Looking for new spots to try? Lori Fredrich has dished out her top five picks in 20 different dining categories, from brunch to BBQ and everything in between.
Staring down a list of new restaurants – and trying to determine which one to try next – is often a daunting prospect. But my hope is that this list of promising spots makes your journey a bit easier.
Need more choices? Check out the full list of restaurants, cafes and food halls which have opened in 2022.
Don't forget to be kind, patient and tip well!
1. Lebnani House
My first trip to Lebnani House was like breathing in a waft of fresh air, from its eye-catching dining room to its menu, which provides a veritable feast of bright, spice laden Levantine dishes from countries including Armenia, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon.
From a bright, modern fatoush salad doppled with pomegranite to a far-from-traditional hummus trio, every dish offered both a nod to tradition as well as something new.
I'd recommend making your first trip with friends and trying as many items as you can. Explore the housemade flatbreads, including the flavorful beef filet bil ajin topped with thin slices of beautifully seasoned beef filet and olive oil.
Indulge in their flavorful char-grilled beef kebabs and likely the best kafta I've eaten in the city. And if you love seafood, be sure to order the delectably fresh head-on prawns, which are char-grilled and served with a flavorful garlic lemon sauce that begs to be sopped up with fresh, housemade flatbread.
As usual, I'd also encourage you to try something new. For me it was the fatteh, a classic Levantine comfort food composed of layers of toasted pita bread tossed with tahini, tangy yogurt, spices and herbs. Lebnani house offers their fatteh topped with beets, eggplant and beef, chicken or grilled prawns.
2. Flourchild Pizza
Flourchild pizza is not only the newest pizza spot on the block, it's also one of the most fun thanks to its whimsical decor and menu of crowd-pleasing appetizers, salads, sandwiches and (of course) pizza.
Every great pizza begins with a well-executed crust, and Flourchild delivers with a complexly flavored, naturally cold fermented crust that’s tender (soft enough to fold, but absolutely not soggy) with just the right amount of chew and plenty of crispness, particularly on the edges.
They also deliver on both classic and imaginative toppings, from their not-so-basic cheese pizza featuring red sauce, aged mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, basil, extra virgin olive oil and pecorino to more imaginative pies like the Crab Rangoon Delight and the Doritos Locos pizza, which delivers all the flavor of a crunch wrap in pizza form.
3. Lupi & Iris
Chef Adam Siegel’s Lupi & Iris was among the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2022. And while it has little more than four months under its belt, the restaurant is already delivering on many levels, from its opulent-yet-comfortable environs to some of the best service I’ve experienced in quite some time.
As for the menu: dishes are simple, refined and largely dependent on high quality ingredients. But there are also nuances in flavor which belie the presence of a seasoned kitchen team. Starters are small, but shareable. Highlights include grilled zucchini (or maybe pea pods or winter squash) served with hand-dipped ricotta, mint, Marcona almonds and grilled bread; and a creamy goat cheese tart flavored with smoked trout, tender confited tomatoes and pistou in a tender pastry crust.
The seafood lover in me was more than pleased with the spaghetti frutti di mare featuring mussels, littleneck clams and shrimp steamed in white wine and scented with leeks, garlic and a whiff of umami-rich anchovy. Meanwhile branzino steamed in parchment with braised artichokes, fingerling potatoes, tomatoes and basil was a light-yet-fulfilling entree that delivered more in flavor than the sum of its parts.
I look forward to taking a seat at the kitchen counter near the wood burning oven and working my way through dishes like char-grilled Spanish octopus with romesco sauce; Ligurian corzetti with walnut sauce; and grilled lamb chops served with classic ratatouille and brightened with herbal pistou and savory black olive sauce.
Saffron's space is gorgeous, its cocktails are ingenious and its menu is crave-worthy. It takes inspiration from the flavors found across the Indian diaspora.
You'll find tradition at every turn, from the use of a modern tandoor oven to prepare house-made breads and dishes like tandoori salmon and grilled prawns. But you'll also find innovation in dishes like tandoori chicken bao buns, jalapeno and cheese samosas and a mezze platter featuring eggplant, hummus and housemade fig na’an.
I was bowled over by new-to-me dishes like khubani malai kofte, tender dumplings stuffed with apricots and served with ghee-infused onion sauce and smoked cardamom; and the tender, spicy goat mirch masala which was simply sublime. Even classic dishes like butter chicken offer a stunning flavor profile that sets Saffron apart from the crowd.
Want to try a number of items? Visit with friends and order their tasting menu which offers you four varied courses for a set price (everyone at the table needs to participate; but you can order different items and share).
5. Turning Tables Tavern & Eatery
Comfort food is what you'll find at Turning Tables, the new restaurant inside Turner Hall, which not only serves up a nice selection of familiar fare, but also houses a teaching kitchen which allows local entrepreneurs to level up their food businesses.
I'd encourage you to read more about the work they do. But also be sure to support them by paying a visit. Their current menu offers easy-to-love (and very well-priced) fare including BBQ nachos, fish tacos, burgers, bbq sandwiches and macaroni and cheese bowls. But as the restaurant evolves, you'll also find a varied chefs' menu comprised of signature dishes from participating food entrepreneurs. Currently, if you visit on Wednesday evening, you can enjoy Fatema Dunomes' sweet and spicy wings (pictured above). And yes, they're pretty fabulous.
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.