Wisconsin March 07, 2019
This Just Might Be The Most Iconic Restaurant In All Of Wisconsin
There are a few old-school restaurants in Wisconsin that generations of locals have been dining at forever. But there’s only one Wisconsin restaurant that’s been named by the James Beard Foundation as an American Classic. Three Brothers Restaurant in Bay View is a Serbian restaurant that’s in its third generation of family ownership. It’s a rather unassuming spot, but tucked inside the walls is an institution that’s served meals to some of the biggest chefs in the country, including Julia Child. It’s not overly fancy, but it’s a unique, delicious and iconic place that joins only a handful of restaurants across the country to receive this prestigious designation. Three Brothers has outlasted a number of ups and downs in the local restaurant economy and continues to serve up the same classic recipes that the founder brought with him when he came here from Yugoslavia.
It's easy to drive right past Three Brothers restaurant if you don't know to look for the historic cream city brick and the large Schlitz globe adorning the top. At the street level, it looks like a lot of other houses and you may miss the small Three Brothers sign above the windows. Located on the near south side of the city, in Bay View, this Serbian restaurant that was opened in 1954 has been serving up the classic eastern European and western Asian-inspired cuisine to generations of Milwaukeeans.
Not only is this old building historic, but the restaurant that calls it home is about as iconic as they come. It's the only restaurant in Wisconsin to be honored as a James Beard American Classic - "a prestigious list of eateries that have carved out a special place on the American culinary landscape which recognizes regional, often family-owned establishments that exemplify quality food, local character and lasting appeal."
The homey look on the outside translates to a cozy and welcoming vibe inside. There are more touches of Schlitz throughout the space, but there's also mid-century formica tabletops, scratched and well-loved wooden chairs, and an imposing bar serving up as many eastern European beers and spirits as it is Wisconsin-style Old Fashioneds. This is a family-owned and operated spot serving up generations-old family recipes. The family is greeting you at the door, making the food and everything else you can think of to keep this place running.
The first thing to know about at Three Brothers is that you're going to want to order the burek. It comes three ways - cheese, cheese and spinach, and beef. It takes at least 40 minutes to bake, so do the restaurant and yourself a favor and let them know when you make your reservation that you want a burek. They'll start baking it before you even get there and they'll have it on your table shortly after you get your drinks.
The burek is a giant, flaky pastry pie that melts in your mouth. It feeds four easily and thinking ahead about what you might eat might be helpful when ordering your burke. Going meat-heavy with veal or the goulash? Get the spinach and cheese burek to complement it. There aren't a lot of words that aptly describe how wonderful this fabulous crispy, layered dish is. Just trust us and order one.
Dining at Three Brothers is an experience. It's a small dining room and everything is made to order, so plan on being here for about two hours at dinner time. You'll feel like you've been welcomed into the family home here, so you should have no problem settling in for a dining experience that goes beyond a simple meal.
While you're waiting, try one of a number of unique beers or liquors that you won't find at any other restaurant or bar in the city. From start to finish, a meal at Three Brothers is one that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else. You'll love the fresh brown bread basket on the table to start.
The plating here isn't fancy and they're not trying to be. There's nothing to hide - you'll get solid portions of meat and vegetables cooked using recipes passed down by generations. Now the third generation is in the kitchen making things like the fabulous stuffed grape leaves.
The food here is hearty, and though the preparations are simple, the flavors are not. You've never had this particular combination of meat, vegetables and spices as they're unique to this cuisine. From lamb and wax beans to goulash and burek, everything here is satisfying and comforting in a way you didn't know you needed.
If you've never had the pleasure of this particular dining experience, call and make a reservation today. You absolutely will not regret it. We have such fabulous culinary history in Wisconsin and too many of those places have closed in recent years. Three Brothers is in their 64th year of being one of the most interesting and delicious places in the country.
Bring some friends so you can order a wide selection of menu items to share and taste all the classic dishes like pljeskavica and more. Three Brothers is a full dining experience and once you've been, you'll be telling everyone you know to head there, as well.
Three Brothers is located at 2414 S St. Clair St., Milwaukee, WI 53207. You can find out more about this historic and important restaurant on
their Facebook page. You’re going to need a reservation and if you’re ordering a burek, you should let them know when you make the reservation so it’s ready for you shortly after you arrive. You can call them at (414) 481-7530.
If you’re looking for more iconic Wisconsin spots,
check out this list of Wisconsin bars that everyone should visit at least once.