From its infamous Bloody Mary burgers to dining in the only Harley Davidson Museum in the world, Milwaukee has a thriving dining scene which combines high quality food with surprising decors and settings. These ten restaurants reflect Milwaukee’s heritage and represent some of the best food options on offer in this friendly, laid-back city.
c.1880 is an award-winning contemporary American fine dining establishment. Thomas Hauck, the owner and chef, prepares dishes using ingredients from local organic and artisan farms, presented in stunning arrangements, making for a visual and culinary feast. Thanks to the ever-changing menu that follows the seasons, visitors can experience something new each time they visit. Lamb, beef, rib and crab-based dishes are among the finest in the city, but those with a sweet tooth won’t be disappointed either: the whatchamacallit is the unmissable choice for dessert. Combined with an industrial chic decor and impeccable service, c.1880 is a great choice for Milwaukee’s gourmands.
A well-respected restaurant in the heart of Milwaukee, Sanford has been guaranteeing its guests luxurious dining experiences since 1989. The founder himself, Sandy D’Amato, has even cooked for Julia Child and the Dalai Lama. The menu veers towards ‘modern ethnic’; offering dishes that fuse and play with diverse cooking traditions. The unique four-course and seven-course menus take the guest on a journey around the world, although all ingredients are selected from local and artisan sources. An upscale restaurant with a homey, impeccable ambiance and service, Sanford usually gets very busy at weekends.
It is safe to say that David Swanson, the owner of Braise, revolutionized the conventional ‘eat fresh’ idea. His ultimate goal is to ‘reconnect people with food’ by creating an authentic farm-to-table dining experience that very quickly earned local and regional acclaim. Established in 2011, Braise is an exclusive, environmentally minded restaurant and allows its guest to sample sophisticated, healthy dishes at affordable prices. The menu, with its daily variations, offers tangible proof of the restaurant’s philosophy: creative and fun, with a selection of bites, and small and large plates on offer.
Odd Duck is an original tapas bar and restaurant, and the queen of small plate cuisine in Milwaukee’s Bay View area. The French, Asian and Mediterranean-inspired menu is seasonal, which means that it often changes; yet, some dishes have earned a permanent status, including the simple home-made pickles or cured ham plates. The drinks menu is similarly eclectic and wallet-friendly, listing over 30 types of beers, a solid selection of wines and house cocktails. With an urban-rustic interior, Odd Duck is a trendy spot for Milwaukee’s hip crowd.
An upscale establishment, Distil’s exclusivity lies in its artisan approach to food, which enables the chefs to create new, original flavors in a high quality setting. Famed for its plates of cheese and charcuterie, as well as the popular Hidden Creek Farm burger, Distil also features a menu of handcrafted, classic cocktails that’s among the best in Milwaukee. Moreover, in keeping with its name, Distil offers over 100 varieties of whisky. The restaurant’s copper ceilings, wooden tables and carefully designed interior harks back to eras gone-by, while its schedule of live music events enlivens the venue, making it a preferred choice among locals.
A venue that fuses the flavors of modern American and Eastern European cuisine, Wolf Peach uses the freshest of ingredients sourced from local farms. A great spot for brunch, pizza and veggie dishes, Wolf Peach also serves up the delicious ricotta cavatelli; a dollar from each order of this dish is donated to the James Beard Foundation. Set over two levels, with a bar on the lower floor, the restaurant is located on the historic Brewer’s Hill, and boasts a lovely patio with views over the city.
The picture of Sobelmans’ Bloody Masterpiece (described as a ‘Fully-Loaded, Cheeseburger-Bloody Mary’) traveled around the world and was featured on such websites as the Huffington Post, instantly making Sobelmans one of the most famous dining establishments in the city. The restaurant is one of the city’s favorite burger joints, voted Milwaukee’s Best Burgers & Bloodies on several occasions. Portions are generous, as are the options: appetizers, sandwiches and the famed burgers count among the most popular choices, with the preferred pick being the mysterious Bomb. The venue’s laid-back charm makes it a great spot for casual, no-frills dining.
Part of the renowned Bartolotta restaurants, Harbor House was recognized as Milwaukee’s ‘best view’ and seafood restaurant on numerous occasions. With stunning views of Lake Michigan and the city, Harbor House is understandably one of their most popular ventures. Set in a New England-style interior with attentive service and reasonable prices, the menu showcases excellent fish and seafood dishes, but the steaks are not to be missed either. A charming venue, Harbor House is best visited after a stroll around the nearby Milwaukee Art Museum.
The Emperor of China is Milwaukee’s place-to-be for Chinese cuisine. The menu boats a remarkable assortment of dishes ranging from typical duck, chicken, beef, pork and seafood options to veggie and rice dishes with diverse provenance. Both the menu and the interior retain close links to Chinese culture; The Emperor of China is, moreover, a family-run business which has been in operation since 1986 and is located on Milwaukee’s well-known Brady Street, lined with premium shops, cafes and restaurants.
Motor Restaurant is located in the world’s only Harley Davidson Museum. With 450 motorcycles on display, Motor specializes in solid, all-American classics, such as ribs and burgers – the Stuffed Motor Burger is a must try – in addition to great beers from the local Lakefront Brewery. Changing its specials on a monthly basis, the restaurant overlooks the Milwaukee riverfront and reflects the values and legendary style of the Harley Davidson estate.