Summerfest is back! One day is officially in the books, and there are eight more chances to enjoy loads of live entertainment, heaps of tasty treats, and all sorts of refreshments. As the 56th installment of the Big Gig launches into its first weekend (June 20-22; June 27-29; July 4-6), we present our thoughts on a few new Summerfest food items.

Dandan Noodles – DanDan ($17)

Less than 24 hours after the world at large learned how he fared in the Top Chef finale, now-celebrity chef Dan Jacobs greeted us at the window from the new DanDan stand at Summerfest. After congratulating him on doing Milwaukee proud, we ordered the restaurant’s namesake Dandan Noodles. A few minutes later, we were handed a box that was liberally loaded with rich and chili oil-laden (in the best way) noodles topped with ground pork, peanuts, and a bed of fresh mustard greens and green onion. Served piping hot, we needed to stir them and wait a spell as the comparatively cold lake-adjacent air did its part to cool the dish.

After a few minutes, we finally took a bite and were instantly hit with the realization this was the most elevated and—bold statement alert!—the best food we’ve ever eaten at Summerfest. We knew it’d be of a lower quality than the same dish served at DanDan’s actual location a few blocks away, but honestly, it wasn’t far off! Granted, the dish is very hot in terms of its temperature, but if you’re looking for a savory treat (that may or may not be handed to you by a James Beard-nominated chef) to warm your soul on an overcast afternoon or before a chilly headlining set along the lakeside stages, we implore you to get the Dandan Noodles. [Tyler Maas]

Buffalo Chicken Pizza – Ian’s Pizza ($11)

To quote last year’s Ian’s slice assessment, “If you like Ian’s Pizza in Milwaukee or Madison…well, you’re gonna like Ian’s Pizza at Summerfest.” Now in its second year on the festival grounds, the regional pizza purveyor has bolstered its simple selection of Summerfest slices with the introduction of a Buffalo Chicken Pizza option. At $11 (before the unadvertised $1 charge for all card transactions at every kiosk and the “little question the tablet is going to ask you”), this quarter of a 16″ pie-sized slice is well worth the price…at least by festival standards.

Not only is it massive, it’s good. The there are big hunks of seasoned chicken breast atop a tasty blend of crème sauce, buffalo chicken sauce, bleu cheese sauce, and mozzarella cheese. It’s huge, affordable (for where it’s being sold, at least), none of the sauces are overpowering, and the crust ain’t no slouch either! Goodbye, Solo. We don’t miss you or your weird Pizza Cones whatsoever. [TM]

Fried Bologna Sub – Cousins Subs ($12)

Cousins Subs came in, er, hot last year with its new Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Cheese Steak sub. It was pretty good! This year, however, Cousins is bringing its A-game (or would the be B-game?) with its sloppy and deliciously gross Fried Bologna Sub. The titular fried bologna is joined by greasy bacon, gooey American cheese, a deadly mayo-mustard combo, onions, and some big ol’ pickle slices. Does that sound appealing to you? If it does, try this sub. If it doesn’t, try this sub. It’s great.

Oh, and shout-out to this happy couple, who we spotted frolicking on the grounds Thursday afternoon. Better bread, better love. [Matt Wild]

Meatballs – Pizza Man ($16)

If you live in Milwaukee you likely have an opinion about Pizza Man. (It’s not good anymore!) And if you’ve ever purchased anything in your lifetime you likely have an opinion about prices. (They’re too high!) Put ’em together and you have these $16 meatballs from Pizza Man. Three $16 meatballs from Pizza Man, to be exact. What do three $16 not-very-big, we-thought-they’d-at-least-be-a-little-bigger meatballs from Pizza Man taste like? Like meatballs and sticker shock. [MW]

Mini Cookie Dough Empanadas – La Masa Empanada Bar ($12)

Now a fixture at Henry Maier Festival Park, La Masa is known to take a few inventive swings with its Summerfest offerings every year. This time around, the empanada vendor has rolled out three new options: Mini Cookie Dough Empanadas, Argentine Beef Empanadas, and Cuban Empanadas. Looking for something to balance out the savory stuff we had before and, yes, a dash of curiosity, found us ordering the Mini Cookie Dough Empanadas. And boy, we’re glad we did.

Each order comes with five empanadas that aren’t really even “mini” at all. The crispy and powered sugar dusted outer shells give way to warm, gooey, and partially cooked cookie dough that’s a nice balance of sweet and savory. We’re ashamed to admit we ate all five of them, but if you have more discipline than us, these have the makings of a portable and sharable dessert. La Masa has trotted out some unconventional empanadas in recent years. The Mini Cookie Dough Empanadas are no exception, but we hope they find permanent placement on the stand’s Summerfest menu. [TM]

Tazo Passion Tea Refresher – Fazio’s Popping Bubbles ($7.75)

After asking various teens working the various Fazio’s Popcorn stands and a considerable amount of wandering around the grounds, we finally located the new Fazio’s Popping Bubbles kiosk near the Aurora Pavilion. With Milwaukee in the midst of a full-on boba boom, the first-year vendor is bringing boba to the Big Gig. We bypassed the Coffee Boba, Frozen Boba, and Energy Boba in favor of one of the Refresher Tea Boba options. The Tazo Passion Tea Refresher consists of Iced Tazo Tea with bubbles that, instead of dense gelatin, have thin cases that are filled with mixed berry juice. True to its name, it was refreshing and an interesting soft drink alternative to consider if you’re tiring of Starry and Pepsi at Summerfest. [TM]

Wokkin’ Egg Roll Wokkin’ Roll ($6)

Speaking of boba booms, are egg rolls having a moment, too? We swear we saw eight different places selling egg rolls at last weekend’s Summer Soulstice Music Festival. Anyway, Wokkin’ Roll is new at Summerfest this year, and it has egg rolls. Veggie, pork, and shrimp egg rolls. We tried the veggie and pork egg rolls. And, well, they were good egg rolls! What else can you say about egg rolls? [MW]

Birria Bao – Pina Cocina & Cantina ($12)

We experienced some remarkably good luck with new Summerfest food items through Thursday, but that luck ran out at Pina Cocina & Cantina. On paper the new vendor’s culture-melding Birria Bao has the makings of a festival food stunner, but we’re sad to report the creative combination of four birria-style tacos and bao buns fell flat. The meat was tough and dry, the buns that served as makeshift tortillas were starchy and brittle (making it a messy experience), and the cold pico de gallo and shredded cheese seemed out of place. The consumé was tasty and was the lone highlight, but it shouldn’t fall on a dipping sauce to wholly bail out a meal, should it? The more standard Mexican fare we saw people ordering at Pina Cocina & Cantina looked good, but unfortunately, Birria Bao wasn’t. [TM]

Want more Milwaukee Record? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter and/or support us on Patreon.


Here’s the new food coming to Summerfest 2024, and that’s it

Hey! Here’s the 2024 Summerfest lineup!

Record Recommended: Summerfest Weekend 1

A guide to Milwaukee acts playing Summerfest