Bad news first: It’s hard to find good Russian rye bread in Milwaukee. I’m talking real rye: dense, dark and faintly sour. Workaday rye that you can pair with a bowl of borsch for a complete meal. Sturdy rye for smearing with butter and layering with fatty sausage, like Russians do. Ignore cottony, faintly-brown rye that’s sold at supermarkets. Turn your nose at foo-foo versions made with cheese and nuts and whatnot.
Now, here’s the good news: Monastyrsky (monastery) rye is pretty close to the real deal. It’s trucked in from Chicago and sold at Spartak* in Whitefish Bay. It’s thick, heavy and hole-y. No, it’s not perfect. It’s almost five bucks per loaf. Sometime it's sold out. Other days it’s a bit stale. But when it’s good, it’s very good. Call Spartak to check when they’re getting a shipment.
Here’s how you eat Russian rye: Slice it thick, spread with butter and sprinkle with a bit of grainy salt. I like to dip it in sour cream. Goes great with borsch and schi.
*5587 N. Diversey Blvd., Whitefish Bay, Wis., (414) 332-3347.