By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jun 01, 2016 at 5:01 PM

In case you forgot, Downtown Dining Week kicks off tomorrow, June 2. And you probably won’t want to miss this annual eight-day event featuring over 40 eateries who will offer three-course menus at lunch for $12.50 and dinner for $25 or $35 through June 9.

Of course, the tough part is deciding where to go.

In looking over the menus, which include selections from spots like Brown Bottle, Coquette Cafe, Kanpai, Kil@wat, Smoke Shack, Vagabond and Zarletti, here are some of the things that caught my eye:

For lunch

  • If you haven’t been to Cafe Calatrava, you owe yourself a visit (truly). Enjoy the view at lunch along with three delicious courses including heirloom tomato soup; housemade gnocchi with n’duja, pomodoro sauce and pecorino; and Birramisu, a beer-soaked version of the classic ladyfinger dessert.
  • Go vegetarian at Millioke with chilled watermelon soup and a drunken chickpea sandwich with avocado, jicama slaw and red pepper pesto. You can always indulge a bit in the end with the brown butter pound cake with IPA-soaked peaches and whipped cream.
  • But, maybe you’re feeling German? At Mader’s you can start with pretzel crostini with beer cheese dip and move on to classic Bavarian sauerbraten featuring 10-day marinated beef served with gingersnap sauce, red cabbage and spätzle. And hey, finish it off with classic schaum torte served with with ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream.
  • What's better than starting off lunch with a hurricane? You can at Brass Alley. Follow that with BBQ shrimp ‘n grits with smoked cheddar and bacon grits, gulf shrimp and traditional southern barbecue sauce. Treat yourself with a bite of Mama Liz’s pecan pie for dessert.

For dinner

  • When’s the last time you were at Indulge? Take the opportunity to pay it a visit. Dinner is just $25 and includes a glass of sparkling wine, a cheese and charcuterie plate and a crepe Francais filled with ham and Gruyere, served with a couscous and tomato salad. For dessert, "indulge" in the chocolate raspberry tart with housemade raspberry chocolate ganache in a flaky tart shell served with whipped cream
  • If barbecue is calling your name, Mi-Key’s Modern BBQ should do the trick. For $25 you can get "Smoked Pig Wings" featuring a smoked pig shank glazed in Kansas Cousin BBQ sauce. Follow that up with a rack of St. Louis-style smoked spare ribs served on a bed of baby arugula with grilled peaches and smoked sweet corn. There might even be a blondie sundae waiting for you at the end, featuring Sassy Cow vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce and fresh strawberries.
  • Of course, if you’re craving steak, there’s also Mason Street Grill’s $35 menu which includes New England clam chowder along with a 10-ounce Angus strip steak with a scallop, served alongside smashed cauliflower and oven roasted mushrooms. Finish with almond vanilla panna cotta with roasted peaches and strawberries.

(PHOTO: Onesto)

  • For $35, you can start off with an 8-ounce wine course at Onesto and ease yourself into a delicious Italian coma with an order of burrata with tomato confit and walnut pesto. And don’t be shy about plowing into an order of ziti featuring lamb ragu with garlic, thyme and rosemary.
  • There’s a patio view awaiting you at Pier 106 Seafood Tavern, where you can grab up a $35 seafood-filled dinner featuring clams and mussels cooked in lemon pilsner broth and served with grilled bread. Follow that with a fresh one-pound lobster served with cornbread, French fries and coleslaw. Maybe you’ll even have room for ginger creme brulee served with fresh berries.

In addition to enjoying discounted dining, four lucky diners, chosen from among those who complete Dining Week surveys, will be awarded $550 in dining certificates.

No passes, coupons or cards are required for participation. However, due to demand, reservations are recommended.

A complete list of restaurant menus is available at

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.