MILWAUKEE (WLS) --When it comes to its culinary scene, Milwaukee tends to get thrown into the beer, brats and cheese curds category.
However, Chicago's northern neighbor in Wisconsin has some gems, including a beloved coffee roaster that's soon coming to the Lincoln Park neighborhood, as well as a modern Chinese restaurant led by a former Chicagoan.
After 24 years in business, with 16 cafes in Milwaukee and Madison, Colectivo has become the godfather of roasting, grinding and making coffee drinks in Wisconsin.
"We import and roast coffee, we sell wholesale. We also have a large bakery/commissary that delivers wonderful baked goods into our cafes and our food products. We also have a keg division that creates our own beer," said Lincoln Fowler, the co-founder of Colectivo Coffee.
All of the above, including the coffee stout and session ales, are headed to Chicago later this Spring. The differentiator will be the baked goods, driven down each day.
"We offer a more complete experience we feel. That not only do we have the very high-end coffees, but we also have really beautiful artisan baked goods that we create ourselves," said Fowler.
Meanwhile, in the 3rd Ward here, dandan is a newcomer.. the modern take on Chinese comfort food comes from Dan Jacobs and his business partner, another Dan. Jacobs went to Lane Tech and worked for 15 years in Chicago, but plans changed.
"This was supposed to be a stopping point to something bigger and it ended up being where we stayed," said Co-Owner Daniel Jacobs.
He wanted to recreate the fiery lamb and cumin dishes he had in New York, along with reinterpretations - like his schmaltz-infused fried rice. Surely, few places use chicken fat this way.
"There's not a lot of really great Chinese; you can count on one hand some really good Chinese restaurants here, other than that, there's no one doing something like we're doing," said Jacobs.
Soups might lean to Thailand a bit, but his namesake, the dandan noodles, come straight from the Szechuan canon of fiery, tingly, mouth-numbing pleasure.
"Definitely that tongue numbingness. You have to balance it with, we like to balance it with heat and I think that's a pretty Szechuan-y thing to do," he said.
These two options are just the tip of the iceberg. When you throw in the Milwaukee Public Market, also in the 3rd Ward, which has a lot of food vendors, plus newer places. Just south of downtown, Iron Grate Barbecue...you've got plenty of reasons to come up for an eating trip.
EXTRA COURSE: ABC7 food reporter Steve Dolinsky talked with the chef of dandan about that restaurant's secret dinner club concept called EsterEv, which takes place only a few times a week.
16 cafes in Milwaukee and Madison in Wisconsin
Opening in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood later this spring
360 E. Erie St., Milwaukee
Iron Grate BBQ
4177 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee