Where to Eat in Milwaukee Right Now
Though many are struggling right now, Milwaukee restaurants are scrappy and full of fight. Indoor dining has restricted capacity, but outdoor dining is flourishing thanks to new and expanded patios that may last until the snow flies. It's never been easier to grab takeout, so there's no excuse for not trying these spots that opened in the last few years, or in some cases, during the pandemic. Just don't forget to wear your mask.
Egg & Flour
The gist: Fancy noodles that everyone goes crazy for in a trendy, casual environment from chef Adam Pawlak. The original location is in the Crossroads Collective food hall, while the new Bay View spot is standalone.
The food: All the pastas are made from scratch every day, so there's often a limited amount. Friday's lobster special, which usually includes some variation on a cream sauce, sells out fast. Pappardelle with bolognese or rigatoni with burrata are good consolation prizes.
The cost: Pastas are $10-$17, with breads and sides $3-$11.
How to order: Order online for the East Side location, or call 414-885-0204 to order at Bay View.
The gist: Family-run Thai and Laotian street eats in a southern suburb that opened during the height of the pandemic. Don't be put off by the strip mall location because the fresh, traditional recipes more than make up for it.
The food: Make a meal out of small plates like Lao sausage, laab and nam khao, or grab a favorite like pad Thai or panang curry. Family style platters serve a bunch and come in six versions for maximum variety.
The cost: Small plates are $3-$10, entrees are $8-$14, and family platters are $18-$32.
How to order: Order online or call 414-301-4126 for curbside pickup.
La Dama Mexican Kitchen
The gist: The chef and owner of Crazy Water, Peggy Magister, has reimagined that restaurant into La Dama, a sleek, artistic spot to get modern, regional Mexican cuisine.
The food: The menu is a fresh take on Mexican food, full of seafood and seasonal ingredients with thoughtful, composed plating. Grilled octopus tostadas, duck with mole tacos, and a NY strip with poblano hollandaise are typical offerings.
The cost: Appetizers are $7-$12, entrees are $12-$25 with a $45 steak.
How to order: Call ahead to order at 414-645-2606.
Taqwa's Bakery & Restaurant
The gist: Owner Taqwa Obaid uses her mother's Palestinian recipes for this restaurant, which grew out of a home business selling taboun, a flatbread.
The food: Middle Eastern breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served, with an emphasis on bakery items, which are baked fresh to order. Foul, falafel, hummus, salads, various kabobs, and grilled chicken make up the bulk of the traditional menu.
The cost: Baked goods range $1-$6, breakfast items around $6, and entrees $10-$16.
How to order: Order by calling 414-539-6878. Since it's located in a former fast-food restaurant, the drive-thru is expected to be open soon as well.
The food: The menu is Asian, but it spans everything from Indian samosas to Shanghai xiao long bao, the infamous soup dumplings which are made for MKE winters. Besides noodles of all types, Cantonese clay pot dishes, and salt and pepper shrimp are superb.
The cost: Apps and dumplings are $6-$13, with entrees running $14-$18.
How to order: Order on their website or by calling 414-316-9003.
Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern
The gist: This restaurant mixes brunch with the warmth of an old-school corner tavern, and that combo is what Milwaukeeans dream of, complete with marble-topped bar-turned-diner counter.
The food: Creative but unfussy twists on brunch classics like a breakfast burrito with coffee-rubbed pulled pork, plus sandwiches like fajita cheesesteak with some of the best, burnished breakfast potatoes around. Beer and bloodies are staples, naturally.
The cost: Entrees are $10-$15.
How to order: Order online or call ahead at 414-763-3021 to place an order for pickup.
The gist: A chic and cozy date night-worthy pizza and Italian joint has sprung from this old tavern building. A wood-fired oven pumps out pizzas all night to be eaten in the pink neon glow of the bar and dining room.
The food: Pies are traditional Napoletana style, including the classic margherita, but come with toppings like Italian beef or fried potatoes and chicken. There's also pastas and salad, plus apps like the Bocce ball, a 10-ounce giant meatball.
The cost: Pizzas are $13-$19, appetizers are $9-$13, and pastas are around $15.
How to order: You can order online or call them at 414-897-7367 for curbside pickup.
The gist: Fronting a restored vintage movie theater, this tiny, romantic spot for Mediterranean food and refined cocktails is ideal for special occasions, especially if you reserve the private, curtained booth.
The food: The menu is compact, seasonal, and vibrant. Grilled octopus with fondant potatoes and Spanish chorizo is a standout app, and rabbit cacciatore and a flat iron steak with frites and herby chermoula regularly appear on the entrees list.
The cost: Appetizers and desserts are $8-$12, with entrees $20-$23.
How to order: Order online or call them at 414-539-6469 for no-contact curbside pickup.
The gist: A relaxed Italian restaurant with elegant food, especially the pastas, which you can watch being made in the middle of the dining room.
The food: The ravioli, no matter what fills or tops it, is always a standout. Tall squares of pillowy house focaccia go well with antipasti snacks and wine while you make the tough choice between decadent spaghetti con bottarga or a roasted veal porterhouse with cippolini onions and pancetta-vodka cream.
The cost: Antipasti ranges from $6-$16, entrees $20-$34, and dessert around $8.
How to order: You can order online or call them at 414-312-8968 for curbside pickup.
The gist: This playful, tongue-in-cheek bar and restaurant is a nostalgia-loving millennial's dream, with highbrow takes on lowbrow food. Grandma's macrame plant holders are not hung ironically, and no one takes themselves seriously here.
The food: Fried bologna sliders topped with giardiniera and potato chips, and fried turkey tails are staples. The menu has changed to adapt to covid, and now includes "Papa KyKy's" pizza, take-and-bake tater tot casserole, and fried chicken dinners. Your drink might come with Pop Rocks.
The cost: Snacks are $5-$10, pizzas and other family-style meals are $13-$24.
How to order: Order online for pickup or delivery, or call them at 414-810-1006.
Sze Chuan Restaurant
The gist: One of the few go-to spots for traditional Sichuan food in the Milwaukee area. While the space is non-descript, it lets tables of beautiful food shine, and is ideal for groups sharing a hot pot.
The food: While you can get good renditions of Chinese-American food like general tso's here, most people choose chile-oil slicked specialities from the huge menu like Fei Teng fish, mapo tofu, or any number of cold, spicy salads.
The cost: Prices range from $3 for egg rolls to $24 for whole fish dishes. Hot pot starts at $8 with items priced individually.
How to order: Order online for pickup or call 414-885-0856.
The gist: Though it's a casual counter-service restaurant, Pita Palace really does feel palatial with a huge, vaulted ceiling dining room complete with chandeliers. An offshoot of the popular Al-Yousef supermarket, it's a favorite place for large gatherings around huge platters of food.
The food: Smooth hummus with a pool of chopped peppers and olive oil is a must, as are the crunchy, deeply browned falafel. If you can't decide on a main, just grab a mixed grill to sample a bunch of meats, or some tender chicken shawarma wrapped in fresh, thin shrak bread.
The cost: Apps range from $4-$10, with sandwiches and entrees $7-$21. Family platters are $45-$90.
How to order: Order on their website or call 414-988-8100 for pickup or delivery.
The gist: In a sea of Mexican restaurants on the south side, this one stands out for reliability and its harder-to-find specialties, which are usually trendy and customers swoon over.
The food: The juicy beef from birria de res shows up in everything, from mulitas to machetes, an arm-sized crispy corn masa quesadilla that serves two. Huge pambazos and cemitas poblanos on sesame seed-flecked buns, achiote-dyed pork carved from a trompo, and chipotle albondigas are all standouts.
The cost: Starters and entrees are $4-$16, tacos around $2.50, and machetes around $20.
How to order: Call the restaurant to order at 414-312-8436.
Birch + Butcher
The gist: The focal point of this modern restaurant's dining room is an open flame cooking hearth, which gives the space a cozy feel, not to mention smell. Stop at the small attached retail space for aged beef, bakery, and other goodies.
The food: The hearth influences almost everything, including the dry-aged ribeye with burnt scallion mashed, bulgogi skirt steak with ramp kimchi, and grilled croutons in a refreshing heirloom tomato and melon salad. Brunch lovers shouldn't miss their flame-kissed modern menu.
The cost: Starters are $6-$16, mains run $26-$49, and weekend brunch is $5-$19.
How to order: Order online or call 414-323-7372 for pickup.
The gist: Chef Dane Baldwin was nominated for a James Beard Award for his work at this sleek but casual bistro where plates demand your attention as they pass your table. It has not yet reopened for dine-in, so the menu is abbreviated, but great for a living room picnic date.
The food: Beautiful, thoughtful interpretations of classics like a lobster roll, Cuban sandwich, and pot pie, plus seasonal salads and dessert. The Diplomac is a top burger in town, and don't ever pass up the massive wedge fries.
The cost: Entrees range from $8-$21.
How to order: Order online or call them at 414-800-5816 for curbside pickup.