Whether you’re looking for fine dining, old school comfort food, a sweet treat, or something in between, Milwaukee has excellent restaurants for any occasion or craving! We don’t think our amazing culinary scene gets enough attention; Milwaukee has fantastic chefs who serve up some of the best dishes in the country! We’ve picked out a few stellar spots in the city that are sure to give you a mouthwateringly memorable meal. These fifteen restaurants are some of the best in Milwaukee and every single one belongs on your Foodie Bucket List.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Sanford Restaurant
Sanford is one of the best restaurants in Milwaukee - if not the entire Midwest - and there is no doubt that this culinary powerhouse has made a strong impression in the food world and inspired countless other chefs to set up shop in this city. The restaurant was opened in 1989 by Chef Sandy D’Amato and quickly rose in recognition with glowing reviews by major publications like Bon Appetit, Food & Wine Magazine, Zagat, and even a nod for Best Chef: Midwest from the James Beard Foundation. Chef D’Amato passed Sanford along to his Chef De Cuisine, Justin Aprahamian, in 2012, and this incredible restaurant shows no signs of slowing its delicious momentum anytime soon.
Sanford is a place for celebration. It sits on the upper side of price range, but the dining experience here is top-notch quality; everything from the artfully prepared dishes to the impressive wine pairings to the unmatched service is well worth the price. The menu here isn’t just delicious, it’s also one of the most thoughtfully and intentionally crafted in a manner that will surprised even the most discerning foodies. If you are having trouble deciding on a dish, we suggest the Chef’s Surprise Seven-Course Tasting. You’ll get a taste of some of the best meals on the menu and you have the option to add on perfectly paired wine that complement each dish. For dessert, go with the Butterscotch Caramel Banana Tart. Your taste buds will thank you.
Sanford Restaurant is located at 1547 N. Jackson St., Milwaukee, WI.
2. Blue’s Egg
It may come as a surprise that a brunch spot is one of the most highly rated and hardest to get into restaurants in Milwaukee, but this globally inspired Modern American bistro raises the bar for breakfast… and people have taken notice. Blue’s Egg features an impressive menu of "Basics & Benedicts" and creative omelettes prepared using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients that really make their flavors pop.
You really can’t go wrong with anything on this menu (and there is a wide variety to choose from), but don’t walk away without trying the Monkey Bread - it’s absolutely heavenly. If you are a Bloody Mary fan, you are in for a real treat!
Blue’s Egg is located at 317 N. 76th St., Milwaukee, WI.
This classic Bavarian restaurant is all about traditional Old World comfort food. Mader’s has been around since 1902, so they definitely know a thing or two about excellent German cuisine. Portions are large and the flavors are authentic, but there’s more than just good food here. The restaurant is styled as a traditional German eatery, down to the outfits worn by the servers and staff, but the real kicker is one specific element of the decor: you’ll be dining amidst an unbelievable collection of Medieval Art worth more than $4 million! This place is as much of a museum as it is a restaurant, and it’s hard to go wrong with one of Mader’s out-of-this-world handmade pretzels while surrounded by amazing artifacts and suits of armor dating back to the 1200s.
Mader’s is located at 1041 N. Old World 3rd St., Milwaukee, WI.
4. Swingin’ Door Exchange
This cozy saloon reigns supreme when it comes to updated pub comfort food. Swingin’ Door Exchange is a downtown Milwaukee icon located in the Grain Exchange Building and has become a much-loved hangout since opening its doors in 1973. The homemade soups and sandwiches can’t be beat, but there are always tasty new daily specials to try and the Friday Fish Fry is one of the best in the city.
Swingin’ Door Exchange is located at 219 E. Michigan St., Milwaukee, WI.
This creative Asian Fusion and Dim Sum spot is a newcomer to the Milwaukee culinary scene - they opened up shop in July 2016 - but DanDan has already captured the attention of food-lovers around the city. Their name comes from the owners, Dan Van Rite and Dan Jacobs, who both have a history of top-quality work at some of Milwaukee’s other excellent restaurants, and also in reference to a Sichuan noodle dish the carries the same name. The menu features creative plays on traditional Chinese dishes that bring a modern vibe to your meal. Both the Singapore Noodles and the Happy Chicken are excellent choices, and don’t miss DanDan’s playful cocktail menu!
DanDan is located at 360 E. Erie St., Milwaukee, WI.
If you have yet to experience molecular gastronomy in action, you’re in for a real treat. This contemporary culinary style is equal parts meal and magic. While some restaurants can go a little overboard with cooking chemistry, Ardent hits just the right balance between playing with their food and dishes that are still recognizable as actual food. The prices are a little higher here than other spots on this list, but you are paying for a top-quality, masterfully prepared menu designed by Chef Justin Carlisle, who has earned a nod from the James Beard Foundation with the nomination for Best Chef: Midwest.
You’ll need to make a reservation far in advance to experience Ardent, so plan ahead (they take reservations up to 2 months in advance!) Reservations are offered in two different seating times and you will be treated to an incredible Chef’s Tasting Menu filled with artfully prepared small plates featuring the freshest locally-sourced ingredients available. The extra effort to get in is worth it; this is one of those meals you will NEVER forget.
Ardent is located at 1751 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee, WI.
7. Bodegón at Hotel Madrid
This beautiful restaurant at Hotel Madrid offers a glorious culinary adventure through some of Spain’s finest dishes. Bodegón is equal parts upscale and rustic and has a menu filled with terrific traditional options that will blow your taste buds away. The restaurant is well-known for their perfectly prepared steaks and chips, but we are equally impressed by the excellent side dishes here, which include tasty gnocchi and rich risottos. Bodegón’s wine list is extensive and offers many interesting pairings to accompany your meal and you will definitely want to save room for dessert - it’s impossible to pick a favorite!
Bodegón at Hotel Madrid is located at 600 S. 6th St., Milwaukee, WI.
8. The Noble
Between the cozy atmosphere and the excellent food, The Nobel could easily become your new favorite spot (especially for brunch)! They have some awesome appetizers, wonderfully prepared entrees, and mind-blowingly delicious desserts, not to mention an incredible cocktail list. It’s a small space, so you might have to wait for a table at their busiest hours, but it’s definitely worth it. A few standout stars on their menu are the pork chops, pastas, made-from-scratch soups (the Tomato and Red Pepper Bisque is amazing) and pretty much everything on the brunch menu!
The Noble is located at 704 S. 2nd St., Milwaukee, WI.
9. Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro
It’s hard not to love this classic little French bistro, as it has some of the tastiest food and most spectacular views of Lake Michigan in the entire city! Bartolotta’s offers an upscale Parisian menu filled with authentic dishes and rich flavors. The bistro is widely known for having one of the most extensive, impressive wine lists in town, so if you are looking for a celebration spot, Bartolotta’s is an excellent choice. The savory crepes are a favorite from the brunch menu (and they are incredibly filling) and the seafood dishes are always fresh and well-prepared. It’s nearly impossible to leave Bartolotta’s without being stuffed, especially once you see the dessert menu. It’s downright dangerously delicious!
Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro is located at 3133 E. Newberry Blvd., Milwaukee, WI.
With a focus on the freshest ingredients and drawing inspiration of the Milwaukee community itself, Morel is a true champion of the full farm-to-table dining experience. As the name suggests, morels and mushrooms make frequent appearances on the menu, as do locally-produced artisanal ingredients and seasonal items only found here in Wisconsin. Morel hits the mark on modern-yet-rustic meals across their menu, but a few of the favorite dishes are the Lamb Ragout, Duck Confit, Short Ribs, and Pheasant Sausage, but there are always new, fantastic specials as well. The atmosphere here is lovely, inviting, and warm, the staff is highly knowledgeable and eager to offer suggestions for both food and wine parings, which makes Morel one of the top spots in the city!
Morel is located at 430 S. 2nd St., Milwaukee, WI.
11. La Merenda
Do NOT make the mistake of passing this spot by; La Merenda doesn’t look like much from the outside, but this colorful tapas bar has tons of unique, globally-inspired small plates packed with flavor hiding inside! There’s a little bit of everything offered on La Merenda’s menu: Colombian Empanadas, rich Italian Lamb Brosato, Spanish Patatas Bravas, Indian Butter Chicken, French Crepes… we could go on and on. It really is one of the most diverse (and delicious) menus in Milwaukee! In addition to all of the international dishes, La Merenda also includes several uniquely Wisconsin items featuring local produce and meats. The wine list is absolutely out-of-this-world and has varieties and vintages as diverse as their dinner menu.
La Merenda is located at 125 E. National Ave., Milwaukee, WI.
12. Odd Duck
Odd Duck is quirky, creative restaurant that serves up some excellent small plates to share among friends! The eclectic menu is always changing and offers some highly unique dishes that draw inspiration from flavors and cultures all around the world. Start out with some of the incredible cheeses, work your way through the scallops, duck breast, and steak, and top of your global culinary adventure with a rich dessert! There are also tons of flavorful vegetarian and vegan options on the menu that are just as delicious as any of the meat-centric meals - don’t miss out on the epic Eggplant Fries! Odd Duck is TINY, so we recommend calling ahead for reservations, as this is a popular spot with some seriously excellent prices for the quality of food, service, and experience.
Odd Duck is located at 2352 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee, WI.
13. Harbor House
Harbor House is one of the fanciest places in town! Between the expertly prepared seafood and steaks, incredible Lake Michigan views, and the excellent service, it’s really not hard to see why. The fish is unbelievably fresh, perfectly seasoned, and if you are a fan of oysters, you are in for a real treat. While the dinner entrees can be spendy, the Happy Hour at Harbor House (4:00 - 6:00 p.m. on weekdays) makes several of the most delicious dishes accessible, even if you are on a budget. The Chef’s Selection Oysters and Clams are only $0.89 each, their epic Garlic Parmesan Fries are under $4, and most of the other tasty treats hover around the $7-$8 range. No matter what time you eat at Harbor House, don’t pass up their dessert menu - the Key Lime Pie is amazing!
Harbor House is located at 550 N. Harbor Dr., Milwaukee, WI.
14. Leon’s Frozen Custard
There’s a long-standing debate over who invented Milwaukee’s amazing frozen custard. Was it Leon’s? Was it Kopp’s? We aren’t going to take sides, so we’ve included both (you’ll find Kopp’s listed below) because we think everyone should enjoy this amazing, iconic dessert as often as possible! Leon’s offers up other options on their Drive-In-Style menu, including tasty burgers, but we all know that the custard is why you come to Leon’s. The Butter Pecan, in particular, is positively divine.
Leon’s Frozen Custard is located at 3131 S. 27th St., Milwaukee, WI.
15. Kopp’s Frozen Custard
While many custard stands stick with the classic flavors, Kopp’s likes to switch it up! In fact, they were the first frozen custard stand to offer “Flavor of the Day” specials beyond the traditional chocolate and vanilla options. Kopp’s offers two unique flavors every day (you can keep up-to-date on their “Flavor Forecast” on the
). Kopp’s is also known for their “jumbo hamburgers,” which are most definitely the perfect complement to your sweet treat!
Kopp’s Frozen Custard has three locations in the Milwaukee area:
7631 W. Layton Ave., Greenfield, WI.
5373 N. Port Washington Rd., Glendale, WI
18880 W. Bluemound Rd., Brookfield, WI