Here we have a long-awaited new guest blog from none other than @RGspiegel. Catch more of his writing here.
Disclosure I: David Marcus, one of the owners of Smoke Shack, is my second cousin. Disclosure II: I’m starting a movement such that cousins are classified only as first or second cousins. How much better is that than trying to figure out your exact relationship to your dad’s first cousin’s son with somethingth-cousin-somethingths-removed? A lot. Disclosure III: Smoke Shack was legitimately awesome.
Now that my and Unvegan’s journalistic integrity are squarely intact, I can begin the review of my glorious Saturday lunch at Smoke Shack, a BBQ restaurant that opened up about a month ago in Milwaukee’s third ward.
Two summers ago, I went to Bridge’s Bar in Lake Nebagamon after years of drinking dirt cheap pitchers of Leinenkugel’s there. But upon arrival, I found that the Leinie’s was missing. It was just about the scariest moment of my life. As I wallowed in sorrow, a friend brought a pitcher of beer to me excitedly. “They have Spotted Cow,” he proclaimed. I was unswayed, but he poured me a glass and I drank it because it sounded better than the Bud Light that was also on tap. My disappointment disappeared and I vowed never to return to Wisconsin again without drinking some Spotted Cow.
On our way out of an amazing Wisconsin weekend, we made a pit stop at Breakwater Restaurant in Superior. It looked like a local version of Denny’s, which was just what we wanted on our way out of the Northwoods. We were quickly seated and since everyone moves a little slow on the morning of July 4th, we weren’t waited on quite as fast as we had been seated. But outside of the hustle bustle of LA, we were happy to not be rushed out of breakfast.
In the meaty heaven of Northern Wisconsin, even I was amazed to find the following on a menu: “Light Portion 1/3 lb Hamburger Steak Dinner with grilled onions, mashed potatoes and gravy.” And where did such a light meal find itself? None other than Twin Gables in Brule, Wisconsin. This light meal quickly explained why they wouldn’t serve an egg white omelet to my girlfriend while simultaneously letting me know that anything I ordered was going to be goddamn amazing.
Located just south of President’s on Highway 53 in Superior, Wisconsin, is a restaurant in a box car. I’m not sure how, but it somehow got the name of Choo Choo Bar & Grill. Although it is plenty old, it seems that Choo Choo has been renovated recently and has the look of a new dive bar that will not look new for very long. And if anyone knows how to test out the food of a dive bar, it’s this guy.
In this wonderful planet that we live in, there are few greater meccas of meat than Northern Wisconsin. After all, you’re not going to survive that winter on lettuce and kale. Yet, while shrines to meat are all over this mecca, the true Kaaba of Northern Wisconsin is Superior Meats. Located in the heart of Superior, Wisconsin, on Tower Street, the place is not in the most ideal location for someone like me looking to grill at Amnicon Falls, but like any meat pilgrimage, the journey to Superior Meats is well-worth it.
French fries go great with a burger, breadsticks are delicious with a pepperoni pizza and mac and cheese is the perfect partner with some ribs, but beer is amazing with any meat. It is difficult (although not impossible) to be an unvegan without having a great taste for beer and as any real beer drinker knows, not all beers are created equal. In my world, there is Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss and then there are all other beers.
Bridge’s Tavern in Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin has no kitchen. In a lot of bars this can be a problem if I get the drunken munchies. Not at Bridge’s though, because despite their kitchen handicap they make Pizza Fries.
Pizza Fries aren’t too different from pizza, and they’re not really even close to being fries aside from abstract similarities in shape. Yet, Pizza Fries is the name that has been chosen for them. The closest thing they resemble is cheesey breadsticks, but this isn’t some gimmick to get people to buy an already existent product like when Burger King started making “Chicken Fries” (chicken tenders). There is just something about Pizza Fries that transcends any other nomenclature.
The transition from eating in LA to eating in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and Minnesota is pretty darn easy, especially for my tastes. While visiting the area recently, I found plenty of food (and beer) to make my tastebuds happy, while forking over a fraction of what I’ve been used to paying.
My first meal up there was at the Waterfront Bar & Grill in Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin. After ordering two pitchers of Leinenkugel’s (the best beer in the world) for $6 each, I took a look at their food menu. What stood out to me the most on their menu was the double bacon cheeseburger. At $6, it appeared to be the most expensive burger on the menu. Not too shabby.