Beans & Barley: Tasty AND Good for You

There is a reason the restaurant at Beans & Barley is a Milwaukee institution: tasty, good for you food. Ideally, all our meals would be just that. But often they are one or the other, or neither, so eating at the affectionately nicknamed “Beans” is always a treat. Having lunch with the lone carrier of the xx chromosome on the WMSE staff, Music Director Erin Wolf, was a treat as well.


WMSE Music Director Erin Wolf presents black bean and sweet potato burrito

Fittingly, Beans is known for its burritos, so we ordered up a favorite of Erin’s mom and our server, sweet potato and black bean. It’s clear they know how to do a burrito. The elements and flavors are well balanced, it’s pretty hearty and all the stuff is tucked in tight so you can eat it by hand (though Erin and I went for the ladylike approach with utensils). Branching out was a hard decision as the menu is full of so many healthy and interesting options. We went with the fishcake sandwich which was all sorts of comfort food. What is it about beige colored foods that make you feel all snuggly? The tilapia fishcake was crispy on the outside, tender inside and served with a barley and veg salad that was a fantastic combo of nutty and fresh tasting.

Cozy little fishcake

Even on a rainy day and especially on a sunny one, that huge wall of window and lime green walls make Beans a cheery room. Cherry pie goes really well with a good mood so we had to wrap up the meal with a slice. We were pretty excited to find it of the sour/tart cherry variety. A little oatmeal crumble on top and a generous side of real whip cream put it over the top. This was damn. good. pie.

Happy girl with pie

“In a nutshell, this was really satisfying,” Erin said. “You really feel like you ate good food, like mom has cooked for you.” Erin who once lived on the East side says Beans is part of the perfect East side night trifecta: dinner at Beans, a movie at the Oriental and a drink and popcorn at Von Triers.

Erin’s musical pairing pays homage to the city that supports those great institutions, and local music: The local band, The Trusty Knife. “When I lived on the East side, I frequented Beans pretty often and got to know some of the Beans employees who were also involved in the local music scene. I’d notice the familiar faces from shows when I went in to grab groceries, a coffee or dinner. Past and present musicians who work (or worked) at Beans include Doom Buggy, The Scarring Party, Druome, Call Me Lightning, Jonathan Burks, Deprong Mori, Heavy Hand and The Trusty Knife (among more), but among those, Trusty Knife is one the one I’d highlight, for I think their music reflects the easygoing and upbeat energy of the establishment. Milwaukee food culture is heavily linked with its local music culture, and I think that’s a pretty cool realization in regards to the history/stories and community it builds and has been building for years.”

Yours, in cheery satisfaction,

Steph Kilen


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