Reuben rolls and pizza cones: Eating your way through Summerfest
As much as Summerfest is a music festival (pre-recorded and otherwise), the gargantuan event also poses countless other sources of periphery entertainment. What other occasion in town allows guests such amenities as seeing people with facial tattoos watching a mid-day puppet show, numerous opportunities to enter drawings for motorcycles and hot stone massages, constant agility tests provided by playing real-life Frogger with puke piles, and dodging people abruptly stopping in high-traffic walkways for no apparent reason?
One of the best aspects of an event centered on carefree leisure and staggering caloric intake is the almost-endless array of edibles for patrons to shove in their respective craws. With more than 50 vendors to choose from, the decision of the perfect Barenaked Ladies food pairing can be a daunting one. Fortunately, The A.V. Club took a few laps around Henry Maier Festival Park to take in the sights, smells, and tastes of the Big Gig.
Obviously, major national food franchises wouldn’t be doing their job (fattening up our populace with cheap, inorganic, internationally-sourced, and unethically bred foodstuffs) if they didn’t snag their hooks into Summerfest. If you find yourself hungry between shows, but you’re the type of person who prefers the standardized ingredients and portioning to the risk of trying and possibly liking something you’ve never had, you’ll be glad to know there’s Wendy’s, Chipotle, Auntie Annie’s Pretzels, Cold Stone Creamery, and Cousin’s Subs scattered about.
Also in our travels, we found TWO Dippin’ Dots stands. It was like being teleported into the future. Mountain Dew was also hocking free samples of its new Kickstart diabetes colonic near the lake. The orange one was pretty okay.
A number of local vendors have stepped up to bolster the fest’s overall dining selection. If you never got a chance to properly bid farewell to North Avenue’s premier miniature confectionary, Sil’s Mini Donuts, stock up at its Summerfest kiosk. Take a load off at the Usinger’s Wurst Garden while you pile a load on via debilitating sausage and reuben roll (!!!) intake. Of course, a trip to Saz’s for BBQ is essential. You can also eat cheap at Botana’s a la cart; get fish and chips at John Hawk’s; enjoy a tasty AJ Bomber’s burger without the Travel Channel-incurred hour-long wait of its brick and mortar restaurant; and perk up with a drink from Stone Creek, Milwaukee’s fifth best coffee roaster.
There are so many incredible options, but we’re all about the Solo pizza cone, which offers all the delectability and on-the-go convenience of a traditional slice, with the alluring danger of getting a money-shot from a blisteringly hot stream of pizza sauce after taking a bite.
One of the more unsung attributes of events such as Summerfest are the uncommon, unconventional, or difficult to obtain items that only seem to pop up around festival season. No longer will you need to venture all the way to South Milwaukee like some kind of asshole to get your Elephant Ear fix. Summerfest has them! Same goes for lemon ice, Crocker Root Beer (a.k.a. Old Man’s Kickstart), and popcorn. Maybe you’ve had corn on the cob before, but if you’ve never had Robby’s Corn, you can just fuck off forever. It tastes strikingly similar to normal corn on the cob, but there’s a special ingredient that makes paying $3.50 (a 3,500 percent markup) seem worth it.
We also happened upon one of our favorite staples, a candied nut stand, complete with signage boldly proclaiming, “This is what smells so good.” Oh, the nuts are what smell good? We thought it was the puffs of Dutch Masters cigars the high school students near us were taking between pleas for us to buy them beer.