’Tis Dining Month, the tastiest time of year! This means we’re dishing up fun and fascinating food content throughout October. Dig in, Milwaukee! OnMilwaukee Dining Month is served up by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino and Wollersheim Winery & Distillery.
This article was originally published in 2019.
Milwaukeeans take food seriously, and we tend to have strong opinions about restaurants. Some local eateries, however, seem to be more controversial than others, receiving written and word-of-mouth reviews that range from praising to bashing.
Here are six restaurants that diners seem to either love or hate. Feel free to chime in with your opinions on the joints or to suggest other disputable dining spots.
Some diners find this "greasy spoon" cantina to be the Mecca of Mexican comfort food, whereas others declare it disgusting. Most of the food is served on paper plates, which again, is a point of contention for some and an endearing attribute for others. In 2019, the prices went up substantially for the first time in years, yet still remain less than the price of average Mexican fare in Milwaukee.
2. Beer Hall fish fry (inside Lakefront Brewery)
There’s a lot of commotion during Lakefront Brewery’s Friday night fish fry thanks to a rollicking polka band, a busy dance floor and "family style" seating. And yet, some folks say the fish fry is not the strong point of the experience. Still others appreciate the simplicity of it – as well as the coveted potato pancake "side" that isn’t available at many local fish fries. (There’s also a full menu.) Another dividing point is the number of kids. Some diners find it annoying, whereas others welcome the chance to responsibly parent while drinking a Riverwest Stein or two.
3. Solly’s Grille
With the lack of lunch counters left in the city, Solly’s definitely has that going for it. However, the burgers – which are bathing in butter – tend to divide diners. Even burger fanatics sometimes find them too greasy and gross, whereas others salivate at the very thought of them. Either way, Solly’s Grille has been in business since 1936 and shows no sign of slowing down or offering less-sinful burgers.
4. Real Chili
Real Chili serves up bowls of hearty, no-frills chili made from beans and meat atop spaghetti noodles. It’s savory, as spicy as you like ... and greasy. The good news and the bad news is that nothing, except the price, changes at Real Chili, including the recipes and the red-and-black decor. However, it regularly receives polarizing reports. OnMilwaukee senior writer and dining critic Lori Fredrich said it best: "People either love the chili or compare it to dog food."
Every time someone calls Victor’s a "cougar bar" or "Victims," someone else usually chimes in with a "but the food’s really good" comment. Many Milwaukeeans aren’t aware that Victor’s is as much of a dining destination as it is a dance club. Even owner Victor Jones told OnMilwaukee, "We are relatively unknown for our food." Yet people rave online and off about the fish fry, homemade bread, steaks and seafood bisque. The dated atmosphere is also a point of debate, too; some dig the kitsch whereas others find it flaky.
6. BelAir Cantina
BelAir Cantina hasn't been around as long as the other places on this list, but in a short amount of time, they've garnered a varied reputation. Some seek them out with regularity for the Tuesday and Thursday taco deals or the three salsas served with the bottomless baskets of chips. Others find the food overpriced, unauthentic and inconsistent in quality. However, most Milwaukeeans agree that margaritas taste delicious after a long work day.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.