I’m not a huge fan of resolutions. But I do like to look at each new year as an opportunity to look at things in a new way, to make positive changes and to find ways to make a difference.
One of the most impactful things you can choose to do in 2022 is support our local restaurants.
The past two years have been the most challenging in history for our beloved eateries, and the new year won’t be any easier thanks to rising costs, supply chain issues and staff shortages. That means it's more important than ever to show up for the amazing collection of local restaurants that we have in our beautiful city; and there’s no better way to do so than making a commitment to patronize them throughout the year.
Let's make it easy
To guide you on your journey, I’ve composed a list of 52 restaurants (in random order) that should be on your Milwaukee restaurant bucket list. They run the gamut from fancy to casual and everything in between.
Some are brand new. Others have been around for years (a few have been around for decades). Some take you slightly off the beaten path. But every one offers an experience worth pursuing. And even if you’ve already visited one or more of the spots on the list, consider this an invitation to make a return visit and try something new.
Why 52? I wanted the list to be manageable. Try just one of these every week and you’ll have visited them all by the end of 2022.
The bigger bonus? By the end of the year, you will have supported a wide range of restaurants across our great city. And hopefully you will have also found some new favorite dishes along the way.
You can even download a printable 52 Restaurants checklist companion to keep on your fridge or in your wallet or purse.
Note: While I’ve taken care to recommend primarily restaurant staples, menu changes are commonplace, so some dishes may not be available.
As always, be kind and tip well.
[Here are more ways to be a five-star diner in 2022]
2352 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 763-5881
Can one ever tire of Odd Duck? I think not. And January is the perfect time to make a reservation and enjoy a last meal at their current Bay View location before they move to Walker’s Point (do it now, availability is very limited!). Odd Duck is the perfect place for food lovers to graze on countless shareable dishes from Korean pancakes and German braised short ribs to tempura battered oyster mushrooms. It’s also one of those places where vegetable dishes shine just as brightly as meaty options, so don’t hesitate to order broadly. I’m foregoing recommendations here as the menu changes on a whim; but open-minded diners will find a good many wins here, no matter what they order.
Bavette La Boucherie
330 E. Menomonee St., (414) 273-3375
Bavette is low-key and unassuming, but don’t be fooled. It’s also the sort of restaurant which defies expectation at every turn. Take for instance, their seasonal sandwich menu, which might feature a spectacular pork belly banh mi one day and steak with truffled mushroom duxelle and roasted grapes the next. The same is true for their salads, which are so well constructed they could justifiably suffice as a meal. And the entrees? They’re always changing, and each iteration seems better than the last. Head over to their cozy cafe to take it all in before they make their big move to a larger space in the Third Ward in the next couple of months. Recommended: Charcuterie; beef tongue reuben; seasonal dishes
2535 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 301-6255
Despite its more casual, neighborhood restaurant feel, Sorella doesn’t scrimp on the details, offering a varied menu of shareable seasonal dishes inspired by Southern Italy and shaped with a bit of East Coast inflection. You’ll find a mix of shareable items, pastas and wood-fired pizza along with compelling, moderately priced entrees that are unlike any other restaurant in the city. Recommended: roasted broccoli; pork chop with cherry pepper sauce; cavatelli with Monday sauce
1547 N. Jackson St., (414) 276-9608
In an age where new and shiny is king, there are still standards that deserve attention. Among them is Sanford, a staple fine dining spot that (quite literally) helped to put Milwaukee on the national dining map with its menu of globally inspired New American fare. Their tasting menus change frequently, but always showcase the best of the season as well as the multitude of talents at work in the kitchen. Whether it’s been a few months or you’ve never had the pleasure of a Sanford meal; consider planning a visit. You’ll be glad you did.
Pro tip: Guests tend to dress up at Sanford, insinuating there’s a dress code; but like most modern spots, there isn’t. Go as you feel comfortable; they won’t turn you away. Recommended: The surprise tasting menu; it’s unparalleled
3801 W. Vliet St., (414) 239-8388
Triciclo Peru might be best known for their delicious Peruvian empanadas, which you can find at Crossroads Collective and Zocalo Food Park; but there are more Peruvian dishes to try at their Vliet Street restaurant. Every one offers an escape from the usual: a culinary vacation for your tastebuds, if you will. Recommended: Peruvian wings; empanadas; specials (the ají de gallina is a favorite of mine)
2414 S. St Clair St., (414) 481-7530
There are few spots more qualified to give you a taste of Old World Europe –more specifically Serbia – than Three Brothers. Delve into classic Serbian dishes like flakey delicious burek (allow about an hour for preparation); goulash served with traditional Serbian dumplings; cevapcici (sausages); or roasted lamb. Save room for a house-made dessert. While you’re there, be sure to take in the charm of the building, which was a former Schlitz tied house.
Recommended: Burek; sarma; musaka; suckling pig (often a special around Easter)
316 N. Milwaukee St., (414) 269-9908
I know that one shouldn't get too attached to restaurants; but I'll admit I was quite heartbroken when Fauntleroy closed in 2020, leaving me to mourn their amazing French onion soup and the best salmon I've eaten in a restaurant for a long while. But I've been heartened by both the atmosphere (it's just really lively and fun) as well as the food I've had at Fool's Errand. Their broccoli salad with tahini and herbs is delicious (and healthy!). And I literally dream about their Monte Cristo with its ultra crisp exterior, creamy interior and sweet and savory dipping sauces. I'd even go as far as to say it's the best in the city. Recommended: chicken fried chicken; monte cristo; brunch
2101 N. Prospect Ave., (414) 885-0404
Vegan or not, it’s worth your while to spend some time with the menu at Strange Town where an eclectic collection of vinyl sets the stage for an evening of nibbling. Offerings change frequently, but you can count on seasonal, fresh takes on globally inspired fare, plus a great list of natural wines and low ABV cocktails. Recommended: hummus; seaweed salad; pasta
2457 S. Wentworth Ave., (414) 763-4706
Restaurants with a friendly, welcoming vibe tend to make the top of everyone’s list. And such it is with Goodkind where the people seem as delightful as the fare. The menu changes frequently, so there’s always something new to enjoy. Goodkind is also a great spot for brunch. Recommended: Champagne battered oyster mushrooms; GK Caesar salad; spicy crab pasta; burgers
110 E. Greenfield Ave., (414) 316-9003
There’s something special about handcrafted noodles and beautifully made dumplings. And you’ll find both at Momo Mee, a newcomer to the rapidly developing Harbor District. Their pan-Asian menu features a smattering of dishes from countries including Korea, India, Japan and China. Amid familiar items like fried rice, steamed buns and ramen, diners will also find more adventurous dishes like Korean Jjampong, Thai gang ped and xiao long bao (soup dumplings). Recommended: Dan dan noodles; xiao long bao; jjamppong; Japanese garlic eggplant
Allie Boys Bagelry & Luncheonette
135 East National Ave., (414) 988-0388
Don’t let the casual nature of this little shop fool you. There’s mastery to be found in their simple East Coast inspired deli offerings, including memorable housemade bagels, next level schmears and inventive nibbles. Recommended: Bagel tartines; soups; latke waffle
Le Reve Patisserie & Cafe
7610 Harwood Ave., (414) 778-3333
If there’s a place in town that captures the feel of a casual Parisian bistro in Milwaukee, it’s Le Reve, where French fare is treated with elegance and care. At lunch, you’ll find the city’s best croque-monsieur, along with expertly prepared mussels scented of Pernod and served alongside ultra crisp frites. Meanwhile, the dinner menu is a feast of choices, from amazing steak frites to seasonal fish dishes and well-executed classics like coq au vin. Le Reve is also among a few places where I’d consider dessert to be a must-have; their selection of intricate treats are as beautiful as they are delicious. Recommended: Moules frites au Pernod; Parisian gnocchi; confit de canard crepes; opera cake
Electric Lime Taqueria
730 N. Milwaukee St.,
Electric Lime might be the newest cantina on the block (and on Milwaukee Street, no less); but it's plating up some seriously tasty dishes, including a long list of tacos that runs the gamut from asada, chicken, carnitas and al pastor to beans and cheese; potato and peppers; and “trickin,” lightly battered fried avocados. Be sure to sample their housemade salsas including verde (milder, tomatillo-based), roja (smokey tomato and pepper) and macha (hot chile de arbol). Recommended: Cebollitas; tacos; burrito bowls
430 S. 2nd St., (414) 897-0747
How Morel manages to fly under the dining radar so adeptly has always been a mystery to me. It’s a place where you’ll find consistently well-executed dishes featuring not only local ingredients, but any number of housemade items from ricotta cheese to pasta, sausage and biscuits. Order with your cravings; I’ve yet to find dishes there that fall very far short of expectation. Recommended: lamb carpaccio; pork belly appetizer; seasonal ragu; be sure to order dessert
2378 S. Howell Ave., (414) 988-7086
From wild game to inventive vegetable dishes and gluten-free options; you’ll find it all at Lazy Susan, a casual Bay View spot with a homey, eclectic feel. First time visiting? Make a reservation for their Wednesday night dinner for two; it’s well-priced (always gluten-free) and will give you a good feel for what makes this Bay View eatery so special. Recommended: Korean fried chicken (available at least once a month for pre-order)
807 W. Historic Mitchell St., (414) 509-5975
There’s little more delightful than a trip Damascus Gate, where Syrian fare is both showcased and celebrated. Staples like kefta are packed with flavor and crisp falafel is well prepared, complete with a flavorful, fluffy interior. There’s vibrant, lemony hummus and hand-rolled stuffed grape leaves which offer the memorable tang of pomegranate molasses. And don’t miss the fatayer (handmade pies); the spinach is deliciously nuanced and the cheese pies are both tasty and beautiful, flecked with black sesame seeds. Foods are also presented as both individual dishes and platters, allowing you to sample your way through numerous dishes in a single trip.
Recommended: Fatayer; kefta; grape leaves; specials
6030 W. North Ave., (414) 312-8968
You’ve never truly experienced housemade pasta until you’ve tried it at Ca’ Lucchenzo. The ever-changing menu pays homage to the regional dishes of Italy with offerings including antipasti, housemade pastas and seasonally appropriate entrees, including excellently prepared seafood. The flavors are fresh and each dish is made with an attention to detail that truly sets Ca’Lucchenzo apart. Recommended: Braised veal & pork meatball with tomato sugo; fonduta arancino; pasta
Dairyland Hamburgers & Frozen Custard
Central Waters Brewery & Taproom
1037 W. Juneau Ave., (414) 531-5772
What makes a good burger? High quality beef, an appropriate meat to bun ratio, consistent execution and balanced toppings. You’ll find all of those things at Dairyland, a spot which has upped the proverbial benchmark for burgers (and more) in Milwaukee. How do they do it? It starts with house-ground beef (that’s no small matter), a passion for their product and an uncompromising mission to offer the best classic burgers possible. And yes, that same philosophy applies to their other offerings, including their fried chicken sandwiches and sides. Recommended: Cheeseburger; patty melt; spicy chicken sandwich
5601 W Vliet St., (414) 943-3278
Looking for a pizza spot that does things a bit differently? That’s Wy’East where you’ll find pies made with a chewy slow-fermented crust and just enough liberally doppled charring. The toppings are of great quality, with flavor combinations that show a true attention to detail. Recommended: The Hot Marmot, seasonal specials
2165 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 800-7329
Latin American, Peruvian
From delicious specials like tender grilled octopus to menu standards like Peruvian anticuchos and lomo saltado, there's always something new to enjoy at C-Viche, a restaurant that aspires to showcase the wonders of Ibero-American fare. Don’t miss their beautifully executed pisco sour. Recommended: Ceviche; Peruvian style sushi from their nikkei menu
Iron Grate BBQ Co.
4125 S. Howell Ave., (414) 455-1776
You’ll find classic wood-smoked meats (brisket, pork shoulder, hot links and chicken hindquarters) and southern inspired sides at this quaint spot on Milwaukee’s near South Side. Trying it out for the first time? Share a platter of three meats and three sides with a friend. Recommended: More unique items like the Milwaukee rib or hickory butter shrimp
Food Truck, (262) 229-1157
It’s a bit unprecedented for a food truck to make this list, but Heirloom is truly deserving of recognition for their menu of locally sourced cuisine, which is as restaurant worthy as that served up at a brick and mortar. While you’ll find the more expected casual fare, including their delicious burger and some of the best fried cheese curds in the land. But it would be a mistake not to explore the remainder of their menu, which is truly an unexpected delight. Recommended: Handmade burrata; mussels steamed with cream and herbs; and braised beef ribs.
Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern
234 E. Vine St., (414) 763-3021
Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern has become a staple for inventive fare for both breakfast and lunch. Guests will find a mix of dishes that strike both familiar and creative notes, including creative omelettes, Benedicts and a host of tasty salads and sandwiches. And they’re all served up inside a beautifully restored historic tied house decorated with a keen dose of Bohemian flair. Recommended: Wolfundito; BELTCH, hamburger with cheese
Third Coast Provisions
724 N. Milwaukee St., (414) 323-7434
If you love seafood, Third Coast Provisions delivers some of the city's best in an environment that's as beautiful as the food. One could make a meal of their fantastic clam chowder and Parker House rolls. But, the menu offers much more, including well-executed seasonal presentations of fish, from salmon and sablefish to walleye. There’s also always a creative take on the prerequisite surf 'n turf featuring filet mignon and your choice of shrimp, scallops or lobster. Recommended: Lobster potholes; seasonal white fish; lobster potpie
The Lafayette Place
1978 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 231-3030
You’ll miss nothing about eggs or meat at this plant-based breakfast and lunch spot, which serves up a menu of well-executed vegetable-based fare that hits all the right notes. Whether you opt for healthier fare (smoothies, avocado toast) or something more indulgent (pastries, Southern po’boy), you’ll find options that deliver on flavor, texture and balance. Don’t miss the coffee-infused brunch old fashioned. Recommended: Chorizo burrito, cheesy hash, southern po’boy
2315 N Murray Ave., (414) 797-1400
When Tavolino opened, it had big shoes to fill; after all, they followed in the footsteps of a series of Italian restaurants which have occupied East Side space for about 50 years. Nonetheless, they successfully forged through the challenges of the pandemic with a menu of memorable Italian dishes – from bites and salads to pasta, pizza and entrees – that are as beautiful as they are delicious. Recommended: seasonal verdura pasta; short ribs
6807 W. Becher St., (414) 231-9081
There's no shortage of things to love at Wild Roots, which brings together high quality local ingredients and classical French technique in globally inspired preparations. Dishes like Parisian gnocchi sit happily alongside Vietnamese chicken wings and Thai curry. And, if you're feeling adventuresome, be sure to ask for the daily selection of "Nasty Bits"; you'll be rewarded by well-prepared off-cuts that just might surprise you. Recommended: Bulgogi meatballs; Osteria carbonara; Duck fat burger
839 S. 2nd St., (414) 645-2606
Regional Mexican food is celebrated at La Dama, a restaurant which offers both a cozy eclectic vibe and beautifully presented modern fare. Visit in the summer and you can reserve a spot on the quaint enclosed patio or dine in the cozy dining area with a clear view of the tiny bar-side kitchen. Recommended: Aguachile rojo, charro beans, lamb shank birria, any dish served with housemade mole
Story Hill BKC
5100 W. Bluemound Rd., (414) 539-4424
New American, Midwestern
As West Side restaurants go, Story Hill remains among the best. Its Midwestern fare -- smattered with jolts of inspiration, both domestic and global -- is accessible without inciting boredom. It’s also a great place to go with friends who love to share dishes, since you can try a good number in one sitting. For similar reasons, it’s also a beautiful bet for brunch. Recommended: Chicken meatball; smoked Yukon au gratin; schnitzel; crepe monsieur at brunch
315 E. Wisconsin Ave., (414) 369-3683
If Spanish and Portuguese-inspired fare sounds delicious, set sails for Amilinda. Their digs are quaint and the menu is small and focused, but dishes rotate often, depending on what's fresh and in season, so your tastebuds won’t tire. At any given moment, you could find empanadas, bacalhau (salt cod), housemade sausages or (if you’re lucky) piri piri chicken, a dish that’s always a solid bet. Recommended: Seasonal fish dishes; braised meats; piri piri chicken
Flour Girl & Flame
8121 W National Ave, West Allis, (414) 662-7921
Wood-fired pizza is like little else with its subtle smoked flavor and bubbly, slightly charred crust. Add thoughtfully constructed toppings that make the most of the season and you’ve got a winning combination that’s pretty tough to beat. And that’s exactly what you’ll find at Flour Girl & Flame where slow fermented dough is magically transformed by the heat of live fire into something truly savory. Note: gluten free crust is available and all pizzas can be made vegan. Recommended: Pep in Yer Step (add housemade giardiniera); bialys (when available)
459 E. Pleasant St., (414) 323-7372
The variety of offerings at Birch is part of what makes this newly reimagined restaurant shine. Dishes run the gamut from fresh and bright (take that summer crudo made with Steelhead trout, for instance) to sexy and caramelized (like wood-fired shishito peppers with house focaccia and ricotta). Meat dishes are satisfying, but never overly heavy; and their housemade filled pastas are simultaneously exciting and comforting. Most importantly, if you love vegetables, you'll find them in spades. They're respected, treated well and allowed to shine... right there in the center of the plate. Recommended: crudo; housemade pasta; seasonal fish
Kawa Ramen & Sushi
2321 N. Murray Ave., (414) 800-7979
I have a great deal of respect for sushi restaurants that aren’t above purchasing great fish in small quantities, even if it means running out of it by the end of the day. It’s a philosophy employed by Kawa Ramen & Sushi, a restaurant which has upped the ante for East Side sushi fans. Need a warm up? Their ultra-consistent bowls of comforting ramen are also a score. Recommended: Traditional sashimi and sushi; if you like your ramen spicy, try the Hellfire ramen
Heaven’s Table BBQ
5507 W. North Ave., (414) 732-7109
Milwaukee’s BBQ game has grown stronger thanks to players like Heaven’s Table, which offers consistently well-executed meats and sides, plus vegetarian options that also benefit from a hit of smoke. Meats are hickory smoked and served up sans sauce with sides including fried corn, macaroni and cheese and some of the best cornbread I’ve had in the North. Recommended: Cheddar jalapeno cornbread, brisket, cauliflower burnt ends
1101 S. 2nd St., (414) 212-8843
Local food takes on a global view at Braise, where cooks get truly creative with seasonal fare, from fresh tomato salads during the summer months to rum glazed parsnips or dirty chai beets in the winter. Meat eaters will find options like housemade merguez sausage, filipino braised pork and the like. Choose from shareables and entrees or opt for one of the family style meals for two, which always features at least one vegetarian option plus meat-based choices priced $50 or less. It’s a nice choice for a casual date night. Recommended: Seasonal soups; pork buns; housemade sausage
331 Riverfront St., Waukesha, (262) 408-5633
If comforting shareable dishes -- like fried chicken, risotto and pork belly -- sound good, that’s what you’ll find on the menu at Tofte’s Table. From the beautifully shabby chic interior to the well-executed dishes and welcoming staff, this restaurant makes it well worth the trip to Waukesha. Recommended: Grilled octopus; crispy brussels sprouts; braised shortribs
Taqwa's Restaurant & Bakery
4651 S 27th St., (414) 539-6878
There’s a feast of dishes to savor at Taqwa’s, which celebrates the fare from climes including Jordan and Palestine. Stand-outs include signature entrees like dawalee (grape leaves stuffed with seasoned meat and rice) are served alongside roasted chicken with yogurt cucumber salad; along with daily specials like shoshbarak (beef dumplings) in yogurt sauce with rice. Be sure to try the freshly baked manakish (Palestinian taboun bread topped with cheese and za'atar), and don’t leave without ordering something from the list of freshly baked sweets (both the maamoul and warbat are outstanding). Recommended: Manakish; dawalee (grape leaves); daily specials
222 E. Erie St., (414) 885-2611
Korean fare is rather sparsely represented in Milwaukee (a shame), but you’ll find plenty of well executed modern Korean fare at Char’d. The menu at this well-appointed Third Ward restaurant offers up a wealth of flavor in dishes that run the gamut from Korean fried chicken wings and bibimbop to bulgogi and soul-warming soups. Recommended: beef galbi; braised pork belly; yukgae jang (spicy beef soup)
W61 N480 Washington Ave., Cedarburg, (262) 618-4683
A trip to Cedarburg is always a pleasure, and if you dine when you visit, there are few spots better than Brandywine where you can enjoy memorable, well executed fare inside charming, restored historic digs. The seasonal menu changes often; but when in doubt, you can always count on the housemade pasta to impress. Recommended: Housemade pasta, roasted chicken
11102 W. National Ave., (414) 885-0856
If you’d like to taste great Chinese fare -- particularly dishes that hail from the Szechuan region -- look no further than Sze Chuan, a West Allis gem serving up an overwhelmingly large menu including cold dishes, noodles, Chinese staples and a selection of dry and stone pot dishes. If you’re a hot pot fan, they’ve got that in spades. Bring friends and order prudently (it’s easy to get carried away; you can always order more later). Recommended: Szechuan pork dumplings; mustard greens with tofu skin; special spare ribs
801 N. Cass St., (414) 277-1111
It’s been over a decade since the Buckley family established their restaurant on MIlwaukee’s lower East Side; but you’d barely know it thanks to a menu that’s kept up with the times in terms of both a great cocktail program and food menu doppled with both solid American classics and globally inspired dishes. On top of it all, the restaurant is a beautiful, comfortable spot to dine. Recommended: Hot nashville chicken; carrot cake; brunch
5930 W. North Ave., (414) 257-2228
This carry-out only cafe and Asian market has been a West Side fixture for good reason. Their menu celebrates the intermingling of cultures in Laos and Thailand and showcases the bright, bold flavors that make the cuisines shine. You’ll find Thai stand-outs like mee ka tee, a delicious dish that incorporates the flavors central to red curry in a Lao dish that’s bright, textural and redolent with chiles and lemongrass. But you’ll also find salapao pork (inspired by the Vietnamese markets in Laos), hand-shaped steamed buns filled with pork, cabbage, hard boiled eggs and sweet sausage. The dough is slightly sweet and supple, and they’re a natural companion for one of Mekong’s spicy jeow (versatile condiments that can be eaten with just about anything!). Recommended: Khao jee pate (banh mi); Grandma Chantha’s Lao sausage; red curry
2498 N. Bartlett Ave., (414) 763-4811
The Original is as comfortable as a neighborhood spot should be, with approachable fare that goes the extra mile. Dishes like duck breast with grits and fried pork chops with braised red cabbage seamlessly blend Midwestern sensibilities with distinctly Southern flair. Of course, the warm hospitable atmosphere is reason enough to go back again and again. Recommended: Seasonal pork chop; scallops; craft cocktails
925 E. Wells St., (414) 765-1166
If it’s been a while since you visited this long-time staple, you’ll likely be delighted by the changes. The newly renovated restaurant is beautiful, and its menu is thoughtful and flexible enough to accommodate a casual weeknight meal thanks to a customizable three-course menu for $65 per person. And if you’re vegetarian, the three-course vegetarian option is an absolute treat. A chef’s tasting menu featuring five selected courses is also available.
Blue Star Cafe
1619 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 273-9744
Somali, East African
Somali fare is comforting by nature, but at this humble little fast casual spot you’ll find it in spades. Among the remarkably affordable options you’ll find nibble-worthy sambusas, pastries filled with well seasoned meats or veggies, and platters of lightly seasoned tender goat cooked with onions, raisins and potato and served over basmati rice that’s heady with the aroma of spices … cinnamon, cumin, coriander and cardamom. Be sure to make liberal use of the bright, green chili-heavy basbaas cagaar, a sauce that I swear tastes good on just about anything. Recommended: Sambusas, lamb platter with rice, hummus
815 E. Brady St., (414) 800-5816
A meal from The Diplomat is always a pleasure. Comfortable enough for a weeknight, but entirely worthy of a special occasion, the restaurant stands out for its menu of craveable dishes, which are simultaneously new yet comfortingly familiar. You’ll find inventive takes like hushpuppies made from eggplant; a bacon lentil salad visually presented like a bowl of ramen; and deceptively simple offerings (like roasted chicken) that will knock your socks off. I also love the balance between smaller shareable plates and entrees, which leaves room for a new experience every time. The menu at The Diplomat changes often enough that recommendations are tough. But, if you need a solid excuse to stop in for the first time, their burger (The Diplomac) is a staple. It’s stellar.
Tavo’s Signature Cuisine
5814 W. Bluemound Rd., (414) 239-8888
This tiny (tiny!) spot on the West Side is serving up some exceptional food that maintains a solid nod to tradition, but presents itself in a beautiful way. From fragrant housemade mole and ultra fresh guacamole to comforting burritos and well executed tacos, the food is consistently fresh and well presented and delivered with top notch service. Recommended: Azteca guacamole; pineapple pastor, birria tacos
316 N. Milwaukee St., (563) 580-7242
Pizza is a marvelous example of how diverse a single food can be. In Brute’s case, you’ll find a slow fermented sourdough crust that’s light in texture with a moderate chew, a notably crisp exterior and a complex flavor. Add chef-driven toppings, including ingredients like Upland’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, and you’ve got a pie that’s unlike any other in town. Be sure to add the “magic butter crust” for $1 more. Recommended: Caesar fried brussels sprouts; the P.P.P.P; seasonal pizza of the month
Kin by Rice N Roll
7484 W. State St., Wauwatosa, (414) 524-9056
Venture to Kin in the Wauwatosa Village and you’ll be greeted with a menu filled with excellent Thai staples like drunken noodles and panang curry. But it gets even more fun when you dig a bit deeper, trying dishes like khaosoy, a curry from Northern Thailand that’s pretty difficult (if not impossible) to find elsewhere in the city. And you can’t go wrong with their fresh, beautifully presented sushi, including creative (but balanced) maki. Recommended: khaosoy, crispy pad thai shrimp; sushi
360 E. Erie St., (414) 488-8036
Who doesn't love a chefs’ tasting menu with beautifully prepared, imaginative fare? That's exactly what you'll get when you dine at EsterEv, the tiny little restaurant-within-a-restaurant hidden inside of DanDan where Chefs Daniel Jacobs and Dan Van Rite pull out the stops with creative fine dining dishes. Despite the caliber of the dishes served, the beauty of Ester Ev is that it remains a comfortable spot with little to no pretense. That’s something reflected in not only the atmosphere and mood, but also the pricing. A meal at EsterEv feels grand, but it's also one of the best finer dining deals in the city at less than $100 per person (more for beverage pairings). And no, you won’t go home feeling hungry. Dinner at EsterEv is offered Friday and Saturday by reservation only.
Egg & Flour Pasta Bar
2273 S. Howell Ave., (414) 885-0204
Crossroads Collective, 2238 N. Farwell Ave.
6700 W. State St., Wauwatosa, (414) 204-1281
Sometimes, you just want quick delicious comfort food, and that’s exactly what Egg & Flour delivers. Here housemade pasta is topped with any number of housemade items from fresh marinara and pesto to carbonara built the classic way with egg yolks and fresh parmesan. Avoiding gluten? Sub out zucchini noodles.
Recommended: bucatini; burrata salad; specials (don’t miss the lobster specials on Fridays)
125 E. National Ave., (414) 389-0125
Inventive globally inspired shared plates are the hallmark at this classic Milwaukee restaurant where the menu showcases dishes from Italy and Mexico to Indonesia and Peru. It’s the perfect place to visit with a group of friends who love to try a variety of items. Be sure to order at least one dish that falls outside your comfort zone. And if osso bucco is on the menu, don’t hesitate to try it; it’s excellent. Recommended: Goat cheese curds; Columbian empanadas; risotto
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.