Rated: Top 25 Milwaukee Restaurants 2019

Rated: Top 25 Milwaukee Restaurants 2019

Milwaukee can truly be classified as a foodie destination. The city has a host of food options, including fine dining spots with world-class chefs, an abundance of ethnic food joints speaking to the region’s diversity, and foods that help to make Milwaukee famous. Any list of the best twenty-five places in the city to eat will leave out some top contenders, and will probably even make some locals angry.

The list below combines a few standards, including iconic spots to grab a bite that are purely unique to Milwaukee, places that highlight the diversity of the city that allow Milwaukeeans to grab dinner across the globe in their own backyard, and restaurants that showcase the top-notch chefs and restaurants that truly make the city a foodie’s dream. Of course, consistently good service, a great dining environment, and occasional specials are also a plus. Read below for twenty-five of the best restaurants in Milwaukee.


 

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Sanford

Sanford has long been recognized as one of the best fine dining establishments in Milwaukee. The building housing the restaurant started as an Italian market on the city’s lower east side. It was later converted to Sanford by a nationally acclaimed chef, Sanford D’Amato, the namesake of the restaurant even after being passed on to its one-time sous chef, Justin Aprahamian. Sanford still wins all kinds of awards and excels at using the best possible ingredients to create a memorable multi-course meal. The restaurant is small, in fact, so small the bar is hidden away in the kitchen, so reservations are definitely recommended, but when it comes to a top gourmet experience, or one of the most romantic dinners in Milwaukee, Sanford is hard to beat.

The Food

Dinners at Sanford involve either a four-course meal ($49) or a seven-course dinner ($95) with optional wine pairing ($45). The menu is constantly rotating, and diners can contact ahead of time with any special requests or dietary restrictions, and the kitchen will adapt each course accordingly. Sample dishes from past menus include items like smoked salmon dumplings with radish, pumpernickel, and sorel broth, or molasses glazed squab with cured foie gras, grilled mango, coconut and pineapple gratin. There are often soup options, like an amazing French-inspired seafood soup with rouille. Meat dishes have included things like a duo of lamb preparation with lentils, turnip greens, and turnips, or grilled duck breast will charred scallion, green olive dumplings, and romesco sauce. When it comes to a dinner that is certain to surprise and impress, Sanford is one of Milwaukee’s best options.

  • Address: 1547 N. Jackson St.
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday, 5:30pm-9pm, Friday, 5:30pm-10pm, Saturday, 5pm-10pm, Closed Sundays

 

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Ardent

Just about any list of the best restaurants in Milwaukee will include Ardent. Opened a few years back by Wisconsin native Justin Carlisle, who has been put up for all sorts of national awards, Ardent is not your regular restaurant. For starters, the place has a tiny staff where everyone gets paid equally, definitely an original concept in an otherwise cutthroat industry. The restaurant is also only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays and features two seatings per night, one at 5:30 pm and the other at 8:30 pm. Diners can expect a tasting menu ($90) that will include around ten over the top gourmet culinary creations, along with an optional beverage pairing ($60) of wines and creative cocktails. The restaurant is located in the garden level of a building on Milwaukee’s east side, with parking across the street, is located nearby a few other Carlisle restaurants, including his ever-popular Red Light Ramen, and down the street from one of his Laughing Taco taquerias. For a unique dining experience that rivals a gourmet meal in just about any city, check out Ardent, just be sure to set a reservation well ahead of time.

The Food

The menu changes frequently at Ardent, and always features local ingredients, some of which are even sourced from the chef’s family farm in Sparta, WI. A typical menu will start with “snacks,” or small bites of artfully presented yet simple ingredients, like a barbequed fresh leek, before moving on to an exceptional bread service with fresh butter. Unless requested otherwise, most meals will include seafood, like cod with fennel and potato, vegetarian dishes, like the sunflower porridge with truffled goat cheese, along with more substantial meat dishes. Ardent’s tasting menu often ends with at least two courses of whimsical desserts, like mignardises with earl grey or a creative spin on peppermint fudge.

 

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Third Coast Provisions

There are plenty of great seafood restaurants in Milwaukee. Harbor House is known for great food and idyllic views, while St. Paul’s has a reputation for the perfect casual place to grab inexpensive oysters and lobster. Third Coast Provisions meanwhile has staked out a claim to being Milwaukee’s top notch gourmet destination for seafood, rivaling many similar restaurants in places like Chicago or New York. The restaurant also features two spaces, one a fancier and trendy dining experience, which is technically Third Coast Provisions, the other a more casual spot in the downstairs to grab drinks and small plates, which is Oak & Oyster. Both provide great drinks, service, and exceptional seafood plates.

The Food

The best way to start a meal at Third Coast Provisions is with one of the chargrilled oyster options, which come as rockefeller with spinach, pernod, parmesan, and bacon, or topped with kimchi, or the Milwaukee style topped with pastrami and shallot ($21). There are numerous raw and chilled seafood options and plates, in addition to a diverse selection of crudo plates, one of the best being the king salmon crudo with shallot, yogurt, lemon, and wild rice ($18). From there diners can pick from small and large plates, like the crispy rock shrimp small plate with togarashi aioli, honey, scallion, and lemon ($15), or for something larger, a full Chilean Sea Bass with pumpkin gnocchi, sweet garlic, and hazelnut aioli ($47). The lobster pie is also to die for, with plenty of lobster, mushrooms, and black truffle butter ($45). For some expertly crafted and delicious seafood in Milwaukee, head over to Third Coast Provisions.

  • Address: 724 N. Milwaukee St.
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday, 5pm-10pm, Friday and Saturday, 5pm-11pm, Closed Sundays

Braise

Locally sourced ingredients at Milwaukee restaurants has become more of an expectation than a unique way to set a restaurant apart. However, Chef Dave Swanson at Braise was well-ahead of the local ingredient trend and takes his dedication to connecting farmers with city eaters to an entirely new level. Braise not only serves up perfectly executed cuisine with locally sourced ingredients, he also hosts classes at Braise on how to use less commonly understood Wisconsin produce and helps connect diners with farm to city produce programs. Beyond its commitment to great ingredients, Braise is a fantastic restaurant in Walker’s Point with plenty of seating, a cool rustic interior, and one of the best bar menus in the city. Try one of the craft cocktails, like The Thing, with brown butter rum, grappa, armaro, cherry root bitters, and lime ($12), or one of the selectively chosen tap beers before ordering up what is sure to be a memorable meal.

The Food

Quality ingredients are one thing, knowing how to prepare them is another. Braise is a top-quality restaurant with globally inspired flavors that definitely matches the hype behind the ingredients. Try the pork buns or the potato tart with lemon, quark, caramelized onions, and sweet corn oil for your starter ($11). They also have great cheese plates to pick from. The sausage stuffed apple with custard, sage, and maple is also really unique and very delicious ($10). The entrees change frequently but often come in the form of dinner for two, such as the crispy braised lamb with miso, jalapeno, peach, pea shoots ($40). There are also specialty menu nights, like discounted banh mi and beer on Tuesday ($14), and dim sum specialty appetizers on Wednesdays. Head in on Tuesdays through Thursdays between 5 pm and 7 pm for half off select dinners. Whatever amazing food you get, be sure to save room since Braise always has rotating desserts that are really high quality.

 

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Lake Park Bistro

No list of best restaurants in Milwaukee is complete without Lake Park Bistro. This Bartolotta run restaurant is a Milwaukee staple and has been the city’s top destination for French food for some time. The restaurant is hidden away inside of Lake Park on Milwaukee’s east side, and boasts some great views of Lake Michigan, along with some nice walking trails through the park perfect for an after dinner stroll. The restaurant brings you right to a lively French bistro in Paris, with a trendy and comfortable bar, a cozy dining room, and a second dining area with great views of the lake. Open for lunch, dinner, and brunch, there is always time to head over to Lake Park Bistro for an outstanding meal with great food and top quality service.

The Food

Lake Park Bistro is all about authentic French bistro fare done really well and without any gimmicks. For brunch, they offer several prix fixe menus, cheese plates, specialty omelets, and other staples like croque monsieurs ($14). Dinner appetizers include classics like escargots done in the traditional Burgundy style with garlic and parsley, then baked with mushrooms in pastry ($16). The foie gras is also excellent, served with apple, apricot, brioche, and cream ($23). The restaurant has a number of cheese and charcuterie plates, and various daily specials, like boudin blanc on Mondays and red wine braised beef cheeks on Saturdays. You can’t go wrong with the filet mignon au Poivre, with mashed potatoes, french beans, and a peppercorn brandy cream sauce ($40), or the Mediterranean Sea Bass baked in parchment with mussels, shrimp, lemon, and potatoes ($33). For a trip to Paris without the airfare, check out Lake Park Bistro on Milwaukee’s east side.

Address: 3133 E. Newberry Blvd.

Hours:

  • Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11:30am-2pm
  • Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5:30pm-9pm; Friday, 5:30pm-10pm; Saturday, 5pm-10pm; Sunday, 5:30pm-8:30pm
  • Brunch: Saturday, 11am-2pm; Sunday, 10am-2pm

Three Brothers

Some restaurants have the ability to transport you to another place, or back in time. Three Brothers manages to do both, bringing a taste of Serbia and a classic dining experience to Milwaukeeans right in the Bay View neighborhood. Housed in a historic Schlitz tavern, Three Brothers has been around for decades and continues to impress diners with its hearty and comforting Serbian cuisine. The dining room feels like grandma’s house, and the waitstaff always make diners feel at home. The only downside is that the place fills up quickly and they only accept cash, so come prepared.

The Food

There are so many delicious options at Three Brothers, it’s nearly impossible to pick just one. Start with the chicken dumpling soup in winter ($3.50), or the Serbian Salad in summer, with onions, tomato, green pepper, and Serbian cheese ($6.50). There are plenty of tasty entrees, from Serbian staples to dishes found throughout eastern Europe and the Balkans, like hearty gulash, or beef simmered in paprika sauce served with potato dumplings ($16.50), or the roasted lamb served with cabbage, rice, and vegetables ($22.50). Many diners show up for the burek, or filo dough pie stuffed with either beef, cheese, or spinach, which takes about forty-five minutes to an hour to prepare ($19.50). For a taste of the old world, head over to Three Brothers.

  • Address: 2414 S St Clair St.
  • Hours: Closed Mondays, Tuesday-Thursday, 5pm-9pm, Friday, 5pm-10pm, Saturday, 4pm-10pm, Sunday, 4pm-9pm

 

 

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Tre Rivali

Since opening a couple of years ago, Tre Rivali has quickly become one of the top dining destinations in the city. Located inside of the Journeyman hotel in the Historic Third Ward, Tre Rivali couldn’t ask for a much better location. The location matches the interior, with trendy decor, plenty of seating, and a spacious bar. Tre Rivali is nearly always open, serving up breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch and dinner, and even small bites throughout the day. Nearly all of the menu items are Mediterranean inspired, from North African couscous dishes to wood fired pizzas that will take you right to Naples. For a tour of the Mediterranean without leaving Milwaukee, check out the top notch cuisine at Tre Rivali.

The Food

The brunch at Tre Rivali is just as good as their dinner service, with items like baked eggs in a spicy tomato sauce with parmesan cheese and grilled bread ($14). For dinner, try one of the pizzas or appetizers, like the wood grilled pork spiedini served with honey, coriander, and roast apples ($12). The creamy hummus appetizer served with warmed pita and braised chickpeas is also phenomenal ($9). Diners can share small plates or have an entree to themselves. When it comes to small plates, the olive oil braised and charred octopus with salsa and preserved lemon is a popular choice ($19), as is the carrot gnocchi with rabbit sausage and pea shoots ($19). The entrees change frequently, often featuring five or six options, like the middle eastern roast half chicken served over couscous, apricots, and cauliflower ($25). Take a seat at Tre Rivali for one of the best dining experiences in the city.

  • Address: 200 N. Broadway
  • Hours:
    • Breakfast: Monday-Friday, 7am-10pm
    • Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm
    • Dinner: Sunday-Thursday, 5pm-10pm; Friday and Saturday, 5pm-11pm
    • Brunch: Saturday and Sunday, 8am-2pm

 

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Ristorante Bartolotta

There are good Italian restaurants in Milwaukee, and then there are really good Italian restaurants. For the best, diners need only head west of the city to Wauwatosa for Ristorante Bartolotta. The Bartolotta’s now have quite a few really great dining spots throughout the city, and Ristorante Bartolotta remains their flagship spot for awesome Italian cuisine. The restaurant itself is located in the downtown section of Wauwatosa in a really pretty cream city brick building. The dining room is sophisticated yet cozy and the service is always exceptional. For the best Italian fare Milwaukee has to offer, head to Ristorante Bartolotta.

The Food

The menu at Ristorante Bartolotta features flavors and dishes from throughout the Italian peninsula. Start out with one of the phenomenal antipasti plates, like the Tazzina Di Polenta E Fonduta Piemontese, creamy polenta and alpine cheese fonduta ($10), or try one of the fresh salads, like the Misticanza di Campo, with mixed field greens, fennel, tomatoes, radish, red onion, cucumber, and red wine vinaigrette ($9.50). The menu has primi and secondi options, with each primi option at two prices based on size. Try the Spaghetti Con Aragosta All’ISchitana, or hand rolled spaghetti with spiny lobster in a spicy tomato white wine sauce ($24/$42). When it comes to a hearty entree, try the Costolette D’Agnello a Scottadito, or lamb chops with fingerling potatoes, squash, and garlic-thyme sauce ($38). For outstanding Italian cuisine, set a reservation at Ristorante Bartolotta.

  • Address: 7616 W. State St., Wauwatosa
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday, 5:30pm-9pm, Friday, 5:30pm-10pm, Saturday, 5pm-10pm, Sunday, 5pm-8pm
  • Reservation: Recommended

 

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Le Reve Patisserie & Cafe

Located just west of Milwaukee in Wauwatosa is Le Reve, or “the dream” in French. Le Reve makes the list for a few reasons. For one, the restaurant serves up top-notch French cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For two, the place honestly has some of the best French pastries you’re going to find, even when compared to the many patisseries in Paris. Third, the two floor space seamlessly transitions from a breakfast or lunch spot, to great place for working on a laptop over a coffee, to gourmet dining destination for dinner completely effortlessly. All of this together shows how Le Reve is truly in the grand bistro style, a place for everyone at any time of the day. Whether it’s for a delicious omelette in the morning, or a sweet delequiox at night, head over to Le Reve in Wauwatosa.

The Food

Le Reve has several menus for different parts of the day, like weekend brunch, weekday breakfast, dinner, and of course desserts. Each menu is fantastic, and regardless of the meal, there is no leaving Le Reve without a few boxed up desserts to take home. For lunch, try the Salade Nicoise, the classic French salad that mixes greens, potatoes, eggs, olives, and tomatoes with choice of meat ($15.95). For dinner, try starting with the crab fondue dip, with jumbo lump crab, braised leeks, bacon, and gruyere fondue ($13.95), or go with one of the savory crepes, like one th duck confit, goat cheese, onion, and port wine reduction ($11.50). When it comes to an entree, it’s hard to beat the apricot and lavender pheasant breast with gruyere, fennel, carrot, and brown butter ($25.95), or the 6oz. filet mignon with spinach, wild mushrooms, blue cheese crust, and riesling jus ($26.95). Find the perfect French grand cafe by visiting La Reve.

 

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AppeThai

There are plenty of fantastic Thai restaurants in Milwaukee and surrounding Milwaukee area. AppeThai is not only the best Thai restaurant in the area, it’s one of the best overall restaurants too. Located in Brown Deer just north of the city, AppeThai has a lovely and comfortable interior with plenty of seating and a comfortable full-service bar that slings up classic cocktails and fruity tropical drinks. The service is always great, and the family-owned restaurant makes an effort to source ingredients from local farmer markets. AppeThai serves both lunch and dinner, and reservations are often not required. The real draw to AppeThai is the food, which has expected Thai dishes done really well, and some not so easy to find dishes that are seriously addictive.

The Food

The menu at AppeThai is not quite as extensive as some of the other Thai restaurants in the city, but the limited menu results in a greater attention to detail, in addition to some dishes one is unlikely to find elsewhere. Try any one of the really good appetizers, like the Poa Pia Tod, or deep fried spring rolls with vegetables served with plum sauce ($4), or the Moo Ping, or grilled pork on skewers with Thai spices and dipping sauce ($8). There are a number of fried rice options, but the basil fried rice is truly exceptional, with bell peppers, onion, string beans, garlic and basil sauce with a choice of meat ($13-$15). When it comes to an entree, try the Nua Toon, or braised brisket with Thai herbs, served with potatoes, lettuce, rice, and garlic-lime dipping sauce ($18), or the Kang Phed Ped Yang, or grilled duck breast with tomato, pineapple, pepper, and bamboo shoots simmering in a rich red curry sauce ($21). Stop by AppeThai for the best Thai-inspired cuisine in the city.

  • Address: 3900 W. Brown Deer Rd.
  • Hours:
    • Closed Mondays and Sundays
    • Lunch: Tuesday-Friday, 11am-2:30pm
    • Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday, 4:30pm-9pm

 

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Dandan

Dandan is the unique creation of two Milwaukee veteran chefs, Dan Van Rite and Dan Jacobs. Both have worked at and headed a bunch of kitchens in town, but recently came together to reimagine the Chinese-American foods they both enjoyed eating. The result was Dandan, named after the famous noodle dish, and the combination of their first names. The restaurant is located in the Historic Third Ward and even features a parking lot, a definite luxury when dining in downtown Milwaukee. The restaurant does lunch and dinner service, and does a big take out business, though it definitely is worth eating in given the trendy and artfully decorated interior. Dandan makes the list for having awesome food, and also for hosting a not so secret pop up restaurant inside of Dandan every weekend called EsterEv, a gourmet experimental dinner experience where reservations are definitely recommended.

The Food

If you forego the experimental dishes at EsterEv for the mainstay of the restaurant, you will certainly be pleased with the updated takes on Chinese food classics. Any meal at Dandan has to start with at least one of the dim sum plates, like the shrimp toast with spicy mustard and sesame seeds ($10) or the smashed cucumbers with chilis and fried garlic ($8). Any of the dumplings are worth ordering, especially the short rib and foie gras potstickers with black vinegar ($14). There are numerous noodle and rice dishes to pick from, like the house specialty, Dandan noodles with ground pork and chili oil ($15), or the schmaltz fried rice, with chicken fat, Chinese sausage, and egg ($12). For a larger plate, try the General Tso’s cauliflower ($14) or the sea scallops in black bean sauce with mushrooms ($22). For a large group, try the Peking duck service for three ($69). For a creative spin on Chinese food, head over to the Third Ward to try Dandan.

Address: 360 E. Erie St.

Hours:

  • Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm
  • Dinner: Monday-Saturday, 5pm-10pm
  • Closed Sundays

Reservation: Recommended

 

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La Merenda

Well before small plates and internationally inspired cuisine was popular, La Merenda quietly opened in the Walker’s Point neighborhood and has been pleasing customers with stellar food ever since. The restaurant features a lively bar in the front of the house and a spacious, comfortable dining room in the back. With a great cocktail and wine list, if there is one restaurant in Milwaukee to order up a bottle of wine, relax, and take ample time trying a variety of tapas style plates, it would be La Marenda. The restaurant features a lengthy menu of small plates with flavors inspired from around the world. While numerous places around the city have followed a similar format, when it comes to the best in the city, the award has to go to the original.

The Food

Bring a group to La Merenda to share a variety of small plates, or go as a date and order three or four. As mentioned above, there are small plates inspired from all around the world, though they seem to usually emphasize Latin American and Italian flavors the most. Try the vegetarian empanada with sweet potato, chili beans, squash, corn and sofrito ($7), or the creamy mushroom risotto with gremolata and parmesan ($9). The classic Gambas al Ajillo, or Spanish-style shrimp simmered in garlic and oil served with bread, is done really well at La Marenda ($13). For something slightly more substantial, try the Jamaican goat curry with tostones, slaw, and vinaigrette ($13), or the Argentinian-style beef with chimichurri and mashed plantains ($16). Experience the best globally inspired small plates in Milwaukee at La Marenda.

Address: 125 E. National Ave.

Hours:

  • Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm
  • Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5pm-10pm; Friday and Saturday, 5pm-11pm
  • Closed Sundays

 

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Bavette La Boucherie

Located in the Historic Third Ward, Bavette La Boucherie is one of those places you can’t believe hasn’t been there for decades. Chef Karen Bell, an industry veteran who has lived and worked in just about every major city around the country and abroad, opened the place in 2013 with the idea of providing the neighborhood a fantastic gourmet butcher along with a cozy bistro to enjoy some of the chef’s creations. The ingredients are locally sourced, and customers stop through to buy some charcuterie or prime cuts of meat and then are almost always tempted to stick around for at least a few bites of food and maybe a drink or two. There is an extensive beer and cocktail list at Bavette, including awesome drinks like the Rhubarb Elderflower Bellini with St. Germain liqueur, cava, and rhubarb. Don’t stop into Bavette just for the butcher or the drinks, be sure to try the top quality food as well.

The Food

There are plenty of tasty treats at Bavette La Boucherie. Start with one of the snacks, like the smoked trout deviled eggs ($8), before trying some of the cheese or charcuterie. There’s often a wide selection of artisanal cheeses and housemade charcuteries to pick from, in addition to plates where you can let the chefs decide the best choices. There are also fantastic sandwich options, like the banh mi with pork belly, miso, sriracha, carrot, and cucumber ($13.25). For a larger plate, try the tomato braised meatballs served with polenta, ricotta, giardiniera, and pesto ($14). The menu changes frequently at Bavette, and there are often daily specials advertised on their social media, so they are definitely worth following.

 

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Carnevor Steakhouse Moderne

Milwaukee has no shortage of fabulous steakhouses, and even a few that easily could make a list of best restaurants in the city. When it comes to one that stands out from the rest, Carnevor is definitely a step above the competition. As the name implies, Carnevor takes a modern twist on the classic steakhouse, which becomes apparent from the moment you enter through the doors with the impressively decorated interior and sophisticated dining room. The restaurant is all about quality. From a really impressive wine list to the highest end cuts of meat, and outstanding service, it’s hard to come up with a complaint about a dinner at Carnevor. Even the cocktails are exceptional, like The Carnevor, a Chopin potato vodka martini with olive juice and olives that are house stuffed with bacon and blue cheese.

The Food

After sipping down some top notch wine or a trendy cocktail, you’ll definitely have an appetite for the abundant food offerings at Carnevor. Start with the panko calamari with tomato dust, roast garlic aioli, and cocktail sauce ($16). The Florida gulf shrimp appetizer is also excellent, with preserved lemon, garlic butter, tomato, and peppadews ($18). For something lighter, try one of the salads, like the excellent house Caesar ($10). Steak is the main feature at Carnevor, which are divided between prime and reserve cuts. Try the wet aged New York strip 14oz. ($45) or the Domestic Wagyu filet 8oz. ($76) for some quality meat difficult to find elsewhere. The kitchen will cook it up perfectly and can provide free toppings like herbed garlic butter, or at cost toppings, like Wisconsin blue cheese and bacon ($4). Carnevor also has really good sides, like the exotic mushrooms ($12) and a fabulous mac n’ cheese ($13). For the perfect steak in Milwaukee, set a reservation at Carnevor.

  • Address: 718 N. Milwaukee St.
  • Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 5pm-10pm, Thursday-Saturday, 5pm-11pm, Closed Sundays
  • Reservation: Suggested

 

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Goodkind

Goodkind is one of those restaurants that just seem to do everything really well. With its neighborhood feel tucked away in Bay View, to the spacious and comfortable bar with excellent cocktails, and of course the fantastic service and food, Goodkind manages to impress on just about every count. The restaurant also happens to be a favorite with industry insiders, and not only serves up excellent dinner, but also fantastic brunch fare. Stop over to Goodkind any night of the week for a tasty cocktail, like the Wild Cherry Rose, with wild cherry and rose-infused vodka, Aperol, citrus, and red wine ($12), and stick around for some of the fantastic food.

The Food

There are plenty of great options to pick from at Goodkind, both for brunch and dinner. For brunch, try one of the house specialties, like the breakfast poutine with fries, cheddar cheese curds, scallion, beef gravy and egg ($12). For dinner, pick from one of the small plates, like the crispy brussel sprout salad with apple, pecans, balsamic and blue cheese ($13), or the crispy sweetbreads with mushrooms, snap peas, and carrot puree ($12). There are tons of awesome options for larger plates, like the lamb calabrese sausage with garbanzos, caponata, raisins, cocoa, fried capers, and spinach ($16). The mussels with fennel cream, leeks, lemon, tomatoes, and garlic bread crumbs is also a memorable dish and definitely worth trying ($18). For numerous choices of really high-quality food, check out Goodkind in Bay View.

 

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Mader’s

It makes sense that a city known for its German heritage would have a fantastic German restaurant right in the middle of a major entertainment district. Mader’s, which has been around since 1903, is located right on Old World 3rd St., a popular spot for drinking and about a block away from Fiserv.Forum and other area attractions. The restaurant always boasts a crowd to experience some really well-made German food in a cozy environment reminiscent of a Bavarian hunting lodge. Regular folk and celebrities alike have taken advantage of the restaurant’s main bar, the Knight’s Bar, that slings up excellent craft cocktails and extensive beer choices from Germany and Belgium. The restaurant itself has plenty of seating in various separated dining rooms, so however big Mader’s actually is, the dining experience always feels intimate.

The Food

Head over to Mader’s for some authentic German fare for brunch, lunch, or dinner. The potato pancake appetizer is a must have, served with maple syrup, apple sauce, and sour cream ($9.75). Especially in winter, the oxtail soup, one of the house specialities, is also an essential thing to order, which comes with tomato, sherry, and beef broth ($9). When it comes to order dinner, the German Sampler ensures a taste of most of the house specialities, like Wiener schnitzel, roast pork, sauerbraten, potato dumplings, sauerkraut, and red cabbage ($36.50). Another great house special is the Count Esterhazy Schnitzel, with breaded chicken cutlets smothered in a rich mushroom sauce over spaetzle and vegetables ($32). For a modern taste of Milwaukee’s German heritage, be sure to stop over to Mader’s in downtown Milwaukee.

The Cheel

The Cheel is a Nepalese restaurant in the quaint suburb of Thiensville, about twenty minutes from downtown Milwaukee. The restaurant is in a gorgeous restored 1890s Victorian building, but the food is anything but antiquated. Instead, they offer modern twists on Nepalese classics, a cuisine difficult to find elsewhere in the city. They also have a fantastic outdoor patio, occasional live music, and a really good bar with craft cocktails, like a perfectly made traditional sazerac ($10). For a less commonly found cuisine done really well, head over to The Cheel in Thiensville for Nepalese specialties.

The Food

Any meal at The Cheel has the start with the delicious and highly addictive momos, or Nepalese style dumplings, with a variety of fillings like goat, lamb, or veggies, and can be prepared in a number of ways, like steamed, baked, or fried and served with dipping sauce. The restaurant also offers another staple of Nepalese cuisine, Aachar, or hearty dipping sauces with a variety of crackers or bread, like the Kenema, made of soybean, garlic, ginger and tomatoes. For a different type of appetizer, try the Petite Lamb Bites, or lamb meatballs with onion and ginger, breaded in panko and peanuts and served with a tamarind Aachar ($11). There are plenty of large plates to choose from, like the Bandel Roganjosh, or wild boar simmered in Himalayan spices over saffron rice and yellow dal ($24). Stop over to The Cheel for some exceptional flavors, great service, and an introduction to all things Nepal.

 

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The Tandem

The Tandem is one of those neighborhood restaurants we all wish was right next door. Located in the inner part of the city, The Tandem opened a few years back to serve refined forms of casual food at an affordable price. In general, the cuisine might be described as comforting, though everything is done to such quality that term seems to detract from how fabulous The Tandem truly is. The restaurant serves lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, and does a large take out business, in addition, to have a spacious bar perfect for sipping cocktails and enjoying some comfort food favorites. The Tandem specializes in numerous dishes, but most locals agree that when it comes to the best fried chicken in the city, this restaurant is where it’s at. Head over to the Tandem and experience what all the buzz is about.

The Food

The Tandem is great for brunch, lunch or dinner. For brunch, try one of the weekly benedict specials ($12) or the fried chicken and waffles ($13). The restaurant has lighter lunch options, like the really good curried chicken salad wrap ($10), in addition to tasty appetizers like hush puppies ($6) and house pickles ($8). One of their most comforting larger plates is the braised oxtail served over rice and vegetables ($15). Let’s be honest though, most diners head over to The Tandem to try some of the top notch chicken, which can be prepared barbequed, Georgia fried, and Spicy Memphis fried. A drumstick and thigh with three sides, like cornbread or potato salad, will set you back $15, while a whole chicken with three sides is $36. Diners in the know go for the whole chicken so they can have some leftovers the next day.

  • Address: 1848 W. Fond du Lac Ave.
  • Hours:
    • Closed Mondays and Sundays
    • Lunch: Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-5pm
    • Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday, 5pm-10pm
    • Brunch: Saturday, 11am-5pm

Iron Grate BBQ Co.

Located on the south side of Milwaukee, with a second location inside of Fiserv. Forum, Iron Grate BBQ Co.has quickly propelled itself to the top contender for best barbeque in the city. They just seem to do everything right, from great sauces and sides to most important, really good smoked meats served by the pound. There are no gimmicks or distractions at Iron Grate, only really good meat not disguised by fancy toppings or over the top sauces. At Iron Grate, it’s all about good quality meat, slow-burning wood, and just the right touch of seasoning. The restaurant also caters, an added bonus for any of the best restaurants in the city.

The Food

Iron Grate is all about barbeque. Diners can choose from beef brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, hot links, and chicken quarters, and sides like really tasty baked beans, smoked tomato mac n’ cheese, grits, stewed down greens, and coleslaw. There are also limited appetizer options, like crunch hush puppies ($7) and riblets ($13). For dinner, diners can order meat by the pound and pay a la carte for sides, or do one of the house specials, which includes one meat and three sides for $17, two types of meat and three sides for $25, or three types of meat and three sides for $32. As the menu suggests, there’s no nonsense at Iron Grate, only really good barbeque, making this place one of the best restaurants in the city.

Solly’s Grille

Solly’s Grille in Glendale, just north of Milwaukee, may seem like an unconventional choice for best restaurants in the city. After all, it basically is a casual diner that serves breakfast foods and burgers, and the service is efficient but not always the friendliest. While Solly’s may be a no nonsense casual kind of place, it does a Milwaukee staple better than just about any other place, the infamous butter burger. The longevity of the joint also speaks for itself, they were founded in 1936 and have been serving up burgers and breakfast plates ever since. When Milwaukeeans want an over the top butter burger to satisfy their taste of home, Solly’s is one of the top destinations.

The Food

The breakfast items are really good at Solly’s, like scrambles, omelettes, and pancakes. They also serve butter burgers in the morning, in fact, few things will cure a hangover quite like a butter burger with a side of hash browns and eggs. The restaurant also makes really good malts, shakes, and homemade desserts, often an assortment of pies to choose from. The main highlight at Solly’s is the butter burgers. They use so much butter on the burgers that diners can cheese from light, regular, to heavy. The Original Solly Burger is the local favorite, with Milwaukee expats returning to the city just for a taste. It includes a thin patty, butter, and stewed onions, with or without cheese ($4.89/$4.99), and you can add as many patties as you would like. There are also specialty burgers, like a mushroom and swiss, jalapeno, or blue cheese ($9.99). Burgers can come with crinkle cut French fries ($3.49/$5.19) or really delicious battered onion rings ($3.89). For a gluttonous taste of the best butter burger in Milwaukee, head over to Solly’s Grille.

 

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Engine Company No.3

Named after the historic firehouse it’s housed in, Engine Company No.3 serves up some of the best breakfast and brunch dishes in Milwaukee. Located in Walker’s Point, be sure to grab a reservation before heading over for breakfast. The restaurant is only open in the morning and takes their breakfast and brunch menus as seriously as most places take their dinner service. With globally inspired dishes, there is something at Engine Company No.3 to please everyone, from classic American breakfast items to breakfast fare from Latin America, Europe, and Africa. The bar also serves some really quality drinks, including the Engine Company Bloody Mary, with vegetable-infused vodka and house tomato blend topped with pickled vegetables and a High Life chaser ($9), along with optional upgrades like bacon, bacon-infused vodka, and hot pepper infused vodka. The Powermosa is also excellent, with orange vodka, fresh orange juice, and Prosecco ($11).

The Food

With flavors from around the world, it can be pretty difficult to make a choice when ordering at Engine Company No.3. Try the Patacon con Huevo, with smashed plantains, cilantro rice, beans, salsa, and fried eggs ($11). If not in the mood for Latin American flavors, try their take on traditional bangers and mash, with pork sausage, smashed baby red potatoes, onion gravy, and a sunny side up egg ($12). The Urtain is also exceptional, or chorizo, sirloin steak, eggs, and adobo seasoned fries ($15). When it comes to one of the most unique breakfast experiences in Milwaukee, check out Engine Company No.3.

  • Address: 217 W. National Ave.
  • Hours: Closed Mondays, Tuesday-Friday, 7:30am-2pm, Saturday and Sunday, 8:30am-2pm
  • Reservation: Recommended

 

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Easy Tyger

Asian fusion restaurants are always a gamble. They can either try and do everything, and then do nothing well, or they can hit it out of the park. Easy Tyger definitely hits a home run with its creative menu of favorites from around Southeast Asia. This hole in the wall joint on the popular Brady Street has a small but really well thought out menu, in addition to great weekly specials like vegetarian ramens on Monday, $10 beer and ramen Tuesdays, and half off bottles of wine on Thursday. They also have a comfortable interior and extensive bar with great craft cocktails. Stop into Easy Tyger for a trendy take on classic Asian-inspired dishes.

The Food

The bao buns are a local favorite at Easy Tyger. They frequently change the fillings with more traditional ingredients, like crispy tofu, slaw, and pickles ($8.50), to more creative, like fried chicken with buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing ($8.50). Easy Tyger has other great appetizers like pho egg rolls, with steak, bean sprouts, onion, and a pho broth dipping sauce ($4.95), in addition to pho beef dumplings ($9.95). The Ahi tuna poke is also great, with grapefruit, avocado puree, and crispy wonton ($13.95). The real star at Easy Tyger is the ramen, probably the best in the city. Diners can choose from a miso and tonkotsu style ramen, both with pork belly, egg, and other traditional toppings ($10.95/$12.95). For the best ramen in Milwaukee, and other great small plates, head over to Easy Tyger on Brady Street.

  • Address: 1230 E. Brady St.
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday, 5pm-10pm, Friday and Saturday, 5pm-11pm, Closed Sunday

Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall

It may seem strange to place a restaurant inside of a brewery on a best of Milwaukee list for places to eat, but when it comes to all things Milwaukee, Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall manages to hit all the right points, like a great fish fry, excellent cheese curds, sausages, and plenty of beer. The place is also fun and perfect for bringing out of town friends or family since brewery tours are on site, and the spacious beer hall gets crowded on weekends but never too rowdy. There are also great specials to take advantage of, like half off cheese curds on Mondays, burrito bowls on Tuesday, and loaded baked potatoes on Thursdays. Stop over to Lakefront for one of the best brewery tours in the city, and to sample any number of Lakefront beers, and be sure to either arrive early or to stay after for some exceptional Milwaukee food done right.

The Food

When it comes to dining at Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall, it basically comes down to whether you go on a Friday or during other operating hours. On Friday the Beer Hall transforms into one of the most popular destinations in the city for a fish fry, along with live polka music. Every other night of the week, try sampling some of the delicious bar foods like the pretzel with raspberry mustard and obatzda ($9), or the fantastic cheese curds with garlic dipping sauce ($9). For dinner, try one of the mac n’ cheese options, like the chili dog mac n’ cheese with sour cream and jalapeno ($12), or one of the sausages, with a Polish, bratwurst, spicy Italian, and Frankfurter to pick from. There are also great sandwiches to pick from, like the pretzel grilled cheese ($8). For all the foods that Milwaukeeans love done really well, along with some fantastic beer, head over to Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall.

  • Address: 1872 N. Commerce St.
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11am-8pm, Friday, 11am-9pm, Saturday, 9am-9pm, Sunday, 10am-5pm

Restaurante Juquilita

There are tons of awesome Mexican restaurants in Milwaukee. Restaurante Juquilita not only is one of the best Mexican restaurants, it’s one of the best restaurants in the city overall. The restaurant has an actual grandma in the back cooking the food, which is a draw in itself, but also features a menu with dishes that are unlikely to be found elsewhere, specializing in dishes from the Oaxacan region of Mexico. Juquilita’s is on the city’s south side in what is basically the lower level of a house, and has a small parking lot in back. The dining room is small but often has an open seat, in addition to a bar that seats around ten. The drinks and food are very reasonably priced, but the quality speaks for itself. For a unique Mexican dining experience, head over to Juquilita’s,

The Food

The menu at Juquilita’s ranges from the expected to really surprising. Dinner starts with complimentary chips and salsa, with three types of salsa that are all really tasty and unlike salsas found elsewhere. From there, diners might go with standard options, like corn tortilla tacos with assorted meats ($2-$2.50), to more gourmet offerings like the shrimp or fish ceviche ($9.99). One of the house specialities that is a must have is the tlayuda, basically an oversized quesadilla with handmade flavorful tortilla stuffed with Oaxacan cheese, refried beans, lettuce, cabbage, avocado, and choice of meat, like pastor ($12). The tlayuda is truly fabulous and is difficult to find elsewhere in the city. The restaurant also serves exceptional chilaquiles ($12), offers pozole daily, fresh tamales in banana leaf, and two types of mole, one being a really original yellow style mole with chicken ($10). For seafood, try tilapia or octopus served in diablo sauce over rice ($11.99/$12.99). There are often daily specials to pick from as well, like Oaxacan roast lamb. For a familiar yet new experience with Mexican cuisine, head over to Restaurante Juquilita.

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