Milwaukee may be renowned for beer, bratwurst and hogs (Harley’s, that is), but while its Bavarian and blue collar roots still lend distinctive flavor, the city today is a cosmopolitan destination with much to be savored.
Downtown redevelopment, the addition of the stunning Milwaukee Art Museum and the Milwaukee Public Market have injected excitement and nurtured a dynamic dining scene that serves up the best of the old and new worlds.
Dream Dance 414-847-7997, www.paysbig.com/dining/dreamdance.htm
Situated within the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in an industrial neighborhood, Dream Dance overcomes its location. Chef Jason Gorman plays to the area’s ethnic roots while tapping top-notch local foodstuffs. Signatures include Lobsterwurst, a spin on Milwaukee’s beloved bratwurst, served with mascarpone pierogi and vanilla butter sauce. All 800 wines are offered at retail prices.
Butch’s Old Casino Steakhouse 414-271-8111, www.butchssteakhouse.com
Butch’s blends 1970s ambiance with big, beautiful steaks pan-fried to perfection in cast-iron skillets by chef-owner Bruce Schettle. This is Wisconsin supper club cuisine at its best.
Roots Restaurant & Cellar 414-374-8480, www.rootsmilwaukee.com
Organic and sustainable are watchwords for co-owners Joe Schmidt, an organic farmer, and chef John Raymond. Menus change often and recently included a “Pork Tasting” of grilled steak, white bean and belly cassoulet and charred ribs.
Kopp’s Frozen Custard 414-282-4312, www.kopps.com
Launched in 1950, Kopp’s claims to be the first custard stand to offer flavors of the day. Recent renditions included Pomegranate, Macadamia and German Apple Strudel.
Bartolotta Restaurants 414-258-7885, www.bartolottas.com
You can’t go wrong with any restaurant owned by Joe and Paul Bartolotta. Ristorante Bartolotta is hailed as the city’s premier Italian.
Karl Ratzsch’s 414-276-2720, www.karlratzschs.com
Old World traditions like wiener schnitzel, sauerbraten and strudel star in this downtown landmark. On Fridays, go for the beer-battered haddock with homemade potato pancakes or German potato salad.
The Three Brothers 414-276-2720
Cozy and decidedly downscale, locals flock here for big, steaming portions of Serbian comfort foods. Third-generation owners Branko and Patricia Radicevic serve up stuffed veal, roast suckling pig, Hungarian goulash and Serbian beef sausage. Burek, three-inch high phyllo pastry with cheese, spinach or ground beef, is a specialty.
Weissgerber’s Gasthaus 262-544-4460, www.weissgerbers.com
Charming German country inn and biergarten touting a schnitzel menu—Wiener Schnitzle, Jäger Schnitzel, Pheasant Schnitzel, Emmentaler Schnitzel and “Schnitzel a la Holstein,” topped with fried egg, anchovy, sardine, capers and caviar.
Milwaukee Public Market 414-336-1111, www.milwaukee-publicmarket.org
Located in the historic Third Ward, this new addition to downtown features more than 20 vendors selling fresh-cut meats, sausages, artisan breads and cheeses, fresh fish, ethnic specialties, fine coffees, wines and freshly prepared foods.
Alterra Coffee Roasters 414-273-3747, www.alterracoffee.com
The hometown king of “strong, high-quality coffee.”
Usinger's Sausage Shop 800-558-9998, www.usinger.com
Usinger's on the Milwaukee River is where you go for fresh bratwurst and more than 70 varieties of Old World sausages.
Peter Sciortino’s Bakery 414-272-4623, www.petersciortinosbakery.com
Italian breads and pastries—especially cannoli and sfogliatelle—plus 30 varieties of Italian cookies headline at this 60-year-old bakery, now owned by siblings Joe, Maria and Luigi Vella.