Home / Dining / Dining Preview / Elsa’s, Downtown Milwaukee’s Enduring Classic

Elsa’s, Downtown Milwaukee’s Enduring Classic

Comfort food served with class

Jun. 22, 2014
Google plus Linkedin Pinterest
After more than 30 years in the same Downtown spot, Elsa’s classic, never-out-of-fashion look has endured. Patrons are met with a warm ambiance despite the cold, hard surfaces of terrazzo floors and marble-topped tables. A trio of mirrors hangs above the bar and the chairs and booths are black and comfortable; the high ceiling with track lighting points toward a back room in the deep recesses of the building. One feels welcome to stay—never rushed to make way for the next table of customers.

Perhaps the most striking and unique visual factor is the rotating display of artwork often hanging from the walls or ceiling. These have ranged from unusual objects such as retro phones, neon-inspired work, giant photographs of patrons or the grey wire straitjackets that recently dangled from the ceiling. Sometimes the work of these local artists has been translated into postcards that patrons are given along with their bill.

The menu is simple yet delicious. Tempting desserts ($6-$11) are displayed on the first page along with a bold declaration: “Life is short; order dessert first.” You can pick from tortes and tarts, cheesecakes and shortcakes and sundaes. But unless your sweet tooth is sharper than your good sense, why spoil your appetite? Turning to the following pages you’ll find unique takes on old-fashioned American comfort food such as hamburgers, grilled cheese, pork chops and fries. Take for example the Greek maiden burger ($13), marinated in white wine and topped with feta cheese and black olives. All sandwiches are attractively presented, served with waffle fries (another unique touch) and garnished with raw vegetables.

While meat is dominant, vegetarians can chose from an array of salads ($4.75-$14.50) or enjoy the tremendous truck garden sandwich ($8.75), loaded with everything but the garden soil—tomatoes, avocados, mushrooms, spinach, sprouts, black olives, bell peppers, radishes, turnips, cucumbers and onions, topped with mayo and thousand island dressing.

Appetizers, served after 3 p.m., include water chestnuts ($9), a bowl of those wonderful waffle fries ($6), a plate of chicken wings ($12.50) and one of the best plates of nachos in town ($15.50 full order).

People watching has always been part of the fun of coming to Elsa’s, which continues to draw an unusually diverse crowd for a Milwaukee restaurant with a sense of prosperity as the prevailing common denominator. Service is efficient, unobtrusive, friendly and responsive. In more than 30 years, a rude comment has probably never been heard.

Elsa’s on the Park

833 N. Jefferson St.




Handicap accessible: Yes


Do you believe President Obama is politicizing tragedies when he brings up gun control in the aftermath of mass shootings?

Getting poll results. Please wait...