- Haley Henschel
Though award-winning dairy products have earned Wisconsin fame, its abundant farmers markets, industrious cranberry bogs, prized cherry trees, Friday night fish fries, homey supper clubs, inventive microbreweries and time-honored recipes for brats, cream puffs and Kringles are what make Wisconsin’s dining scene so inimitable. Explore the best of what the Dairy State has to offer with our guide to its top ten restaurants.
Bacchus graces Milwaukee with a big-city fine-dining experience and some of the best Lake Michigan views in the state. This four-star restaurant is a part of the Bartolotta Restaurant group, a highly esteemed lineup of venues that’s become a national culinary sensation and is located in the historic Cudahy Tower. Elegant, sleek and romantic, the venue features a dining room a bright, conservatory-like architecture and leather, stone and dark wood accents throughout. Bacchus is also home to Milwaukee’s best wine list, which is no surprise considering the restaurant is named after the Roman god of wine. You’ll find hundreds of varieties to try as you indulge in classic, artfully prepared dishes that highlight the best of local ingredients.
Bacchus, 925 East Wells Street, Milwaukee, WI, USA, +1 414 765 1166
Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro
Diners should expect nothing but perfection from Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, a four-star restaurant situated on the top floor of a revitalized historic park pavilion. Its sophisticated, graceful ambiance is accentuated with a three-sided Parisian zinc bar and stunning view of Lake Michigan. The menu includes gnocchi Parisienne, or Choux pastry dumplings with roasted squash, beech mushrooms, herb pistou and sheep’s milk cheese, and filet mignon au poivre, or pan-seared, lightly peppered beef tenderloin medallions with potatoes, French beans and a classic green peppercorn brandy cream sauce. Sunday brunch is equally luxurious, with dishes like pain perdu avec fuits, or French toast with bacon, fruit preserves, maple syrup and whipped fromage blanc.
Chefusion is a gastropub with an upscale atmosphere reminiscent of restaurants in large, global cities. Funky dishes are presented with creative flair, and there’s an upstairs lounge that features live music. You’ll also find a menu of lighter eats, and mixologists crafting delicious pre- or post-dinner drinks.
Chefusion, 307 North Broadway, Green Bay, WI, USA, +1 920 432 2300
Crazy Water has a New American-European fusion menu which capitalizes on local, seasonal and organic ingredients whenever possible. It offers dishes like five spice Hudson Valley duck breast with house-made butternut squash tortellini, sage brown butter, a pomegranate demi-glace and sautéed spinach; jasmine tea-glazed wild salmon with Hoisin-braised bacon, herbed basmati rice and orange cashew salad; and grilled sirloin with potato rosti, Swiss chard, mushroom-cambozola-pickled red onion compote and a Cabernet syrup. Make reservations to ensure you have a table at this intimate spot, especially if you’d like to sit on the lush, green patio when the weather is pleasant.
Crazy Water, 839 South 2nd Street, Milwaukee, WI, USA, +1 414 645 2606
The Old Fashioned
Beer, brats and cheese are the three main food groups in the Dairy State and there’s no better place to get all three than at the Old Fashioned. The retro, woodsy tavern is decorated with some of the Madison area’s most distinctive sports and cultural memorabilia and features two bars on each side of the restaurant, where you can cozy up to craft beer paired with a spicy picked egg (the Wisconsin way) or a cocktail like the hand-muddled, brandy Old Fashioned (the Wisconsin way). On the menu you’ll find dishes highlighting ingredients from around the state, like Bleu Mont Dairy cheese, Sheboygan brats and Greenbush donuts. Local favorites include a beer-battered walleye sandwich; and two Sheboygan bratwurst with fixings on a hard roll. No matter what you decide on, don’t forget to add an order or two of beer-battered cheese curds.
Sanford Restaurant in Milwaukee may be one of the best restaurants in the entire Midwest, if not the country.The restaurants uses fresh, local ingredients, in a way that honors their natural flavors.
Down a quiet lane in the hills of Kettle Moraine and tucked away in trees on Nagawicka Lake is Seven Seas, a classy Lake Country restaurant with the area’s best year-round sunset views. Outside, you’ll find a gorgeous property speckled with gazebos, gardens, terraces and patios, and inside you’ll enjoy the upscale surf and turf dishes. Choose from options like slow-roasted duck with an orange apricot glaze, house rice and a cranberry-apple relish; almond chicken cutlets with house rice and a port wine blueberry sauce; and braised beef short ribs with spätzle, a honey porter sauce and crispy onions; and don’t worry about struggling to find the perfect wine to pair with your meal—Seven Seas’ wine list contains over 500 different varieties.
Seven Seas, 1807 Nagawicka Road, Hartland, WI, USA, +1 262 367 3903
When you go to Trattoria Stefano in Sheboygan for Italian food, you can be sure you’re getting the best of the best; owner and operator Stefano Vigletti sponsors trips for his staff to go to Italy regularly to develop their personal cooking techniques and appreciation for the region’s cuisine. Natural, local ingredients enhance the 21-year-old trattoria’s authentic dishes, including its bread and desserts, which are baked in-house daily. Try the ossobuco alla Millanese, or braised veal shanks served with saffron risotto, roasted beets and fresh, sautéed spinach; or the inventive ravioli alla Lombardia, or six-meat ravioli with amaretti cookie, golden raisins and Parmesan served in a brown butter and sage sauce and topped with candied almonds.
Trattoria Stefano, 522 South 8th Street, Sheboygan, WI, USA, +1 920 452 8455
White Gull Inn
A Victorian property less than a mile away from two state parks on the Door County Peninsula is home to the White Gull Inn, a bed and breakfast known for its seasonal outdoor fish boil. The distinctly Door County tradition involves boiling chunks of fresh fish and red potatoes (with just a pinch of salt) outside in a large pot over an open flame. You won’t find the practice anywhere else in the state, much less the county, but one bite of the tender fish—and the accompanying Door County cherry pie—will leave you enamored with Door County cuisine.
White Gull Inn, 4225 Main Street, Fish Creek, WI, USA, +1 888 364 9542