In Dining

Dave Swanson is a fan of the tacos al pastor at Guanajuato in Bay View.

What chefs eat: Dave Swanson of Braise

There's no shortage of articles and television shows that showcase the dishes that chefs love to cook at their restaurants. But, what do they love to eat at the end of their exhausting 16-hour days? Or on their days off?

In this series, we ask Milwaukee area chefs to share their favorite dishes – both from area restaurants and for eating at home. In this edition, we talked with Chef Dave Swanson of Braise. Swanson will be among eight featured chefs at the fourth annual Moveable Feast event at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

James Beard-honoree Chef Dave Swanson's love for fresh local food has been a long time in the making. In fact, some of his most beloved food memories involve home-grown produce. He says he has fond memories of picking tomatoes and basil in his parents' garden in Northern Illinois. And in late spring, he always gets a craving for the rhubarb tart his grandmother Clara made from rhubarb in her backyard.

His cooking, he notes, takes inspiration from Mexico, the Mediterranean, Thailand and Vietnam. But when it comes to eating out, Swanson says he doesn't do it very often. But when he does, there's a common theme: He usually goes for quick and casual meals, and usually enjoys them over the lunch hour when he heads home to take his dog out for a walk. And most of his favorites are right in his home neighborhood of Bay View.

Tacos al Pastor at Guanajuato

"Guanajuato is a quick stop between the restaurant and my house. It's gotten to the point where, when I come in, they know what I'm going to order. They do a great job with the thin taco dishes there. The seared pork is really good, there's good caramelization since they re-sear the pork. And the flavors of the annatto and pineapple are balanced with the spices, not too sweet. And it's served simply with a bit of onion and cilantro. I almost always get a Tamarindo Jarrito. But, sometimes I'll get a horchata."

Pizza at Anodyne

"I don't know the name of it, but they do a pizza with prosciutto and arugula. It's a really simple pie, and I like more of the Neapolitan style. It's one of the few places that uses fresh vegetables – like corn, eggplant and squash. So ordering the special is generally a great idea as well. The pizza is a good size. And it's quick."

Buffet at Cafe India

"We used to go to the one that was at the gas station near Braise even before they added the sit-down restaurant in Bay View. I usually go there for the lunch buffet. I really like the chicken tikka masala, saag paneer and garlic naan. The tikka masala has great flavor, and the saag paneer is a bit thicker than others, and there's a lot of onion. The garlic naan speaks for itself; anything that contains garlic is something I enjoy. And usually I'll have a mango lassi too."

Favorite special occasion dish

"Porchetta is one of my favorites. It brings back memories of enjoying a porchetta sandwich at piazza in Greve, Italy while shopping at the produce market in the early morning. I also love a warming pot of cassoulet in the winter or a skillet of paella in the summertime."


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