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An A-Z Guide to Dining and Imbibing in Milwaukee

Photos by David Szymanski

Dec. 2017

It seems Milwaukee’s culinary and drink scenes score highly on some national list on a near monthly basis. And just about every other week, some new restaurant or food purveyor or brewery opens in the city. It’s kind of hard to take it all in. Never fear. We’ve got you covered. Here’s our A-to-Z guide to everything enticing in Milwaukee.

Alchoholic Slushies
We know Justin Carlisle earned his James Beard Award nomination for his amazing cuisine at Ardent, but we think his alcoholic slushies at The Laughing Taco deserve a nomination too. Another great place for grown-up slushies is The Phoenix Cocktail Club.;

Bright Cellars
Sort of like Pandora, but for vino, this Milwaukee-based wine subscription service picks out wines based on your preferences. Based on a quiz (think questions like, “What kind of chocolate could you eat for the rest of your life?”), an algorithm comes up with selections. You get four bottles every month for $60, with special alerts to order your favorites.

In Spain, people snack on churros after a night of drinking. The Churro Shop, located within Movida, serves up churros to go or delivers them to your door, straight from Movida’s kitchen. (Spanish croquetas are served late night or to go too.) These hot, sugary treats come with a choice of chocolate, raspberry or dulce de leche sauce. (414) 224-5300


Milwaukee has plenty of great places for doughnuts, but our favorite is entirely-made-from-scratch doughnut-maker Holey Moley Coffee + Doughnuts. And not just because they’re delicious — Holey Moley also makes vegan and gluten-friendly doughnuts. These specialty donuts aren’t just plain. Try flavors like passionfruit coconut, whiskey salted chocolate, and, just in time for the holidays, chocolate peppermint or gingerbread.

Energy Juice
If your energy’s flagging and your outlook starts sagging, just head to The Juice Kitchen for the pick-me-up blend, aptly named Energy. Organic, fresh cantaloupe, sweet potato, lemon and apple are pressed together into a fantastic juice drink.

There are great fries, and then there are the fries made by chef Shay Linkus at The Vanguard. They’re crispy potato goodness, and they’re divine all on their own — but you can also get ’em seasoned, curried, chilied or poutined.

Good Land Orange and Spice Liqueur
Guy Rehorst has developed some pretty stellar spirits since he opened Great Lakes Distillery, but one of his best is one of his latest. Good Land is sort of like Gran Marnier, but it’s got more depth — more spirit, if you will. The name, of course, is an ode to “Wayne’s World,” in which Alice Cooper explains to Wayne that Milwaukee is Algonquin for “the good land.”

Hash browns
Yes, we know the egg dishes, pancakes and monkey bread at Blue’s Egg are completely craveable, but you can easily make a meal out of just the stuffed hash browns. Filled with pulled ham and cheddar, chicken chorizo and spinach paprika aioli, roasted mushrooms and crème fraiche, or, heck, even the “skinny” version made with basil pesto, diced tomatoes and spinach, they’re all fantastic. Your only problem will be deciding which one to order.

Thirsty for an India pale ale, but with more oomph? Try these locally made double IPAs that get brew lovers hopping (pun intended): Hop Freak, made with Rishi Tea organic jasmine tea, Milwaukee Brewing Company; Reward, like the original Risk IPA, only bigger, Good City Brewing; Sproose, made with locally harvested spruce tips, Black Husky Brewing; Happy Happy, like Happy Place, only hoppy-ier, Third Space Brewing; and Naked Threesome, a double, dry-hopped IPA made with late-season Wisconsin hops, Raised Grain Brewing Company.;;;;

Jerk chicken pita
Head to Cosmos Café in Tosa, and you won’t be disappointed by this perfectly spiced pita. A good jerk seasoning garners its depth of flavor from heat (think cayenne, paprika, hot peppers), savory (think onions, garlic, thyme) and sweet (think cinnamon, nutmeg and even sugar). We don’t know Cosmos’ secret blend, but it’s fantastic. If you want to make yours at home, try the jerk seasoning from The Spice House or Penzeys.;;

Saehee Chang’s first memory of kimchi is tasting her mother’s homemade kimchi, with the chilis rinsed off, and enjoying the salty, briny, crunchy vegetables. Today, using her mother’s recipe, she sells Kosari Kimchi at many local farmers markets. She makes three different kinds of kimchi: traditional Korean kimchi, vegan kimchi (which has no fish sauce or shrimp paste), and seasonal kimchis (radish, cucumber and perilla, a type of herb similar to mint). Grab a jar of her kimchi at the Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market or order to pick up at

Lovino Sangria, that is. This delicious, locally bottled sangria just returned after a two-year hiatus. Jennifer Clearwater, Lovino’s new owner, fell in love with the sangria, and she finally got her chance to buy the brand last year. She tweaked the recipe slightly, but the lovely Lovino still boasts a cabernet franc base. She has it bottled at Mona Rosa Winery in Green Bay. Buy it at the Wine Cellar of Wisconsin in Elm Grove, Bernie’s Fine Meats in Port Washington, and several other locations, or order online at www.winestore.html.

Milwaukee Ribs
Iron Grate BBQ Co. owner Aaron Patin loved the flavor and the taste of barbecued ribs, but he always felt there wasn’t enough meat on the bones. So, instead of separating the meat from the bones, he leaves it attached, and thus, the Milwaukee Rib was born.

Nepalese momos
You can only get these delicately delicious dumplings at The Cheel. Chef Barkha Daily creates these savory appetizers with your choice of veggies, goat or lamb, and deciding which flavor of dumplings is only the first conundrum, as they come with a choice of eight dipping sauces, including classic (a Nepalese take on salsa), creamy (a Nepalese sour cream dip), and tangy tamarind (a Nepalese sweet and sour).

Octopus and Milwaukee may not seem to go together, but they do, especially at Tre Rivali, where chef Heather Terhune braises the octopus in olive oil before charring it on the grill and serving it with tangy, preserved lemon. Sweet yet succulent, it’s the best way to eat octopus. And though it’s not technically on the menu of the Kimpton’s rooftop bar, you can still order the olive-oil braised octopus at The Outsider. (Try saying that 10 times fast.)

Pizza crust
Gluten-free pizza lovers, rejoice: Blooming Lotus Gourmet Bakery is here to save the day (and your meal). The East Side bakery sells its grain-free pizza crust online and in store.  The crust is prebaked, so simply load with your go-to toppings and pop into the oven to warm before enjoying.

No, we’re not talking about subatomic particles. We’re talking cheese. Seriously good, seriously creamy, fresh cheese made daily at Clock Shadow Creamery. Instead of sticky cream cheese, spread quark’s dreamy goodness over bagels, bake it into a cake or whip it into a dip.

Roll and rice
The Filipino lumpia rolls and garlic rice from Meat on the Street, a restaurant and food truck, are quite addicting — you can’t have just one. Long and narrow, the lumpia rolls are filled with pork and veggies, and they’re served with a sweet sauce. The garlic rice is like white rice, only garlicky and better. Yum. (414) 477-6717

South African chutney
Or SA Braai chutney, made by South African native Matt Devan. Devan, a trained butcher, married a Milwaukee native named Wendi, and the two make a mean chutney — or three. Try mild, sweet or seasonal cranberry. The cranberry’s especially good on holiday leftovers.

Toffee pudding
The sticky toffee pudding at Tofte’s Table is made with dates and flour and baked in a springform pan, and right after it’s taken out of the oven, holes are poked into the top so steamy caramel sauce can soak right into this decadent bread pudding. Super moist, super gooey, super delicious. “People
think it’s got chocolate in it, but it doesn’t,” says chef/owner Jason Tofte.

Ultimate cookie dough custard
Everyone has their favorite flavor of the day custard at Kopp’s, but one of the best is the ultimate cookie dough. And it’s not just a simple cookie dough custard — it’s a combination of custard, cookie dough and chocolate chips, plus fudge, caramel and extra chocolate-chip cookie dough. Since it’s not on the forecast every month, sign up for a flavor alert so you can get it when it’s served.

Valentine Coffee’s wine growlers
V is for locally roasted Valentine Coffee, but it’s also for Valentine Coffee’s wine growlers. The company’s Oak Creek coffee café is the only Milwaukee area coffee café that sells wine in growlers to go. Pick a wine on tap, then just fill it and go.

As in, the whole-roasted suckling pig at Bodeg”n, the restaurant within Hotel Madrid. Call it the Spanish version of a pig roast, and at Bodeg”n, the chefs do it right, with a whole, dramatic production. The pig is presented on a board with several sides, like whipped potatoes or glazed mushrooms, feeding six to 10 very hungry people. Usually Bodeg”n has at least one pig ready to go on the weekend, but it’s not always available — so if you’ve got your heart set on experiencing this Spanish tradition, call ahead.

X is for Extras
Yeah, we know we’re now a more cosmopolitan city, but in Milwaukee, those delicious freebies with dinner are hard to pass up. Here are three spectacular extras: Whether you order catfish or jambalaya, the entrées at Maxie’s come with an amped up bread and butter — sweet cornbread and honey butter, in fact. Order some fish or a steak at Dobie’s Steakhouse, and your whole table gets a lazy Susan relish tray filled with liver sausage, veggies and other delights. You may have initially frequented Rare Steakhouse for the in-house aged meats, but you’ll return for the light-as-air popovers and strawberry butter.; (414) 744-9064;

All- you-can-eat brunch
Plenty of spots around town serve some stellar stuff-your-face brunches, but the only place you can get lobster pot pie and made-to-order Benedicts on crab cakes is at Harbor House. Pace yourself to truly enjoy every bite.

The pies at Wy’east Pizza are all pretty spectacular, mainly because the of the dough and the toppings. The dough is fermented for 16 hours, so the resulting crust is both chewy and crisp — perfect for topping with fresh and inventive ingredients like in the Zig-Zag pie, with its simple yet stellar
combination of soppressata salami and nicoise olives.


This story ran in the Dec. 2017 issue of: