Blue’s Egg, Milwaukee
When one thinks of the food of Wisconsin, there are a few things that always spring to mind. Of course, dairy is almost always at the top of the list, given that this state is the home of cheese curds and frozen custard. Beer is right up there with it, considering that beer cheese soup on a cold day is about as much of a Badger State experience as you can get. And who could forget the sausages, seeing as how the Milwaukee Brewers have five of them race every night?
What doesn’t come across most people’s minds is breakfast. Even though sausages are as much a part of Wisconsin culture as the Packers, that usually refers to bratwurst rather than breakfast sausage. But you can find great breakfasts in any part of the country. It’s all in the ingredients, the preparation and the presentation, and Blue’s Egg certainly has all of those going for it. As soon as I saw that it was named Milwaukee’s best breakfast a year ago, I knew that Amy and I had to make a visit.
It might have been the best decision we made in Milwaukee. Our first clue that this place was legitimate came when we pulled into the shopping center to park. Blue’s is situated between a pair of banks, BMO and TCF, so when I saw that there was no parking to be had, I initially didn’t think anything of it. After all, banks can get quite busy, especially in a big city.
Amy, however, saw what I had missed. None of those cars belonged to bank customers. Everyone was outside waiting to get a table at Blue’s. The place was so crowded that at 12:30 on a Saturday, our wait was quoted at 45 minutes for a table inside. Nobody seemed to mind, which meant that either these people had nowhere else to be, or this place was genuinely worth the wait.
That was when Amy discovered our second clue that this wasn’t your typical breakfast place. A few minutes after putting our name on the waiting list, my wonderful girlfriend walked outside and ordered a mimosa. Yes, this is a breakfast place that offers a full bar outside to its waiting guests. Blue’s actually closes each day at 2 p.m., and yet it offers beer and cocktails outside. Granted, one of the clocks inside is actually stuck on 5:00 on purpose, so I guess that makes some sense. Alan Jackson would definitely agree with that.
What’s more, the beer is almost all local (10 of the choices are Wisconsin-brewed), and these are some creative cocktails. Their signature drink, Blue’s Bloody Mary, is topped with a garnish of bacon. I’ve seen bacon on a doughnut, but never in a drink. That’s pretty unique.
Elsewhere on the menu, Blue’s owners prove that they are fans of Arrested Development (or at least were before Arrested Development’s absolutely hideous fourth season, which goes up there with the 2008 Arizona Cardinals season in the category of “Things I like to pretend never existed”) with a pair of drinks named “Operation Hot Mother” and “Tobias’ Queen Mary”. Yes, Tobias Fünke has a drink named after him here. I don’t even drink, and that’s awesome. Tobias’ Queen Mary features sweet tea vodka, raspberry liqueur, orange juice, cranberry juice and lemonade. Sounds like it would be a pretty tasty drink if you’re into alcohol. Operation Hot Mother seems to live up to its name with a jalapeno-infused vodka and basil simple syrup. I haven’t even touched on Amy’s mimosa, which she greatly enjoyed despite the 55 degree weather. Can’t escape the cold in Wisconsin, no matter when you go.
Once we got out of the cold, we were quickly introduced to what makes this place the best Milwaukee has to offer in terms of starting off your day. Blue’s believes in what I’ll call a “melting pot” of flavors, with respect to how Rock Island High School boys’ soccer coach Cory Dalton likes to refer to his group of kids. Dalton’s charges come from all over the world, so his coaching style is to take what he sees as good and useful from how each country plays the game and mesh it into his style.
Blue’s cooking style is the same way. The chefs at Blue’s will take a little from the styles of France, Italy, Africa, Asia, England, Scandinavia, Germany and other parts of the world and create their own style of flavors by meshing everything together. It’s a bold move that few dare to attempt because of how tricky it can be to get even one culture’s cooking style right, but Blue’s pulls it off to perfection by combining it with fresh ingredients and classy presentation. The presentation even shows up in the water jug, which has a cork in it before serving.
That leads us to the signature item of Blue’s Egg, which surprisingly has nothing to do with eggs whatsoever. No, the signature item is their stuffed hash browns, which are exactly what they sound like. Basically, Blue’s takes the standard loose and crispy hash browns and drops ridiculous toppings into the center, then folds it into a sort of potato omelet. Five are available to choose from, with such options as chicken chorizo, spinach and paprika aioli (that’s one combination), aged provolone with basil and tomato sauce, and pulled ham with sharp cheddar.
We took the remaining two, with Amy opting for the above goat cheese, roasted olives and paprika aioli while I chose roasted mushrooms, creamed leeks and an herbed crème fraiche. All items that are high on the favorites list for both of us, so we had high expectations for this one.
Our expectations didn’t come close to how incredible these hash browns actually were. The herbed crème fraiche is ridiculously creamy and is the perfect complement to the mushrooms, leeks and potatoes. The flavors blend together so well, but the sauce is easily the award winner. The combination of creaminess with herbs is just unbeatable, especially when you throw in some excellent vegetables. Once Amy discovered what I had already guessed, that these hash browns are meant to be eaten from the middle to get the filling, her meal turned into something incredible. The goat cheese is creamy, while the paprika aioli provides a nice spice that counteracts it. Meanwhile, the browns are crispy and flavorful. You really can’t ask for anything more. Seriously, I could stop the blog right here, and Blue’s Egg’s place would be well-earned on the hash browns alone.
But we weren’t even close to being done with our breakfast. After enjoying some complimentary grapes, it was time for the other part of what makes Blue’s worth the visit: the eggs. More specifically, it was what comes inside or with the eggs that really made it. Having had my mushrooms in the hash browns, I chose to go with a pulled ham and gruyere omelet, with onion and frisee stuffed inside. I’ve had pulled pork and pulled chicken, but I’ve never had pulled ham before, and with gruyere involved, this one had to be done. Meanwhile, Amy opted for a taste of the sea, scrambling sea scallops, shrimp and calamari with eggs, tomato sauce and paprika aioli.
Both were simply fantastic. The ham is tender and julienned, rather than cut into cubes or torn apart, which means that you get more ham throughout the omelet. Gruyere is basically a high-brow Swiss, which means it works wonderfully with the ham and the vegetables, and the eggs itself were outstanding. Amy’s scramble was just as amazing, mixing the taste of some awesome sea creatures with the heat from the sauce that it comes with. She absolutely loved that sauce, and although it was a bit too spicy for my taste, I can definitely see why.
Amy also added an iced coconut mocha that tasted better than anything Starbucks has ever produced, some high-quality bacon and a homemade English muffin, which comes with homemade strawberry jelly. I normally don’t go for jelly on anything but a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and when I do, I opt for grape or cherry. But this jelly was too good to resist. The sweetness is something special, and it works great on either the muffin or the challah toast, which I opted to add to my omelet.
I’ve been to all three places that showed up on Man vs. Food in Milwaukee, and while some of them are legitimate, I genuinely have no idea how Blue’s Egg didn’t make it on the show. This is, quite simply, one of the best breakfasts you’ll ever find, and not only in Milwaukee. This is one of the best breakfasts in the nation, and the Brew City should be proud to call Blue’s Egg its own. If you ever find yourself in Wisconsin, this is about as must-stop as it gets.
Time to go: Just like the Pancake Pantry, you want to get there early. Besides the fact that Blue’s closes at 2 p.m. daily, getting a table becomes more and more difficult the later it is. We waited 45 minutes for a two-person table at 12:30. The wait is lessened when it’s not Saturday, but still, don’t chance it.
Location: This is an annoyance at the time of this writing. It’s located at 317 North 76th Street in Milwaukee, but the fastest way to get there, Bluemound Road, is under serious construction. Your best bet is to take Interstate 94 and find a nearby exit.
Cost: Definitely costly. If you’re just getting an omelet or scramble, it’s not bad, coming in at $11 or so a plate. But you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t try the stuffed hash browns, which do not come as a side and run $6 for one. Again, it’s worth it.
Update: Contrary to my first writing, we discovered on a return visit that the stuffed hash browns actually can be ordered as a side, for a much smaller upcharge. It was either $2 or $3 for the upcharge, which is much more reasonable than originally thought. Yet another point in Blue’s favor.
Parking: Not a worry here. With a BMO and a TCF Bank on either side of it, there has to be plenty of parking for the bank’s customers, so you’ll find a spot. You might not get in front of the restaurant, but it’s not like we’re talking Thurman Cafe here.
Seating arrangement: Tables, chairs, booths. No issues here.
Website: Blue’s Egg
Specialty items: Eggs, cocktails, stuffed hash browns