With so many foods in season and great weather allowing you to eat outside, or even take a road trip to pick up something you’ve always wanted to try, summer is the perfect season for foodies. Wisconsin is also the perfect place to enjoy a food-centric summer. Between its fresh and in-season produce, its immense amount of delicious dairy treats, and the creativity of cooks and chefs throughout the state, there’s so much fun food to try all throughout the Dairy State.
From butter burgers to cheese curds to cocktail-themed s’mores, here are some of our favorite foods in Wisconsin for you to get out and try this summer.
When the weather heats up during the summer, it’s always nice to cool down with a frozen treat. Wisconsin residents don’t just stop for ice cream, however, instead opting often for a scoop of frozen custard. The Wisconsin staple adds egg yolks into the traditional ice cream recipe, whipping less air into each batch to make frozen custard. This process results in a creamier and lighter frozen dessert—and a true Wisconsin summertime staple.
Frozen custard can be found all around the state, but for an unforgettable scoop, head to Kopp’s Frozen Custard in Greenfield, Brookfield, or Glendale. Founded in 1950, the restaurant chain offers a rotating selection of unique flavors that change every day—including cherry amaretto cheesecake and chocolate bourbon pecan pie—as well as traditional favorites.
Kringle didn’t originate in Wisconsin—in fact, it was brought over by Danish immigrants in the mid-19th century—but more than a century later, the baked good is so entrenched in the culture of the southeastern city of Racine that it’s now a Wisconsin tradition. It’s even been named the official Wisconsin State Pastry!
Kringle is a sweet pastry, made of layers of buttery, flaky dough that’s filled with a variety of different flavors. It’s easy to find in Racine, and available at bakeries like Lehmann’s Bakery, Bendtsen’s Bakery and O&H Danish Bakery, with seasonal summer flavors including key lime and rhubarb.
Fried cheese curds
If you’re not used to hearing it, cheese curds don’t necessarily have the most appetizing name. But once you’ve taken a bite of the delicious, crispy, cheesy snack, the unappealing aspects of the name (which informs eaters that they’re made of the moist pieces of curdled milk) are all but forgotten. Spending a summer in Wisconsin and not indulging in a fried cheese curd, at least once, could be considered sacrilegious.
While they’re enjoyable year-round, fried cheese curds serve as an ideal summertime indulgence, and though they’re an inescapable delight throughout the entire state, some of the best are served at The Old Fashioned in Madison, Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee and 2510 Restaurant in Wausau.
Popularized by the Wisconsin-based fast food chain Culver’s, butter burgers are one of the state’s most popular food exports. They’re just like regular burgers, but as the name suggests, topped with butter, which can be applied to either the bun or the patty itself. Either way, the effect is a more tender, juicier burger experience.
You can always stop by a Culver’s to pick one up, or make your way to Glendale to try a butter burger at Solly’s Grille. Established in 1936, the restaurant claims to be the original home of the butter burger and offers make-at-home burger kits so you can include them at your own summer barbecue.
Are any desserts more perfectly suited to summer than a freshly-made pie? While many pies this season will be made with fresh fruit, it’s a different story in Madison, where the fudge-bottom pie reigns supreme. There’s some debate over who exactly created the fudge-bottom pie, but there’s no dispute that it was created in the state’s capital.
The pie has a graham cracker crust that serves as the foundation for a whole bunch of fudge, which is then topped with vanilla custard and sweetened whipped cream. It can be ordered at Madison’s Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry alongside other Wisconsin staples like a Sprecher root beer float or mac and cheese wedges.
Macaroni and cheese pizza
Wisconsin isn’t nicknamed the Dairy State for nothing. The state ranks second in dairy production, with more than 7,000 dairy farms that produce a whole lot of cheese.
Ian’s Pizza, a pizza shop with several locations in both Milwaukee and Madison, takes the state’s dairy love to another level. The pizza place doesn’t just top their pizza with cheese; instead, it covers them with macaroni and cheese. The gooey, cheese-laden pizza can be ordered by the slice or customers can pick up a whole pie.
Brandy Old-Fashioned S’more-on-a-Stick
Technically (and not surprisingly), milk is Wisconsin’s official state drink, but if there were a runner-up it would undoubtedly be the brandy old fashioned. The cocktail is part of Wisconsin’s supper club tradition, where customers eat a large meal in an old-school, dimly-lit setting. While the meal offerings switch up from establishment to establishment, one thing always stays the same: the brandy old fashioned.
You can get the beloved cocktail at supper clubs all over the state, but what you can’t find just anywhere is the Brandy Old-Fashioned S’more-on-a-Stick made by Freese’s Candy Shoppe in Milwaukee. The shop puts a Wisconsin twist on the traditional s’more by infusing whipped cream with brandy-old-fashioned flavors, sandwiching the cream between two graham crackers then dipping the whole thing in chocolate. Just like the drink, it’s even topped with a garnish: a dried orange wedge and dried cherry.
Spotted Cow farmhouse ale
There are few better ways to celebrate summer than cracking open a cold beer on a warm night. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for that throughout the state. As our Major League Baseball team name attests, Wisconsin has developed a well-deserved reputation for being a great place for both producing and grabbing a brew. One beer stands out among the rest: the Spotted Cow, a Wisconsin exclusive brewed by New Glarus Brewing Company.
You can pick up Spotted Cow at almost any grocery store, liquor store or gas station throughout the state, or stop by the New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus for one straight off the tap. Don’t forget to try one of the brewery’s thumbprint beers—brews that are made in limited batches and aren’t guaranteed to regularly appear on the brewery’s menus.
Suncrest Gardens pizza
Most midwest farms grow corn, soybeans or raise animals, but the Suncrest Gardens Pizza Farm in Cochrane grows pizza ingredients instead. The farm, open on Fridays and Saturdays from May through September, is known for its wood-fired pizzas, made with ingredients fresh from the fields that surround it.
Sunset Gardens Pizza Farm offers up a regular list of pizzas as well as seasonal options made with whatever’s growing on the farm at that time, like the zesty asparagus pizza in May or the sweet ‘n savory, featuring roasted onions and sliced fresh apples, in September. All pizzas are served in to-go boxes, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave. After all, the farm features live music on the nights that it’s open.
You don’t have to fly all the way to Brussels to pick up a Belgian pie. Instead, make your way to Door County, where the peninsula has a small population of Walloons, an ethnic group native to one of Belgium’s regions. There you can find several Belgian traditions being kept alive by the residents, including Belgian pie: a raised dough pastry filled with a fruit and topped with cottage cheese.
Belgian pies are popular throughout the southern portion of Door County, and they’re made fresh-to-order at The Flour Pot in nearby De Pere. In addition to selling fresh prune, raisin, cherry, apple and rice Belgian pies, The Flour Pot also offers classes teaching interested customers how to make them at home.
Peanut Butter & Yeli
A traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich isn’t really anything special, but the Peanut Butter and Jelly Deli in West Allis doesn’t just serve up traditional PB&J sandwiches. The restaurant’s menu features a variety of creative spins on the traditional sandwich, including the peanut butter Oreo, which is served with dark chocolate peanut butter, crumbled Oreo cookies and mallow creme.
Or, you can order a true summer treat: the Peanut Butter & Yeli. The restaurant grills up a quarter-pound hot dog and places it on a hoagie bun alongside peanut butter, jalapeño jelly, jalapeño relish, and bacon.
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