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Dining at Three Brothers is the polar opposite of grabbing a bite to eat: It’s an experience that’s rich in culture, customer service and cuisine.
"We’re old school and we take our time in the kitchen," says co-owner Branko Radicevic. "My family does all of the cooking and prepping, with some outside help, and we’re using recipes that have been passed down for generations. But good food takes time."
That said, customers should prepare themselves to spend at least 90 minutes in the quaint Serbian eatery, especially if ordering burek, the restaurant’s signature dish.
Burek is a rich and filling pastry made of thin, flaky dough and, at Three Brothers, is available filled with cheese, cheese and spinach or meat. Many longtime customers come to Three Brothers specifically for the burek, and for first-time diners, it’s a must try.
"Anyone who tries it, likes it," says Radicevic.
The portion is very large – four very thick and rich slices – and is very sharable. Technically, Three Brothers is not a "family style" restaurant, but some prefer to eat this way. The cheese burek, for example, pairs well with the very-meaty goulash and two diners will still walk away with leftovers – especially after starting with the complimentary brown bread and maybe an appetizer, like the stuffed grape leaves.
The atmosphere at Three Brothers is as much of a draw as the food. Vintage Schlitz signs, ’50s Formica tables, sturdy but old wooden chairs, ambient Serbian music and a plethora of plants offer a very "back in time" feel.
But this is no gimmick, the building was built in 1897 for the Schlitz Brewing Co. (it was originally a "Schlitz Bar") and Radicevic’s grandparents opened Three Brothers in 1956. (Those of us who dined there as kids or young adults in the ‘70s or ‘80s might remember cats walking around the restaurant.) Radicevic’s father, also named Branko, took over the family business for many years before he passed away in 2014. Today, Radicevic, his sister, Milunka, and mother, Patricia, are in charge.
For decades, Radicevic says the restaurant’s customers skewed older, but recently, it’s attracted more younger diners as well. Three Brothers is also very popular with Milwaukee’s large Serbian community.
"They say it reminds them of home, which is a huge compliment to us," he says.
In the past couple of years, the space underwent minor renovations, including fresh paint on the walls and a new floor. But for the most part Three Brothers stays the same.
"Our customers ask us not to change too much, and we don’t. Small plates and other restaurant trends come and go, but we stay the same," says Radicevic. "And our customers love it."
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.