State Street Brats: Badger central
We once somewhat rudely described State Street Brats as “Madison for those who aren’t,” but it’s actually a pretty great place to get a fine sample of the state’s favorite sausage. Bratwurst here come from Milwaukee favorite Klement’s Sausage in two variations, fittingly enough: Badger colors red and white. The red brat is beef and pork and served sliced lengthwise and grilled. The white brat is all pork, boiled in beer and grilled whole. Expect some char and grill marks on both – it’s part of the charm.
There is an entire salad bar set up for condiments, including the requisite sauerkraut, diced onions, and at least a dozen kinds of mustard. (Ketchup too, but only grudgingly.) Indeed, thanks to the same German heritage that brought beer and brats, mustard is one of the intrinsic things that makes Wisconsin Wisconsin. The best mustards at State Street Brats are made 150 minutes northwest of Madison, near Eau Claire, by a company called Silver Spring. In 1929, a farmer near a freshwater spring began making mustards that are today known for their deft execution of a wide range of flavors, from yellow, deli brown, and dijon to chipotle, wasabi and chili, but most notably its horseradish which is nurtured by the eponymous spring.
Sources as varied as Penthouse and ESPN have called State Street Brats one of America’s premiere sports bars and rightly so. A large TV will be playing any game of interest to a Wisconsin fan whether it be college football, pro football, baseball, college hockey, college basketball, pro basketball or, even, Olympics and World Cup… and the more important the game is, the more noise and commotion. Because when the Grateful Red gather, they gather at State Street Brats.
The red brat is a pork and beef blend, split lengthwise and grilled face-down, served on a toasted white bun that’s worthy of its cargo. The natural casing of the beef and pork sausage stays snappy while the interior gets crossed with delicious grill lines. Quite salty and loaded with garlic, the sausage’s flavor stands up to a lot of condiments, plus the splitting of the brat allows a lot of room, so be sure to load up! Get creative; this is the time to try a cranberry mustard or a hot BBQ sauce, maybe both.
The white brat is what one would find at a family cookout in Wisconsin. It’s a pork sausage in natural casing, and while not exactly white (it’s more taupe) it’s very different from the red brat. The filling is coarsely ground and seasoned with sage, pepper, onion, and garlic. Boiled first in beer to make the link plump up, it’s then seared on the grill. It pairs best with sauerkraut and a more traditional brown mustard from the condiment bar.