3 Foods that Made Wisconsin Famous

One savory, one sweet, one salty. No beer on this list.


1. Usinger’s

Usinger’s sausages. Photo by Tom Grimm.

The sausage giant was founded in 1880, is still family run and makes over 70 kinds of old-world European meat links, from German hard salami to brats in a multitude of flavors. The web-based deli has helped catapult Usinger’s national reach, but the Old World Third Street shop, with its early 20th-century murals of sausage-making elves and seasonal window displays, is an obligatory visit to really feel the Usinger’s magic. Plus, the shop has an awesome “imperfects” table selling discounted, but no less delicious, sausages.

2. Buddy Squirrel

Buddy Squirrel. Photo by Tom Grimm.

Started by Polish immigrants in 1916, the company was originally known as Quality Candy Shoppes and had a retail store on Mitchell Street, once a shopper’s haven. It later merged with a popcorn and nut company called Buddy Squirrel and has long been known for those old-fashioned candies that are getting harder to find. We’re looking at you, fairy food!

3. Ma Baensch

Ma Baensch. Photo by Tom Grimm.

The herring comes from Nova Scotia. The “secret sauce” comes from Milwaukee – Riverwest, to be exact. That’s where, following the tradition of Lena “Ma” Baensch, who founded the company in 1932, the staff at Ma’s marinates and hand-packs the fish tidbits in a tangy vinegar-based or sour cream-chive sauce. If your only exposure to herring is from jars stuffed in the back of your grandma’s fridge, it’s time to dig in. It’s great on crackers or toast points. 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s April issue. 

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.