Milwaukee has a rich history, and the city’s cuisines are reflective of the many German, Italian and Polish influences of its immigrant past. We love showing off our city through Milwaukee Food Tours, and the ten restaurants we most often recommend to visitors include:
Mader’s Restaurant, 1041 North Old World 3rd Street, 414-271-3377,
Visit Old World Third to step back in time on this cobblestone street once considered the heart of Milwaukee’s German activity. On your stroll you’ll cross paths with Usinger’s Sausage as they continue to make sausage with Fred Usinger’s original sausage recipe from four generations ago. And, be sure to enjoy a meal at Mader’s Restaurant. Select from their most famous dish – the Pork Shank with an apple demi-glaze – or dine on the Rouladen – a beef tenderloin rolled with pickle spear, smoked bacon, caramelized onions, and German mustard. Can’t decide from their extensive menu? You can’t go wrong with ordering the German Sampler complete with Wiener Schnitzel, Kasseler Rippchen, and Rheinischer Sauerbraten with potato dumpling, sauerkraut and red cabbage to sample the city’s German cuisine.
Caradaro Club Pizza, 5010 W. Vliet, .476.7700,
Milwaukee was strongly influenced by the Italians and Sicilians, and so how could you visit Milwaukee without a sample of excellent cracker thin crust Sicilian pizza? Any of the local favorites – Balistreri’s, Barbiere’s, DeMarini’s and Zaffiro’s – are divine, but for a special treat, try stopping at the The Original Caradaro Club for a slice of pie using the original recipe for the first pizza ever served in Milwaukee.
Ristorante Bartolotta, 7616 West State Street, 414-771-7910,
Although you can’t go wrong by selecting any of Milwaukee’s Bartolotta Family restaurants, our personal favorite is Ristorante Bartolotta. Located in the quaint village of Wauwatosa just outside of downtown Milwaukee, Ristorante Bartolotta is the flagship restaurant for Joe Bartolotta. Menu favorites include any of Bartolotta’s hand-made pastas such as Pappardelle al Ragu d’Anatra, a hand-cut Tuscan ribbon pasta tossed with a traditional slow-braised duck ragu, or any of their seafood dishes such as Grigliata Mista di Mare, a seaside-style assortment of grilled seafood. Be sure to consider Executive Chef Juan Urbieta’s seasonal chef menu as well featuring delicious gems for your next visit.
Three Brothers, 2414 S Saint Clair St, 414-481-7530
Tucked away on an unassuming corner of the Bay View neighborhood you’ll find Three Brothers, a charming Serbian restaurant owned by Branko Radicevic, a 2002 James Beard award winner. The signature Serbian dish, burek, requires 45 – 60 minutes of attention in the kitchen before arriving at your table, but, it is worth every minute. While waiting, be sure to nibble on the stuffed grape leaves, as well as the Serbian hors d’oeuvres platter. (Please note – cash only.)
Polonez, 4016 South Packard Avenue, 414-482-0080
Another great place for Eastern European food is Polonez. George Burzynski cook alongside his grandmother as a child, learning recipes to her traditional Polish dishes. Today, George still prepares the dishes taught to him by his grandmother and in our opinion, the pierogi – Polish dumplings – and Czarnina soup are a must.
Sanford, 1547 North Jackson Street, 414-276-9608,
Chef Sandy D’Amato presents an ever-changing menu to his guests at Sanford on Milwaukee’s East Side. Sandy has since received accolades both locally and nationally in Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Wine Spectator, Milwaukee Magazine, Chicago Tribune, New York Times and Esquire. He was one of 12 chefs in the nation to be personally chosen by Julia Child to cook for her 80th Birthday Celebration in her hometown Boston, and won the Perrier Jouet Best Chef Midwest award in 1996 from the James Beard Foundation. Our recommendation? Just ask for the Seven-Course Surprise Tasting Menu where caution is thrown to the Sanford kitchen and a custom tailored menu is created for you!
Wolf Peach, 1818 North Hubbard Street, 414-374-8480,
Arguably offering one of the best views of downtown Milwaukee, Wolf Peach sits high above the city and offers a farm-to-table menu. Ask for seating on the patio with a view and dine on some of our favorites!
Comet Café, 1947 N. Farwell Avenue, 414-273-7677,
Comet Café offers a wide lunch and dinner menu, but their passion is firm in everything bacon. Don’t miss their Sunday brunch complete with FREE bowls of bacon at each table, Bloody Mary’s topped with bacon, and their Bacon Cakes. You guessed it – pancakes with bacon in them!
Kopp’s Custard, 5373 N. Port Washington Ave., 414-961-2006,
Known equally for their jumbo butter burgers and frozen custard, Kopp’s Custard is a “must taste” when in Milwaukee. Nothing can fully describe that overwhelming taste of buttery goodness with your first burger bite, or the deliciousness of any of their rich custard flavors. Although there are multiple locations, be sure to visit the Glendale location just north of downtown Milwaukee – it is on the site of the former Milky Way drive-in restaurant; the rumored inspiration for the Happy Days diner, Arnold’s Drive-In.
Lakefront Brewery, 1872 N. Commerce St., 414-372-8800, www.lakefrontbrewery.com
You can’t leave Milwaukee without experiencing a classic Friday Night Fish Fry, and what better place to do so than Lakefront Brewery, complete with polka music by Brew Haus Polka Kings and of course, a pint of Milwaukee-brewed beer. Consistently voted the #1 fish fry in Milwaukee, chose between the beer battered cod or the lightly breaded perch. While you’re there, be sure to stick around for a tour of the brewery too – cheers, from Milwaukee!