Foodies rejoice – you can travel the globe by way of your palate without ever leaving Milwaukee. From ethnic specialties to farm-to-table food to James Beard award winners, you'll find a way to indulge your passion for amazing flavor, local ingredients and culinary creativity.
Foodies, locavores and everyone who appreciates a good meal will love Milwaukee's diverse dining scene. There's a place and a taste for every visitor, from innovative modern cuisine to the city's most delicious German roots.
EMERGING WALKER'S POINT
In January 2014, the New York Times called the Walker's Point neighborhood just south of the Historic Third Ward “the city’s go-to district for innovative artisanal food.” In recent years, this former industrial neighborhood has embraced a major influx of new restaurants and food and beverage production businesses. Opened in 2012 on South 2nd Street, Clock Shadow Creamery, one of the only urban creameries in the nation, produces fresh mozzarella, cheese curds, quark (a German soft cheese), chevre and other cheeses corresponding to the season.
Just down the street, Purple Door Ice Cream owners Lauren and Steve Schultz create custom flavors including green tea, balsamic strawberry, chai pink peppercorn, whiskey and fig & black tea for retail and high-end restaurants. Right next door, chocolatier Julie Waterman of Indulgence Chocolatiers meticulously handcrafts all of her chocolates, creating confections that are as delicious as they are beautiful. Tantalizing pairings with beer, wine, champagne and cheese are served at their chocolate bar.
Beverage producers on South 2nd Street include Milwaukee Brewing Company with its innovative line of award-winning microbrews. Sharing space with the brewery is Milwaukee’s newest distillery, Central Standard, which offers vodka, gin, white whiskey and bourbon. Just around the corner, locally-owned Anodyne Coffee is a small- batch roaster that has moved into a lovingly repurposed building.
BEST CHEF MIDWEST
Justin Aprahamian, chef/owner of Sanford Restaurant, was voted the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef Midwest” in 2014. Semi-finalist this year was David Swanson, chef/owner of Braise.
Multiple James Beard-nominated Sanford Restaurant invites you to its European-style elegant, 50-seat storefront restaurant with a daily changing seasonal menu and personalized wine list. Fodor’s named Braise as one its Top Ten Roof-to-Table restaurants for 2014. Braise advocates for sustainable principles and uses locally-sourced ingredients to serve the freshest food. La Merenda, a casual tapas bar and restaurant located in Milwaukee’s historic Walker’s Point, serves up small plates from antipasti to meze, local brews to South American wines and will satisfy cravings for regional and international flavors. Milwaukee foodie favorite Odd Duck serves an ever-changing small plate and shareable menu inspired by local ingredients. Hinterland Erie St Gastropub explores a multicultural approach to cooking and eating, creating bold flavors and uncommon pairings as its daily mission. Wolf Peach pays homage to Rustic European cuisine that draws inspiration from local and regional ingredients and features a 6,000 pound wood-fired oven.
Guests sit dockside at Harbor House, the only restaurant located directly on the Lake Michigan shoreline, where some of the best seafood in the city is on offer. Wine and dine in upscale elegance at Bacchus or enjoy the culinary expertise at Mason Street Grill in the Pfister Hotel. For steak, book a table at Carnevor, one of Wisconsin’s most acclaimed fine dining destinations, and Dream Dance Steak, located in the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.
Milwaukee is known for its distinctly German heritage, which is why German food is taken very seriously! Mader’s Restaurant was voted the most famous German restaurant in North America and continues to be known for its stunning $3 million dollar collection of art, suits of medieval armor and antiques dating back to the 14th century.
Additionally, Karl Ratzsch’s Restaurant has served classic German recipes for more than a century. Attention to detail, excellent service and fabulous food such as braised beef rouladen and Black Forest schnitzel are its recipe for success.
New to the Milwaukee scene, Lowland Group’s Café Bavaria features a robust beer selection served along with outstanding German food and to-die-for desserts.
THE FRENCH EXPERIENCE
Milwaukee’s French restaurants pay tribute to the city’s founding father and first Mayor, Solomon Juneau. Enriching Milwaukee with its French cuisine, Coquette Café beckons for a glass of wine or exclusively brewed French ale. Just south of downtown, you’ll find Chez Jacques, where guests are greeted by owner Jacques Chaumet’s authentic recipes from the South of France.
Voted one of Milwaukee’s most romantic restaurants, Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro’s heart lays in its authenticity. A strict adherence to traditional French cooking styles earned Chef Adam Siegel the James Beard Award as Best Chef Midwest in 2008.
Renowned for its assortment of breads and decadent French pastries made by a classically trained pastry chef, Le Reve Patisserie & Café also serves up traditional bistro meals at its location in charming suburban Wauwatosa.
Il Mito’s internationally trained chef, Michael Feker, combines local ingredients with an attention to healthy lifestyles. His chef’s table, cooking school and vibrant personality bring diners back again and again. The latest Il Mito experience, Il Mito East, offers a new downtown location in which to savor Chef Michael’s masterpieces.
Nothing says family-style dining like southern Italian specialties at Café La Scala, located inside the Italian Community Center (ICC). If it’s northern cuisine you crave, don’t miss Ristorante Bartolotta.
Check out the newly re-built Pizza Man, which brings modern-flair and a large wine list to the table.
Consistently voted one of the best restaurants in the area, Maxie’s in suburban Wauwatosa get its inspiration from the “low country” cooking of the Carolinas, Creole and Cajun cooking of Louisiana, traditional slow-smoked southern BBQ and southern comfort cooking of all kinds.
Channel your Irish roots (whether you’re Irish or not) at one of Milwaukee’s many Irish locales, such as Mo’s Irish Pub and O’Lydia’s Bar & Grill. To extend your Irish experience, dine and stay at County Clare Guesthouse & Pub. The pub boasts 20 stained glass windows, which reflect the beauty of the towns and villages of Ireland’s County Clare; the restaurant and hotel provides a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.
SPICY LATIN FLARE
Visit Milwaukee’s south side to find a taste of Mexico and a cold Margarita at both Botanas and La Fuente. Travel downtown to Cubanitas, Milwaukee’s first Cuban restaurant. Rodizio Grill is the city’s only Brazilian steakhouse and has perfected its churrasco, or barbeque.
For an ethnic twist on one of Milwaukee’s most treasured traditions, the Friday night fish fry, stop by Café El Sol for a Latin-style fish dinner and live entertainment.
MID-EAST & EASTERN EUROPEAN
Casablanca has served up fresh, authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, blending exotic spices with fresh ingredients, for more than 30 years.
FAR EAST FUSION
Get a taste for fusion cuisine at Sake Tumi, Milwaukee’s first contemporary Japanese and Korean restaurant, specializing in New School Sushi, Korean BBQ, and Asian Fusion.
Enjoy Benihana, where guests gather around the "teppanyaki table" to enjoy succulent meats and garden-fresh vegetables prepared before their eyes. SURG Restaurant Group’s Umami Moto, named after the "source of the fifth element of taste – deliciousness," offers a cosmopolitan experience with Asian flair.
PUB & GRUB
Milwaukee’s micro-breweries are also great places for classic Wisconsin pub meals. Milwaukee Ale House, featuring Milwaukee Brewing Co. products, Lakefront Brewery, Rock Bottom Brewery and Horny Goat Brewery also feature riverside patio areas for summer al fresco dining.
Feeling like home-style comfort food? No food is more American than a burger and fries, and no one does it like Sobelman’s, consistently ranked among the best burgers in Milwaukee by locals and internationally recognized for its Bloody Marys. Lucille’s Rockin’ Pianos delivers burgers with a beat as energetic piano players face off in a nightly musical duel. Check out Elsa’s on the Park, for the ever-changing wall décor, but the consistently delicious cocktails and wings.
ONLY IN MILWAUKEE
Are you in need of a safe haven while staying in Milwaukee? Venture into the world of espionage and intrigue at the SafeHouse. Hint: you’ll need to figure out the secret password to enter this hidden location for spies.
Finally, save room for Milwaukee’s favorite dessert, custard, at Kopp’s Frozen Custard.
ON THE GO
If you are looking for a quick meal on the go, stroll through the Milwaukee Public Market, voted one of the top public markets in the nation by Fodors.com.
Alternatively, if you want to create your own cuisine when you get back home, The Spice House will supply you with quality, hand-selected and prepared spices and herbs. Additionally, travelers can discover more than 70 varieties of superior German-style wurst at Usinger’s Famous Sausage, where original family recipes have remained unchanged since 1880.
You absolutely cannot leave Milwaukee without a little cheese. Just a couple of doors down from Usinger’s on Old World Third Street, is the world’s largest selection of Wisconsin cheeses at Wisconsin Cheese Mart, Milwaukee’s premier location for quality Wisconsin and imported cheeses since 1938.