Spend an afternoon poking around this evolving commercial district, once known as the place to buy wedding gowns and fur coats. Now, the riches are culinary.
711 W. Mitchell St., 414-672-7878
A modest 13-year-old Pakistani restaurant that’s at its best with its great tandoori breads (naan, especially garlic, $3) and meat-based dishes. Their qeema samosas – filled with beef, onion, cilantro and mint – and veggie pakoras (fritters) are plump pastry delights.
If your taste leans mainstream, go for the creamy, buttery chicken makhani (in garam masala-laced tomato sauce); if you’re open to the pleasures of goat, try mutton korma – braised in a yogurt-based curry sauce with threads of cardamom, ginger and clove. $10-$19.
2) Lopez Bakery
1100 W. Mitchell St., 414-672-1830
In Mexico, the panaderías offer breads and sweet baked goods that are often colorful and rather exotic looking. Pan dulce, as they call these everyday treats in Mexico.
And the bakery case at Lopez, which has operated in various MKE-area locations since the 1970s, showcases many of those Latin specialties – fruit-filled empanadas; conchas (shell-shaped breads topped with sugar); fluffy pig-shaped cinnamon “cookies” called cochinitos; polvorones, which are round, pink shortbread cookies; and many others. Scan the case and you’ll find a treasure worthy of your morning breakfast – or afternoon treat. $1-$3.
709 W. Mitchell St., 414-672-7272
Located next to Anmol, this Indian-Pakistani grocery store is stocked with the ingredients to make traditional South Asian dishes. That means shelves of packaged goods such as lentils and rice, spices and oils, condiments, frozen foods and meat cases of fish and halal meats (chicken, goat, beef ). A small shop, but good selection.
1300 W. Burnham St., 414-312-8436
Just a couple of blocks south of Mitchell Street, this little spot named for the Mexican state of Tlaxcala, which is known for, among other crops, corn and mushrooms, makes homemade quesadillas filled with huitlacoche (a fungus known as corn mushroom).
The earthy ingredient is a delicacy in Mexico and not a common offering at local restaurants. It’s definitely part of my order here, as is one of the moles or the entree-size seafood soup. $7-$12.
2131 S. Muskego Ave., 414-204-8314
Among the gems folded into the Clarke Square neighborhood, just a few minutes’ drive south of Damascus Gate, is this busy sandwich wonderland where skilled cake decorators use fondant to craft edible race cars, designer handbags, movie scenes (think Frozen), really anything.
Doughnuts, bread pudding, custard desserts and pastries occupy two bakery cases. The flan is caramel-y and very smooth, and the cheesecake, light and fluffy. They also bake loaves of sandwich bread known throughout the neighborhood.
Many locals come just for the sandwiches, listed on a menu taped to the counter. The warm, crusty pressed Criollo ham-egg sandwich is exquisitely gooey, from the melted American cheese, warm fried egg, and generously slathered “mayoketsup,” as the menu calls it. Come early on Saturdays and Sundays, the only days they make a pernil (roast pork) and queso sandwich. Sandwiches $5-$8.