BY Jenny Wisniewski

One thing that so many of us love about Wauwatosa is its unique variety of specialty shops. You can find the latest franchise flavor-of-the month in any suburb, but nowhere else will you find the one-of-a-kind Village Cheese Shop, the charming La Tarte bakery, or the yesteryear-evoking Bunzel’s Meat Market. If nothing else, the following list of 14
specialty food retailers will remind you of all Tosa (and its nearby neighborhoods) has to offer. But what better time to step over their thresholds and sample their goodies than during the holidays? Below are suggestions for every holiday occasion.


The Village Cheese Shop | 1430 Underwood Ave. |

Wow your holiday guests with a cheese platter from the Village Cheese Shop. This European-inspired shop selects and sells over 80 varieties of cheese from all over Wisconsin, the Midwest and Europe. Choose from several party platters that will serve up to 20. Each of the platters of cheese comes with a baguette, dried fruit and nuts and is served on a wooden tray. And because you can’t serve cheese without wine, The Village Cheese Shop offers an extensive 120-bottle collection from around the world. If looking for a present, several gift boxes are also for sale. One other surprise for those saddened by the departure of ORO di Oliva from Wauwatosa — the shop sells a selection of ORO’s products along with several other specialty food items.

Black Twig Bakery | 1455 Underwood Ave. |

Black Twig Bakery likes to keep it fun. Their creations include cookie sandwiches the size of a small child’s face and cakesicles with new flavor concoctions each month. They know you like to have fun, too, especially during the holidays. Need a hostess gift for a party you are attending? They create whimsical treat boxes for just such an occasion. Hosting a party? Black Twig offers a charcuterie-board-inspired tray of assorted goodies.


The Soup Market | 5330 W. Vliet St. |

A piping hot bowl of soup hits the spot on a cold December evening, and The Soup Market knows how to do soup. They serve the tried and true like chicken noodle soup, New England clam chowder and several different varieties of chili. For adventurous eaters, they’ve got Vegan Moroccan Chickpea, Southern Black-Eyed Pea with Spicy Sausage, and
Polish Pickle Soup. And for those who just want some comfort food at the end of a long day, they’ve included Meatloaf and Mashed Potato Soup, Chicken Dumpling Soup and Lasagna-Style Soup. All told, The Soup Market serves over 200 varieties of soup on a rotating menu of five to six per day.


Niemann’s Homemade Candies & Ice Cream | 7475 Harwood Ave. |

Niemanns has had a long time to perfect their candies; their business has been around for over a century. Business booms during the Christmas season, and among their biggest sellers, almond butter toffee tops the list. Chocolate lovers also come to Niemanns for the fairy food, a seasonal item sold in both milk and dark chocolate. But if it is a stocking stuffer you are looking for, definitely go for the candy canes. Niemanns is known for their homemade minty treats. You can find molded Santas, too.

Ultimate Confections

 | 820 N. 68th St. |

Small gift ideas abound at Ultimate Confections. For an appreciated person in your life, try the chocolate “cards” with imprints for #1 teacher or #1 mail carrier. You can find a small chocolate molded item for a person of every taste — ballet slippers for a dancer, drama mask for an actor, or a Bernie’s moustache for a Brewers fan. It is truly a chocolate shop of novelties with even twizzlers and twinkies dipped in chocolate. If your tastes lean a bit more classic, truffles and chocolate barks in a wide variety of flavors are offered, too.

Tabal Chocolate | 7515 Harwood Ave. |

Tabal is one of the newer shops on the scene. As bean-to-bar chocolatiers, they set themselves apart from the other confectioneries in town that buy their chocolate elsewhere before creating their delights. During the Christmas season, consider stocking stuffers like Tabal’s gift-wrapped chocolate hazelnuts, chocolate hazelnut spread or hot chocolate bomb, a kit that includes cocoa powder and multi-flavored marshmallows. Or for that special someone who seems to have everything, skip the magazine subscription and gift a chocolate subscription instead. It includes three bars per month for three, six or twelve months.


Kettle Range Meat Company | 5501 W. State St. |

You know that your teeth will be sinking into a delicious piece of beef or pork when you purchase from Kettle Range. All of their beef is raised on select, locally owned ranches
including one in Kenosha County owned by Mark Bearce, Kettle Range owner. The beef is grass and forage fed, antibiotic/hormone free and dry-aged for at least 14 days. The
heritage breed hogs are also locally raised and pastured pork.

Get your order in early for Kettle Range’s most popular holiday selections: bone-in standing rib roast; beef tenderloin roast; brisket; pork crown roast; or the porchetta roast, pork belly wrapped around a center-cut boneless loin and seasoned with Italian herbs and spices. And while you are ordering your Christmas roast, grab dinner to go. Kettle Range has a chef on staff and offers daily ready-to-eat meals like street tacos, beef stroganoff or meal kits for the crock pot.


Rocket Baby | 6822 W. North Ave. |

What better to complement a special breakfast or brunch than the flaky and authentic french pastries that Rocket Baby Bakery is known for. Using traditional methods of baking and locally sourced ingredients, the bakery offers plain and chocolate croissants, fruit-filled danishes, baguettes, and macarons. The bakers add an extra touch to their artisanal breads — each loaf comes stencilled with a seasonal phrase or image. In addition, expect to find some special treasures for the holidays. In past years offerings included stollen and buche de Noel (yule log).


La Tarte | 6742 W. Wells St. |

There is nothing like the warm, sweet smell that consumes you as you walk through the door of La Tarte’s cozy neighborhood bakery and coffee shop. La Tarte’s seasonal cut-out cookies are perfect for the Christmas Eve buffet table or as a stocking stuffer, and look for extra holiday items like yule log, stollen and fruitcake that La Tarte always adds to their glass cases. While deciding which to choose, order a cup of their fresh-brewed coffee and add a little bit of extra sweet – a sugar cube and nutmeg or cinnamon sprinkled over the top.

You probably can’t go wrong with any of La Tarte’s offerings (including several gluten-free choices), but what really sets them apart from the many other fabulous bakeries in town is their pies. In fact, it was with their pies that La Tarte began in 1990 as a wholesale upscale grocery store supplier before growing into the small cafe and retail bakery that they are today. And they still serve pie – in over 20 varieties!

Simma’s Bakery |  817 N. 68th St. |

Simma’s signature dessert is their cheesecake. It starts with a chocolate cake base, includes a thin layer of raspberry filling and is topped with chocolate ganache. It looks elegant on a holiday table and is the perfect ending to any special meal. If you want more of a variety, Simmas also offers intricately decorated mini pastries like eclairs, pecan or fruit tarts, tiramisu cups or Simms’s truffle cups. They look as good as they taste.


Penzeys | 12001 W. Capitol Drive |

Sure, you can buy your ingredients for baking at most grocery stores, but did you know that there are four different types of cinnamon (Indonesia, China, Vietnamese and Ceylon) and you can find them all at Penzey’s? In fact, their shop has its own nook for baking items, with homey white decor that might remind you of Grandma’s kitchen and featuring spices like apple pie spice, orange peel and mulling spices.

The rest of the store is dedicated to what you might use for cooking and grilling and includes a few one-of-a-kind blends like Bratwurst seasoning, Galena Street Rib and Chicken Rub and Bangkok Blend. It has beef roast seasoning for your Christmas roast, too. If not sure what to give that special someone, Penzeys offers a wide assortment of gift boxes.


Bunzel’s Old-Fashioned Meat Market | 9015 W. Burleigh St. |

When shopping at Bunzel’s, a family-owned, four-generation meat market, you will notice that the staff are friendly, and the store has a decidedly old-timey feel to it. You will also quickly discover that Bunzel’s is not short on choices for your Christmas table. Their popular holiday items include ham, crown roast, beef tenderloin, lamb and ground sirloin for those who enjoy the tradition of eating raw meat. They are also known for their specialty sausages – Polish sausage, Hot Hungarian sausage, Grecian lamb sausage, and many, many more. And an important tip – don’t leave the store without grabbing a few of their to-die-for beef jerky.


Indian Groceries and Spices | 10701 W. North Ave. 

Diwali, a holiday honoring the triumph of light over darkness and celebrated by many Indian Americans, has already come and gone. However, for the many who love Indian food traditions — or just want to try something new as they turn the page on 2021 — Indian Groceries and Spices has lots to offer.

Try one of their ready-made spice mixes, recipes included, for Chicken Tikka, Tandoori Chicken Masala or Dal Makhani. Select from 15 varieties of Basmati rice. Or browse their tremendous array of spices. Turmeric, cumin seed, mustard seed, asafetida and garam masala are their most popular. The shop also offers a few unique gift ideas – a cookbook
written by co-owner Bharti Sangavi and nut-based sweets popular during Diwali but sold year-round.

Empire Fish & Seafood Market | 11200 W. Watertown Plank Road |

For some, preparing a special seafood dinner is a better choice than fighting the crowds on New Year’s Eve. Fan favorites include shellfish like crab, lobster, shrimp and scallops. If you are looking for something to throw on the grill, salmon and halibut are great choices; both are big sellers during the holidays as well as throughout the year. And for
those wanting a novelty item – Empire Fish ships in caviar from California for the holiday season. In order to accommodate customers during the busy holiday season, Empire Fish will spread out in a large tent which will function as a second store.