Pinching pennies until the next payday? Well, you still have to eat ... and while the higher end, trendy joints seem to get a lot more media play, hometown Milwaukee has more than its share of some great places to get cheap eats that won't bust your budget, and will leave you with a happy tummy and a smiling face.
We of course cannot name every meal deal in our great city on the lake, but here is a sampling of great options for those of us who are on "a tasty nibbles for a reasonable price" diet.
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724 E. Layton Ave., (414) 483-0345
What's better than a $1 taco and $1.95 burritos, enchiladas, tostadas and tamales? How about all that great Mexican madness food partnered with a $1 margarita or mai tai! From 3 to 10 p.m. on Monday nights, you can stuff yourself silly at Amelia's for under $10 and still have room for some guacamole ($1.50).
Cans Bar and Canteen
1815 E. Kenilworth Pl., (414) 225-0421
Chase away those Monday blues with 20-cent jumbo buffalo wings that come in hot, sweet, barbecue and teriyaki flavors from 5 p.m. to midnight. And of course, you can wash those babies down with one of over 50 cold ones offered in a sweet, sweet lure of an aluminum can.
Leff's Lucky Town
7208 W. State St., (414) 258-9886
Living the high life was never so affordable. For a measly six bucks, you can chow down an 8-oz. tenderloin smothered in grilled onions and served alongside coleslaw and onion straws. Oh yeah, and a pitcher of High Life will only set you back another fiver.
Rip Tide Seafood Bar and Grill
649 E. Erie St., (414) 271-8433
If it's seafood you're craving, Rip Tide rolls out its chilled Jonah Crab claws at 11 a.m. and keeps them coming for 50 cents a piece until 11 p.m. That's a lot of crab for not a lot of coin.
223 N. Water St., #100, (414) 220-9933
Every Monday, from 4 p.m. to midnight, you can grab a slice from Rustico on the Milwaukee River for just one dollar. So belly up to the bar for a pint and a steal of a slice.
McBob's Pub and Grill
4919 W. North Ave., (414) 871-5050
They claim "the beste soffte schelled Tacos in the citie", because tacos are, of course, Celtic, um, or it depends on who you ask? Regardless, for $3.50 for beef or $4 for chicken, you get a soft shell burrito that's as big as your head. Seriously. And if you miss these delicious monstrosities on Tuesday, that's okay, because they also have them Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
4928 W. Vliet St., (414) 453-6200
If your constant craving is for pasta, O'Brien's can meet your need. $7.50 will get you an ALL-U-CAN EAT build your own pasta extravaganza that will make any leprechaun jealous, and with the money you save, you can wet your whistle with a $2.50 Blue Moon. Yum.
338 S. 1st St., (414) 271-7546
$17.95 may sound like a lot for a cheap eats article, but when you consider that you're talking about ALL-U-CAN EAT Snow crab legs with salad, breadsticks and choice of potato, that's a lot of bang for your buck. Slim's serves them up hot and fresh on Tuesday nights and don't be afraid to check out their other nightly specials that are a smidge lighter on the wallet, but not on the portion size.
2501 S. Superior St., (414) 483-6335
Tag and Joe do wings up right, 30 cents all night, and they come with the perfect amount of heat. Medium's the standard, hot'll have you wiping the sweat from your brow. If you still have a soft spot for the old PBR, come a day early for their $1 Pabst special.
Hooligan's Super Bar
2017 E. North Ave., (414) 273-5230
Monday through Thursday, sneak out of work an hour early and take advantage of this North Avenue favorite with their happy hour menu from 4 to 6. For $2.99 or less, you can choose from sliders, Hooliwings, quesadillas, chicken tenders, nacho cheese fries, jalapeno poppers, chips and salsa, or mozzarella marinara. Thursday
Metro Bar and Cafe
411 E. Mason St., (414) 225-3270
Metro Bar and Café has created a niche in being one of the city's all-around best places to people watch. Thursday nights take the cake with a delicious complimentary buffet featuring assorted meats and cheeses, pizzas and shrimp. Yes, I said complimentary. Pair up your free hors d'oeuvres with something fun from their martini and wine specialty lists
117 E. Wells St.
If you're fish fried out, China Gourmet's buffet features everything but the wok and touts the best crab rangoon in town. For your tiny contribution of $12.95, expect to be able to fill your belly with soup, salad, fruit, appetizers and about 10 different entrée offerings including cashew chicken, General Tso's chicken, pepper steak, salmon, shrimp stir fry, fried rice and Peking duck.
Elsa's on the Park
833 N. Jefferson St., (414) 765-0615
T.G.I.F. takes on a more upscale meaning when you associate it with a big platter of chilled cocktail shrimp, French bread, and tangy cocktail sauce and lemons ($14.50). On a hot Friday night, martini in hand, there are few better ways to ring in the weekend.
5218 W. Bluemound Rd., (414) 258-9837
Friday means one thing, and that's a fish fry, which according to Kelly's is the best in town. We agree that it's one of the most reasonable. Feast on $6.50 baked cod, Italian cod and fan-tailed shrimp. Of course, a fish fry just wouldn't be a fish fry without fries, crab pasta, coleslaw and rye bread, and here they have it all for one low price.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.