Dan Jacobs, a Chicago native who has lived in Milwaukee since 2011, is a chef who stays true to his Midwestern roots while incorporating the global culinary influence he has sought out all his life. He is now the co-owner and chef of DanDan and Esterv, two award-winning, Milwaukee favorites.
Describe the Milwaukee food scene in general?
Rather than chains and corporate run franchises, Milwaukee is largely made up of independent owners and operators that make our food scene culturally-rich, unique and interesting. From off-the-beaten-path cafes to hole-in-the-wall, family owned restaurants and everything in between, Milwaukee's food scene is more diverse than ever.
What’s new and exciting about it?
Milwaukee used to be known for beers and bratwursts––that's it. Now, we're starting to see an evolution into quality Midwest food from James Beard Award-winning chefs that have experience in kitchens all over the world. People are starting to see us come out of Chicago's shadow, and we're excited for the national attention we will get as the destination for "Top Chef" Season 21.
Where do you like to eat in Milwaukee?
I'm a creature of habit. I don't do breakfast much, but when I do, my go-to is Toast or Cafe at the Plaza. For dinner, we can always count on Goodkind, Birch, Tenuta's, Lupi & Iris, Five O'Clock Steakhouse or Vanguard for an A+ meal. When I'm in the mood for a dive spot, my go-to's are Vanguard or Uncle Wolfie's.
What are the must-visit farmers markets?
Bay View on Saturday mornings, but you have to get there early before the dogs and strollers come in! I also like West Allis on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturday afternoons.
What is a can't-miss dish on the DanDan menu?
That's a hard question, but I think our chicken wings are secret sleepers. I would put them up against any wing joint in a competition any day, they're that good. The General Tso cauliflower is also a can't-miss dish.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Milwaukee is so great because we're cool, but we don't even know it. Everyone in our restaurant community is humble and proud to do things the right way.
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