Sometimes, the smaller the place, the better the food. If a tiny restaurant has stood the test of time, it’s a good sign the food more than makes up for any time you might spend waiting. These tiny restaurants might not be able to offer you immediate seating, but they do have unique, hearty, comforting and delicious food. So plan ahead, bring some entertainment and settle in for some of the best food in the state.
In no particular order, here are some of the best tiny restaurants Wisconsin has to offer:
1. Crave - Campbellsport
This converted bar has about four tables and 15 seats at the bar. The self-proclaimed trendy gastropub prides itself on an extensive beer list and tasty, locally-sourced bites.
Located at 128 E Main St, Campbellsport, WI 53010.
2. Dorine's Family Inn - Sparta
This family restaurant is just a handful of tables and a seven-person staff serving up comfort food right in downtown Sparta.
Located at 110 S Water St, Sparta, WI 54656.
3. Charcoal Inn South - Sheboygan
This old school diner and counter-service cooks their burgers over fiery coals and you can see - and smell - it from everyone inside. Cash only, it's simplicity and goodness at it's finest.
Located at 1313 S 8th St, Sheboygan, WI 53081.
4. Paul's Pel'meni - Madison
Though the room itself isn't exactly tiny, there's not a lot of seating here as the two menu items - both dumplings - are often taken to-go. Conveniently located, this place is open til 2 am on the weekends and Paul's fills up with students looking for delicious dumplings before bed.
Located at 203 West Gorham St.
5. The Noble - Milwaukee
The Noble might not be wider than my house, but they pack an amazing meal in a tiny space - and seating doubles out on the patio in warmer weather! Chefs are at their best when they have the freedom to play and The Noble embodies this principle. You might not know what's on the menu until the afternoon - but that's only because neither did the chefs. The freshest ingredients make innovative plates. Don't forget to play hooky for the Monday service industry brunch.
Located at 704 S 2nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53205.
6. Al's Hamburgers - Green Bay
There are new owners at Al's, but otherwise not much has changed in about 80 years around here. There's a $4 lunch burger, a counter and a handful of booths. But the locals continue to line up and plan a trip here and its not just nostalgia. Al's should be a part of any Wisconsinite's Green Bay itinerary.
Located at 131 S Washington St, Green Bay, WI 54301.
7. Blue Bear - Racine
Since they're only open from 7 am to 2 pm, Blue Bear is usually packed from open to close. With just 45 seats, it's not difficult to fill the tables. In warmer weather, they add another 20 seats outside. Breakfast is served from 7 am to 11 am and lunch from 11 am to 2 pm. The food is all scratch-made and customers can't stop raving about the customer service and attention from the owner.
Located at 2920 Taylor Ave, Racine, WI 53405.
8. SIL Waterfront - Green Bay
SIL stands for Such as Life and this is the restaurant's second incarnation. Now tucked into a small spot on the Fox River, the place is one of those hidden gems that you take your friends to when you want to impress them with your insider foodie knowledge.
Located at 154 N Broadway, Green Bay, WI 54303.
9. The Dump - Cambria
The Dump doesn't exactly buy in to a lot of marketing, but locals say it's the place to be for wings and burgers. Simple, hearty and delicious food from a bar with a gimmicky name, but don't let that deter you.
Located at 105 W Edgewater St, Cambria, WI 53923.
10. South Point - Stevens Point
The counter dominates the inside of this small building, though there are a few tables scattered around the perimeter. This place is open 24 hours serving exactly the kind of American diner food you expect - and long for. The chicken dumpling soup is better than Oma's and the homemade pies are worth a stop alone.
Located at 3057 Church St, Stevens Point, WI 54481.
11. Schubert's - Mount Horeb
Schubert's is a Mount Horeb institution. For more than a century, they've been known for their Swedish and Norwegian bakery and using their awesome products to create delicious dishes like a Lefse Omelet or a Reuben on their signature Swedish Rye. It's worth it to go out of your way just to stop here.
Located at 128 E Main St, Mt Horeb, WI 53572.
12. Greenbush Bar - Madison
Bless the friend that introduced me to Greenbush Bar, located in the basement of the Italian Workman's Club just steps from the Kohl Center. The room is dark, with short ceilings and you will wait for a table crowded near the front of the room with a lot of other folks. Enjoy a surprisingly well-curated beer list and check out the Christmas lights before sharing a Sicilian pizza or devouring simple but rich and flavorful pasta the way it was meant to be made. There's probably less than a dozen tables and the bar seating, so don't bring a crowd.
Located at 914 Regent St, Madison, WI 53715.
13. Jimmy's Grotto Pizza - Waukesha
There's some tables that look like they were borrowed from an Elk's club fish fry, but most folks just place their order here and take it to go. In the summer, watch folks walk out with boxes stacked high as they take Jimmy's with them out to lake country. Their signature is the ponza rotta, which is a version of a calzone that's stuffed to the gills and will feed the hungriest clan.
Located at 314 E Main St, Waukesha, WI 53186.
14. Pete's Hamburgers - Prairie du Chien
There is no "inside" at Pete's Hamburger Stand. There's two windows and usually a long line and delicious, nostalgia-inducing burgers at the end of your wait. For more than a century, Pete's has been a Prairie du Chien institution and a sign we're headed for summer.
Located at 118 W Blackhawk Ave, Prairie du Chien, WI 53821.
15. Hup's Pizza - Milwaukee
I'm not convinced anyone has ever actually seen the inside of Hup's, but that doesn't stop folks from returning to this unpretentious "closet" to slide some cash to the workers and get slid a classic, cracker-thin, square-cut pizza.
Located at 5400 W Hampton Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53218.
16. Mihm's - Menasha
Old-school, simple burgers, fries and malts seem to be a common theme on this list. If you're making them right, people don't care where you're serving them from - they'll line up and wait. Mihm's is another charcoal-fired grill. Order a malt and sip on that at the counter while you wait for your smoky, delicious burger.
Located at 342 Chute St, Menasha, WI 54952.
17. Wedl's Hamburger Stand - Jefferson
One of the best things about Wedl's is how you'll look right past it if you see pictures of it next to the farmhouse who shares the street. For more than a century, people have come from all over the greater Milwaukee area to get a Wedl's burger. Open seasonally, it's an institution. There's no shortage of great, iconic burgers in the Milwaukee area, so you know Wedl's must be doing something right.
Located at 200 E Racine St, Jefferson, WI 53549.
18. St. Paul Fish Company - Milwaukee
A sort of unconventional member of the list, St. Paul's is located on the far east side of the Milwaukee Public Market. There's about 10 counter seats and then same number of tables set up on the other side of the walkway and they're always full of people taking advantage of the freshest fish in the city. These guys are constantly flying in fresh product - go on an off-peak time and get someone at the counter to talk oysters with you. You'll learn a bunch and leave incredibly happy and full. The lobster roll is one of the better one's I've had this side of New England and they have a $15.95 lobster dinner. There are a lot of options at the market, but even locals make the trek to the Third Ward for this treat.
Located at 400 N Water St, Milwaukee, WI 53202.
19. Fred's Burgers - Burlington
Fred's gains a few more tables with it's corner location, but the burgers are so good that you'll still struggle to find a seat. Make sure you order a round of homemade seasoned potato chips to share.
Located at 596 N Pine St, Burlington, WI 53105.
Have you eaten at any of these awesomely small places? Where else do you find great food in a tiny location? Let us know in the comments!