All this month, we revealed to you -- one by one -- the winners of the 2009 OnMilwaukee.com readers' poll for the best dining in Metro Milwaukee.
From ethnic restaurants to suburban hot spots, we've counted your votes and figured out your favorites.
We know the wait has been excruciating, but now that all is revealed, here's a tally of all the winners (as well as our editors' picks), in one handy list. Bon appétit!
Best appetizers: La Merenda
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Maxie's Southern Comfort
That's a pretty good summation of La Merenda, 125 E. National Ave., where the focus is small plates from around the world. If you crave the Italian specialty osso buco, Indonesian sambal goreng udang, Spanish patatas bravas or Colombian empanadas, you'll find something to nosh at La Merenda, which is literally translated in Italian as "snack."
Best bar food: Hooligan's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Hooligan's
The East Side staple offers hardy burgers of all varieties -- including ostrich and veggie -- but also serves up catfish, shrimp, cod, perch, walleye, about 10 different chicken sandwiches, BLTs, a New Orleans muffuletta and even a few healthier items like wraps and salads.
Best burger: Sobelman's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Kopp's
Operating since 1999 in a cozy Cream City brick building on low-key corner, Sobelman's serves Black Angus burgers on tasty buns with three cheeses, jalapenos and fried onions. The bar, which is meticulously clean (they even wipe down the salt shakers), also earns raves for its Bloody Marys.
Best breakfast: The Original Pancake House
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Penelope's
The Original Pancake House won first place in our readers' poll on the strength of its signature items like the apple pancake, melt-in-your-mouth crepes, fluffy omelets and sugary, air-filled Dutch Baby pastry.
Best brunch: Trocadero
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Pandl's in Bayside
With a year-round patio and a delicious weekend brunch that is served from 9 a.m., the French theme carries over to that wonderful meal between breakfast and lunch. Their menu contains specialties like crepes and quiches, but there are also sandwiches, nearly a dozen egg-fueled dishes, along with fruit plates, waffles, French toast and more. And don't forget Trocadero's extensive Bloody Mary selection, either.
Best chain: The Cheesecake Factory
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Bar Louie
Still crafting the Overton family cheesecake recipe, The Cheesecake Factory rotates over 50 flavors of cheesecake including the "original"; creamy plain cheesecake with a graham cracker crust and sour cream topping. Adorned with whimsical chandeliers and fairytale murals, the Cheesecake Factory staff complete the magical world wearing baker's white from head to toe.
Best chef: Sanford D'Amato, Sanford/ Coquette Cafe
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Jason Gorman Sandy D'Amato, who along with his wife, Angie, operates Sanford, 1547 N. Jackson St., and Coquette Cafe, 316 N. Milwaukee St., was named Milwaukee's best chef in a survey of OnMilwaukee.com readers. Sanford graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1974, worked a one-year fellowship in the Scoffier Room and spent the rest of the '70s at various New York restaurants before returning to Milwaukee in 1980.
Best Chinese: Emperor of China
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Yen Ching
When Chinese food is good, it's so very good, and the authentic dishes coming out of the Emperor of China, 1010 E. Brady St., are precisely that. Recognizing the specialization in Szechwan, Hunan, Shanghai, Peking or Cantonese cooking techniques, Emperor of China's menu celebrates the diversity in regional Chinese cooking.
Best coffee shop/cafe: Alterra
OnMilwaukee.com editors choice: Alterra
Stylistically, Alterra remains classy, edgy and still sophisticated, from its gorgeous facility on the Lake to its flagship store on Prospect to the Foundry to its mall locations throughout the area. With an obsessive attention to quality and detail, the Fowler brothers and Paul Miller have brewed a Milwaukee tradition.
Best comfort food: Kopp's Frozen Custard
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Comet Cafe
Kopp's has been a local custard staple since the classic '50s and, thankfully, it hasn't changed all that much over the decades. People love Kopp's for its traditional chocolate and vanilla, but also for its innovation -- it was the first custard stand to offer a special "flavor of the day." And the banana splits, fudge delights and turtle sundaes are absolutely unbeatable.
Best deli: Glorioso's Bros. Italian Foods
OnMilwaukee.com Editors' choice: Benji's
Opened in 1946, brothers Joe, Eddie and Ted Glorioso have managed to work side by side for over 60 years to run the most authentic and fully stocked Italian deli and grocery in town. While some stock up on ingredients for home cooking, it's the deli's prepared sandwiches that lure droves of hungry, drooling customers. Combinations like the Human Torch, Veggie Paesnao's and Milwaukee Muffalatta combine piles of fresh Italian meats, cheeses and combinations of peppers, olives and artichokes.
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Elsa's on the Park
If not completely stuffed after chef Adam Siegel's main entrees, diners can choose from decadent dessert options such as banana bread pudding with a caramel sauce and chocolate mousse sweetened with crushed praline and accented by a saffron vanilla sauce and homemade mint ice cream. Of course, there are slightly "tamer" selections, such as peach melba, which combines sweet fruit with raspberry sauce, homemade vanilla ice cream and freshly baked lemon pound cake.
Best family-friendly: Buca di Beppo's
OnMilwaukee.com Editors' choice: Pizza Shuttle
It makes sense that OnMilwaukee.com readers picked Buca as Milwaukee's most family-friendly restaurant. The chain Italian eatery features colorful decor, a lively atmosphere and "family style" meals that include kid favorites like pizza and spaghetti. For more than a decade, Buca -- a chain with 87 restaurants in the United States -- has dished up Southern Italian cuisine to Milwaukee. Highlights of the space include themed rooms where the walls are packed with photos and pictures, large drinks and portions, and a table for larger parties in the kitchen.
Best fish fry: Lakefront Palm Garden
OnMilwaukee.com Editors' choice: Kegel's Inn
The Lakefront fish menu, served from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, features cod ($9.95), perch ($12.95), bluegill ($12.95), breaded shrimp ($12.95), baked tilapia ($10.95) or a combo platter ($12.95) -- and it's probably the beer batter that keeps 'em coming back. All of the dinners are served with a choice of fries or potato pancakes, cole slaw and bread and butter.
Best French: Coquette Café
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: La Reve
Sandy D'Amato's Coquette Cafe has long been a Third Ward favorite for lunch and for the theater crowd. It's warm atmosphere and beloved dishes (like the delicious fiammekueche flatbread pizza) keep folks coming back again and again. Sadly, this year marked the end of D'Amato's Harlequin Bakery, located adjacent to the Milwaukee Street eatery.
Best fries: Café Hollander
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Cafe Hollander
Thousands of you chimed in with votes, deciding by a large margin that Cafe Hollander, 2608 N. Downer Ave., fries up the best frite in town with its very European, and very tempting, offerings. Part of what makes ordering the huge cone of frites at Hollander such an enjoyable dining experience is the sharing aspect; one order is always way too much for just one eater. Then comes the tough part: choosing your dipping sauces. It's no easy task, as they've got 11 to choose from.
Best frozen custard: Kopp's Frozen Custard
OnMilwaukee.com Editors' choice: Leon's
As it does every year, Kopp's creamed the competition for best frozen custard. Taking almost half the votes, no one came even close to dethroning Milwaukee's custard king. In this case, it wasn't even a popularity or name recognition contest, as Karl Kopp does make some indisputably delicious desserts. With several locations around town, his stands blend an eye for design detail, robot-like efficiency and melty, eggy, creamy goodness.
Best Greek: Oakland Gyros
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Ouzo Cafe
An East Side institution located at 2867 N. Oakland Ave., Oakland Gyros nabbed nearly 33 percent of the total vote in the category, outdistancing the runner-up, Apollo Cafe. While Oakland Gyros has earned a reputation for serving inexpensive meals quickly to late-night patrons in various stages of inebriation, many of those customers make it back during sober hours, too.
Best hidden gem: La Merenda
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Sala da Pranzo
Located east of South 1st Street in Walker's Point, La Merenda, 125 E. National Ave., is, admittedly, a little off the beaten path. At La Merenda, the focus is on small plates from around the world. If you crave the Italian specialty osso buco, Indonesian sambal goreng udang, Spanish patatas bravas or Colombian empanadas, you'll find something to nosh at La Merenda, which is literally translated in Italian as "snack."
Best hot dog: Dogg Haus
OnMilwaukee.com editor's choice: Sammy's Taste of Chicago
Grilling Vienna Beef links on poppy seed buns, you can choose from the Tex-Mex (salsa, cheddar cheese, sour cream and jalapenos), Berlin's Best (sauerkraut, onions and mustard), The Hollywood (nacho cheese and jalapenos) or the Atlantic City (sauerkraut, onions, mustard and relish). If you'd prefer to skip the beef, opt for a meatless vegetarian version still available with your choice of international preparations. Open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, you can grab a Dogg Haus dog as a snack, dinner or late-night eats.
Best Indian: Maharaja
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Bombay Sweets
Milwaukee has a variety of great Indian restaurants, but OnMilwaukee.com readers declared the East Side's Maharaja to be the very best. The daily lunch buffet offers a large selection of Indian soups, vegetarian favorites like palak paneer (spinach cooked with homemade cheese), chicken and beef curries and gulab jamun -- those little fried dough balls dipped in sweet syrup. Dinners at Maharaja feature an extensive East Indian menu crowded with curries, meats and breads baked in a traditional tandoori oven.
Best Italian: Ristorante Bartolotta
OnMilwaukee.com editor's choice: Sala de Pranzo
For a decade or so, Joe Bartolotta has run one of the most consistently great Italian restaurants in town. And thanks to head Chef Juan Urbieta, the menu has never gone stale. Urbieta and his crew create great special menus, including ones that focus on the bounty of regional Italian cuisine, spotlighting the diversity of Italian cooking, as well as winemaker dinners that pair great wines with special menus.
Best Japanese: Izumi's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Nanakusa
Izumi's, 2150 N. Prospect Ave., has earned a reputation in Milwaukee for friendly, accommodating service, as well as a tasty menu that doesn't break the bank. The sake list, featuring hot, cold and room temperature options, is also a big draw here and the knowledgeable staff is often helpful if you don't know what you're getting your taste buds into. At lunch, order a bento box and get more food than you can eat for under $10.
Best late-night drunk eats: Oakland Gyros
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Pizza Shuttle
Oakland Gyros, an East Side institution located at 2687 N. Oakland Ave., once again wins the distinction of being OnMilwaukee.com readers' favorite place for Late Night Drunk Eats. No matter how you say it, Oakland Gyros serves up a tasty tzatziki-tinged lamb sandwich (and other dishes) in the late hours of the evening. The food is fast, plentiful, satisfying and relatively inexpensive, which explains why so many pedestrians visit in the pre-dawn hours.
Best local fast food: Culver's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Oakland Gyros
OnMilwaukee.com readers picked Culver's as their favorite local fast food joint. Culver's is a chain that's based in Prairie du Sac. The first hamburger-and-custard eatery opened in 1984 in Sauk City, and today, there are 390 Culver's restaurants in many parts of the country. Culver's is famous for its butter burgers and frozen custard. The menu also features fried chicken, pork, fish, salads and specialty sundaes. Culver's features its own brand of root beer, too.
Best use of local food: Roots Restaurant and Cellar
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Crazy Water
Roots Restaurant and Cellar, 1818 N. Hubbard Ave., was one of Milwaukee's first dining destinations to actively pursue the use of local ingredients. Using only naturally raised meats and fresh seafood from the start, it evolved to mainly use produce grown in Wisconsin, too. While it may have been one of the menus to spark the trend locally -- along with fellow travelers like Crazy Water -- eating local has caught on like wildfire and creating a market for restaurants such as Transfer Pizza, Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub and La Merenda. But Roots introduced the concept to many Milwaukeeans.
OnMilwaukee.com editor's choice: Casablanca
For $6.95, the all-you-can eat buffet seems an endless array of completely vegetarian and vegan options, from the usual offerings of hummus, couscous, babaghannoj (baked eggplant pureed with tahini, olive oil, lemon and garlic) and perfectly fried falafel (ground chick peas and vegetables, formed into balls and deep fried with Middle Eastern spices), to more unusual -- yet delectably smelling -- entrees such as tahini pasta (dairy-free), eggplant potatoes, mixed vegetable stew, spinach pie and sweet carrots baked with garlic vegetable sauce.
Best Mexican: Botanas
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Cempazuchi
Botanas, 816 S. 5th St., is known for doing the traditional Mexican dishes better than its Latin Quarter contemporaries near National Avenue, but its seafood selections are what hoist it to the top of the list. The addition of the open-air patio contributes to the fun and relaxing atmosphere, especially on a warm evening. It's an extremely family-friendly and accommodating restaurant, too, the kind of place you can bring little kids to taste authentic Mexican cuisine.
Best other Asian: Umami Moto
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Genghis Khan Mongolian Restaurant
Umami Moto is self-described as the origin of (moto) "the source of the fifth element of taste-deliciousness" (umami). In a review last October, OnMilwaukee.com dining critic Amy Schubert called the menu at Umami Moto "simple, precise and delicious" and added that the service is "prompt, attentive and uses a team approach without being intrusive." Add in the sleek, elegant decor, diverse clientele and the hip location on Milwaukee Street and you have a winning combination.
Best Middle Eastern: Casablanca
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Casablanca
What began as a family-owned restaurant on Mitchell Street evolved into a Brady Street emporium of Middle Eastern delights. Casablanca, 728 E. Brady St., serves traditional kabobs, falafel, stuffed grape leaves and shawarma. Kifta, foule and babaghannoj are highlights of the mostly Middle Eastern menu, along with a few American additions such as the Casablanca burger and fries. Diners can stuff themselves during the vegetarian lunch buffet or Sunday brunch buffet, and then enjoy a traditional tobacco hookah, in a variety of flavors, at the bar.
Best new restaurant: Honey Pie
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Brick 3 Pizza
Honeypie, with a new take on Midwestern comfort food, takes the crown as this year's Reader's Choice for Best New Restaurant. The home-style eatery is a joint effort by restaurateurs Scott Johnson, Leslie Montemurro and Adam and Val Luck, who post lunch, dinner and brunch menus focused on local meats, eggs and vegetables. Customer favorites include the homemade pot pies, dessert cupcakes and classics like pork loin and kielbasa sausage. Perhaps the hottest seller, the Davenport, is an open-faced turkey sandwich served with horseradish mashed potatoes, cranberry jam and a creamy cheese sauce.
Best patio: Barnacle Bud's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Barnacle Bud's
The race for Best Patio, 2009, was something of a shocker, because for the third straight year a different eatery has taken the title. This year its the no frills, South Side hidden gem Barnacle Bud's, a workingman's waterfront patio. Last year, the Ale House -- which finished second -- was the winner. This year's third place finalist, Trocadero, was the top vote-getter in 2007. When winter gives us the cold shoulder, warm yourself by thinking of sultry evenings at these spots.
Best pizza: Zaffiro's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Palermo Villa
The mom-and-pop pizza place has been in the same East Side location since 1954. Today, the restaurant is owned by Mike Zaffiro, the son of the original owner. Zaffiro's has a second location, next to the North Shore Cinema, 11700 N. Port Washington Rd. Zaffiro's Pizza is known for its thin-crust pizzas, pasta dishes and garlic bread in a neighborhood bar / casual restaurant setting. The upbeat environment is comfortable for diners of any age, including children.
Best ribs: Saz's State House
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Jerry's Old Town
Diners are passionate about ribs. While some prefer the chewy, gnaw-off-the-bone texture that comes from smoking, others are more partial to the succulent, fall-off-the-bone variety like the pork ribs served at Saz's. (Saz's also offers a St. Louis-style rib). The secret to the sauce? Sazama uses real sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup favored by other purveyors.
Best salads: Beans and Barley
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Beans and Barley
The readers of OnMilwaukee.com voted Beans and Barley to the top, based on menu winners like its famous mesclun salad with grilled vegetables, its large garden salad that comes with the works, and its chicken or tuna salad plate. Each salad is served with a roll and your choice of creamy garlic Parmesan, garden ginger, herbal vinaigrette or tahini.
Best sandwich: Café Lulu
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Jake's Deli
OnMilwaukee.com readers voted the sandwiches at Cafe LuLu, 2261 and 2265 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., as their favorite. Milwaukeeans are fanatic for the pitas -- the chipotle chicken, the Mediterranean steak, the Mid-East falafel, the East Indian chicken, the hummus or the roasted vegetable. The savory melts -- Santa Fe cheddar, the Florentine and the Sicilian -- are favorites, too. Of course, LuLu does baguettes like no other, offering seven different meat and vegetarian varieties.
Best seafood: Crawdaddy's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Crawdaddy's
The seafood menu at Crawdaddy's goes on and on. From freshwater perch and trout to saltwater halibut, grouper and tilapia, you can not only find the best of New Orleans fishing but the best of Louisiana-style Creole and Cajun cooking right here in Milwaukee. Operating for the last 14 years in West Allis, co-owner and chef Jonathan Klug has perfected the delicate flavoring of jambalaya, seafood etouffee and shrimp Creole.
Best service: Eddie Martini's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Bacchus
Once again, OnMilwaukee.com readers found Eddie Martini's to have a hearty helping of both fine fare and spectacular service. It's difficult to hear or read an account of this upscale Wauwatosa supper club at 8612 W. Watertown Plank Rd. without a mention of the excellent service. The waitstaff is professional and poised, attentive without being overbearing; that adds to an already comforting eating environment.
Best steak: Five O'Clock Steak house
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Dream Dance Steak
The OnMilwaukee.com carnivores made it clear that the Five O'Clock Steak House -- formerly Coerper's -- is still the best place in town to eat steak. The Five O'Clock Steak House looks and feels like a classy '50s supper club with vintage light fixtures, bartenders in crisp white shirts ready to mix old school cocktails, a fair share of cigarette smoke (until next July, of course) and an extremely attentive level of service from the entire staff.
Best street food: Frank "Pepperoni Cannoli" Pecoraro
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Streetza
The readers of OnMilwaukee.com narrowly picked an old favorite, Frank "Pepperoni Cannoli" Pecoraro, the cooler-toting senior who's been serving hungry drunks on the East Side and Downtown for years. It's debatable how much English Frank speaks beyond "pepperoni" and "cannoli," but the former butcher is more shrewd than you might think. He's a lovable, sometimes surly and always entertaining Milwaukee fixture, and one of the fathers of street food as we know it today.
Best Suburban: Le Reve
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Le Reve
In summer 2008, Andrew Schneider and Therese Hittman opened the two-tiered, French cuisine inspired bistro and patisserie. Le Reve, 7610 Harwood Ave., pairs a sleek, contemporary dining environment with a small, well-thought-out menu and wine and beer selection; but the main attraction at Le Reve is undoubtedly its vast pastry and dessert selection which taunts diners from the far-reaching glass case on the first floor.
Best Thai: The King and I
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Thai Palace
For almost two decades, The King & I has ruled Milwaukee's Thai food scene and, once again, OnMilwaukee.com readers picked it as their favorite. The King & I is known for its famous volcano chicken, but the restaurant offers more than 65 meat, seafood and poultry dishes that range from mild to tongue-scorchingly hot, including mango curry, stir fried scallops, basil eggplant, pud Thai and many more.
Best vegetarian: Beans & Barley
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Riverwest Co-op
Milwaukee's vegetarian dining options expanded in the past decade, and yet, the classic East Side establishment Beans & Barley gets the gold. Beans opened in 1979 in its current location, but the structure was rebuilt in 1993 after a massive fire. It serves up a variety of veggie items, including the tempeh reuben, grilled cheese, balsamic tofu sandwich, grilled vegetable sandwich and Mexican dishes like burritos and quesadillas.
Best venue for food: Milwaukee Public Market
OnMilwaukee.com editor's choice: Milwaukee Public Market
The Milwaukee Public Market, which allows guests to shop and dine, collected nearly one-third of the total vote to wrestle the title away from runner-up (and editors' pick), the Wisconsin State Fair and third-place finisher Summerfest. The Public Market features 20 specialty food vendors, with products ranging from bread and baked goods, wine and spirits, candy, cheese, coffee, fresh produce, meat, poultry and seafood.
Best vibe/view: Alterra at the Lake
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Smyth
On a warm, sunny day, there is no better place to be than Alterra at the Lake. But, even when the weather is less inviting, the refurbished pumping station that houses Alterra is alluring, with the sound of friendly chatter, a hissing espresso machine and the scent of coffee everywhere. Alterra nabbed one-fifth of all the votes in the category and Roots finished second with 13 percent.
Best wings: Buffalo Wild Wings
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Points East Pub
When it comes to wings, OnMilwaukee.com readers like variety. With 14 different sauces and five local locations (Water Street, Mayfair, West Allis, New Berlin and West Bend), Buffalo Wild Wings was a clear winner over Points East Pub, which finished second.