Serious Eats: Sweets
Standing Room Only: Sil's Drive-Thru
"Sure you can get coffee and a hot dog if you'd like, but when you go to Sil's you're probably there for the mini donut."
1801 E. North Ave, Milwaukee WI 53202 (map); 414-225-9365
The Short Order: Fresh from the tiny fryer, mini donuts tossed with sugar
I was in Milwaukee for all the clichéd reasons. I ate sausage from Usinger's, drank beer at the Old German Beer Hall, and devoured a cheese plate at the Wisconsin Cheese Mart. I even had time to swing by the Calatrava designed Milwaukee Art Museum (utterly, completely, stunning).
But honestly, my first stop in the city was actually this odd little stand that specializes in mini donuts, a foodstuff I didn't exactly know I needed in my life, but sounded too fun to ignore.
Sil's Drive-Thru is a donut stand like no other. Located in the East Side neighborhood close to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the building at first looks like some kind of modernist sculpture (perhaps a take on Calatrava?). The twisted beams jut out in odd ways—they don't exactly scream out fried food.
It's very small, with just enough room for one person to man the food, and absolutely no indoor seating. There are some concrete slabs you can lean against, but basically you're getting this stuff to-go.
The menu is blessedly limited. Sure you can get coffee and a hot dog if you'd like, but when you go to Sil's you're probably there for the mini donuts.
What's a mini donut? It's exactly what it sounds like.
And, thanks to the windows, everyone can see these creations being born. The batter is shot into a small fryer (everything is tiny here), and then rolls down a little conveyor belt built of oil.
It's (let's be honest about this) kind of a novelty. The machine does most of the work, and I'm not sure how many mini donuts I'd actually eat if I lived there. But you can't argue with the results. They come out piping hot. I mean, wouldn't all of us prefer a freshly fried donut to the kind that have been sitting around for hours?
They are soft and delicate, and tossed with a bit of powdered or cinnamon sugar, then stuffed into little white bags. (Aren't they cute?)
Sil's Drive-Thru apparently stays open really late, and while I didn't sample it as latenight revelry fodder, I can imagine how mighty satisfying they'd be after partaking in some of the city's fine local brew.