“Lemme get two hot ones,” says a longtime customer as he places his order at Reynold’s Pasty Shop in northern Milwaukee. Reynold’s has been handcrafting its pasty (pronounced “pas-tee”) for more than 60 years; the Burleigh Street location has been an anchor of comfort food for the local community since 1956. Since there is no dine-in service available, Reynold’s has been able to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to serve hot and fresh pasties from its take-out counter.
Reynold’s still uses the original family recipe brought to Wisconsin by European immigrants in the 1830s. Coal miners carried the pasty, a type of folded and baked pastry with a savory filling, for lunch because it was warm and could satisfy their appetite on long workdays.
Yinka Adedokun has been the owner of Reynold’s for the past 15 years. He knows hand-chopping and mixing fresh ingredients from scratch daily is not the most efficient mode of production, but he remains devoted to the tradition.
Adedokun points out that pasties are an important part of local cuisine in many countries around the world. In Nigeria, where Adedokun is from, it’s called a meat pie; in Jamaica, a pasty is a patty; and in Mexico, it’s an empanada. But no matter what it’s called, or what spices are used, Adedokun says one thing is non-negotiable: “You need to have passion to create the pasty.”
Work at Reynold’s Pasty Shop starts at 5 a.m. Employees hand-chop high-quality ingredients and stuff them into hand-rolled dough to create the meat- and vegetable-filled Midwestern delight. Convenient and filling, the “meal in itself” is served hot.
Pasty maker Katie Taylor shows how she likes to eat hers with the works; gravy, sour cream, cheese, and jalapeños can be adjusted to preference. “Can’t do it without a pepper,” Taylor says. She has been working at the shop for six months and says she loves the whole process of making the pasty from start to finish.
Stuffed with fresh carrots, potatoes, onions, and tender cuts of beef, the pasty is satisfying. For more than 40 years Reynold’s specialty meat has been delivered from a local butcher every morning. Although meat prices have increased because of the pandemic, Adedokun has tried to keep the pasty’s price low at $6 each.
Ricky Rhynes stands with his order that includes two sides of gravy, cheese, and one sour cream. “I like mine sloppy, and to get my gluttony on,” Rhynes says. He lives in the community and says he eats at Reynold’s about once a week.
Adedokun stands outside his shop. Although he has been a businessman and restaurateur for more than 30 years, Adedokun works right alongside employees in the kitchen and has been helping through the pandemic when staff numbers have been lower.
Shinieka Barkley stands at the counter where she kindly greets customers and fulfills orders. She also makes pasties in the mornings before the shop opens. “With a small business, everyone needs to come together and help when needed,” Barkley says.
Ms. Pat, a pasty maker for more than 40 years, boxes the par-baked and then frozen pasties to be shipped to retailers throughout Wisconsin. From start to finish, the Reynold’s staff handcrafts everything on site.
At lunchtime, customers stand in line six feet apart while wearing face masks due to current COVID-19 protocols for restaurants in Milwaukee.
Roosevelt Washington stands with his lunch in a to-go bag on Burleigh Street. Growing up in the community, he ate here with his parents a generation ago. No longer a resident, he revisits to get a pasty or two and says he likes them with hot peppers and cheese.
This classic sign hangs on the front of Reynold’s in Northern Milwaukee.
If you go:
Reynold’s Pasty Shop is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.