James Beard RestaurantsSearch All Listings
Milwaukeeans have always known that our restaurants have something special, but you don't have to take locals' word for it – just ask James Beard!
The first Milwaukee chef to win a James Beard Award was Sandy D’Amato (Best Chef: Midwest 1996), and his restaurant, Sanford, is still gaining accolades, with repeated semifinalist finishes for Outstanding Restaurant. Current chef and owner Chef Justin Aprahamian was the 2014 winner of Best Chef: Midwest. For a unique dining experience at this highly-regarded restaurant, explore the tastes of the world or an elevated look at a classic Wisconsin theme like “Tailgate” with a four-course “exploration menu” or put your tastebuds in the chef’s hands with a seven-course “surprise tasting menu,” both available Monday through Friday.
Executive Chef Adam Siegel of Lake Park Bistro is also a Best Chef: Midwest winner (2008). Located in a historic pavilion on a scenic bluff with stunning views of Lake Michigan, Lake Park Bistro offers authentic, rustic French cuisine. Experience the bustling bistro at lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch throughout the year; the annual Black Truffle dinner is a special event not to be missed by foodies.
Intimate fine dining inspired by the cooking traditions of the Great Lakes region is found at Ardent, named a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant 2014 after only being open for four months. Chef and owner Justin Carlisle is a two-time finalist for Best Chef: Midwest. (Those in the know stop by Ardent long after the restaurant has closed on Friday and Saturday for Red Light Ramen, a late night, underground dining experience.)
David Swanson, chef and owner of Braise, is a three-time semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest. Braise is Milwaukee’s first community-supported restaurant. Their locally sourced ingredients come from more than 40 Wisconsin farms, and the menu changes daily based on what seasonal items they receive from farmers. Thomas Hauck, chef and owner of c. 1880 was a 2016 semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest. This fine dining restaurant in Walker's Point offers sophisticated New American cuisine based on seasonal ingredients. In 2016, Chef Hauck also took over the iconic local German restaurant, Karl Ratzsch.
Best Chef semifinalist Peggy Magister began her training under Wolfgang Puck and now serves contemporary American Fusion cuisine her restaurant, Crazy Water, built inside a nineteenth century feed store. Best Chef Midwest nominee Dan Van Rite has partnered up with another local Dan, Chef Dan Jacobs, to open DanDan, a playful homage to American-Chinese cuisine.
The food you'll find at Cafe Calatrava is unlike any other museum cafe you've tried, thanks to the work of Best Chef Midwest semifinalist Jason Gorman. Changing entrees are themed to the current special exhibition on display. Enjoy lunch by the lake before exploring the Milwaukee Art Museum's stunning collection.
Milwaukee is also home to two establishments recognized by the James Beard Foundation as American Classics. Three Brothers (recognized in 2002) is low-key Serbian restaurant that's been a beloved neighborhood jewel since the 1950s. And the Watts Tea Shop (recognized in 2011) has also been heralded by the New York Times as one of the World's 10 Greatest Old Dining Institutions. This historic tea room is the perfect place for a light lunch or, of course, afternoon tea.
And for a nightcap after all this amazing food, stop at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, Milwaukee’s oldest cocktail lounge and a semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program (2013). This local gem is always a favorite, serving over 450 specialty and classic cocktails in a vintage environment. Despite their extensive offerings, there is no menu here – let one of their knowledgeable bartenders guide you to the perfect cocktail.