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When there are so many great places to eat in our city, hotel restaurants can sometimes fall to the wayside. But, that's often for no good reason at all. So, we asked our editorial team to weigh in on their favorite hotel restaurants around the city.
Senior writer/food & dining
Pick: Mason Street Grill
I’ll admit to a love affair with the lounge at Mason Street Grill. The space is particularly appealing to me during the winter months when I can curl up near the fireplace or grab a high top and watch the snow fall gently outside. On top of everything, there’s live jazz music six nights a week, giving the spot a swank atmosphere that simply can’t be beat. As far as food goes, I’m a fan of their fried surf clams, a delicacy I fell in love with in Seattle and which you don’t find often enough in Milwaukee, as well as the steak tartare, which sets itself apart with the addition of a bone marrow hollandaise.
Photo courtesy of Mason Street Grill
On the dinner side of things, it’s a great spot to grab a steak; but, you also can’t go wrong with any of their seafood options – like fresh stone crab claws – which are delivered fresh and prepared well. Oh – and if you’re a fan – don’t miss the creamed spinach.
Somehow over the years my partner and I have started a tradition of going to Potawatomi on Christmas Day. Some find this strange, and yet, the casino is always packed and festive which is why we now look forward to spending an hour or so playing the slots and eating at Ru-Yi, a delicious, affordable, on-site restaurant. RuYi – which means "As You Wish" – features Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Hmong menu items.
The spicy eggplant is particularly delicious. The portion is large enough to share and the eggplant, which is dressed with a homemade sweet and sour sauce, truly melts in your mouth. The pad Thai is also very flavorful, and comes sans carrot, which I particularly appreciate. Plus, Ru-Yi's space is clean and modern and light-filled, which is a nice contrast to the more ambient gaming floor. In short, the food at Ru-Yi is never a gamble – we've eaten there four or five times and have been satisfied during every visit. Merry Asian Food to us!
Pick: Mason Street Grill
For a while, it looked like most hotel restaurants in Milwaukee were afterthoughts; a place to provide guests with a satisfactory meal, not a venue to lure locals. But that's changed and hotels are home to some great restaurants. I'm not sure I have a single favorite in this class, however. I love the open kitchen, the jazz in the bar and the stone crab at Mason Street Grill, but I'm also a big fan of the Sconnie cheese and Midwestern charcuterie at Millioke.
And the steak I had recently at Dream Dance Steak was stellar, as was the array of small plates in which I indulged over a stormy lunch hour at Smyth. So, I could argue that I have a four-way tie. But if that's lame and I'm forced to choose, I think I'd take Mason Street Grill for its combination of vibe and cuisine.
Pick: Safe House
The only reason you can call The Safe House a hotel restaurant is because it’s owned by the Marcus Corporation, and really, most of my memories at this iconic place come from way before that transition happened. My dad used to take me there before Bucks games in the ‘80s, and in fact, I had my 12th birthday party there. Now, the Safe House needs some serious renovation, since when I took my kid there for the first time, most of the good stuff was broken or generally falling apart. It’s still the coolest concept in Milwaukee, and once Marcus does its planned spruce ups (they’ve already updated the menu), the Safe House will rise again. And no, I won’t tell you the password.
Theater Critic and Contributing Writer
Pick: The Cafe at the Plaza
Cafe at the Plaza is one of the most relaxing hotel restaurants. You can eat at a leisurely pace and have a lengthy conversation. The patio is spectacular during warm weather and the dining room has a classic feel to it. And their Caprese Grilled Cheese sandwich is an unusual treat. It’s wilted spinach, fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil pesto on a well-grilled sourdough bread. It's Caprese Grilled Cheese ($9.50): sourdough, wilted spinach, fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil pesto. The restaurant, long known for its delicious breakfast and lunch, also now serves dinner on Thursday through Saturday.
Breakfast spaetzle (photo: Nick Agyres)
An added bonus is that the Plaza serves as the resident hotel for out-of-town actors who are working in Milwaukee. So, if it’s a musical they are doing, you stand a chance of hearing singers break out in song.