Kevin Miyazaki/Courtesy of DanDan

DanDan

Third Ward

The first restaurant of its kind in Milwaukee, DanDan emulates some well-known Chinese restaurants and noodle shops on the coasts with it's Asian-fusion style. Schmaltz fried rice, hand-pulled cumin lamb noodles, and whole Peking duck can all be washed down with any number of flaming Tiki-like cocktails. There's also a formal restaurant-within-a-restaurant called EsterEv with a menu of (usually) non-Chinese things that rotates monthly. If that seems like a lot for one chef to take on, that's because there are two chefs at the helm, Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite. (Dan and Dan. Get it?)

Lacey Muszynski/Thrillist

Iron Grate BBQ

Town of Lake

Opened at the very beginning of the year, Iron Grate is creating what it calls Milwaukee-style barbecue. At the center is the Milwaukee rib, a cut of pork ribs with the belly meat left on. It makes for a rib with a cap of sticky, melty belly fat laced with super-tender meat. Get it -- or brisket, homemade sausage links, or pulled pork -- in a classic meat+three with smoked tomato mac & cheese, baked beans, and braised greens. It's still only open on weekends, but here's hoping it expands its hours soon.

Like Minds Brewing

East Village

The opening of this brewpub was much-anticipated, thanks in part to the legal fight just to to be able to brew in this state, and partly because it's the brainchild of Sanford owner and chef Justin Aprahamian. So far, the food and beer have lived up to the hype. Beer is brewed with kitchen ingredients like rhubarb and lemon peel, and you can get everything from Armenian pizza to butter burgers to snack on. It's got that hipster-approved brunch, too.

Drink Wisconsinbly Pub

Drink Wisconsinbly Pub

Walker's Point

Take all of your favorite things from Wisconsin taverns -- Old Fashioneds, fried food, Packers fans -- and put them in one place, and you get Drink Wisconsinbly Pub. You can get a couple different kinds of Old Fashioneds, including a classic with Korbel brandy or one out of a bubbler. There's cheese curds, butter burgers and an unusual kringle ice cream sundae, which deserves classic status. It's not uncool to love our state, so this is pretty much our jam.

David Szymanski/Courtesy of Tre Rivali

Tre Rivali

Third Ward

Don't let the fact that this is a hotel restaurant scare you away: Chef Heather Terhune honed her culinary chops at top restaurants in Chicago and even an appearance on Top Chef. It helps that she's a Midwesterner at heart, so the Mediterranean-inspired menu isn't full of ingredients you haven't heard of. Handmade pasta, wood-fired pizza, vegetables, and seafood dominate the menu, including an olive oil-braised charred octopus.

Fixture Pizza Pub

Fixture Pizza Pub

Walker's Point

In a city full of Milwaukee-style pizza joints, there's somehow still room for one more. You'll recognize the thin, crunchy crust cut into squares, but the sauce on top of the cheese might throw you. Don't be alarmed, it keeps the crust from getting soggy. Specialty pizzas are named for local landmarks and bars, like the Fat Daddy's five-meat creation. A smattering of sandwiches, appetizers, and pastas rounds out the Italian menu.

Jerusalem Grill and Pastries

Jerusalem Pastries

Greenfield

In a stretch of street near a mall and full of chain restaurants, the Middle Eastern options at Jerusalem Pastries are a welcome reprieve. You order at the counter, but your food comes on real plates, or in the case of tea, on a fancy silver tray. Falafel, shawarma, and kafta come as sandwiches or on yellow rice with almonds. Don't pass up the hummus which is the smoothest around. I dare you to leave without grabbing a few pastries by the pound.

Lacey Muszynski/Thrillist

RuYi

Menomonee River Valley

The Asian restaurant inside of Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, RuYi, opened a new sushi bar early in 2016. Located in a sleek new space at the back of the restaurant (and carved out of the adjoining buffet), the bar serves starters, soup, salad, and donburi in addition to the usual maki, nigiri and sashimi. Fish is flown in fresh twice a week and prepared and sliced inside a custom walk-in refrigerator.

The Tandem

Triangle North

With a focus on Southern meals served family-style, The Tandem aims to bridge neighborhoods with big platters of fried chicken and mac & cheese. The century-old building used to house a popular tavern, and the original wood back bar is still in use. Besides the numerous fried staples, you can get stewed oxtails, Thai curry, and hot dogs or brats served three ways.

Hotel Madrid

Bodegon

Walker's Point

Located in the two-room, not-quite-open-yet boutique Hotel Madrid, Bodegon is the biggest addition to MKE's fine-dining scene in 2016. The name means "home-cooking restaurant," but the food, drinks, and atmosphere are way better than anything you have at home. Start with a cheese board or carpaccio, finish with a local, 32oz bone-in rib-eye for sharing. Order a whole suckling pig for your next party when you've got someone to impress and $620 to spare.

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Milwaukee's Best New Restaurants of 2017

Published On 11/13/2017
M ilwaukee's booming -- some might say oversaturated -- restaurant scene churned a lot of changes in its wake over the last year. Some stalwart restaurants closed their doors, and we mourn the passing of classics like Karl Ratzsch, Cempazuchi, and Hinterland, while other much-loved local spots like Cubanitas and Fuel Cafe expanded their reach with new locations. But most importantly, fantastic new restaurants of all types and cuisines opened to replace those we lost, from a dog-friendly pizza joint to a restaurant's side room that only serves a tasting menu twice a week. So next time you're sick of all your usual haunts, hit up one of these new dining gems that graced Milwaukee in 2017.
Kindred on KK

Kindred on KK

Bay View

Reimagined hotel restaurant looking to bring diners together
Located in the tiny Kinn Guesthouse, this place is redefining what a hotel restaurant can be. Just as a boutique hotel with the name guesthouse implies, the goal is to bring people together, and in Kindred, that's done by utilizing community tables. Most dishes are meant to be shared, to the point where that section of the menu is called "gather," and includes small plates like coffee citrus-rubbed wild boar sliders and scallops with sweet potatoes and speck. Large plates that are harder to share like pasta and burgers are available, but where's the fun in that?

Maison

Maison

Hawthorne Glen

Cozy French bistro that replaced an esteemed classic
All of Milwaukee sighed when our beloved Meritage closed down, but the restaurant that has taken its place is a more than worthy replacement, filling a hole in a neighborhood that’s always embraced upscale casual dining. Maison is French for home (as the restaurant is fond of reminding you), and the atmosphere is similarly inviting, with warm lighting and dark wood; all the classic French dishes are represented on the menu as well, including salade nicoise with oil-cured tuna, escargots, steak frites, and coq au vin. It’s basically like visiting the home in France you never had -- provided your home in France charged you for its signature cocktails.

The Diplomat

Brady Street

Regional American small plates from a Milwaukee restaurant veteran
Formerly of restaurant group powerhouses SURG and Bartolotta, chef Dane Baldwin opened The Diplomat on busy Brady Street in August. He serves a menu of small plates meant for sharing that changes regularly, including a selection of sweet desserts, and you're likely to find influences from many regions on the menu, like Southern pork rinds with tomato salt and Carolina mustard sauce. Even if you’re not looking for another small plate spot, The Diplomat’s got some heartier dishes as well, like beef short ribs with broccolini, which are available in larger, more traditional entree sizes if you're feeling selfish. Don't skip past the innocuous sounding Diplomat fries: This unusual version is more akin to crispy fried baked potato wedges and could easily become a Milwaukee classic.

DiModa Pizza

DiModa Pizza

East Village

A new dog-friendly option serving Roman-style pizza and pasta
DiModa moved into the former spot of Trocadero and has proven itself a worthy successor to the popular gastropub. They bake up Roman-style, wood-fired oven pizza, which has a thicker crust than Neapolitan-style and isn't common in MKE. There's the classic margherita, but also versions with Underground Meats 'nduja sausage, caramelized cipollini onions, and roasted figs. In addition to the dog-friendly patio outside, there's also a custom pooch menu with treats like beef-flavored doggie beer and puparoni pizzas, so be sure to bring little Bowser along.

Stella Van Buren

Juneau Town

Italian steakhouse with a refreshingly bright, non-steakhouse vibe
You wouldn't think downtown needed another steakhouse, but Stella brings a fresh twist with its added focus on Italian cuisine. The unconventional steakhouse is located on the third floor of the brand new Westin Hotel -- this was a good year for hotel restaurants, if you couldn’t tell already -- and unlike what you’d expect from most other steakhouses, its atmosphere is bright and airy thanks to the open dining room, high ceilings, and huge windows. This place’s legit Italian influences mean the pastas are all made in-house -- including an elevated version of spaghetti and meatballs (if you’re feeling ultra-basic) -- or go the classic steakhouse route with a 22-ounce dry-aged bone-in ribeye if you're really hungry and on your company's dime.

The Fitz

The Fitz

Avenues West

Retro classics from a husband/wife team in an art deco hotel
Also a hotel restaurant, The Fitz is the brainchild of Jason Gorman and his wife and pastry chef, Jennifer, and replaces the Ambassador Hotel's previous restaurant, Envoy (which was in dire need of reworking and remodel). The name is an obvious reference to F. Scott (it's located in an art deco hotel, after all), and it's quite easy to imagine you're in the roaring ‘20s (or at least a decade before you were born) when the menu is full of chic classics like crab louis salad and a twist on rumaki, as well as luxurious entrees like duck breast with green curry dumplings.

Santino's Little Italy

Bay View

Vibrant lounge with authentic Neapolitan pizza and East Coast vibes
The owners of Santino's had to go through a lot to get the vintage building that houses it up to code, including redoing the foundation and basement. What they ended up with, though, is a modern, sleek pizza bar with hot pink lighting and industrial touches that's been getting rave reviews since it opened. Pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven and are big enough to serve one extremely hungry person (or two normal people). And while simple preparations like margherita are offered, it's toppings like Italian beef and giardiniera, or chicken and Spanish fried potatoes, that steal the show. For starters, you’ll want to share a giant 10-ounce meatball called The Bocce Ball.

Kailley Lindman

Third Coast Provisions

Juneau Town

The opulent seafood restaurant Milwaukee’s been waiting for
Wisconsin isn't exactly known for being a bastion of seafood restaurants, but we got one this past year that's putting a lot of others to shame. Third Coast is a swanky, upscale seafood restaurant that surrounds you with glitz and mirrors, and it's the kind of place where you can order a giant chilled seafood tower, oysters Rockefeller, and something magical called lobster potholes that combines crab, lobster, and copious amounts of garlic butter. Head downstairs to the Oak & Oyster bar for cocktails, seafood tacos, and unbeatable happy hour specials.

Huge Galdones

EsterEv

Third Ward

Intimate tasting menu spot inside another classic MKE restaurant
Located inside DanDan, this Inception-style restaurant is the pet project of chefs Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite. EsterEv, named after the chefs' great grandmothers, operates every Friday and Saturday night for one seating of 10 courses, and while the menu changes monthly, it’s nothing like what you’ll find at DanDan, even though the two spaces share a kitchen. Each course will be well thought out and exquisitely plated, matching some of the best restaurants in the state, with dishes like steak tartare with mozzarella, celery, parsley, and crackers. It's an intimate dining experience, and at only $80 for the meal, it's a steal.

Doc's Commerce Smokehouse

Kilbourn Town

Southern-style barbecue with a focus on hickory-smoked meats
In a city that loves meat and potatoes, you can never have too many barbecue restaurants. Doc's Commerce Smokehouse has a massive open space for dining with a large bar and a few TVs for optimal sports viewing. Here, platters of smoked meats with plenty of char (especially the chicken and ribs) are served; there are also five sauces to choose from, if you're so inclined, including a rare-around-here Alabama white sauce. Between fried pickles, burnt ends, 60 beers on tap, and peanut butter pie, there's really no reason to leave this place.