The Thrillist Awards: Milwaukee's Best New Food & Drink of 2015
In 2015, Milwaukee saw a favorite pop-up get a permanent location, ice cream turn boozy, and new breweries open (obviously), but the biggest surprise for our food scene was the huge influx of flavors from around the world. From South African peanut stew to Korean-inspired grilled cheeses, ethnic cuisine flooded the menus even at our bars. That means when you want to try the year’s best new openings and dishes, you’ll get to check off that new year’s resolution to get a little out of your comfort zone. Don’t worry, though: our pick for the best new burger is a perfectly done classic.
Best new restaurant
There haven’t been many openings as anticipated as Amilinda’s, thanks to a large fanbase cultivated at their pop-up restaurant of the same name. Their permanent home has lived up to expectations with a menu influenced heavily by Spain and Portugal, and dishes. ranging from braised lamb to octopus, that are all tackled with a skillful hand.
Best new Asian
Asian restaurants that take on too many cuisines can raise red flags, but this one pulls it off. From sushi to Thai to whatever cuisine crab rangoon is, every dish on the huge menu is made with finesse.
Best new beer bar
A decidedly unpretentious bar and grill in an area rife with expensive dining options, Camino's focus is on craft brews by the glass or growler. The kitchen is pumping out some instant classics, like the kimcheese sandwich, Korean chicken wings, and cheese curds from a local dairy, and while you’re waiting for your food, you can embrace your inner teenager with vintage arcade games like Tapper and BurgerTime.
Best new burger
Though Merriment Social’s menu touts small plates and dim sum, the burger here steals the show. It’s a classic combination done really well: a double stack, topped with thick slabs of bacon, a couple slices of cheese, and homemade pickles. It’s a classic combination done really well.
Best new bar
Though DJs abound late night, Plum Lounge’s atmosphere is more lounge and less nightclub, thanks to swanky bottle service and an upscale, substantial food menu. Even if dance music isn’t your thing, make the trip for the patio and its long fireplace-in-the-bar.
Best new African
Admittedly, there’s not a whole lot of competition for African food around the city, but even if there were, Irie Zulu would still be the stand out. The restaurant itself brings a marriage of African and Jamaican cuisines, but it’s the creative combos from the African portions of the menu that impress the most. Start your menu exploration with the peanut butter stew.
Best new taco
The Gypsy Taco cart moved to MKE this year from Door County, and has taken up permanent residence at Boone & Crockett, one of the best bars in the city. They operate on a pop-up basis lately, thanks to a jerk who stole their money instead of delivering a shiny new taco truck. So when you can get your hands on their fusion tacos with Dr. Pepper-marinated pork and fresh veggies, run, don’t walk.
Best new pizza
A coffee shop with pizza? It makes total sense when you realize they sell beer and wine and serve as a hub of activity for their neighborhood. The massive pizza oven was shipped from Italy, and the pies are Neapolitan style, naturally. Originally only available on weekends, demand for pizzas has increased, and the oven (thankfully) now only rests on Mondays.
Best new brewpub
Company Brewing comes out on top by being a brewery, live music venue, and outstanding restaurant all rolled into one warm industrial space. While you’re coming for the impressive, refreshing beers, you’ll stay for the food; much of it is Puerto Rican influenced, like jibarito and tostones, but you can get trout, steak, or gnocchi, too.
Best new vegetarian
You’re guaranteed to feel good for going to Beerline Cafe. You’ll have a good coffee, you’ll be supporting a local business that believes in sustainability, and no animals will be harmed in the making of your food. If none of that actually convinces you, the large array of sweet-filled crepes should seal the deal.
Best new sandwiches
This Vietnamese spot that specializes in banh mi moved downtown this year, earning them much more recognition than they had tucked away in an Asian supermarket. The cubicle farm worker has heard the siren song of pork pate combined with briny vegetables and spicy jalapeños, and will never look back.
Best new supper club
A modern reinterpretation of the classic Wisconsin supper club, Supper is sleek and retro, from the decor to the menu. Some things are classic, like steak Diane and oysters Rockefeller, and some things have been updated, like a craft cocktail menu. One thing that straddles both old and new: ice cream drinks. Blue Moon in an after-dinner drink? Yes please.