Photo © Visit Milwaukee
Wisconsin loves a good brat fry. The sausage shows up on grills outside of grocery stores, as the star of church fundraisers and on menus from Beloit to Bayfield. All are reminders of the state’s proud German heritage: Frugal immigrants knew how to let nothing go to waste, and sausage-making skills are generations old. Here is where to sniff out some of the best.
Bavaria Sausage Kitchen, Madison
A master sausage maker from Bavaria landed here in the 1950s, and now a second generation of “wurstmachers” follows Old World recipes that include Nurnberger-style and Thuringer-style bratwurst. On spring and summer Wednesdays and Fridays (weather permitting) brats are grilled outdoors and sold by the sandwich. The small shop also stocks products imported from Germany.
Brat House Grill, Wisconsin Dells
Brats sizzle in a mid-1800s one-room school and church, which still has a bell tower and stained-glass windows. Now it’s a sports bar and music hub. In addition to traditional choices, check out the red brat, a mix of smoked pork and beef. The Big Bacon Cheddar Brat weighs in at one-half pound.
Brat Stop, Kenosha
The convenient rest stop near the state border sells one ton of brats per week, and the top seller even shows up on the breakfast menu (brat and cheese omelets, anyone?). Outside is a beer garden and volleyball court, inside is a big food and gift shop. Bands play on weekends, and the business completes a major expansion this year.
Garmisch USA Resort, Cable
Begin a night of fine dining with the Garmisch Inn Sampler: bratwurst, knackwurst, cabbage rolls and pork tenderloin medallions. Or settle into the Bierstube Lounge with a cold beer and brat-kraut sandwich. The sturdy, Bavarian-themed resort is tucked inside Chequamegon National Forest, on Lake Namakagon. Think thick timbers, fireplaces and lodge rooms to cabins for rent.
Mighty Johnsonville Sausage—a national kingpin in sausage production—is merely eight miles west, but locals flock to this third-generation meat market, busy enough to have drive-thru window service. The family makes 50-plus kinds of sausage, including at least 24 types of brats from apple sauerkraut to cranberry cheddar. Traditional bratwurst, low-salt and no-MSG versions are available, too.
Nolechek’s Meats, Thorp
Hailing from a community of just 1,600, this third-generation butcher shop in business since 1952 has earned international awards. “Brat of the Week” might be the Brat N Kraut (look for sauerkraut inside the casing) or chicken cordon bleu, with chicken, ham and Swiss cheese. Always for sale are smoked brats, brat patties and about 30 varieties of specialty brats from Philly cheesesteak to mushroom Swiss. Indecisive? Try the Brat Sampler of six bestsellers.
Otto’s Beer and Brat Garden, Minocqua
In Northwoods Wisconsin is an outdoor beer garden whose live music draws a crowd during the summer. All year, Otto’s is known for charbroiled bratwurst served with a side of kraut. Order a sausage that is split lengthwise, with casing removed, before it hits the grill. Or opt for an intact brat that simmers in Spaten beer before being browned.
Stein Haus, La Crosse
Bratwurst takes over the food menu, most often through unconventional transformations. For a weekend breakfast, consider the Brat Benedict on French toast: a honey-mustard sausage, egg, bacon, provolone and green chili hollandaise. Brats otherwise are sandwiched and 22 flavors are offered, from sweet and savory (applewurst), to spicy (horseradish), to original (weisswurst) to cheesy (asiago chive).
Usinger’s Sausage Shop, Milwaukee
Downtown you’ll find Old World Third Street, a cobblestoned thoroughfare where Usinger’s popular outlet store is located (they make some of the sausages right in the building) and whose recipes haven’t changed since the 1880s. Also in the historic area that all serve Usinger’s brats on their menu: century-old Mader’s, known for German fare; Old German Beer Hall, serving a beer and bacon custom-recipe brat; and Milwaukee Brat House, home to an outdoor beer garden and brats on pretzel buns.
Winzer Stube, Hudson
Bratwurst and other sausages at the German-themed restaurant come from locally owned RJ’s Meats, whose products routinely win top awards. The pork brat was Wisconsin’s 2016 grand champ; make it the foundation of a build-your-own sausage platter at the restaurant. Add house-made kraut (with caraway and white wine) and spaetzle. Only one mile separates the butcher and chef.
This article originally appeared in the 2017 spring/summer issue of Experience Wisconsin magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.
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