MKE restaurants bring warmth to Wisconsin winter

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Espana is just one of many Milwaukee restaurants cooking up comfort food for chilly evenings. Photo by Eva Sotomayor/ eva.sotomayor@mu.edu

The weather’s getting colder, the leaves are all on the ground, and as much as we hate to admit it, summer is long gone.

It’s that time of year when we’ve been at school long enough to be sick of dining hall food. I’m sorry, Schroeder Hall, but when I’m in the mood for a good comfort meal, your chicken parmesan isn’t quite cutting it.

The bright side is that there’s less than a month left before Thanksgiving break. The downside is that there are three long weeks until Thanksgiving break. Thankfully, Milwaukee boasts a diverse dining scene, serving up comfort food to get you through the final stretch in between dorm food and Grandma’s dinner table.

What’s more, many of the restaurants are located just a short bus ride from campus and are sure to satisfy those “homey” cravings. Some favorite cuisines aiming to warm frosty patrons up include German, Spanish and good old American cooking.

Milwaukee is known for its German heritage. Located downtown, Karl Ratzsch’s has been serving German favorites since 1904. The cozy restaurant serves favorites like its crackling pork shank, fish fry and homemade potato salad.

Karl Ratzcsh’s also serves homemade apple strudel, a delicious dessert that’s made in what Tom Andera, co-owner of the restaurant, calls “a very labor-intensive process.”

“It takes a long time to do, but it’s definitely comfort food,” Andera said.

Andera also mentioned the family atmosphere of the restaurant.

“It’s very popular for reunions,” said Anderas. “Many alumni come here to meet up because their families came here on events such as their graduation day.”

Karl Ratzsch’s is located at 320 East Mason Street and is open Monday through Saturday.

If you’re craving a burger, Solly’s Grille knows comfort food. It’s been in business for more than 76 years, serving traditional American dining.

“The butter burger is what we’re famous for,” said Glenn Fieber, who works on staff at Solly’s Grille. “There are quite a few different types now, but it’s basically a 100 percent sirloin patty and a lot of butter on the bun.”

And true to its Wisconsin roots, they even have a burger in honor of the Green Bay Packers.

“We also came up with the Cheesehead burger during the Super Bowl in which the Packers were playing in New Orleans,” Fieber said. “It’s two quarter-pound patties with onion and cheddar cheese in between with American and other cheeses melted.”

Fieber also noted other menu favorites include ice cream malts served in tin cans, especially the hot-fudge banana malt.

The butter burger, as well as all of Solly’s homemade sandwiches, make the restaurant stand out. Fieber’s personal comfort food favorite is the Glendale burger, which comes loaded with Monterey Jack cheese, mushrooms and grilled onions. Solly’s also has a breakfast menu, serving farm-style breakfast along with classics like pancakes. Solly’s is located on Port Washington Rd. and Glendale Ave.

España Tapas House has Spanish tapas and favorites to please those craving a warmer climate. It’s a relatively new restaurant, having opened a little more than six months ago.

Owner Joey Elbadi had the idea to open a Spanish restaurant right in Milwaukee’s downtown because he wanted something unique that would enhance Milwaukee’s dining scene. España features dining rooms for different settings, such as the main dining room, the Barcelona room and the Madrid room, which is for private parties.

The main goal of España is to create various ambiances within the restaurant while still creating that authentic European dining experience.

The restaurant’s specialties are Spanish classics including a large variety of tapas, which are appetizers or small plates of food accompanying the main course. The menu also includes a wide variety of paellas and sangria.

One of the unique qualities of España is that many of the ingredients used in the food are imported directly from Spain, such as the spices and the cured meats used in the dishes. Many of the wines and beers served are also imported from the country.

The restaurant also has live entertainment, ranging from flamenco dancers to acoustic guitar singers. Marquette students who show their university IDs get 20 percent off food that’s not already specially priced. España is located at 800 North Plankington Ave.

With these three restaurants, a taste of home cooking is no longer three weeks away.

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