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Best of Greater MKE: Best Local Drinking & Dining

BY LAUREN SIEBEN
PHOTOS BY DAVID SZYMANSKI

Aug. 2019

Places for Adventurous Eats:
Odd Duck

Odd Duck knows how to commit to a theme. The front window of the restaurant on Kinnickinnic Avenue is home to a collection of duck figurines, and the charm of the space could make you forget that you’re about to embark on a worldly culinary journey. Odd Duck’s menu of small plates changes with the season, so check the menu before you go, but expect inspired dishes like squid ink fettucine, a savory Dutch baby pancake with asparagus and duck egg, or bánh xčo, a Vietnamese crepe made with turmeric, herbs, tofu and sour mushroom soy. Wet your beak with a seasonal cocktail that’s as adventurous as your meal — think coconut-infused gin served with pineapple syrup and Thai basil. In the time it takes to eat dinner, you’ll circle the globe. — L.S.


Summerfest Eats:
Saz’s

Peanut butter and jelly. Spaghetti and meatballs. Summerfest and Saz’s. Some combinations were just meant to be, and that’s true of this popular eatery that you’re guaranteed to find each year at Summerfest. Saz’s serves up its signature mozzarella sticks, chive fries and cheese curds throughout the festival grounds during all 11 days of the annual event. Whether you’re grabbing a bite before rocking out to your favorite band or you’re sitting down with friends for a full meal at Saz’s Dockside Barbecue, Saz’s is a can’t-miss Summerfest food experience. A marinara-dunked mozzarella stick from Saz’s is as Milwaukee as a bratwurst with a brew. — L.S.


Bakery:
Simma’s

The cheesecake at Simma’s is the stuff of legend. To learn why, try the classic cheesecake with a raspberry filling, sandwiched between a chocolate cake bottom and a topping of chocolate ganache. If cheesecake isn’t your dessert of choice, feast your eyes — and then your taste buds — on the picture-perfect selection of goodies in display cases full of eclairs, cream puffs, tarts, truffles and other specialty sweets. — L.S.

 



 


Breakfast:
Blue’s Egg

This beloved breakfast joint, with locations in Wauwatosa and Shorewood, Blue’s Egg has all the breakfast basics covered. But you don’t want to miss one-of-a-kind dishes like the crispy blue crab cake served with remoulade, the Dubliner benedict with corned beef and paprika aioli, or the lemon cheesecake French toast. And don’t miss out on the cinnamon-sugar monkey bread; it’s worth the $1 upcharge to “crunk it” and get the side of bourbon dipping sauce. — L.S.


 


Takeout:
Culver's


The Best of MKE voters have spoken, and their message is clear: Nothing beats a classic butter burger and a bag of cheese curds from Culver’s when it comes to takeout. The restaurant did start in Wisconsin, after all — although the fast food chain now has franchises around the country. With dozens of local locations, you can’t beat the convenience of Culver’s for a meal on the run (and for a quick custard fix too). — L.S.


Butcher Shop:
Bunzel’s Meat Market

This old-school  market has been in the same family for four generations, never losing the personal touches that make it a local favorite. Boasting a selection of fresh meats and sausages, Bunzel’s  also processes wild game . Plus, you can grab grocery items, baked goods or a meal to go from the take-out menu that changes daily — all in one feel-good stop. — L.S.



 


Soup:
Panera Bread

In a climate like ours, it helps to have a reliable source for soup on speed dial. This fast-casual chain covers all the classics, from chicken noodle to broccoli cheddar and creamy clam chowder. In the warmer months, you can fill up on seasonal soups like the Summer Corn Chowder, or for a vegan option, try Panera’s Ten Vegetable Soup. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy your selection in a signature bread bowl; it’s the perfect starchy complement to a heartwarming bowl of your favorite soup. — L.S.


Chicken Wings:
Elsa's On The Park

By the looks of this intimate eatery, you might not think they specialize in game-day fare, but Elsa’s has a wing flavor for every mood or appetite — hot and spicy buffalo wings, dragon wings tossed in soy and ginger, or buck ’n wings in a tangy teriyaki sauce. Really hungry? Order the platter of all three flavors that comes with a side of fries, celery and creamy blue cheese dressing. — L.S.



Poké:
FRESHFIN POKÉ


FreshFin Poké made a splash when it opened on North Avenue on Milwaukee’s east side. Now, the poké powerhouse brings its signature fresh bowls into the Third Ward, Brookfield and even into the Fiserv Forum. FreshFin serves classic Hawaiian poké made with fresh sashimi-grade fish, along with cooked proteins like shrimp and chicken, in addition to protein options for vegans. Don’t sleep on the Spicy Tuna bowl made with ahi tuna, edamame, jalapeno, cucumber, sriracha aioli and crunchy onion pieces, served over rice or a bed of mixed greens. Aside from their signature bowls, FreshFin also offers a BYOB option — build your own bowl, that is. — L.S.


Dual winner: Craft Cocktails and whiskey selection:
THE RUMPUS ROOM

Whether you like it neat, on the rocks or mixed into a classic cocktail, you’ll have no trouble finding a whiskey to your liking at The Rumpus Room in downtown Milwaukee where the Bartolotta gastropub offers an expansive whiskey list to satisfy your palette. If whiskey isn’t your liquor of choice, sift through the restaurant’s equally impressive house cocktail menu for drinks like the classic Wisconsin old fashioned, or opt for something a little more adventurous yet distinctly Sconnie, like the Capone in Door County, made with rye, cherry liqueur and orange bitters. — L.S


Date Dinner:
Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro

On date night, an inviting setting is key, and Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro delivers romantic ambiance in spades. The vaulted ceilings and rustic-chic décor somehow make the French-inspired cuisine taste even better, as do stunning vistas overlooking Lake Michigan, which are the picturesque cherry on top. Make a reservation for two and enjoy the ultimate fine-dining experience with the three-course menu du chef for a prix fixe feast. — L.S.
 

 







 

This story ran in the August 2019 issue of: