For the 10th straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, dining guides, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as voting for your "Best of Dining 2016."
In the 1800s and continuing well into the 1900s, Milwaukee's most populous, and influential, single group of immigrants came from Germany. Their influence lives on in the likes of the Miller Brewing Company, bratwurst, Teutonia Avenue, Schlitz Park, the Germania Building, the German-American Immersion School, Gemütlichkeit and especially, German cuisine and the restaurants that serve it.
Despite this summer's closing of the iconic Gasthaus restaurant, which operated for more than three decades in Waukesha, Milwaukee still boasts a selection of impressive German restaurants, some of which are world-renowned. With the approaching cold weather, it's the perfect time to revisit heavy food, heavy beer and Oktoberfest activities.
Here is a guide to Milwaukee's German restaurants.
Bavarian Bierhaus Brewpub & Beer Garden
700 W. Lexington Blvd., Glendale, (414) 316-9583
The Bavarian Bierhaus, formerly the Bavarian Inn, opened after a massive remodel in April of 2016.
The building houses a large dining hall that seats 350 people "European style," meaning families and couples share long, rectangular tables.
The menu features German classics such as schnitzel, sauerbraten, perogies, fried fish, burgers, wursts, bier cheese with Milwaukee Pretzel Co. pretzels, pretzel encrusted sauerkraut balls, wings, sampler plates, deviled eggs and more.
Bavarian Bierhouse produces 200,000 gallons of house-brewed beer every year, with eight of them available on draft along with four "guest beers" and a full bar. The brew tanks, and the brewmasters, are on an open second story that allows guests to observe the process.
A German-style live band plays every afternoon and evening, seven days a week, in the dining hall.
The Bavarian Bierhouse is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 11 am. to 2:30 a.m. A full menu is available every night until last call.
Golden Mast Inn
W349 N5253 Lacy's Lane, Okauchee, (262) 567-7047
Tucked into a cove overlooking part of Okauchee Lake, the Golden Mast offers a beautiful view – especially if you get a window table. This restaurant has been around for more than 40 years, and in recent years underwent a remodel and a menu change that is still fine dining, but with fewer German items available.
Signature German items still on the menu include rouladen, schnitzel and a German combo plate. All dinners include soup, salad and bread.
The Golden Mast also features an incredibly delicious fish fry and a Sunday brunch. The hours are Tuesday-Sunday, 5-10 p.m., with Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The new decor as well as the menu is a combination of the old and new, with classic German entrees such as a smoked pork chop with pickled red cabbage and stewed apples, pork shank with spaetzle and sauerkraut and sauerbraten with potato dumpling and gingersnap gravy. There's also salmon, goose shank and a 16-ounce veal porterhouse.
Table snacks like German obatzda (beer cheese spread) with pretzel bites, sauerkraut fritters stuffed with sausage and bacon and German hard salami and Camembert. Usinger's sausages are featured in a "Schnitzel & Wurst" section of the menu. Soups – including Ratzsch's famous liver dumpling – along with salads and appetizers are also available.
Open Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. It is also open for lunch on weekdays between 11:30 and 1:30 p.m.
5901 W. National Ave., (414) 257-9999
Family owned since 1924, Kegel's lies about a mile west of Miller Park and is a popular choice for baseball fans craving something more German than a brat or ballpark pretzel with Dusseldorf mustard.
The atmosphere comes straight out of Deutschland: murals adorn the walls, oak surrounds you on the beam ceilings and walls, hardwood floors, and stained glass windows in a Lannon stone building.
Kegel's is also known for its classic and tasty Friday fish fry and its handcrafted Old Fashioneds.
Hours: Monday-Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and Monday-Saturday, from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner with the exception of Friday, when the restaurant is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Kegel's Inn is closed on Sundays.
1037 N. Old World Third St., (414) 271-3377
One of the signature German restaurants in Downtown Milwaukee, Mader's has been serving on Old World Third Street since 1902. Dress is casual, although you would not be out of place in formal attire.
Although the menu has changed in recent years to offer a variety of lighter items, classic German dishes still abound, including schnitzel, strudel and the German Sampler, Mader's most popular dish featuring Wiener schnitzel, kasseler rippchen and Rheinischer sauerbraten with potato dumpling, sauerkraut and red cabbage.
Mader's has a gift shop upstairs and an art gallery featuring landscapes. Valet parking is also available.
The hours are Monday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for lunch; Monday-Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner; Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for brunch and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner.
Old German Beer Hall
1009 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 226-2728
The kitchen is open late, and in addition to the standard menu of brats, wursts and giant Bavarian-style pretzels, there is usually a couple of tempting German specialties on the menu too. A Bavarian breakfast is served every Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
There's also a Wisconsin beer battered fish fry every Friday.
The Beer Hall draws a number of different demographics, from families and "older folks" looking for a good meal, to theater and sports fans catching a drink before or after an event or show as well as the usual college crowds.
In addition to the big, big tap beers from world-renowned Hofbräu Brewery in Bavaria, Old German Beer Hall also has the usual bottled favorites – but why pass up the chance to drink a liter of German beer?
The Old German Beer Hall opens daily at 11 a.m.
Schwefel's signature dishes are sauerbraten – marinated beef in a sweet and sour gravy – along with other German favorites including beef rouladen and wiener schnitzel. A turkey schnitzel is also available.
The barbecue ribs, Friday night fish fry and roast duck, with a homemade raspberry sauce, are also popular menu items. The stuffed mushroom caps are a must-try appetizer.
The entrees are served with a dumpling, German potato salad or potato pancake (try the large, firm and flavorful dumpling), hot red cabbage or sauerkraut (the cabbage is delicious) and a soup or salad.
2235 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 272-1775
Von Trier unveiled its current menu in 2015 after a significant kitchen remodel.
The menu features a curry bratwurst, knackwurst, duck, alligator and sharable sausage "medleys." Appetizers include the brotkorb, a liver sausage plate, German pretzel with a side of garlic dill quark (traditional, spreadable German cheese) and the fresh and palate cleansing Bayerische Rettichteller, spiral-cut daikon radishes salted with sea salt and served with rye bread and butter. There's also a braunschweiger melt and several non-German entrees.
All of Von Trier's sausages come from Bavaria Sausage, a 50-year-old German sausage business located in Fitchburg. Sausage offerings include smoked duck sausage, smoked pork and crawfish sausage, bacon cheddar sausage, andouille sausage and a creole sausage.
Many of the menu items are served with bread, potato salad and / or imported German condiments including sauerkraut, multiple kinds of mustard and a curry ketchup.
Von Trier's kitchen is open from 4 to 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and from 4 p.m. to midnight on weekends.