farm-to-fork, whether grown out back or delivered via trusted local partners like the Oilerie just up the road, Strauss Veal in Franklin, Rushing Waters fish, Uphoff Farms of Madison, Sassy Cow, Sartori, and Roth Kase. Unique dishes include creamed corn with leeks, roasted poblano pepper and bacon, as well as pretzel-crusted veal with black pepper spaetzle, sauteed asparagus, wild mushrooms and caper pan sauce. The bar features beers from Lakefront, Sprecher and Milwaukee Brewing Co., upping the local quotient even further.
2300 Pilgrim Square Dr., Brookfield
Housed in a historic former bank, Le Reve does French bistro chic with a sweet twist in one of the most striking dining spaces in all of Milwaukee. Breads and pastries are gallery-worthy and delicious, and the savory menu features classic French standouts like crepes, nicoise salad, steak frites and steamed mussels. According to assistant GM Tim Minor, Le Reve uses a host of local products: bacon from Wilson Farms in Elkhorn, eggs from Yuppie Hill Poultry in Burlington, breakfast sausages from Hometown Sausage Kitchen in East Troy, mushrooms from Mushroom Mike LLC and Sugar Bee Farms, baby greens from Kettle Rock Farms in Palmyra, and cheese from Plymouth’s Sartori Cheese, LaValle’s Carr Valley Cheese and Saxon Creamery of Cleveland.
7610 Harwood Ave., Wauwatosa
Brett Kell is a writer and communications professional whose work has been featured in various publications and has won awards for feature writing. He nurtures a fondness for food and drink in Milwaukee, and is passionate about wristwatches, whisky and the Green Bay Packers. Brett and his wife, Lauren, have two children whose culinary interests begin and end with mac and cheese. Follow him on Twitter @brettknows.