With access to so much of the very best and freshest foods in the country, we Wisconsinites are absolutely spoiled for dining out options. Others may deride this as flyover country, but that’s fine by us – shorter lines, more affordable prices and better food for us, honestly.
Even with an awesome restaurant revolution across the state in recent years, there are still a few places that have stood the test of time and have reputations the more than precede them. But even with those great reputations (and longer wait times) there are some place in town that absolutely and continually live up to their hype. Here are 11 spots across the state that come highly recommended over and over, get great reviews and have awesome word of mouth, but live up to their reputations:
1. Kopps Custard - Milwaukee
Worth it for the custard alone, but frankly I might love a Kopps burger more than any other burger I've ever had. When I lived out of state, Kopps was my first stop whenever I visited home - we stopped directly from the airport. The custard is the gold standard. The Swiss chocolate is a great standby, but they are constantly overloading the flavors each day and a single scoop is still the size of about three scoops everywhere else.
Three Milwaukee-area locations.
2. Al Johnson's - Sister Bay
Goats on the roof may be a gimmick and this place may be the poster restaurant for kitschy summer vacations to Door County, but that doesn't take away the fact that they make amazingly great food consistently year after year. It's comfort food, made from scratch and a meal here is chock full of flavor memories.
Located at 10698 N Bay Shore Dr., Sister Bay, WI 54234.
3. Memorial Union Terrace - Madison
This may be stretching the restaurant definition a little bit, but there's food, beer and entertainment, so I've decided it fits. There's literally nothing better in Madison than a sunset on the Terrace. It's cliche and it's popular, but it's also amazing. Grab something from the Rathskeller or try one of the newer food options. Either way, the Terrace is all that is great and good about Wisconsin summers (and spring and fall as well).
Located at 800 Langdon St, Madison, WI 53706.
4. Frank's Diner - Kenosha
Featured on more TV shows than I can count and the stuff of actual legend in Kenosha, Frank's is both the most-recommended place and the one that most lives up to the stories people tell. You think it can't possibly be that good to be worth standing in line no matter how many people tell you so. But it is. It's a small and you'll see your food being made right there on the griddle. And then you'll gorge yourself and not regret a single spoonful.
Located at 508 58th St., Kenosha, WI 53140.
5. The Waterfront Restaurant - La Crosse
Usually when a place has a few different identities, it ends up being sort of ok at all of them, but not great at any of them. But at The Waterfront, they can hold a fancy wedding, a white tablecloth meal and a pub - and do it well - all at the same time. No matter what you're looking for, the Waterfront delivers. If it's burgers and beers, a cheese board and wine or a special night out, they've got you covered and it's going to be great.
Located at 328 Front St S., La Crosse, WI 54601.
6. Norske Nook
With multiple locations in the middle part of the state, this is the kind of place that multiple generations have fond memories of. The pie here is legendary for a reason and it never, ever lets you down. Made from scratch by folks that look just like your own Oma, these pies are full of flavor and love and will make you nostalgic.
Located in Osseo, Rice Lake, Hayward and DeForest.
7. Mona Lisa's - Eau Claire
Locals say this place delivers "big city" dining in small-town setting. They love the vibe and consistently amazing food. Big windows and a cozy fireplace make this spot extra welcoming.
Located at 428 Water St., Eau Claire, WI 54703.
8. Baumgartner's - Monroe
Fancy? Heck Naw. Delicious? You betcha. This place doesn't need frills because they're serving you the very best of fresh ingredients and they want them to shine through. Despite all our cheese, you'll not find another spot like this anywhere else in the state. Baumgartber's is an experience, but one worth the wait.
Located at 1023 16th Ave., Monroe, WI 53566.
9. Stockholm Pie Company - Stockholm
Ya'll, I don't even LIKE pie and I dream about this place. Giant servings, interesting flavors, crispy crusts and simple, flavorful ingredients make this pie worth getting up early for. Or lining up down the block. It's a splurge you won't regret and then you'll spend a lot of time trying to recreate something in your own kitchen and you'll be filled with regret. But at least you'll have an excuse to go back for more pie.
Located at N2030 Spring St, Stockholm, WI 54769.
10. Suncrest Garden Farms - Cochraine
Are pizza farms kind of trendy and overdone? Possibly, but that doesn't mean they're still not the best place to gather with friends for truly fresh, delicious and innovative pizza and a few drinks. We're lucky to have lots to choose from, including A to Z, Cress Springs, Nelson Stone Barn and more.
Located at S2257 Yaeger Valley Rd, Cochrane, WI 54622.
11. Blue's Egg - Wauwatosa
Simply put, I've never had a bad or even less-than-great dining experience at Blue's (Or any of their sister restaurants). The staff is friendly, funny, efficient and great at their jobs. The food is consistently good and you can taste that they love what they do.
Folks will tell you it's overrated or the line is too long, but those people are liars. The not-so-secret is to stop trying to go here with 7 people at 10 am on a Sunday. I've never waited more than a few minutes for a table when it's just for two. When you get the chance to go mid-week it feels like getting away with something. There's no line and there's always a drink special to lure you in. The flavored champagnes are decadent, as are the spiked coffee options. Get yourself up early, don't try to take your whole extended family, and go hungry. And get your browns with cheese, ham and onion. Located at 317 N 76th St., Milwaukee, WI 53213.
These are definitely not the only wildly popular spots that are worth their hype, but we want to hear from you. What places in Wisconsin get tons of attention but still manage to be worth whatever effort comes with that? Let us know in the comments.