Food & Drink

The Best Restaurants in Milwaukee Right Now

Published On 09/26/2017 Published On 09/26/2017
KEVIN MIYAZAKI
Michael Goelzer

Goodkind

Bay View

Don't let the quaint, retro-inspired dining room and bar fool you: there are modern flavor combinations coming out of this kitchen, like bucatini with tomato, crab, and spicy pepperoni. Belly up to the bar and sip some of the best cocktails in Milwaukee.

Orry Leon

Amilinda

Juneau Town

A pop-up so popular they made it permanent. Amilinda was one of the most anticipated openings of 2015, and it has not let MKE down. The food is Spanish-inspired, by way of Venezuela and Portugal. Plates are hearty with lots of braised meat, making it a great spot to get your comfort food fix.

Kevin J. Miyazaki/Courtesy of Ardent

Ardent

East Side

Leave your tastebuds in Chef Justin Carlisle's capable hands and order the tasting menu at this James Beard Award-nominated spot, which has quickly become one of the star restaurants in the city. For something a little more punk rock, visit after hours on the weekends when they transform into Red Light Ramen.

Kailley Lindman/Merriment Social

Merriment Social

Harbor View

If you ever find yourself torn between dim sum and burgers, there is now a restaurant for that. Modern fusion small plates are delivered on dim sum carts, while there's also a section of menu dedicated to heartier plates. Sounds a little confused, but it's working out just fine.

Adam Horwitz/Odd Duck

Odd Duck

Bay View

You know the drill: mostly small plates, ever-changing menu. Odd Duck stands out for consistently delivering creative flavor combinations since opening in 2012. Charred octopus with fermented black beans and snow peas, anyone?

Lacey Muszynski/Thrillist

Iron Grate BBQ Co.

Lake

The newest kid on the barbecue block is owned by former Ardent chef Aaron Patin, though it's Edna -- the restaurant's main smoker -- that really runs the show. She's responsible for the restaurant's delicious meats, including what's dubbed the Milwaukee-style rib... which comes with the pork belly still attached. The belly fat melts into the rib for a sticky bite that goes well with the sweet, tart pickles on the side.

Savage Solutions

Drink Wisconsinbly

Harbor View

You may recognize the name of this pub from the endless parade of "Drink Wisconsinbly" T-shirts, can koozies, and pint glasses you see at basically every MKE event. This is the same company, doubling down on Wisconsinites' love of their state, with a pub that surrounds you with Wisconsin memorabilia. Burgers, cheese curds, Old Fashioneds (from a bubbler!), Bloody Marys, and PBR are all wonderfully familiar, tasty standards here.

Courtesy of Hello Falafel

Hello Falafel

Bay View

The owners of small plate heaven Odd Duck bring you this Mediterranean fast casual spot, which offers mostly -- what else -- falafel. There are four different ways to dress your crunchy little chickpea balls, from classic hummus and pickled vegetables to sabih with charred eggplant spread, hard boiled egg, tahini, and cucumber salad. Charred halloumi cheese, lentil soup, fattoush, and fresh juice blends round out the menu.

Courtesy of Rare Steakhouse

Rare Steakhouse Milwaukee

East Town

We Milwaukeeans l-o-v-e our meat and potatoes, so there's always fanfare when another steakhouse opens up. The MKE outpost, in a brand spanking new high-rise, is just as lovely as the original Madison location. Supple crimson banquettes, chandeliers, and a library room indicate precisely what you're in for: delicious foie gras, tableside prepared salads, and big old hunks of steak, all at premium prices.

David Szymanski

Tre Rivali

Third Ward

Located in the brand-spanking-new Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, Tre Rivali focuses on Mediterranean food with a heavy influence from Italy. Chef Heather Terhune prepares handmade pasta, wood-fired pizzas, and fish and meat entrees... plus some creative tapas like aracini made with paella. The restaurant is more comfortable than the hotel's posh rooftop bar, so you can grab some of the same, fairly expensive craft cocktails in a more casual setting.

Kevin Miyazaki

DanDan

Third Ward

The first MKE restaurant serving some of the trendy Chinese-American dishes popular on the coasts, DanDan hit the ground running when it opened at the end of July. Headed by two veteran chefs both named Dan, they do in fact serve dandan noodles, because it'd be a travesty not to. Hand-pulled cumin lamb noodles, smashed cucumber salad, and short rib and foie gras potstickers stand out on a menu that's meant for sharing. The bar's mai tai comes to the table flaming... and full of booze.

Third Coast Provisions

Third Coast Provisions

East Town

Chef Andrew Miller of Merriment Social brings us this sleek, shiny bastion of seafood in a city with more steakhouses than oyster bars. Luckily, most of the fish served here doesn鈥檛 come from our third coast, since MKEans are all too familiar with the smell of dead alewives. Instead, you can get chargrilled oysters, lobster and crab meat masquerading as escargot in pools of garlic butter, and some of the best steak tartare around.

San Giorgio Pizzeria Napoletana

San Giorgio Pizzeria Napoletana

Westown

The operator of the Calderone Club took over the vacant space next door and created a Naples-style pizzeria. San Giorgio is the first VPN-certified pizzeria in Milwaukee -- that means a committee of Italians who are very serious about pizza dictates everything about the pies here, from the type of flour used to the oven temperature. The results are appropriate homages to what you'd get in Naples; sit at the semicircular bar around the imported oven, and watch your pizza cook while you munch on arancini.

The Tandem

The Tandem

Triangle North

Caitlin Cullen, formerly of Bavette La Boucherie, opened The Tandem in Triangle North, a neighborhood that needs more community gathering spots of this ilk. For many years the building was the Wally Schmidt Tavern, so continuing that history with a watering hole made sense. For dinner, order a whole family-style chicken, either roasted or fried and bathed in Memphis-style hot sauce. Whichever style you choose, hushpuppies and braised greens are a must for sides.

Hotel Madrid

Bodeg贸n at Hotel Madrid

Walker's Point

Bodeg贸n is the main draw at Hotel Madrid, considering there are only two rooms in the hotel and the place isn鈥檛 even booking yet. You'll find Spanish-inspired food and aged steaks, presented in an upscale atmosphere that matches the high price tag. Check out the bar for a large menu of cocktails, snacks, and small entrees, like a smoked suckling pig sandwich or savory potato churros. Book the wine cave -- yes, it's really underground -- for special events.

Santino's Little Italy

Santino's

Bay View

Another pizzeria touting Neapolitan pizza recently opened on "the same street as Barnacle Bud's." When you describe your location in reference to the best summer drinking patio in Milwaukee, you're clearly doing something right. Go traditional with a Margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil, or opt for a more alternative pie, like one topped with garlic sauce, pan-fried potato slices, and grilled chicken.

Eat at MOXIE

Moxie

North Shore

Local couple Anne Marie Arroyo and Tamela Greene are bringing a little verve to the sleepy 鈥榟ood of Whitefish Bay with a menu of classics like shrimp cocktail, chicken piccata, short rib bolognese, and a burger with peppercorn aioli. The brunch menu here includes four types of eggs Benedict, including one with crispy pork belly. Because if there's anything eggs Benedict needs, it's more richness.

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1. Goodkind 2457 S Wentworth Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

Goodkind has all the warmth and friendliness of your neighborhood bar and grill -- but also lots of stuff that place doesn't have. This Bay View farm-to-table restaurant and bar specializes in rotisserie meats, local produce, and house-made cocktails. You'll find as many seasonal ingredients on your plate as you will in your glass, and the full kitchen menu is served until 1am to ensure that the space maintains as much of a bar status as it does of a restaurant one.

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2. Amilinda 315 E Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Amilinda is a warm, vibrant Spanish and Portuguese restaurant specializing in farm fresh, seasonally inspired plates. Amongst the Antoni Gaudi-inspired murals and din of lively conversation, enjoy options like, Beef Espetada served with sweet kapello peppers and Mihlo Frito (fried corn), Halibut over roasted beets and a golden turnip puree, and buttery Goat Pot Pie that melts in your mouth. The wine list is comprised only of Spanish and Portuguese wines and the Catalan-themed cocktail menu features creative options like the Hemingway Espana made with hibiscus absinthe, cava (sparkling wine), and sugar and the Iberian Fizz made with sweet sherry, gin, and lemon. Before hitting the road, sink a spoon into the soft, decadent caramel flan.

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3. Ardent 1751 N Farwell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Leave your tastebuds in Chef Justin Carlisle's capable hands and order the tasting menu at this James Beard Award-nominated spot in the Lower East Side. Expect lots of foams, gels, crunchy things and ingredients you鈥檝e never heard of before, but that are all the more intriguing for it. If that鈥檚 too much for you, no worries -- just head over after 11:30pm on Saturday nights when it changes into Red Light Ramen, serving homemade ramen, PBR, and booze slushies.

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4. Merriment Social 240 E Pittsburgh Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53204

If you ever find yourself torn between dim sum and burgers, there is a restaurant for that. Modern fusion small plates are delivered on dim sum carts at this Harbor View spot, while there's also a section of menu dedicated to heartier plates. It's reminiscent of a Chinatown brunch, but the plates all utilize seasonal Wisconsin ingredients that come together and err on the side of American. Merriment Social also features craft cocktails and signature punches for two, which arrive at the table in small bottles. Just like the drinks, sharing plates is encouraged as well.

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5. Odd Duck 2352 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

Odd Duck in Bay View stands out for consistently delivering creative flavor combinations contained in small plates on an ever-changing menu. It serves a variety of vegan options suitable even to carnivores, and their cocktails rarely disappoint. This place is incredibly popular, so reservations are recommended.

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6. Iron Grate BBQ Co. 4177 S Howell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

Located in Milwaukee's town of Lake, this Iron Grate is a proud BBQ and ribs restaurant that live fire cooks all its meat on trusty Edna -- the joint鈥檚 beloved main smoker. She鈥檚 responsible for what's dubbed the Milwaukee-style rib, which comes with the buttery, fatty pork belly still attached. Other than the ribs, Edna also helps cook up tender Beef Brisket, tangy Pulled Pork, and Smoked Links. Get any of it with uber American sides like baked beans, cole slaw, Smoked Tomato Mac鈥檔 Cheese, and grits. The BBQ joint shares space with Hawthorne Coffee Roasters so you can grab a cup of (really nice) joe while you wait.

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7. Drink Wisconsinbly Pub 135 E National Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53204

This pub in Harbor View, the brainchild of Richard Lorbach, surrounds you with Wisconsin memorabilia, from T-shirts to can koozies. The menu draws on Wisconsin tavern and supper club fare, from burgers to cheese curds. Old Fashioneds (from a bubbler!), Bloody Marys, and PBR are several drinkable stables here.

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8. Hello Falafel 2301 S Howell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

The owners of small plate heaven Odd Duck bring you this Mediterranean fast casual spot, which offers mostly -- what else -- falafel. There are four different ways to dress your crunchy little chickpea balls, from classic hummus and pickled vegetables to sabih with charred eggplant spread, hard boiled egg, tahini, and cucumber salad. Charred halloumi cheese, lentil soup, fattoush, and fresh juice blends round out the menu.

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9. Rare Steakhouse Milwaukee 833 E Michigan St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

We Milwaukeeans l-o-v-e our meat and potatoes, so there's always fanfare when another steakhouse opens up. The MKE outpost, in a brand spanking new high-rise, is just as lovely as the original Madison location. Supple crimson banquettes, chandeliers, and a library room indicate precisely what you're in for: delicious foie gras, tableside prepared salads, and big old hunks of steak, all at premium prices.

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10. Tre Rivali 200 N Broadway Ste 100, Milwaukee, WI 53202

A Mediterranean restaurant with heavy Italian influence, Tre Rivali sits in the posh Kimpton Journeyman Hotel. Woodfire pizzas might catch your eye, but it's interesting seafood preps like olive oil braised octopus and shrimp bagna cauda with radishes that stand out. Whoever thought to make arancini out of paella is a genius.

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11. DanDan 360 E. Erie Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Headed by two veteran chefs both named Dan, sleek and stylish DanDan in Third Ward does, in fact, serve dandan noodles, alongside other Chinese Sichuan dishes on a menu meant for sharing, such as hand-pulled cumin lamb noodles, a smashed cucumber salad, and short rib & foie gras potstickers. You'll want to order a mai tai on the side, which comes to the table in flames, matching the warm red tones and Asian flair of the decor and wall art.