You’ve seen the typical late night dining guides. Most cater to the post-bartime crowd and contain options like pizza, gyros and the metaphorical food equivalent of Taco Bell.
But, what happens if you’re simply a late eater? Or you’ve gone to a show and are planning on a late dinner?
Milwaukee’s serious late night dining scene is still developing. However, over the past few years an increasing number of restaurants that are serving up the goods until 11 p.m. or later, particularly on weekends. It’s encouraging news for those who love to eat late and still enjoy high quality cuisine.
Below you’ll find a list of 13 spots that keep later than average hours. Asterisked spots are open particularly late.
Cozy in with a bottle of wine and some delicious small plates at Balzac, 1716 N. Arlington Pl., where you can find delights like lemon confit chicken, oxtail polenta and spinach borek along with a lovely selection of victuals and sweets. They also have a very special late night happy hour from 10 to11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday during which you can enjoy $5 small plates along with daily drink specials. Balzac’s keeps the kitchen hot Monday through Thursday from 4 to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight.
Sometimes all you really want is a great sandwich, and Camino at 434 S. 2nd St. delivers with options like the beet reuben and kimcheese along with housemade sausages (try the Thai chicken) and a mighty fine signature burger. You can also get delicious extras like pierogi, roasted beet salad and mushroom ragout. Camino serves up the goods until midnight most nights and until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
If your tastebuds are craving ribs, head over to Carson’s, 301 W. Juneau Ave., where you can get a half-slab of ribs every day until 11 p.m. or later thanks to a fairly extensive late night menu that also features entrees like cedar plank salmon, roasted Greek chicken and a variety of sandwiches and salads. Do it up Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight.
If you have the occasional craving for late night tostones and ropa vieja, you’re not alone. Fortunately, Cubanitas, 728 N. Milwaukee St., gets it. You can fulfill your desire for Cuban food Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
If you love food, you’ll be delighted by the ever-changing selection of creative plates at Goodkind, 2475 S. Wentworth Ave. But, even if you’re a creature of habit, you can always find mainstays like spicy crab bucatini, Monterey Bay fried calimari and lemons and delicious rotisserie-cooked entrees. Grab up a seat at Goodkind seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
6. La Masa*
Sometimes it’s late and you just want a little something. If that’s the case, La Masa, 1300 E. Brady St., has your number with its collection of creative empanadas, including flavors like mushroom truffle parmesan and Argentine beef. For heartier appetites, La Masa also offers sandwiches and salads, priced well at under $13. Get your empanada fix Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
7. La Merenda
If you love internationally inspired fare, there’s no place better than La Merenda, 125 E. National Ave., to grab a bite. The kitchen is open until 11 p.m. on weekends so you can slip in before a late night movie or after a show. But, you might want to make a reservation just to be sure. Take in the tapas Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m.
There’s always a surprise lurking at Merriment Social, 240 E. Pittsburgh Ave. You can sample imaginative seasonal dishes like suckling pig tacos, hot chicken and some of the best burgers in the city at this upbeat spot that happens to be within easy walking distance of the Broadway Theatre Center and Next Act Theatre. Be merry and social Tuesday through Thursday from 5:30 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. (brunch) and 5:30 to 10 p.m.
A table filled with nibbles is always my idea of a good time. And that’s why the Spanish tapas at MOVIDA, 524 S. 2nd St., never fail to disappoint. You can’t miss with dishes like chorizo croquetas, patatas bravas or a nice little spread with Serrano ham, boquerones and rosemary manchego. Get a taste of Spain Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight and Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m.
10. The Noble
There are some big flavors coming out of this small restaurant which features a small menu with both carnivorous and vegetarian options that changes from day to day. The Noble's kitchen, 704 S. 2nd St., is open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 11 p.m.
11. Red Light Ramen*
When Red Light Ramen graduated to its own digs at 1749 N. Farwell Ave. it introduced expanded hours to accommodate non late-night ramen lovers. But, the late night game is still strong. Fill your belly with ramen and snacks Wednesday through Saturday 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.
12. Screaming Tuna
Upgrade your sushi game with the sustainable options from Screaming Tuna, 106 W. Seeboth St., whose menu is aligned with the standards of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program. This snazzy spot with a beautiful riverfront view also offers up Japanese inspired options including miso marinated black cod, chicken teriyaki and filet mignon with kewpie lobster salad. Enjoy dinner with a view Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 11 p.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
13. The Vanguard*
Sure, you can categorize The Vanguard’s collection of inventive sausages and sides as bar food. But, if you’re a food lover who can’t appreciate the thought that goes into its delicious creations, we simply can’t be friends. Polish off a Polish or two daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. at 2659 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
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.