From classic establishments with decades of history to trendy newcomers serving avant-garde cuisine, Milwaukee’s restaurant scene is thriving. With ample types of food within a range of budget options, picking just twenty of the best restaurants in Milwaukee leaves off tons of great choices.
According to restaurant reviews, there are over 1,700 restaurants in Milwaukee, so narrowing this list to just 20 was challenging to say the least. Below are some of Milwaukee’s top restaurants – some are staples of Milwaukee’s past, and others highlight just how top-notch the restaurant options have become in the past decade.
Milwaukee can rival just about any big city in terms of the quality of restaurants and the diversity of food options. Read below, and hopefully, you can find the perfect place for your next meal out in Milwaukee.
What Food is Milwaukee Known For?
All Milwaukee is known for is its beer and cheese, right? At least that’s what most visitors to the city seem to think. However, we think you are going to be surprised by how much good food there is in Milwaukee, and yes, don’t worry, there will be beer and cheese involved.
There are a few things you need to try when visiting Milwaukee that are dairy-related and aren’t found in too many other places – Deep Fried Cheese Curds and Frozen Custard.
- Best Cheese Curds in Milwaukee – Lakefront Brewery
- Best Frozen Custard in Milwaukee – Kopps Frozen Custard
Top 20 Restaurants in Milwaukee
Ardent is every gastronome’s dream—a tucked away, nearly hidden restaurant with only a few tables and seats that only offers daily changing tasting menus with incredible ingredients, cutting-edge preparations, and complete dedication to pushing the envelope in the world of haute cuisine.
Ardent burst onto the restaurant scene in Milwaukee a few years ago and has maintained its spot as one of the most gourmet restaurants in the city. There are two nightly seatings, and dinner should last about two hours.
The tasting menu is $135 and $125 more if you want expertly paired beverages alongside the impressively prepared ten or so plates of food. There is no use even explaining the food – it is one of those places you will have to try for yourself.
Check out Ardent on Milwaukee’s East Side for a truly unique dining adventure. Just make sure to book your spot well in advance.
- Address: 1751 N. Farwell Ave
2. Lake Park Bistro
As the name would suggest, Lake Park Bistro is a classic French-inspired bistro tucked away in the East Side’s Lake Park. The restaurant boasts fantastic views of Lake Michigan, a swanky bar, and easily some of the best French fare in the city.
While the restaurant serves an amazing brunch and has food service during lunchtime, Lake Park Bistro is probably best visited for a romantic dinner date. The pastry-covered escargot is traditionally prepared in garlic butter, or go for the mixed plate of house-made pates and cheeses if with a group. The Sole Meuniere is filleted tableside in a classic presentation, and Filet Mignon Au Poivre will take you away to Paris with its rich green peppercorn brandy sauce. Save room for one of the expertly crafted French desserts.
While you may not get a view of the Eiffel Tower from this restaurant, you will have to settle for some perfectly crafted French dishes with an outstanding view of the lake.
- Address: 3133 E. Newberry Blvd.
3. Five O’Clock Steakhouse
Open since 1946. Five O’Clock Steakhouse is one of the best steakhouses in Milwaukee for an expertly poured martini and a perfectly grilled steak. Expect the full supper club experience, where your table comes garnished with a relish tray and bread, and the salad included with the steak arrives on a rolling cart. If you are looking for one of the best supper clubs in Wisconsin and find yourself in Milwaukee, this is the spot.
Try any one of the steaks, and you won’t be disappointed.
Also, consider getting onion rings or green bean appetizers for the table. Beyond steaks, there is also a limited seafood menu and a few other meat options, including ribs, a pork chop, and lamb chops. Next time you are in the mood for a steak, make Five O’Clock Steakhouse your evening to remember.
Sorella is one of our newer favorite restaurants and a recent addition to the best restaurant in Milwaukee list. Sorella serves some of the best Italian in Milwaukee. Their dishes are simple, tasty, easy to share, and really affordable for what you’re getting. On my last trip, my friend and I shared pasta, a pizza, Brussel sprouts, and a bottle of wine. Everything was amazing. No leftovers at all. It all was so good.
The menu changes seasonally as they try to use locally sourced products as much as possible. You can check out their current menu here. Of course, some of the all-time favorite dishes will remain. You will always be able to get pizza, so don’t worry about that. They also have takeout, so if you want to try a new pizza in Milwaukee spot, this is a good option.
We highly suggest making reservations online in advance. You can do this on Opentable.
- Address: 2535 S. Kinnickinnic Ave
- Make reservations online at OpenTable
5. Odd Duck
Many restaurants in Milwaukee offer internationally-inspired small plates, making picking one or two a difficult task. However, over the years, Odd Duck has stood out from the competition by continually throwing together an impressive menu with so many appealing options that it can be difficult to choose just a few for the table.
The menu is constantly changing based on what’s fresh and determined by what new ingredients and combinations the chefs come up with for the week. The menus always have a lengthy list of cheeses, charcuterie, and small ” snack “- sized plates.
The rest of the menu is typically divided between equally sized meat options and vegetarian options. From here, the kitchen staff shines by coming up with a vast number of small plates with influences from all over the world. Expect to leave Odd Duck satisfied with having had a global tour of cuisines.
- Address: 939 S 2nd Street
6. Story Hill BKC
Story Hill BKC (Bottle, Kitchen, Cocktail) is one of the city’s trendiest spots for breakfast in Milwaukee, lunch, or dinner. Located just west of downtown, Story Hill BKC combines a wine and liquor store, laid-back bar, and excellent restaurant under one roof. Stop in for an expertly crafted cocktail and stick around for the food at any time of the day.
The menu changes frequently, but staples include the shakshouka, eggs in a spiced tomato sauce with lentils, or the crepe monsieur or brunch. They also have excellent burgers and sandwiches for lunch.
Their dinner menu emphasizes different sized plates for sharing—some for a small taste, others that are more substantial to fill you up. The Barbacoa braised beef served over masa pudding is a great start to the meal, and it pairs well with the wild mushroom hand pie served with sherry syrup. Be sure to check out the menu before you head over to Story Hill BKC since it continuously changes.
- Address: 5100 W. Bluemound Rd.
7. Kopp’s Frozen Custard
Some foodie snobs will think this is too high of a rating for a place that serves burgers and frozen custard – but this is Milwaukee comfort food, and if you miss this place on a trip to Milwaukee, you missed out. It may not be as high-brow as some of the amazing restaurants on this list, but it’s very much a local’s favorite restaurant in Milwaukee.
Kopp’s has several locations throughout the city, making it an easy destination for two of Milwaukee’s iconic dishes: butter burgers and frozen custard. While you can find numerous places throughout the dairy state’s biggest city to get these two iconic treats, Kopp’s Frozen Custard is arguably the best place for both (although some people may strongly disagree).
The burgers at Kopp’s are thin but large in diameter and can come served with a variety of ingredients. Although getting a double burger with fries is tempting, you have to try and save room for some frozen custard for dessert. The custard at Kopp’s makes the restaurant worth a visit, even if you don’t plan on getting a burger.
They always have their traditional vanilla and chocolate, but most people go for the flavor of the day. You can check online for a full calendar of flavors—there are usually two flavors of the day and then rotating specialty shakes and sundaes. A few recurring classics include Red Raspberry, Tiramisu, and German Apple Streusel.
It’s impossible to leave Kopp’s unhappy, regardless of whether you went for the savory butter burger, the incredibly creamy custard, or a combination of both. If you’re a burger lover, make sure to check out our list of Milwaukee’s best burgers, Kopps is one of our favorite places!
One of the best new restaurants in Milwaukee, Eldr+Rime, is located in Wauwatosa just outside of Mayfair Mall and located next to Renaissance Milwaukee West Hotel. They are not your typical hotel restaurant, trust us. Hotel restaurants have really stepped up their game, and Eldr+Rime is no different.
The name Eldr+Rime translates to Fire & Ice, and you will see those two elements incorporated throughout the restaurant. Like grilling over a live fire and wood oven roasting and fresh seafood on ice. There are even several dishes that are lit on fire right at your table, like baked bread cheese, and baked Alaska. We had both of those! The restaurant is Scandinavian-inspired, yet you’ll still find many traditional American offerings you’d find at an upscale restaurant.
The menu changes often. Expect to see it change quarterly, but a few menu staples often stay like the: salmon three ways, pork schnitzel, fish & chips, E&R burger, and a few more. They change the menu to make sure they are using local fresh seasonal items and determine what types of food people crave during that season.
We can’t wait for our next visit and try out their newest menu.
- Address: 2300 N Mayfair Rd, Wauwatosa
Braise is Milwaukee’s premier destination for farm-to-table cooking. Indeed, this restaurant even offers farm-to-home delivery services for produce. It combines its restaurant with a cooking school to learn how to prepare some delicious farm ingredients.
Outside of these other services, Braise is a perfect destination for an affordably priced gourmet dinner with feel-good ingredients. Chef Dave Swanson has a continually changing menu based on what’s fresh, though a few staple items are always offered.
The steamed pork buns with chive vinaigrette and crushed spicy peanuts have been on the menu since day one, and for a good reason, they are absolutely incredible. The menu typically features a few small plate options, either meat or vegetable, and then a few larger plate options, typically for two to share.
A visit to Braise is not the time to skimp on your daily vegetables—they are always expertly and creatively prepared. The larger items are great for sharing and should satisfy your appetite, along with one or two of the small plates. For a taste of the farm while in downtown Milwaukee, head over to Braise.
- Address: 1101 S. 2nd St.
10. Mader’s Restaurant
Mader’s is one of Milwaukee’s classic German restaurants and is a prime destination for the city’s visitors. With over one hundred years of history, Mader’s is a perfect spot for German beers served in the Knight’s Bar or for a plate of hearty German staples in the main dining room.
The Reuben Rolls are hand-made and stuffed with corned beef and cabbage. The potato pancake appetizer also makes for a perfect start to a meal, typically served with apple sauce and sour cream.
While Mader’s certainly offers a diverse menu with something for everyone, most visitors know to head for the house specialties like the pork shank served with apple demi-glaze, the sauerbraten, or the wiener schnitzel, which comes as either pork or veal, served with spätzle and sauerkraut. No stop in Milwaukee is complete without a hearty German feast over at Mader’s.
- Address: 1041 N. Old World Third St.
11. Three Brothers
Three Brothers is one of Milwaukee’s best-kept secrets, even though it has been around for over fifty years. Located on the edge of Bay View and housed within a historic Schlitz tavern, the restaurant serves homestyle Serbian comfort foods that will make you feel right at home.
The Burek is a must-have—a large filo pie stuffed with meat, cheese, or spinach and cheese—which takes about forty-five minutes to an hour to bake. The Goulash is one of their most popular dishes, which combines simmered tender beef with paprika sauce and is served with a side of potato dumplings. The Czevapchichi is also a Serbian classic, basically spiced sausages topped with onion and tomato.
Take a step back into Milwaukee’s immigrant past by visiting Three Brothers with some of the best comfort food.
- Address: 2414 S. St. Clair St.
12. Hungry Sumo
If you are looking for some of the best sushi in Milwaukee, head to Hungry Sumo in Bayview. If sushi isn’t your thing, there are several other Asian food options, like ramen, teriyaki bowls, pad Thai, Thai curries, and more. There are also several vegetarian and vegan sushi options too.
If you get one appetizer, you have to get the Sumo Pork Bun, we shared it as an appetizer, but both agreed we could eat several of those as our mains. The braised pork belly was amazing, just get it and thank us later. Our favorite sushi rolls are: La Fiesta, Beauty & The Beast, Very Crunchy, and Spicy Tuna is always our go-to.
They do a ton of takeout. Call or place your order online. They don’t take reservations and are usually busy. We suggest going and putting your name in and then going next door to Vanguard and having a beer while you wait. Hungry Sumo will text you when your table is ready.
If you are looking for one of the best lunch spots in Milwaukee, this is another one of our go-to’s.
- Address: 2663 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
13. Tre Rivali
Tre Rivali is the featured restaurant of the Kimpton Journeymen Hotel, one of the trendiest places to stay in the city, especially because it’s situated in the heart of the Historic Third Ward. The restaurant has lived up to expectations, offering diners a culinary adventure through Mediterranean cuisine.
Although you can stop into Tre Rivali for an amazing brunch, café snacks, or a quick lunch, the restaurant truly excels at providing sophisticated yet hearty dinner options. The menu features small plates, like the scallop Crudo with grapefruit, Calabrian chiles, and mint, homemade pasta, and wood-fired pizzas, as well as larger entrées.
The grilled merguez sausage is one of the restaurant’s staple dishes. It comes with a healthy portion of merguez sausage with sweet potatoes, apricots, and dates. All served on top of pearl couscous. For a quick vacation to the Mediterranean, stop into Tre Rivali for your next romantic dinner out.
- Address: 200 N. Broadway
Vanguard combines one of the hottest drinking spots in Bay View with the city’s top destination for all things sausage. The menu at Vanguard offers a wide variety of sausages, all made in-house and served with an array of toppings.
Some of the offerings are excellent renditions of standard types of sausage, like bratwursts and Italian-style sausages. Further down the menu, you will find some truly original and gourmet offerings, like Jamaican lamb currywurst topped with caramelized onions and scotch bonnet jam. Vegan sausages, burgers, and creative takes on poutine are also offered.
Milwaukee is known for sausages of all kinds, but in few places will you find the variety, quality, and creativity that goes into these tubed wonders. Don’t forget to take advantage of the bar’s craft cocktail list and extensive beer offerings.
If you are looking for one of the best vegan restaurants in Milwaukee, head to Vanguard for the best vegan sausage.
- Address: 2659 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
15. Mason Street Grill
Located in the heart of downtown, right next to the famed Pfister Hotel, Mason Street Grill is one of those restaurants that doesn’t do anything particularly original, though they do everything to such a high standard, both in terms of food and service, that they simply have to make a list of top restaurants in the city.
Choose between any seats in the large dining room or try nab a spot at the chef’s tables for a first-hand look at the kitchen in action. While you would be hard-pressed to find something sub-par on the menu, Mason Street Grill excels in steak. They are often referred to as one of the best steakhouses in Milwaukee.
Try any number of prime cuts, pick one of the included sauce options, or upgrade your steak with a blue cheese crust (an additional cost). If you aren’t feeling steak, the seafood options are excellent. Especially the jumbo sea scallops served with green coconut curry sauce.
If you want guaranteed good food, excellent service, and a convenient downtown location, then Mason Street Grill is one of the best options in Milwaukee.
- Address: 424 E. Wisconsin Ave.
16. Harbor House
Harbor House sits on some of Milwaukee’s most prize real estate, with its lakefront location situated right between the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Discovery World Museum. With the right weather, you can find a seat on the spacious outdoor patio, or for a more traditional dining experience, take a seat in the comfortable yet sophisticated dining room.
The restaurant boasts a fantastic brunch menu and extensive options for both lunch and dinner. The menu definitely is geared toward fans of seafood. They always have a variety of fresh oysters on hand and other seafood favorites as appetizers and entrées, like fried clams and crab cakes.
Diners can choose larger fishplates for dinner, a selection of shellfish, and a few non-seafood options, like steak. The Maine-style lobster roll is one of the best in the city. Don’t miss Milwaukee’s best spot for seafood which comes with an unmatched view of the lake, by stopping into Harbor House for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
- Address: 550 N. Harbor Dr.
17. Zaffiro’s Pizza & Bar
Zaffiro’s Pizza & Bar has been making some of Milwaukee’s best pizza and Italian-American favorites since 1954. Although Zaffiro’s pizzas are now available at area movie theaters, visiting the original East Side location is a must. The fried eggplant is a must-have, as is the Zaffiro’s Salad for the table.
While the sandwiches and pasta are excellent and certainly worth a try, most people visit Zaffiro’s for one of their famous extra-thin crust pizzas. Pizzas range from $12 to $25 and come with a variety of toppings to choose from. Don’t fill up too much because no visit to Zaffiro’s is complete without a cup of Spumoni to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Address: 1724 N. Farwell Ave.
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18. La Dama
If you want to taste the flavors of Mexico in Milwaukee, head to La Dama. They serve up some of the best Mexican food in Milwaukee. They have all those classic Mexican flavors but a tasty twist! Oh, and while you are there, make sure to try a tequila or mezcal flight!
This is not your traditional taco joint. This is upscale, really good Mexican food. Some of our favorites are ribeye aquachile, cochinita pibil, duck carnitas & mole, and much more!
- East Side – Address: 839 S 2nd Street
Chef Justin Aprahamian heads the kitchen at one of Milwaukee’s top gourmet restaurants, Sanford. Tucked into a residential neighborhood on the East Side, this restaurant is frequently cited as one of the best in the city and, along with its chef, has taken home numerous national awards.
The menu changes daily and reflects only the finest ingredients with both French and international preparations. This is one of those restaurants that refuse to cut any corners in regard to quality. You can order a la carte options or go for one of the tasting menus with or without wine pairings.
Diners can also email ahead of time, alerting the kitchen staff of any food allergies or other special requests, ensuring that every visitor to the restaurant will receive only the best experience. Don’t plan on visiting Sanford without a reservation since the dining room is small and the restaurant is nearly always filled.
For one of Milwaukee’s prime destinations for gourmet food that could rival any city in the country, plan your night out at Sanford.
- Address: 1547 N. Jackson St.
Amilinda combines a restaurant with a dedication to local ingredients with the best the Iberian peninsula has to offer, including the cuisine of Spain, Portugal, and the Basque region. With a small narrow restaurant downtown, Amilinda features a cozy dining room along with seating at the bar and chef’s counter.
They also offer a happy hour from 4 pm to 6 pm Tuesdays through Fridays for drink discounts and half-off wine at the bar and chef counter. During these times, diners can also enjoy discounted Pintxos, or small bites, like patatas bravas and Spanish tortillas. Amilinda also features a great drink list, discounted during happy hour, with specialties like the Sparkling Gin, with gin, cava, lemon, elderflower, and sangria by the glass.
Chef Gregory Leon’s menu at Amilinda diverts considerably from a well-worn tapas menu. Instead, expect a smaller ever-changing menu with a serious dedication to locally sourced ingredients. Try any of the appetizers, like the squid escabeche salad with grilled squid, almonds, peppers, arugula, and radish. There are often five or six entree options to pick from, like the spicy Piri Piri chicken or marinated chicken with sweet potato puree, goat cheese, pickled vegetables, and tostones.
For local ingredients and creative spins on traditional Spanish and Portuguese dishes, check out Amilinda in downtown Milwaukee.
- Address: 315 E. Wisconsin Ave.