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Insider's Take
Favorite Places within the city limits

Photos by Dan Bishop

August 2014

The inventive menu at Buckley’s makes it a local favorite.

Who doesn’t enjoy the thrill of discovering a new restaurant, but there are a multitude of established restaurants in the city that are worth keeping on the short list. Though it is not an exhaustive list of culinary gems in the city, here are a number of favorites worth revisiting, again and again.


Chef David Swanson created the first Restaurant Supported Agriculture in the country. It follows that his restaurant serves local, fresh and seasonal foods all year long. 1101 S. 2nd. St., (414) 212-8843,


Chef Thi Cao’s always inventive cuisine runs the gamut from game to seafood. 801 N. Cass St., (414) 277-1111,

Cafe Centraal

Family friendly, yet hip enough to remind me of my days without children, the service is always expert and the food always tasty. Favorites are the Benelux salad and sweet potato frites with garlic aioli sauce. The Lowlands Group’s Cafe Benelux and Cafe Hollander are also worth a visit. 2306 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 755-0378,

Crazy Water

Inventive, eclectic and delicious are accurate descriptors of chef Peggy Magister’s cuisine. Most memorable dish? It’s a tie between the goat cheese tart and crazy shrimp. Whichever you choose, be sure to pair it with a Napa or Sonoma vintage — she always keeps a fresh wine list. 839 S. 2nd St., (414) 645-2606,


Portions tend to run large at this everything-made-from-scratch cafe. I dare you to be able to stop yourself from finishing the barbecue-pork-topped, cheese-smothered fried potatoes with bacon, and save room for one of the dreamy, creamy pies like caramel banana coconut cream. 2643 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 489-7437,


Executive chef Robert Druschitz reinvigorated Kil@wat’s menu earlier this year, adding succulent touches like brown-sugar-cured pork belly and a housemade chicken liver mousse. 139 E. Kilbourn Ave., (414) 291-4793,

La Merenda

Chef Peter Sandroni’s expertly prepared small plates of seafood risotto, braised short ribs, empanadas and more are matched only by the stellar wines on his list. 125 E. National Ave., (414) 389-0125,

Lake Park Bistro

Bartolotta restaurants offer superb cuisine with stellar service, but the sweeping vistas of Lake Michigan lure me to Lake Park Bistro again and again. James Beard-award-winning chef Adam Siegel’s food is excellent, particularly his annual black truffle dinner. 3133 E. Newberry Blvd., (414) 962-6300,

Mason Street Grill

Chef Mark Weber grills up some of the best cuts of meat in town, but his seafood prowess is not to be overlooked. A revised menu showcases this with items like Atlantic salmon with white bean puree, preserved oranges and beurre blanc. 425 E. Mason St., (414) 298-3131,

Maxie’s Southern Comfort

Creole, Cajun and Low Country recipes highlight chef Joe Muensch’s menu. Baked beans and cheesy, Tasso-topped grits take comfort food to another level. 6732 W. Fairview Ave., (414) 292-3969,


Whether you like steak and lamb or prefer to eat vegan or gluten-free, chances are chef Jan Kelly’s going to satisfy your craving. Her menu’s always changing— and it’s always good. 5921 W. Vliet St., (414) 479-0602,


Inside this elegant little bistro/boutique wine shop, chef Mike Engel serves up perfectly seared scallops, decadent flourless chocolate tarts and appetizers that sometimes include bacon jam. Enjoy some of the best Mediterranean tapas on Tuesday nights. 3001 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 482-1446,


Under Sandy D’Amato’s careful watch, Sanford became the first James Beard-recognized restaurant in the city. Current chef and owner Justin Aprahamian followed in his mentor’s footsteps, recently earning the James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest. 1547 N. Jackson St., (414) 276-9608,

Screaming Tuna

This riverfront restaurant offers great Japanese and Asian cuisines with one of the prettiest views in town. 106 W. Seeboth St., (414) 763-1637,

The Noble

Dinners at the tiny yet impeccable restaurant feature meat, fish and vegan, but the Monday brunch remains one of the more inventive in the city. 704 S. 2nd St., (414) 243-4997,

Umami Moto

Asian fusion, small plates and some of the fattest, tastiest sushi rolls around make Umami Moto a favorite spot. Its club-like vibe and great cocktails add to the fun. 718 N. Milwaukee St., (414) 727-9333,


I usually try to order something new at this well-known Italian eatery; my husband always orders the same thing: spaghetti and meatballs. We both leave happy. 741 N. Milwaukee St., (414) 225-0000,



This story ran in the August 2014 issue of: