Downtown Dining Week Offers Budget Dining at Top Restaurants
Milwaukee's Downtown Dining Week returns for its 12th year beginning Thursday, June 1. The highly anticipated event spans 8 days and includes 43 participating restaurants this year. It allows Milwaukeeans who live and work downtown to explore new dining options at a discount price, while enticing citizens who may not get downtown often to find a new favorite spot. According to Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21, 53 percent of diners indicated they were first-time customers at a restaurant, and 52 percent of all customers neither worked nor lived downtown.
Participating restaurants offer prix fixe dinner menus for either $25 or $35; most restaurants also offer a prix fixe lunch menu for $12.50. All menus include three courses, though the definition of a course varies from restaurant to restaurant. For instance, some restaurants offer alcoholic beverages as a course option, and some offer what are normally considered side dishes, like fries, as a course. Each course generally offers two to three options to choose from.
Four new restaurants are joining the event this year: Brunch, Matador Tacos + Tequila, Rare Steakhouse, and Third Coast Provisions. Third Coast will probably be a popular place during Downtown Dining Week, since it's one of the most exciting openings in Milwaukee this year. They're offering a $35 dinner menu that includes options like blue crab and pimento croquettes, spicy Thai shrimp, and key lime semifreddo. Make your reservations soon if you'd like to try them as I suspect they will fill up quickly.
Seafood fans will also enjoy the $35 dinner menu at Pier 106 Seafood Tavern. Appetizer choices there include beef and shrimp carpaccio and crab and avocado tian with guacamole. Choose from three entrees: pork belly and seared scallops with sweet potato puree, red snapper with squid in a red wine and tomato sauce, or lobster mac and cheese.
Hinterland is also offering a solid $35 dinner menu this year. Choices include heirloom melon gazpacho, wood fire grilled steak with harissa sauce and asparagus, and caramel panna cotta with caramel corn.
Coquette Cafe, always one of the more popular stops during Downtown Dining Week, is one of the 25 restaurants offering a $25 dinner menu. It includes options like leek and potato soup, bacon-wrapped Strauss veal meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes, and ouefs a la neige, a classic French dessert of meringue floating in crème anglaise.
At Distil, $25 will get your choice of four starters, four entrees and three desserts. Poutine with Clock Shadow cheese curds and smoked bacon, crab cake sliders with a green salad dressed with charred lemon vinaigrette, and bourbon blondie sundae would make for a substantial meal—and deal.
Some downtown workers will be pleased to see that Club Charlies has returned with their “liquid lunch” menu. If you're up for it, your three courses can consist of an 8-ounce bloody mary, martini flight, and a chocolate mint dessert martini. If you'd prefer a little food in your stomach, choose from dishes like chopped salad, chicken gyro with fries, and bread pudding.
Other lunch favorites include The Knick (with options like hummus, grilled salmon salad and lemon ricotta cheesecake), The Pub Club (grilled watermelon gazpacho, cheeseburger and chips, raspberry crème brulee), Smoke Shack (fried green tomatoes, brisket sandwich, bourbon praline cake), and Zarletti (minestrone, pasta al pomodoro, cannoli).
Diners who wish to participate in Downtown Dining Week do not have to make a specific reservation in order to get the deal, though reservations are recommended at some restaurants. When you're finished with your meal, be sure to complete a survey on the event's website, milwaukeedowntown.com. You'll be entered to win one of four $500 dining gift certificates, chosen randomly at the end of the event.