Today marks the official kick-off of Downtown Dining Week, which takes place May 30 through June 6.
That means an eight-day festival of feasting featuring a variety of multiple-course options at special pricing ($12.50 for lunch; $25 or $35 for dinner) from a wide variety of Downtown restaurants.
This year, it also means paying just $3 for three hours of parking at select Interstate Parking lots downtown. To take advantage, select the Downtown Dining Week rate at select Interstate pay station and enter the code "EATUP."
With parking out of the way, the toughest part about participating in Downtown Dining Week is deciding where to go; so, I thought I’d give you a place to start. I’ve scoured the menus of the 30-plus participating restaurants and laid out 10 diverse options (five lunches and five dinners) for your dining pleasure.
1. Bring back the Bloody Mary lunch
I'm not sure if the Bloody Mary lunch is really a thing; but, you can do it (with or without alcohol) at Brunch during Downtown Dining. Pair it with an avocado egg BLT laced with Sriracha aioli for just $12.50.
2. Go three for three
Trio, a combination restaurant, ping-pong palace and events venue, is a relative newcomer on Old World Third. So stop in and give them a try. At lunch you can grab a house salad, a Cubano sandwich (with pulled ham, braised pork shoulder, pickled red onions, pickles, mustard and Swiss) and a slice of chocolate cake for just $12.50.
3. Veg out
Load up on vegetables with a side of France. Pastiche at the Metro is offering up a substantial lunch of ratatouille loaded up with tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, onion, fennel and zucchini. Gild the vegetal lily with a slice of housemade carrot cake.
4. Geek out
Stop by Oak & Shield for a mid-day board game with your colleagues. It’s sure to make your day better, especially when you can indulge in dishes with names like the "Live Long & Fiber," the "Feed Me Tacos & Tell Me I’m Pretty" and the "Stay Puft" marshmallow dessert. Get them all for $12.50.
5. Try out the new guy
Been to Eastown Kitchen & Bar yet? Head there for lunch and get a warm jumbo pretzel and southwestern inspired chicken chopped salad with charred corn, tomato, bacon, blue cheese and chipotle ranch dressing for just $12.50.
Experience a sampling of the Korean fare at Char’d with the three-course $25 dinner menu featuring starters like KFC wings (they're delicious) or white kimchi salad (more virtuous), main courses like the beef bulgogi and a deconstructed (but delicious) version of cheesecake featuring cheesecake mousse, crumble and citrus for dessert.
7. Seafood ... Then eat it
Love seafood? Get to Third Coast Provisions where you can indulge in clam chowder followed by butter-poached rock shrimp with red beans and rice, andouille sausage, berbere butter and fried pickled onion. Oh, yeah. There’s flourless chocolate cake waiting for dessert ($35).
8. Go globally inspired
Head over to Blue Bat Kitchen & Tequilaria in the Third Ward for dinner and you can indulge in a global feast. Perhaps you’ll start off with the popular fried Brussels sprouts decked out with lime, cotija cheese, pecans, dried mango and chipotle aioli. Follow that with a gluten-free-friendly Cuban bowl featuring marinated pork, Nueske’s bacon, mojo sauce, mustard seed, crispy plantain, pickled cucumbers and jasmine rice. You can wash it all down with a house margarita or pina colada, all for just $25.
9. Get some ‘que
If you’ve not been to Doc’s Commerce Smokehouse, now’s a great time to go. Start off with the great Southern style fried pickles, then dive into a platter of pulled pork, sliced brisket, beans and coleslaw. Wrap it with a sweet slice of chocolate pie, all for $25.
10. Take your date for steak
Looking for steak? You’ve got a number of choices for just $35. Go classic with a wedge salad, a 6-ounce hand-cut filet with mashed potatoes and asparagus and French silk pie at Milwaukee Chophouse. Try a new cut at Rare, where they’re offering up Caesar salad, a 7-ounce bottleneck (a cut taken from the center of the rib loin) with garlic whipped potatoes and asparagus and creme brulee for dessert. Or play it heavier with lobster bisque, a 14-ounce slice of prime rib, your choice of baked or mashed potatoes and an apple tart at Ward’s House of Prime.
Better yet, choose your own dining adventure. Check out the menus for all participating venues here.
Reservations are highly recommended; you can make yours at any of the Downtown Dining Week destinations online.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.