After I finally succumbed to the pressure to pop my Milwaukee cherry during my Midwest vacation trip, I decided that if I was going to do Milwaukee, I was going to do it right. Everything had to be perfect. I surfed the web, read books, and did all kinds of research. I wanted to see, do, and most importantly, eat all the things that are uniquely Milwaukee. With each new piece of information, I fantasized more and more about how my first time was going to be the most mind-blowingly awesome experience...how I would fall in love with this heartland city... how my life would be changed forever...how we’d get married *happy sigh*... live in a big mansion, have two dogs...Oops. I have so many first-times and so many fantasies. ;)
Milwaukee isn’t a big tourist town, so there aren’t many uber tourist-y attractions that a Milwaukee virgin must do or see, the way a first-timer has to see the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or has to see the Sears Tower in Chicago. I didn’t exactly feel like I had to do the Miller Brewery Tour since there’s a Miller Brewery right here in Irwindale, California, (though I won’t tell anyone that the Irwindale brewery doesn’t do tours, if you don’t *wink*). As crazy as it may sound, I was also okay with missing the Harley-Davidson manufacturing plant tour in Wauwatosa. Yes yes, and they even make powertrains for both the Buell and the Sportster there. It would probably really get my motor running, headin’ for the highway, if I actually knew what the hell a powertrain is. Well, I missed it, but a Harley-Davidson baby tee sure would have been cute. ;)
No, you see, Milwaukee isn’t about sights. Milwaukee is Wisconsin. It’s about beer (not just Miller), bratwurst (grilled in beer), cheese of course (with beer), and big-time sports – my beloved #4 and the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, the Bucks, and the UW Badgers. Basically, it sounds like experiencing Milwaukee means tailgating out of the back of a Harley at a giant game of all-star dodgeball with players from all the Wisconsin teams. But since the all-star dodgeball game is again, just another fantasy in my head, I went to Usinger’s to really feel Milwaukee.
Usinger’s is a giant sausage factory.
We don't have giant old world German sausage factories in LA.
Usinger's original factory and store hasn't moved from its location on North Old World Third Street, a block or so of restaurants and stores that hurl you back to the days when lederhosen were all the rage. I kind of want to say it reminds me of the Sound of Music, but I think the Usinger's history goes back even further. I pretty much suck at European history, so I won't pretend to know about Germany in the late 1800s.
We parked in the lot next to Usinger's building, walked in and it was pretty much what I expected from a sausage store - lots and lots of fresh and cured sausages displayed in three glass enclosed cases in the shape of a U. Was that done on subliminal marketing purpose back in in 1880 by the original wurstmacher Frederick U-singer, or am I just reaching here? I think I am imagining it, but then again, Usinger's tells us that their sausages are made by elves. "Usinger's elves, in the dark of night, use their magical powers to create sausage of unsurpassed quality and goodness." Oooookay. Fritzie the Elf is the head sausage-making elf at Usinger's.
It was early when we got to Usinger's. Not even noon, and it was already pretty busy with people buying a lot of sausage. We had to take a number. Even elves, I guess, like a little organization. The middle case had all the fresh sausages, an offering that would embarass the tiny sausage shelves in the meat section of Ralphs. There were little ones that looked like breakfast sausages, lined up side-by-side like baby brothers and sisters in bed. There were long, thin sausages coiled up like snakes. There were shorter ones that looked like the Johnsonville brats, hot links,and Italian sausage I'm used to using for making pasta sauces. There were big, thick loops of sausage that looked like kielbasa. It was all getting me very excited.
I wanted to sit down and order a giant sampler platter of every sausage that Usinger's had. Unfortunately, Usinger's is only a store, so I settled for buying sausage to take back home to LA. Fresh sausages have to be kept refrigerated, so you can buy them, and Usinger's will ship them in a cold-pack. According to the guidelines for safe-handling of sausage (must keep sausage-handling guidelines for future reference), fresh sausages must be used within two days, but I wouldnt be back home before that. I bought dry sausages, instead - all-beef summer sausages in different flavors. And because I wasn't comfortable with sending my sausages into the great FedEx unknown, I took them with me so I could pack them in my suitcase myself. I like to keep my sausages where I can see them.
30 North Old World Third Street
Milwaukee, WI 53203