Feed the Soul
Cozy up to the most comforting dishes in town
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1923 Monroe St.
Sometimes, you need to ease into your comfort, and there’s really no better way than ordering up Belgian-style frites at Brasserie V.
“It’s something so simple—a French fry,” says chef Rob Grisham, who’s been rocking the Belgians since Brasserie V opened five years ago. “But people don’t understand what goes into it.”
In this case, potatoes are the first thing the staff tackles each day. They’re soaked, then blanched, then put through something called The Stomper. Seasoned with only salt and cracked pepper, they’re served in a silver cone with a side of spicy aioli.
Did we mention they’re really popular? Grisham and company go through nearly twenty tons of potatoes annually. Call these frites an appetizer, or even a meal, but don’t call them anything else.
“A lot of people want them as a side to their sandwich,” says Grisham. “We don’t do that.”
The Avenue Bar
128 E. Washington Ave.
Comfort food is rooted in shared ritual, and none swims deeper in Wisconsin’s cultural heritage than the Friday fish fry. The Avenue, a place that knows a little something about ritual itself, has been doing it right for forty-two years, back when fish boil outsold fish fry on the menu. The Avenue’s recent jump to the Food Fight family of restaurants hasn’t altered that equation: Between the pillow-like pieces of fresh Atlantic cod, the crispy hash browns sprinkled with green onions and the coleslaw that’s shredded, not chopped, this is a plate that defines comfort. “The tradition behind this dish is undying,” says new chef Chris Gerster. “People just have this need for Friday night tradition.”
Michael’s Frozen Custard
5602 Schroeder Rd.; 3826 Atwood Ave.; 2531 Monroe St.; 407 W. Verona Rd., Verona
You could opt for the flavor of the day, sure, but that seems almost superfluous when the vanilla variety is just so comfortably good. Longtime custard lovers know the five-ingredient recipe at Michael’s finds its origins in owner Michael Dix’s childhood, where his mom would send him and his five bored siblings to collect ice chips from frozen Lake Sinissippi, forming the foundation of the custard recipe his restaurant uses today. The key to the comfort here is cool consistency: “The recipe has not changed in twenty-five years,” says Perry McCourtney, Michael’s business and life partner. “Michael has demanded that.” Good call.
2201 Atwood Ave.
The credit for this über-comforting (and über-tasty) veggie burger goes to the ex-wife of Harmony owner Keith Daniels, a pastry chef who concocted what may be the perfect blend of walnut, egg, onion and spices served on a fresh Colonial Bakery kaiser roll. You know how people talk about veggie burgers that don’t taste like veggie burgers? Look no further. “It’s odd,” says Daniels. “The burger’s been on the menu for close to twenty years, but in the last three to four, it’s really taken off.”