A Seasonal Affective Disorder guide to the Milwaukee Public Market
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It’s that time of year again: The sun goes down just in time for the commute home, boots are once again the footwear of choice, and stingy landlords have finally turned on the heat. No more sidewalk sales, no more Food Truck Fridays, and no more farmer’s markets. So where does that leave all the trendy folks who shop local, organic, and fresh? They have two options: Go into hibernation until the spring thaw, or make the Milwaukee Public Market the winter destination for all their shopping needs.
The Milwaukee Public Market in the Third Ward is open seven days a week and carries everything from tasty prepared meals to hilarious greeting cards. It has a community atmosphere, allowing shoppers to purchase goods directly from the market’s nearly 20 vendors rather than shopping through a third party like Pick ’n Save. The building is always packed; even at closing time, people are still walking around chatting and browsing the stands. Although hibernating through the icy Wisconsin winter may be tempting, the Milwaukee Public Market gives us a good reason not to.
Probably the most iconic vendor of the market is the St. Paul Fish Company, marked by a giant inflatable crab on the east end of the building. Fun menu items include a Schlitz-battered cod fry ($9.95), salmon jerky ($4.95), and smoked salmon on a stick ($2.95). St. Paul’s also offers grilled fish dinners ($9.95-$17.95) and fish sandwiches ($7.95-$10.95). If you’re feeling fancy, try the featured lobster roll served with chips and a pickle ($12.95). Dead fish lying on a bed of ice can’t help but stare as you pick out your food, so maybe avoid this stand if eyeballs give you the willy-nillys.
If you’re looking for some food to bring home for later, the West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe is the place to go. (It’s spelled with two “p”s and an “e,” so you know it’s classy.) The stand carries more than 200 varieties of cheese, and if you’re having trouble narrowing it down, you can sample some for free. There’s also a tray of “cheese orphans,” which are small amounts of cheese left over from the initially massive wheels. If you have a taste for more worldly cuisine, stop by Aladdin: Tastes Of The East, Sushi-A-Go-Go, or Margarita Paradise for some falafel, sushi to-go, or burritos, respectively.
You can’t forget about dessert, especially during the holiday season when treats are ubiquitous. Kehr’s Candies offers hand-dipped chocolates and chewy and hard candies for holidays or special occasions. Kehr’s make its own candy bars, including the appropriately named meltaway bars ($3.95), since they literally melt in your mouth. They come in enticing flavors like butter rum, mint, Irish cream, tangerine, and cappuccino. If you don’t like to play it safe with your food, try the red hot pepper truffles ($25.95/lb.). If you’d rather enjoy a baked treat, C. Adam’s Bakery has you covered. Our personal favorite, the Wisconsin cookie ($2.35), is made with cranberries, maple syrup, walnuts, and oatmeal.
The most obvious beverage stop at the market is Thief Wine Shop & Bar. Hundreds of bottles of wine are organized by region and color, and the bar features frequent wine tastings and daily drink specials. If you’re not a big wine person, seasonal and local beers are offered as well. The shop encourages you to bring food from other vendors and enjoy a drink with your meal, and the bar’s central location and ample seating make it quite convenient.
If you need a little pick-me-up from all the gloomy weather, try Cedarburg Coffee Roastery on the west end of the market. It roasts all of its own coffee in-house, and keeps its barrels of beans on display. Another beverage option perfect for this season is the Cold Killer ($5), found at The Green Kitchen. The juice concoction is made with orange, ginger, lemon, wheatgrass, and honey.
And be merry!
The Milwaukee Public Market carries several other products aside from food and drink. Locker’s At The Market brings a burst of color to a dreary season with flowers, vases, candles, and cards. It’s a great place to stop before a big date or brunch with mom. The Spice Merchants stand is home to both the Spice House and the Culinary Toolbox. The Spice House has everything from basic beef base and vanilla to fennel pollen and pink peppercorns. The shop allows you to smell and taste almost anything on its shelves. The Culinary Toolbox is a one-stop-shop for cooking and baking supplies, and a great place to get some holiday shopping out of the way. If you’re not looking to shop, the Milwaukee Public Market is also a fun place for people watching. The second floor houses additional seating and overlooks the hustle and bustle of the market below.