Resting on the shores of Lake Michigan, the city of Sheboygan has been affectionately dubbed the Malibu of the Midwest by the surf crowd for over 50 years. However, Sheboygan has held another unexpected title for over 50 years, Bratwurst Capital of the World.
In 1970, Sheboygan battled Bucyrus, Ohio for the title of Bratwurst Capital of the World. After a grueling duel, the Sheboygan Press reported on August 14th, 1970, that Judge John Bolgert had rendered an official decision bestowing the title upon Sheboygan and barring all other claimers from using it.
A bratwurst (or “brat”) is a sausage usually composed of veal, pork or beef. The name is derived from Old High German Brätwurst, from brät-, which is finely chopped meat and Wurst, or sausage. So how did Sheboygan’s sausage makers, bakers and backyard chefs earn the prestigious title? Well first, you should know that Sheboyganites fry brats on a grill. They absolutely do not grill brats, they fry them…period. To “fry” can mean to cook, not necessarily in oil or fat, but over direct heat. The sausages are roasted in an oven or “fried” over a charcoal fire until browned and served to family and friends. The brat is a social food in Wisconsin. We have brat frys on weekends like folks have BBQs in the south. It is part of a deeply-held tradition.
In the backyard or at a restaurant, that is just simply how it is done in Sheboygan. After frying brats to perfection, they are dressed on a round Sheboygan hard roll (make it a double brat by adding one more to the mix – there’s always room), sprinkled with onion and topped with brown mustard! And if you are feeling fancy, a few pickle slices to top it off.
And there you have it! The secret to the best brat in the world is simply to get it in Sheboygan. Stop at two of the original meat markets left in Sheboygan: Miesfeld’s Meat Market and Brockman’s Meat Market. Both offer fresh meats, homemade sausage, and world-famous bratwursts. Or you can save yourself some frying when you stop by local favorite, Sly’s Saloon, for a traditional brat plate; double brat on a hardroll served with American potato salad and baked beans.
There is simply no way to describe the full culinary experience here. Sheboygan has all the dining and drinking staples one would expect to find in a waterfront destination. Small cafes with charming atmospheres and way-good coffee dot the lakeshore. Classy establishments with waterfront tables and patios proudly offering Italian, English, Mexican, and American style foods. On Mondays, gather at Vollrath Park in the summer for family-owned food trucks that are famous for food on a stick, in a basket, or wrapped in waxed paper. Libations flow just as freely with local bars, breweries and eateries pouring a wide selection of craft beers, wines, and cocktails. You’ll never go hungry when visiting Sheboygan.