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Let's eat: Summerfest edition

by Nick Vitrano

Summer is officially here, and with it, Milwaukee’s annual celebration of gluttony…Summerfest!  The main attraction is the music, but if you don’t have tickets to the Marcus or don’t want to babysit a picnic table covered in seagull feces at one of the side stages, the draw is to participate in the culinary delight of the many vendors.

There are so many greats, but what follows is the top 5 Summerfest foodstuffs as I see it.  Now, what makes me an expert?  Nothing, save the fact that I love to eat and I spent the first 20 years of my life both patronizing and working at Summerfest.  I have eaten just about everything the grounds have to offer, and I always go back to these every year.  So that’s the resume…and here’s the list.

As we embark on this journey through the Maier Festival Grounds, please keep the following in mind: there is no such thing as a good deal at Summerfest.  There are only deals that prove less bad.

#1 – The Saz’s Sampler: This must-have is not a secret, and it requires the virtue of patience to obtain, but it’s well worth the seemingly neverending journey through the maze of patrons.  Two of Saz’s famous jumbo mozzarella sticks, a heaping helping of cheese curds, and a mound of sour cream and chive fries.  Do yourself a favor and mix together the marinara and the ranch sauces for an unrivaled dipping experience.

#2 – The Venice Club’s Fried Eggplant Strips: Nothing much to say about this.  It’s self-explanatory – fried…eggplant…strips.  But they are freakin’ amazing.  They’ll come with lemon wedges, and that’s all you’ll really need, but if you desire a little somethin’ extra, ask for a side of marinara.  They may not even charge you.

#3 – Suzy’s Cheesecake’s Hot Fudge Alaskan Ice Cream Eclair: You need some sweet, and this, hands-down, dominates the fairgrounds.  A cream puff shell, generously filled with vanilla ice cream, drowning in hot fudge.  I made these for years while working at Suzy’s.  They are incredible and rumored to be the true impetus behind the Trojan War.

To the beverages…

#4 – The Old Fashioned Lemonade: This stand has moved around the grounds over the years, but it’s worth finding.  It’s made from scratch lemonade, made to order.  You’ll have enough beer and wine coolers and Hawai’ian Shave Ice to kill ya.  It’ll be hot, so do yourself a favor and pick up one of these overpriced beverages.

#5 – The Slice Float from the Giant Root Beer Barrel: This is a special request that can only be made at the main root beer barrel on the grounds, and it comes from my friend Chris West who used to run that sucker.  You will not find it on the menu, but it can be done.  It’s not the greatest thing you’ll ever consume, but it carries some “forbidden fruit” allure, knowing that you hold the secret knock required to unlock its glory.

Enjoy the festival and happy eating. 

DEVASTATING UPDATE: I had intended to supply directions to each of these establishments as part of this blog entry.  Upon accessing the Summerfest website, I am shocked and saddened beyond words that the vendor for my #3 must-have is not listed on the “Food & Beverages” page.  Out of respect for one of the greatest desserts ever created, I will not be replacing it on my list.  It just wouldn’t be right.  I want to remember it just as I always have.  Fare thee well, Hot Fudge Alaskan Ice Cream Eclair.  I love you.