By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Apr 22, 2024 at 10:31 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

The Milwaukee Film Festival is rolling film right now throughout the city – and unless you want to subsist for days on theater popcorn, Whoppers and bad nachos (all of which can be delicious, in moderation) it’s probably worth your time to think about where to grab a bite before or after your trips to the movies.

While there is an entire city filled with options at your disposal, decisions can be daunting. So we thought we'd narrow the field to the most convenient (and worthy) spots to get your food and drink on, including a few unexpected choices you may not have considered.

Click on the theater for film listings and nearby eats:
Avalon Theater
Downer Theater
Oriental Theatre
Times Cinema

Avalon Theater

2473 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 539-6678

[Click to search the Milwaukee film line-up at this theater]

Cafe Corazon
2394 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 544-2774

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If it’s Mexican fare you’re craving, you’re just blocks away from one of the best Bay View spots to get your fix. Choose from tacos, tostadas or enchiladas (vegan and vegetarian options, too). If you’re hungry for something substantial, you can’t go wrong with the wet burrito; wash it down with a margarita or a Mexican beer. Cafe Corazon is open for brunch (Sundays), lunch and dinner.

2378 S. Howell Ave., (262) 229-1157

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With hours beginning at 4 p.m., Heirloom is a great spot to grab snacks and drinks after that provocative matinee or enjoy dinner before or after a show.  The menu is rife with delights from fun, shareable starters to craft sandwiches (like burgers and hot chicken) and substantial entrees for vegetarians, seafood lovers and even those who crave a great steak. 

Honeypie Cafe
2569 S Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 489-7437
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If comfort food is calling your name, look no further than Honeypie where locally sourced products are transformed into down-home favorites, from creamy macaroni and cheese to salads, sandwiches and tender pot roast with all the fixin's. They also serve up weekend brunch, so you can make it a Sunday Funday with a leisurely brunch before your weekend matinee.

2535 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 301-6255
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If you like sharing a meal with friends before or after a show, there are few places better than Sorella. Excellent wood-fired pizzas and pastas are served up alongside shareable Italian-inspired vegetable dishes and inspired entrees. It's the sort of place that gives you every excuse to try a bite of everything. 

Downer Theatre

2585 N. Downer Ave., (414) 962-3120

[Click to search the Milwaukee film line-up at this theater]

Downer TheaterX

BelAir Cantina
2625 N. Downer Ave., (414) 964-1190

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If you're craving tacos, burritos, or just a margarita and snacks, BelAir Cantina is just a short walk from the theater, offering up lunch and dinner daily, plus brunch on weekends. When you visit, be sure to order their "Wish Upon a Taco" which raises funds for the Make A Wish Foundation.

Café Hollander
2608 N. Downer Ave., 414-963-6366
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When you're catching a film at The Downer Theatre, you're just steps away from this neighborhood staple – which is open daily starting at 8 a.m., making it a convenient stop for any of your theater meal needs.  Stop in for breakfast or brunch before a show any day of the week. Or grab lunch or dinner. Their menu of beer-worthy snacks also makes it a great spot to discuss that particularly perplexing film you are still digesting.

Canela Cafe
2621 N. Downer Ave., (414) 226-6749

Myriad breakfast and lunch options are waiting for you at Canela Cafe, which is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. From classic egg dishes to crepes, salads and sandwiches, this cafe is a great spot to grab sustenance before or after an early afternoon show!

Want more options? If you don't mind driving a few extra blocks, there are even more choices surrounding the nearby Oriental Theatre!

Oriental Theatre 

Oriental Theatre
2230 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 276-5140

[Click to search the Milwaukee film line-up at this theater]

Crossroads Collective
2238 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 763-9081
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Can't decide what you're hungry for? Make it easy on yourself and hop over to this East Side food hall where you can assuage multiple cravings in a single visit. 

That includes sushi and ramen from Kawa; healthy comfort from Nute's Cafe; Tacos from Mex Ave.; creative eggrolls from Ready to Roll; pasta dishes from Noodle Me; globally inspired fare (including vegan and gluten-free options) from Temple Goddess & Adonis Burger Co.; and ice cream from the Scratch Scoop Shop. 

Don't miss trying a quaff from the Pharmacy Bar, which serves up beer, wine and cocktails all day long (and, if you're looking for a post-film adventure, make a reservation at Shanghai, the Collective's speak-easy with an entrance just off of Black Cat Alley).

Hacienda Taproom + Kitchen
2018 E. North Ave., (414) 296-7200

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The film festival is the perfect time to pay a visit to this recently reimagined venue where the flavors of Texas and the Southwest collide in beautiful harmony.  Choose from freestyle taco plates (with choices like smoked pork belly, brisket, chicken, salmon or mushrooms), burgers or snacks.  Or come by on a Saturday or Sunday before 3 p.m. for an amazing brunch that's like none other in the city.

L'Incontro Italian Bar & Cafe
2315 N. Murray Ave.

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Looking for something brand new to try before or after a show? L'Incontro, which opens its doors on April 17, is located less than two blocks from the Oriental Theatre. The restaurant, which offers a menu of Italian cuisine with Asian inflection, is like nothing else in the city. Enjoy inventive pasta dishes like cacio e pepe leveled up with the sweet umami of black garlic, pizzas with toppings like Filipino longanisa sausage or indulgent entrees like lamb shank braised in red wine with tomatoes, roasted peppers and crispy chickpeas.

Maru Korean Bistro
2150 N. Prospect Ave., (414) 210-4139

The Film Festival is the perfect time to try out something new. This Korean bistro offers a mix of modern and classic dishes from Korean fried chicken wings, bibimbop and beef bulgogi to budae jigae and jap chae. Surprise your tastebuds before or after a flick at the nearby Oriental Theatre.

Strange Town
2101 N. Prospect Ave., (414) 885-0404
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Enjoy delicious, shareable plant-based eats at this cozy gem located just blocks from the Oriental. Grab a glass of wine or one of their stellar low-proof cocktails and nibble on their ultra-silky hummus. Or make the full commitment and indulge in a few globally-inspired plates off of their ever-changing menu. Either way, you'll be satiated and ready to tackle a great film or two.

The Times Cinema

5906 W. Vliet St., (414) 763-1763

[Click to search the Milwaukee film line-up at this theater]

6030 W. North Ave., (414) 312-8968

**Reservations highly recommended
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If you've come all the way to the West Side for a specific film and you also happen to have an affinity for pasta, you won't want to miss a chance to dine at this neighborhood gem. The menu is filled with delights, from house focaccia and meatballs to handmade ravioli, orecchiette and risotto. You'll also find beautifully curated wines and cocktails (including low and no-proof options). Ca'Lucchenzo is about a 6-minute drive from the theater, so it's a convenient spot after an afternoon show or before a later film. Some walk-ins are usually available; but if you can make a reservation, I'd highly recommend it.

Charles E. Fromage
5811 W. Vliet St., (414) 305-1458

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Go ahead, laugh at the name; it's meant to incite a smile. And so is the convivial atmosphere at this quaint little wine (and beer) bar just steps away from the Times. Stop in for pre-movie snacks (cheese spreads,  olives, nuts and sweets) and beverages; or linger with friends for a post-film discussion for the ages. You really can't go wrong.

Neighborhood Draft
5921 W. Vliet St., (414) 885-2028
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Looking for a casual spot? Settle in at this cozy neighborhood pub for a drink and a bite before or after a show. You'll find friendly folks and a menu of elevated bar fare from excellent grilled wings and hand-cut fries to housemade French onion soup, substantial salads, sandwiches and memorable specials.

Wy'east Pizza  
5601 W. Vliet St., (414) 943-3278
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If you’re heading to the theater Wednesday through Sunday evening, you might want to make time for a stop at one of my favorite pizza spots, Wy’East Pizza. The pizza, which is made from slow-fermented dough and fresh toppings, features a chewy crust made crisp on the exterior by the extreme heat of the Italian oven. You can’t go wrong with the Hot Marmot (pepperoni, fresh garlic and sweet hot pappadew peppers); but don’t neglect a look at the specials, which feature fresh seasonal ingredients. Wy'East is a cozy spot, so if you can make reservations it's worth it!

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

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.