Rice Pudding at Beans & Barley

1901 E. North Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Beans & Barley is one of those places that's been around forever and easy to take for granted, but you shouldn't, because the next thing you know, it's gone and an Applebee's has opened there. I was looking at their online menu and didn't see the rice pudding, but lately I've been wondering if restaurants don't list their desserts online—maybe it's because they make a batch daily and when it's gone it's gone? I don't know, but anyway, their rice pudding is my favorite thing at B&B—so I stopped by early on a Saturday and asked, and they had some. It tasted like it was just made, actually, very fresh and good. This is the oddest style of rice pudding, essentially a custard, I guess. I will eventually ask someone how they make it and have an excuse to eat and review it again—it's one of my favorites. It can be served cold (out of the cooler, I imagine) or heated up—which I prefer. You get a square, pie or quiche-like thing, with the rice and raisins (or currants?) on the bottom, and then a fluffy, eggy custard above that, with a browned, slightly hardened top. There are at least four different consistencies going on, and a nice subtle flavor (I'm guessing vanilla, but not overly so, and the spices aren't overpowering). The best thing is that it's not overly sweet—hardly sweet at all—you could get this as an entree if you wanted, or with something. It's really an interesting combination of hippie food and ethnic food, though I'm not sure what ethnicity. I don't know the history of this style. Anyway, a perfect visit to Beans & Barley is coffee and this rice pudding—don't know why I don't do that more often!