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’t 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

Bodegón at Hotel Madrid

Walker's Point

Bodegón is the main draw at Hotel Madrid, considering there are only two rooms in the hotel and the place isn’t 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 ‘hood 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.