Dining Out

2014 Best of Milwaukee Winners

Nov. 11, 2014
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Barnacle Buds

African Restaurant

Ethiopian Cottage

1824 N. Farwell Ave.



Along with one of this year’s runners-up, Alem, Ethiopian Cottage is among the few places north of Chicago offering injera, a soft crepe-like sourdough bread serving as plate, utensil and the meal itself. Tasty East African stews are arrayed atop thin slabs of injera and scooped up with pieces of the bread, which is eaten along with the entrée. The consume-it-all custom of devouring the fork and plate along with the food has a strong appeal. (David Luhrssen)



Club Timbuktu

Alem Ethiopian Village


Bar Food

Sobelman’s Pub and Grill

Multiple locations



Bar food can mean many things and Sobelman’s has added a few twists to the expected lineup. Cheese balls? You can order them plain, or with jalapeños, or go for the broccoli cheddar bites or the gouda mac’n cheese bites instead. Chicken wings? Sobelman’s has them, but how about those spring rolls or wonton-wrapped mozz sticks? Still hungry? The burgers are great and the bloody marys are a meal in their own right. (D.L.)



Bar Louie

Who’s on Third



The Original Pancake House

Multiple locations



Some say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When you’re about to dig into a towering stack of fluffy pancakes at the Original Pancake House, you may think breakfast is the most delicious meal of the day instead. The options start with simple, classic buttermilk pancakes with loads of butter and syrup. From there things get much more creative. Coconut, Hawaiian, bacon, Georgia pecan and perfectly prepared, thin Swedish pancakes are just some of the other varieties served up at the Original Pancake house. Not to be missed are the exquisite house specialty baked apple pancake and light, airy Dutch Baby. (Susan Harpt Grimes)



Comet Café

Café Benelux

Simple Café


Brew Pub
Fish Fry

Lakefront Brewery

1872 N. Commerce St.




 A traditional Milwaukee fish fry with all of the fixings, delicious beer and lively polka music—that’s what you’ll get in Lakefront Brewery’s Beer Hall on Friday nights. It's a winning combination chock full of gemütlichkeit. Lakefront’s daily menu is full of hometown pride, using local foods like perch from Growing Power; cheese curds from Clock Shadow Creamery; and sausages from Johnsonville, Usinger’s and Klement’s. Also, consider taking the $7 tour of Lakefront’s facility. It’s a lot of fun and moderately educational, plus you get four tokens to redeem for samples and a free pint glass. (S.H.G.)


Runners-up Brew Pub:

Water Street Brewing Company

St. Francis Brewery


Runners-up Fish Fry:

American Serb Hall

Three Lions Pub



Blue’s Egg

317 N. 76th St.




Every popular brunch spot has one or two must-try items that make it worth the trip, be it killer French toast or an especially fluffy omelet. But at Blue’s Egg, a Wauwatosa hotspot specializing in breakfast and brunch, nearly everything on the menu is a destination item, from the addictive monkey bread to the savory smoked salmon crepes, the specialty eggs benedicts (made with pulled ham, corned beef or beefsteak tomatoes) and the hulking platters of stuffed hashbrowns. It’s no wonder people line up every weekend to score a table. (Evan Rytlewski)



Café Benelux

Trocadero Gastrobar



Potawatomi Hotel & Casino

1721 W. Canal St.




The Potawatomi complex in the Menomonee River Valley is becoming a self-contained world with its own hotel, concert hall, theater venue, bars and a selection of good places to eat—in addition to the ambient hum of casino gambling. Potawatomi has also become one of Milwaukee’s favorite places for a buffet with its all-you-can-eat extravaganza covering all food groups and most continents. You call it: pizza or crab legs, tacos or fruit? It’s all there, and much, much more. (Morton Shlabotnik)






Frozen Custard Stand

Kopp’s Frozen Custard

Multiple locations



Kopp’s puts unique flair into fast food, from the unusual deconstructed architecture of their outlets to the changing array of frozen custard and, of course, those delicious burgers. Milwaukee has become a tough town to please when it comes to that most-American of comfort foods, the hamburger; there are many excellent venues to choose from, as seen in the competitive runners-up list. Unlike many burger contenders, Kopp’s is not a bar—it’s a family place and has beautiful courtyards for outdoor eating in warm weather. (M.S.)


Runners-up Burgers:

Sobelman’s Pub and Grill

Elsa’s on the Park

Hamburger Mary’s

Mozzaluna Pizzeria & Ristorante


Runners-up Frozen Custard:





Café Corazon

3129 N. Bremen St.




Mexican is rarely thought of as health food, but of course there’s more to Mexican cuisine than just the cheese-slathered combo platters that are so popular around these parts. Riverwest’s Café Corazon specializes in lighter Mexican fare, emphasizing fresh ingredients and bold flavors. It’s the kind of place where you get seasoned black beans instead of the usual refried beans, and a side of salad with your burrito. Nearly everything can be made vegan with sautéed vegetables, tofu or spicy soy chorizo. Corazon is also a popular brunch spot on the weekends, offering an assortment of breakfast tacos and hefty breakfast burritos that’ll leave even the hungriest diners full until dinner. (E.R.)



BelAir Cantina


Caribbean Restaurant
Central/South American Restaurant


728 N. Milwaukee St.



Sure, you can get a fantastic Cuban sandwich at this Caribbean restaurant, but there’s so much more on the menu to enjoy in this cozy spot with Spanish colonial décor. Cuban guacamole and crisp plantain chips are ever popular, as are picadillo empanadas and ropa vieja with Creole sauce. Don’t skip washing it all down with a fruity mojito filled with fresh mint or a daiquiri, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. (Lacey Muszynski)


Runners-up Caribbean Restaurant:

Irie Palace Authentic Jamaican Restaurant

Painted Parrot


Runners-up Central/South American Restaurant:

El Salvador




Cheap Eats

George Webb

Multiple locations


Milwaukee has seen many diners, hash houses and hamburger joints come and go since 1948, when the first George Webb opened in Downtown Milwaukee. Sixty-six years later, the nothing-fancy local chain had made some changes to the menu, adding fish and other more health-conscious items to its burger-and-breakfast menu. Webb is a Milwaukee institution. Who can forget their promise to give away meals if the Brewers won 12 straight league games—or the bizarre presence of two clocks (set one minute apart) in each venue. (D.L.)



Pizza Shuttle

Mozzaluna Pizzeria & Ristorante


Chicken Wings

Points East Pub

1501 N. Jackson St.



There’s almost always a wait for wings at this small corner bar. The kitchen is small and the crowds are large, but that’s alright because the basket of wings you’ll receive will be worth it. This is one of the few places that grills their wings, leaving them with small bits of crunchy char and a smoky flavor that fried wings lack. The requisite celery will help you feel slightly less guilty about making an entire meal of spicy chicken wings. (Lisa Miller)



Who’s on Third

Pizza Shuttle


Chinese Restaurant

New China Buffet

Multiple Locations

New China Buffet offers what most folks are seeking in a Chinese buffet: lots of food in a clean atmosphere with the usual egg foo young and fried rice plus a few surprises, including crawfish and rice water. Chinese music purrs softly in the background as servers keep the steam trays filled and remove the spent dishes from your table. Time for another trip to the line! (M.S.)






Coffee Shop

Colectivo Coffee

Multiple Locations



With 12 cafés in the Greater Milwaukee area (and one in Madison), Colectivo is well loved for its wonderful variety of high-quality coffee and tea, Troubadour bakery, sandwiches and treats, as well as its small selection of craft beer. In addition to being a safe haven to hatch ideas, write novels, create art, share conversation, listen to music and get work done, Colectivo gives back to the community by partnering with and donating to local nonprofits. Three cheers for this multifaceted coffee shop. (Amanda Sullivan)



Anodyne Coffeehouse

Brewed Café



Honeydip Donuts

Multiple locations

Donuts have received a makeover in recent years, with trendy bakeries putting high-concept spins on this longtime blue-collar snack of choice. But as good as some of these new designer donuts are, it’s hard to beat a simple, old-fashioned donut. The no-frills local chain Honeydip Donuts sells great ones for next to nothing, making them fresh at all hours of the day (or night, in the case of Honeydip’s 24-hour location at 5306 S. 27th St.). They may not win you any foodie points, but they’re cheap, tasty and convenient. (E.R.)



Cranky Al’s

Holey Moley


Farm-to-Table Restaurant (Locally Sourced)

Beans & Barley

1901 E. North Ave.



Beans & Barley were well into the farm-to-table movement—long before anyone coined the term “farm to table.” For decades, B&B has been at the lead in serving nutritious, natural food, both on the menu of their strikingly contemporary restaurant and in the bakery, deli and grocery selections. Prices are affordable. The dining room is a great place to people watch and boasts a rotating selection of local art on the walls as well as locally sourced food on the table. (D.L.)



Odd Duck

Wolf Peach


French Restaurant
Restaurant with a View
Romantic Restaurant

Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro

3133 E. Newberry Blvd.



Looking for exquisite French food with a view? There is only one place to go, Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro. Perched atop the bluff in beautiful Lake Park, the Bistro has been serving classically prepared French dishes in a relaxed setting for nearly 20 years. The food, service and wine have never faltered in all that time. Go for a simple glass of vino at the bar with an order of Moules Marinieres (steamed mussels.) Or, enjoy the view from the window-lined dining room and order a gourmet multi-course dinner. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. (S.H.G.)


Runners-up French Restaurant:

Le Rêve Patisserie & Café

Chez Jacques


Runners-up Restaurant with a View:

Barnacle Bud’s

Screaming Tuna

Café Benelux


Runners-up Romantic Restaurant


The Nobel


Frozen Yogurt Shop

Yo Mama!

Multiple locations


Yo Mama! now boasts three locations, and it’s easy to see why the 3-year-old company is such a success. Offering 10 frozen yogurt flavors daily, 35 toppings and a host of beverages and Simma’s Bakery pastries, Yo Mama! is a sweets lover’s dream. Watching your diet? Don’t worry, Yo Mama! has you covered—most yogurts served have zero fat and each day’s selection features a no-sugar option and dairy-free sorbet. There’s really no excuse—grab a cup and start creating! (Selena Milewski)


Runners-up :


Daddy Yo’s


Gelato Shop

La Coppa Gelato

Bayshore Town Center

5675 N. Bayshore Drive, Glendale



La Coppa Gelato, which opened in 2012 in Glendale and now has Madison locations as well, offers authentic Italian gelato and sorbetto made from scratch onsite daily with the freshest fruits and all-natural ingredients. The gelateria, run by Brookfield’s Art Sawall and Italian brothers Maurizio and Alfredo Lincetto (second-generation Gelato Grand Masters), offers more than 30 silky flavors and a grand assortment of signature gelato creations, including cakes. No wonder Milwaukee voted them best. (A.S.) 



Divino Gelato

Cold Spoons Gelato


German Restaurant


1041 N. Old World Third St.



Dine under a splendid wrought-iron chandelier near a suit of medieval armor and drink German beer from a ceramic mug. This is the Mader’s experience. At the menu’s heart are the German specialties that made Mader’s famous, including sauerbraten, schnitzel and sausages made by a neighboring Milwaukee treasure, Usinger’s. Lunch offers great value and the quality is the same as at dinner. (Jeff Beutner)



Karl Ratzsch’s

Café Bavaria


Gourmet Restaurant


1547 N. Jackson St.



For nearly 25 years, Sanford restaurant has been consistently known for outstanding, exquisitely prepared gourmet food. Sanford’s kitchen, captained by not one, but two award-winning chefs, has turned out some of the most beautiful dishes in Milwaukee. First Sandy D’Amato and now Justin Aprahamian have raised the bar of local culinary expectations. The intimate restaurant, top-notch service and elegant food will likely continue to impress patrons for many years to come. (S.H.G.)



The Noble

c. 1880


Greek Restaurant

Oakland Gyros

Multiple Locations

One of Milwaukee’s favorite counter-service restaurants offers gyros and shish-kebob sandwiches, spinach pie, Greek salads and even plain old cheeseburgers. The lamb shank features a large piece of tender, flavorful meat in a brown sauce, served with warm pita, black olives, feta and choice of fries or salad. The original Oakland Gyros benefited from its location near the UW-Milwaukee campus and on the same block as a popular bar, Axel’s. The formula was so successful that Oakland Gyros has replicated itself on the South Side with name and menu intact. (D.L.)




Apollo Café

Cosmos Café

Ouzo Café

The PeachTree

Hot Dog

The Dogg Haus

Multiple locations


Did you go to Marquette? Then you know all about The Dogg Haus. What started as a late-night staple for the bar crowd on Brady has expanded to serve hordes of hungry students on campus and Downtown office workers. Vienna Beef dogs are topped Chicago style, with chili, slaw or any number of good things. For something that will really fill you up, try the Italian beef and sausage combo or the deep-fried Polish sausage. (L.M.)



Sammy’s Taste of Chicago


Mike’s Red Hots


Hotel Restaurant

Pfister Hotel Restaurants

424 E. Wisconsin Ave.



Little wonder the historic Pfister took the prize with the many options it offers, for guests as well as discerning locals. There’s the elegant martini bar, Blu, “the 23rd-floor gem in the sky;” contemporary chic of Mason Street Grill; the Old World elegance of The Rouge with its magnificent Sunday buffet; the snappy breakfasts and lunches at the Café at the Pfister; weekend high tea on the 23rd floor; and even a spectacular lounge in the lobby, where food from the Café can be enjoyed. (M.S.)



Café at the Plaza

Envoy (Ambassador Hotel)


Indian-Pakistani Restaurant


1550 N. Farwell Ave.



For many Milwaukeeans, Maharaja was an early introduction to Indian food and remains a mainstay for its lavish lunch buffet. In recent years the interior underwent a welcome facelift and the menu has been tweaked, but Milwaukee’s longest-running Indian restaurant continues to draw crowds on the strength of its food. As for that buffet: Not only will you not leave hungry, but most of us will be unable to find room to taste every item. (D.L.)



Taste of India

Bombay Sweets



Italian Restaurant

Ristorante Bartolotta

7616 W State St.



Twenty-one years ago Ristorante Bartolotta opened in the old heart of Wauwatosa inside a late-19th-century Cream City brick former Pabst tavern. The Bartolotta restaurant group has grown extensively over the years and includes some of this area’s finest dining venues such as Bacchus, Lake Park Bistro and Mr. B’s Steakhouse. The most recent additions are the Joey Gerard’s supper clubs in Mequon and Greendale. But the original Ristorante remains the most charming with cozy and intimate seating—a destination for superbly prepared Italian cuisine. (J.B.)




Calderone Club


Japanese Restaurant
Delivery Menu


200 W. Wisconsin Ave.




Visit Kiku and you’ll see constant reminders that they’ve won these awards before. Year after year Shepherd readers make clear their affinity for this Wisconsin Avenue sushi hub, where the rolls are plump, the menu is vast and the deals are abundant. The kitchen is open late, too, making this a convenient destination for some sake and yellowtail rolls after catching a show Downtown. (E.R.)


Runners-up Japanese:




Runners-up Delivery Menu:


Mozzaluna Pizzeria & Ristorante


Runners-up Sushi:

Umami Moto



Jewish/Kosher-Style Restaurant

Jake’s Deli

Multiple locations


For decades Jake’s Deli sat at 1634 W. North Ave., untouched by time, but in recent years the business has expanded aggressively, introducing new locations in the Grand Avenue and Southridge malls and serving at farmers markets, summer festivals, Bucks games and other area events. That’s great news for local corned beef and pastrami enthusiasts, because Jake’s heaping sandwiches remain some of the very best in the state: heavily seasoned and a good deal juicier than you’ll find almost anywhere else. Just as tasty are the deli’s homemade matzo ball and corned beef and cabbage soups, the epitome of Jewish comfort food. (E.R.)





Kitchen Open After 10 p.m.

Ma Fischer’s

2214 N. Farwell Ave.




Regardless of how hungover you are, Ma’s gigantic menu can help you sate just about any craving. You can get the requisite eggs, waffles and pancakes, as well as big, cheesy omelets, but Ma’s also serves a full menu 24 hours a day—that means you can get Greek, Italian and even Mexican dinner specials at 9 in the morning. Whatever you order, it’s bound to fill you up since Ma’s super-sized portions dwarf your standard diner fare. Smart drinkers in the North Avenue area instinctively learn to head to Ma’s for breakfast just after bar time, since a full stomach can help them avoid a hangover in the first place. (M.S.)




Carson’s Prime Steaks & Famous Barbecue


Korean Restaurant

Sake Tumi

714 N. Milwaukee St.



Sake Tumi’s centerpiece is a long sushi bar that dominates the dining area. The dining room remains one of the most attractive for local East Asian dining. Sake Tumi’s original menu was a pioneer in Asian fusion, offering a few Korean items along with Japanese cuisine. That tradition continues, as today’s menu expands its options for Korean food and adds some Chinese dishes as well. The bar offers sake and a nice selection of beers. The wine list is especially good for a Japanese/Korean restaurant, with about 40 choices from around the world. Despite considerable competition, Sake Tumi remains a top pick for its setting, its specialty maki sushis and its Korean barbecue. (J.B.)



Stone Bowl Grill


Louisiana/Southern Restaurant

Maxie’s Southern Comfort

6732 W. Fairview Ave.




Maxie’s has been serving up Cajun and Southern fare for seven years, taking up two floors of a duplex-like building in a residential neighborhood. Décor is Southern-style bling, with red walls and sparkling chandeliers at the bars. Seafood and barbecue are the way to go here, including fresh oysters on the half shell, shrimp and grits with tasso, and smoked ribs with mac ’n’ cheese. You better save room for dessert though, especially the homemade banana chocolate coconut cream pie. (L.M.)




Ashley’s Que

Mr. Perkins’ Family Restaurant


Mexican Restaurant

BelAir Cantina

Multiple locations


BelAir Cantina has become known for many things, including an enormous array of tequila and many unique spins on familiar Mexican dishes. You’ve never seen huevos rancheros served this way in Milwaukee! The field of locally owned Mexican restaurants is crowded, with many excellent venues to chose from. BelAir offers casual settings, friendly servers, good food at reasonable cost and outdoor seating when the weather is warm. (M.S.)


Runners-up Mexican Restaurant:

Café Corazon



Runners-up Taco:

Café Corazon

Taqueria Arandas


Middle Eastern Restaurant


728 E. Brady St.



Even before it added a second floor with a veranda overlooking Brady Street, Casablanca was a bright spot in local dining, not only for its vegetarian buffet and its omnivorous Sunday brunch buffet, but also for its extensive menu of Near Eastern delicacies. The bar is a comfortable hideaway. Hookahs are available as well. (D.L.)




Shawarma House


Outdoor Dining

Barnacle Bud’s

1955 S. Hilbert St.




Long before restaurants opened along Downtown’s River Walk, Barnacle Bud’s was pouring drinks and serving food on the banks of the Kinnickinic River. It’s on Hilbert Street, which only runs for two blocks. The highlight is a large outdoor deck that overlooks the Kinnickinnic. The restaurant features a small bar where you can order bottles of beer served in buckets of ice. The menu offers casual fare, mainly sandwiches and a few seafood baskets. The Friday fish fry features catfish, smelt, cod and grouper. Indoors you will find a table with all of the fixings for a customized, do-it-yourself bloody mary. It should come as no surprise that the deck is busy in good weather. This is one of Milwaukee’s best summer spots. (J.B.)



Café Benelux

Wolf Peach


Pizza (Local)

Zaffiro’s Pizza

1724 N. Farwell Ave.




The taste is distinctive and good. The very thin crust has a delicate flavor. The tomato sauce is lightly sweet-spicy, toppings are generously applied and the cheese isn’t drippy. This pizza feels healthy. Zaffiro’s Cocktail Lounge and Dining Room is a two-room place with no pretentions. First, a bar, a juke box and a couple electronic games; second, a cozy dining room with red-and-white checked tablecloths, wood paneling and white plaster with Italy’s red and green colors applied to the ceiling, molding and trim. “Since 1954,” says the sign. The menu has many Italian dishes and lots of wines. Delivery, including lunch, is available daily. (John Schneider)



Transfer Pizzeria Café

Classic Slice



Smoke Shack

332 N. Milwaukee St.



Ribs are a food most non-vegetarians have an opinion about. Falling off the bone or well-smoked, dry rub or wet, sweet sauce or spicy, baby back or spare ribs. Whatever your preference, the Smoke Shack ribs will make most folks very happy. They offer both Berkshire spare ribs and baby back ribs, smoked to perfection—not quite falling off the bone, but very tender. The meat is smoked with a dry rub, but they offer five house-made gluten-free sauces to allow everyone the ability to sauce they way want. (S.H.G.)



Carson’s Prime Steaks & Famous Barbecue

Ashley’s Que




Multiple locations


Submarine sandwiches were a rumor in Milwaukee until the early ’70s. Suburpia was one of the pioneers at a time when their menu was a good cure for the munchies and their clever radio ads were sung by the then-unknown John Belushi. Suburpia still offers the Davey Jones (tuna), Reuben James (corned beef), Gold Coast (ham) and Miles Standish (turkey). Served on a sub-shaped bun loaded with cheese, mayo and chopped salad in a tangy dressing, the subs are so heavily loaded that the filling tends to slide out of the buns. (M.S.)



Love Handle

Mozzaluna Pizzeria & Ristorante


Seafood Restaurant

Harbor House

550 N. Harbor Drive



Dining on the shore of Lake Michigan in the Harbor House’s well-appointed, airy restaurant, it’s easy to forget you’re not on the East Coast. The only thing missing is a tang of salty sea air. Happily the seafood is just as fresh as what’s found along the Atlantic shore. The well-maintained raw bar, fresh Maine lobster and fat sea scallops will cure any longing you may feel for the ocean. And the rainbow trout and Great Lakes walleye make you feel right at home. (S.H.G.)



St. Paul Fish Company

Twisted Fisherman

Barnacle Bud’s


Soul Food Restaurant

Ashley’s Que

124 W. National Ave.



The original Ashley’s is an inner city venue offering only carryouts. Ashley’s Que sports a Walker’s Point location with many tables and a bar. The specialty is barbecue and Ashley’s has one of the best spicy and tangy sauces around. The pulled pork, rib tips and chicken are the best though a very good fried chicken is served too. Also consider the shrimp and grits. Sandwiches are also available but barbecue is king here. (J.B.)



Coffee Makes You Black

Mr. Perkins’ Family Restaurant



Soup Brothers

209 W. Florida St.


Occupying a small storefront in Walker’s Point, Soup Brothers is a small hole-in-the-wall shop with a serious reputation for consistently serving the best soup, sandwiches and homemade bread in the city. Each day between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Soup Bros. offers customers a selection of vegetarian and meat soups. Although the short menu changes nearly every day, crowd favorites like red pepper bisque can frequently be found scrawled on the dingy chalkboard. In anticipation of the chilling temperatures, the restaurant will begin its extended winter hours just in time for soup season. (Maddy Kennedy)



The Soup House

The Soup Otzie’s


Restaurant Service
Supper Club

Five O’Clock Steakhouse

2416 W. State St.



Between its retro décor and quirky ordering system, the Five O’Clock Steakhouse offers a unique dining experience. Diners order at the bar while enjoying a pre-meal drink. When they arrive at their table, their salad will be waiting for them, along with fresh sourdough bread and a full relish tray. Though the menu offers seafood, lamb and pork, the steaks are the no-brainer here. They’re cooked on high heat so even the rarest orders develop a phenomenal char that seals in the juices, then topped with butter sautéed mushrooms. The décor may be outdated, but these steaks are timeless. (E.R.)


Runners-up Steakhouse:

Eddie Martini’s

Carson’s Prime Steaks & Famous Barbecue


Runners-up Restaurant Service:

Carson’s Prime Steaks & Famous Barbecue



Runners-up Supper Club:

Joey Gerard’s

Jackson Grill

Carson’s Prime Steaks & Famous Barbecue


Street Food Vendor

Roll MKE



Chad Rittgers, owner and chef of Roll MKE, says the idea to share his love of cooking via a food truck struck on New Year’s Eve 2012. After driving his newly acquired Florida truck 1,400-plus miles back to Wisconsin, renovating it and applying its black-and-red design, Roll MKE hit the streets in May 2013, and Milwaukeeans are now crazy about Rittgers’ signature gourmet sandwiches. For $8, you receive one of the truck’s handcrafted sandwiches, house-cut sea-salted fries and a drink. The menu changes on a regular basis, with offerings including pork belly sliders, brisket grilled cheese, spicy black bean burger, stuffed portabella and bruschetta chicken. Locate Roll MKE by following them on Facebook or Twitter, @RollMKE. (A.S.)



Streetza Pizza

Fast Foodie



La Merenda

125 E. National Ave.



 La Merenda is a gem among Milwaukee restaurants, a place where customers can spend an evening over drinks and conversation as the small plates keep coming. The menu evolves over time but the accent has always been international, while the sourcing is as local as possible. Vegetarians will find many options; carnivores, definitely try the Argentine beef. The place is cozy in winter and has added outdoor parking for summer. La Merenda abounds in small touches, including craft-made tonic water for cocktails. Dinner reservations are essential, as the place gets busy. (D.L.)



Odd Duck



Tea Room

The Watts Tea Shop

761 N. Jefferson St.



Located in the historic East Town building that also houses George Watts & Sons china shop, the Watts Tea Room offers an impressively authentic English tea experience that everyone should try once. Afternoon tea comes with an assortment of canapés, fruit and pastries, or if you’re feeling particularly peckish, try the Door County cherry-stuffed French toast for breakfast (9 a.m.-11 a.m.) or the Watts’ classic chicken potpie for lunch (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) Whatever you choose, Milwaukeeans have spoken that Watts doesn’t disappoint. (A.S.)





Thai Restaurant

The King & I

830 N. Old World Third St.




Most of Milwaukee’s Thai restaurants are decidedly casual, but the King & I remains a favorite for diners who prefer a touch of formality with their pad Thai. The dining room is elegant and the service is sharp, and while the kitchen won’t skimp on the spice for those who request it, diners with less daring palates will find plenty to enjoy on this large menu of noodles, curries, soups, stir fries and seafood. Try the lunch buffet on weekdays for $8.95. (E.R.)






Vegetarian Friendly Restaurant

Riverwest Co-op & Café

733 E. Clarke St.




The Café grew out of the grocery co-op 10 years ago, and has been at the forefront of refuting the old lie that healthy isn’t tasty when it comes to food. The menu is all vegan or vegetarian, made largely with organic and local ingredients—down to the bakery, soups and desserts. Sandwiches are excellent. The Café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Brunch is served on weekends. (M.S.)



Ethiopian Cottage



Vietnamese Restaurant


2691 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.




This is a golden age for Vietnamese cuisine in Milwaukee. Over the last six or seven years, Vietnamese restaurants have sprung up all across the city, and most of them make good on their promise of delivering a mighty tasty bowl of pho. None of these newcomers, however, are as quite as inviting as Hue, a cozy Bay View lounge with a lightly Americanized take on Vietnamese cuisine. That means you won’t find any tripe on the menu, but you will find a great wine and beer selection and an assortment of thoughtful rice and noodle dishes, as well as vegetarian and chicken pho alternatives for soup lovers trying to steer clear of red meat. (E.R.)



Phan’s Garden


Wine List

Pizza Man

2597 N. Downer Ave.



The word “list” doesn’t begin to do justice to Pizza Man’s wine selection. The restaurant’s wine menu is literally a binder, running 12 pages and featuring hundreds of wines at all price points from all over the world. It’s a permanent work in progress, with new wines added each month. Pizza Man also offers eight wines on tap, as if its overstocked cellar wasn’t selection enough. (E.R.)


The Ruby Tap

Five O’Clock Steakhouse

Carson’s Prime Steaks & Famous Barbecue



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