It's Worth Getting Sloppy For This Grilled Cheese Taco
This restaurant operates in a create-your-own-adventure way, with a menu of big plates and a decidedly non-traditional dim sum menu. You can get everything from a bacon cheeseburger to braised duck leg with chanterelle mushrooms and gnocchi. Don’t let the dim sum cart pass you by during brunch, when it’s likely to be full of sticky buns, bread pudding, and peach fritters.
If you can’t swing a trip to NOLA this year, head to Brass Alley and just pretend you’re in the French Quarter. Etouffee, boudin balls, fried alligator, and po-boys all make predictable appearances on the menu, as do Southern staples like fried chicken and pimento cheese spread. Of course you can get a hurricane, I guar-an-tee.
Town of Lake
Aaron Patin, a former Ardent chef, is not trying to emulate any particular style of BBQ at his new smoked meat palace. Instead he’s creating a Milwaukee style, starting with a cut of rib he calls the Milwaukee cut that leaves the pork belly on the bones for a rib of Flintstones proportions. The BBQ joint shares space with Hawthorne Coffee Roasters so you can grab a morning cup of joe and stay until Patin’s beloved smoker, Edna, offers up a meat feast.
With a menu inspired by Jamaica and various regions of Africa that changes daily, you’re not likely to be bored with the food at this restaurant. Jerk meats, curries of all sorts, a ton of preparations of rice and plantains, and stews thick with vegetables fill up the menu. You may not be able to pronounce the names of all the dishes -- at least, I sure can’t -- but you can be sure that whatever you order will be unique and exciting.
Amilinda started out as a pop-up restaurant and was so successful that it moved to a permanent home. Spanish cuisine plays heavily in the menu, along with touches of Portugal and South America, owing to chef Gregory Leon’s upbringing and globe-hopping. The menu changes often, but if you ever see octopus or patatas bravas, get them.
High Dive is a live-music venue with great tap beers, like Karben4 Fantasy Factory, Surly Hell, and Lakefront Riverwest Stein. The name is a nod to MKE’s dive bars, which are in fact beloved and admired, especially in eclectic Riverwest. With a happy hour that runs until 9pm every day plus great drink specials, there’s no excuse not to come here.
Empanadas are like magic. You can stuff anything into one and it transforms into a little pocket of happiness. La Masa features empanada fillings from all over the globe: Argentine beef with green olives and raisins, Mexican chicken tinga, and good old Wisconsin beer brat with kraut. There’s even a dessert empanada with ricotta and chocolate chips.
This small brewpub has already made a name for itself thanks to an eclectic, inventive menu. This is MKE, so of course there’s a burger and house-made Polish sausage, but there’s also fried pig’s ear salad, whole-roasted branzino, and a grilled steak jibarito sandwich. Try a flight of beers, or if you’re not a beer person, there are cocktails on tap.
A sleek interior with views of the Milwaukee River houses a kitchen that cranks out an assortment of Asian cuisines. You can start your meal with Japanese edamame, then order Korean short ribs, Vietnamese pho, and Thai massaman curry for sharing. It’s great if your friends can never decide on a restaurant.
A hefty remodel transformed this building from a dank dive bar (I don’t mean that in the good way) into a light and airy pub. Current owner Tim Hren started working in the building when he was 6, helping out his grandfather. Hren is carrying on the family tradition of pub ownership with a bar made of Cream City brick and a menu of pub favorites like burgers, fish fry, and wings.
Stevens Point Brewery and the owner of Ward’s House of Prime have teamed up to open Point Burger Bar in the northwest corner of MKE. The concept is based on popular burger bars that have popped up in places like Las Vegas, with a menu of specialty burgers, sandwiches, and an extensive create-your-own burger option. Wash it all down with a Point brew or one of the boozy adult milkshakes.
You might be a little afraid this eco-friendly vegetarian cafe is too crunchy for you, but who cares, it has crepes (yes, including Nutella). It even wraps a full diner breakfast into a crepe, with fake kielbasa, eggs, veggies, and cheese. Don’t forget to look up at the living wall of tropical plants above the counter and pretend you’re anywhere warmer than Wisconsin.
1. Merriment Social240 E Pittsburgh Ave, Milwaukee
2. The Brass Alley1023 N Old World 3rd St, Milwaukee
3. Iron Grate BBQ Co.4177 S Howell Ave, Milwaukee
4. Irie Zulu7237 W North Ave, Wauwatosa
5. Amilinda315 E Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee
6. High Dive701 E Center St, Milwaukee
7. La Masa Empanada Bar1300 E Brady St, Milwaukee
8. Company Brewing735 E Center St, Milwaukee
9. Lucky Ginger221 N Water St, Milwaukee
10. The Brick Pub & Grill6343 N Green Bay Ave, Glendale
11. Point Burger Bar10950 W Good Hope Rd, Milwaukee
12. Beerline Cafe2076 N Commerce St, Milwaukee
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.
This New Orleans themed tavern specializes in Creole eats like fried alligator, Po Boys and boudin balls, in addition to Southern staples like fried chicken and pimento cheese. For brunch, check out the Voodoo Breakfast Burger with spicy ghostpepper cheese.
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’s beloved main smoker. She’s 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’n 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.
Irie Zulu, an unassuming, spacious, brick-front restaurant, is one of the first Afro-fusion places in Milwaukee to offer both authentic African (Tuesday through Thrusday) and Jamaican (Fridays) cuisine. The African menu features options like, sweet and savory Native Ghana Yam Fries served with tomato chutney, samosa-like East African Style Stuffed Pastries loaded with veggies, spices, and local beef or chicken, and locally raised, bone-in Oxtail Stew served with rice and beans or sweet plantains. On Fridays you’ll find Jamaican Handpies, flaky pastries filled with savory spicy jerk meat, Grilled jerk-marinated chicken wings, mild Fish Tea Soup, made with sustainably raised cod, and tender saffron-forward Goat Curry. You can also purchase sauces, spices, and sausages at the retail counter.
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.
This live-music and dive bar hybrid has a great selection of tap beers and a happy hour that runs until 9pm every day.
This restaurant’s arsenal includes empanada fillings from all over the globe, from Argentine beef with raisins and green olives to Wisconsin beer brat with sauerkraut. Since savory options aren't enough, grab a dessert empanada with ricotta and chocolate chips to round out the meal, but not before you sip on a cocktail or two at the vibrant, mosaic-tiled bar. Our favorites include the Moe Tea with black tea, vodka, basil, cranberry, citrus, and agave and the La Masa Sangria.
House brews and inventive New American eats pair beautifully at this rustic, modern brewpub in Riverwest. 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 and tap cocktails, you’ll stay for the food; much of it is Puerto Rican influenced and far beyond the realm of average bar food.
An assortment of Asian cuisines are featured at this sleek space with views of the Milwaukee River. Korean short ribs, Japanese edamame, Vietnamese pho and Thai massaman curry are all options, so it's perfect for when you can't decide what type of restaurant to go to.
This building made an epic transformation from a dingy dive bar to an airy, modern pub while staying under the ownership of the same family. Count on good drinks and pub favorites like burgers and wings.
Specialty burgers and sandwiches shine at this new concept created by Stevens Point Brewery and the owner of Ward's House of Prime. Build your own burger from an extensive list of options to wash down with a boozy milkshake.
This eco-friendly vegetarian spot, in tropical digs, is known for its creative crepes. Favorites include the classic breakfast (roasted rosemary potatoes, tempeh bacon, eggs, and cheese), strawberry vanilla cream cheese, and the assortment of grab 'n' go breakfast options.