Your Local Foodie Guide – 20 Best Restaurants in Milwaukee 2021

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, 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 is Milwaukee Known for food-wise?

All Milwaukee is known for is 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 you are visiting Milwaukee that is dairy-related and aren’t found in too many other places – Deep Fried Cheese Curds and Frozen Custard.

Top 20 Restaurants in Milwaukee

Ardent Restaurant in Milwaukee food dish
Photo provided by Ardent – Photographer Kevin Miyazaki

1. Ardent

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 $90, and $60 more if you want expertly paired beverages alongside the impressively prepared ten or so plates of food. There is no use even trying to explain the food – it simply is one of those places you will have to try for yourself.

For a truly unique dining adventure, check out Ardent on Milwaukee’s East Side, just make sure to book your spot well in advance.

  • Address: 1751 N. Farwell Ave
  • Hours: Wednesday – Saturday: 5:30 pm-8:45 pm
  • Closed Sunday – Tuesday

Related Article: Top Things To Do In Milwaukee

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 ($16) or go for the mixed plate of house-made pates and cheeses if with a group ($32). The Sole Meuniere is filleted tableside in a classic presentation ($55), and Filet Mignon Au Poivre will take you away to Paris with its rich green peppercorn brandy sauce ($40). 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.
  • Hours:
    • Monday – Thursday: 10:00am-2:00pm and 5:00pm-8:30pm,
    • Friday: 11:30am-2:00pm and 5:30pm-10:00pm
    • Saturday: 11:00am-2:00pm and 5:00pm-10:00pm
    • Sunday: 10:00am 2:00pm and 5:00pm-8:30pm

King Fillet at Five o clock Steakhouse - Top Restaurants in Milwaukee

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 to get the full supper club experience, where your table comes garnished with a relish tray and bread, and the salad that is included with the steak arrives on a rolling cart.

Try any one of the steaks and you won’t be disappointed.

Also, consider getting the 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.

4. Sanford

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.
  • Hours: Monday – Thursday: 5:30pm-9:00pm, Friday: 5:30pm-10:00pm, Saturday: 5:00pm-10:00pm
  • Closed Sundays

5. Blue’s Egg

Milwaukee’s favorite destination for brunch is Blue’s Egg, now with two locations, one in Wauwatosa, the other in Shorewood. Specializing in all things breakfast, you can expect to find standard diner fare elevated to new gourmet heights, along with less expected items certain to please just about any gastronomic critic.

Classics include well-executed French toast and pancakes, breakfast meats served with eggs, and an assortment of omelet options. Be sure to try one of the benedict options—while they offer a standard Benedict, the “Dubliner” is an even better choice in my opinion. The Dubliner combines corned beef and leeks sitting on top of rye bread with poached eggs and paprika aioli.

Also, try the hash browns trust me they are amazing. You can get them crispy and stuffed with a variety of cheese and meat options. Even though you may have to wait for a table, next time you are in the mood for brunch make Blue’s Egg your priority destination. If you’re looking for the best brunch in Milwaukee this is the spot.

6. Braise

Braise is Milwaukee’s premier destination for farm-to-table cooking. Indeed, this restaurant even offers farm-to-home delivery services for produce and combines their restaurant with a cooking school to learn how to prepare some of those 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 there are a few staple items 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.
  • Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 5:00pm-10:00pm
  • Closed Mondays and Sundays

7. Story Hill BKC

Story Hill BKC (Bottle, Kitchen, Cocktail) is one of the city’s trendiest spots for breakfast, 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 ($11), or eggs in a spiced tomato sauce with lentils, or the crepe monsieur ($12) for 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 ($12), and it pairs well with the wild mushroom hand pie served with sherry syrup ($14). Be sure to check out the menu before you head over to Story Hill BKC since it continuously changes.

  • Address: 5100 W. Bluemound Rd.
  • Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 11:00am-9:00pm, Saturday: 9:00am-9:00pm, Sunday: 9:00am-2:00pm
  • Closed Mondays

Kopp's burger and Frozen custard inside the north shore restaurant - Local Favorite places to eat in Milwaukee

8. 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 below, but it’s very much a local’s favorite restaurant in Milwaukee.

Kopp’s has several locations throughout the city, make 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 it’s tempting to get a double burger with fries, you have to try and save room for a custardy 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 their flavors of the day. You can check online for a full calendar of flavors—there are usually two flavors of the day, and then a 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!

9. Odd Duck

There are many restaurants in Milwaukee that 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 managing to throw together an impressive menu with so many appealing options 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 and 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 at having had a truly global tour of cuisines.

exterior of Maders German Restaurant - Timber frame style in downtown - Best Restaurants Milwaukee

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 ($9.75). The potato pancake appetizer also makes for a perfect start to a meal, typically served with apple sauce and sour cream ($9.75).

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 ($37), the sauerbraten ($35), or the wiener schnitzel, which comes as either pork or veal, served with spätzle and sauerkraut ($32-$37). No stop in Milwaukee is complete without a hearty German feast over at Mader’s.

  • Address: 1041 N. Old World Third St.
  • Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11:30am-9:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 11:30am-10:00pm, Sunday: 11:00am-9:00pm

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—basically, a large filo pie stuffed with either meat, cheese, or spinach and cheese—which takes about forty-five minutes to an hour to bake ($19.50). The Goulash is one of their most popular dishes, which combines simmered tender beef with paprika sauce served with a side of potato dumplings ($17.50). The Czevapchichi is also a Serbian classic, basically spiced sausages topped with onion and tomato ($17.50).

Take a step back into Milwaukee’s immigrant past with some of the best comfort food around by visiting Three Brothers.

  • Address: 2414 S. St. Clair St.
  • Hours: Tuesday – Thursday: 5:00pm-9:00pm, Friday: 5:00pm-10:00pm, Saturday: 4:00pm-10:00pm, Sunday: 4:00pm-9:00pm
  • Closed Mondays

12. 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 for 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 ($14), 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, 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
  • Hours: Monday – Thursday: 7:00am-10:00pm, Friday: 7:00am-11:00pm, Saturday: 8:00am-11:00pm, Sunday: 8:00am-10:00pm

13. Vanguard

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 ($8). Vegan sausages, burgers, and creative takes on poutine are also offered.

Milwaukee is known for sausages of all kinds, but 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.

14. 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 number of seats in the large dining room or try and 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 really excels when it comes to steak.

Try any number of prime cuts, pick one of the included sauce options, or upgrade your steak with a blue cheese crust (an additional $5). If you aren’t feeling steak, the seafood options are excellent, especially the jumbo sea scallops served with green coconut curry sauce ($40).

If you want guaranteed good food with excellent service, along with a convenient location downtown, then Mason Street Grill is one of the best options in Milwaukee.

  • Address: 424 E. Wisconsin Ave.
  • Hours: Monday – Friday: 11:00am-11:00pm, Saturday – Sunday: 5:00pm-10:00pm

15. 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 ($13.95) and crab cakes ($15.95).

Diners can choose larger fishplates for dinner, or 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 ($24.95). Don’t miss Milwaukee’s best spot for seafood that comes with an unmatched view of the lake by stopping into Harbor House for brunch, lunch, or dinner.

  • Address: 550 N. Harbor Dr.
  • Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11:30am-9:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 11:30am-10:00pm, Sunday: 10:00am-9:00pm

16. Zaffiro’s Pizza & Bar

Zaffiro’s Pizza & Bar has been making some of Milwaukee’s best pizza and Italian-American favorites since 1954. Although now Zafiro’s pizzas are available at area movie theaters, a visit to the original East Side location is a must. The fried eggplant ($8.95) is a must-have, as is the Zafiro’s Salad ($12.25) 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 ($3.85).

  • Address: 1724 N. Farwell Ave.
  • Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11:00am-11:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 11:00am-Midnight, Sunday: 11:00am-10:00pm

Plate of three tacos at BelAir Cantina - Taco special - Best Milwaukee Restaurants

17. Belair Cantina

Belair Cantina was one of the first places in Milwaukee to pick up on the California trend of combining authentic Mexican-style tacos with other internationally-inspired flavors and preparations.

Take a major food trend and combine it with an awesome environment, perfectly made margaritas, and a seriously good taco discount special on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it’s no wonder that Belair Cantina quickly became a hit.

Now with numerous locations, Belair Cantina still excels at providing some of the most creative spins on tacos and burritos in the city. Try a traditional taco like the barbacoa or the chorizo ($3.99), or venture into something admittedly unauthentic yet incredibly delicious, like the Ninja Pig, with hoisin glazed crispy pork ($4.25) or the Korean beef tacos ($4.55). Buy three tacos and great free rice & beans.

All of the tacos can also be converted into either a burrito or a chimichanga (deep-fried burrito). The salsas and guacamoles are also top-notch and super addictive. For a casual and fun night full of excellent food and drinks, stop over to one of Belair Cantina’s numerous locations.

  • East Side – Address: 1935 N. Water St.Hours: Monday – Friday: 11:00 am -Midnight, Saturday – Sunday: 10:00 am -Midnight
  • UWM Campus – Address: 2625 N. Downer Ave.Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 11:00am-11:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 11:00am-Midnight
  • Wauwatosa – Address: 6817 W. North Ave. – Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11:00am-11:00pm, Friday: 11:00am-Midnight, Saturday: 10:00am-Midnight, Sunday: 10:00am-11:00pm

18. Benji’s Deli

No city is complete without a classic Jewish delicatessen where you can find corned beef or pastrami piled high on rye bread. Benji’s Deli offers a host of deli favorites including corned beef, pastrami, kosher salami, matzo ball soup, potato salad, and coleslaw.

The Reuben sandwich ($12.99) is one of the best in the city. For a twist on deli fare try The Epiphany, which combines pastrami with the toppings of a Reuben and replaces the bread with fried potato pancakes ($12.29).

The hot dogs at Benji’s are also worth a stop. Also on the menu are standard breakfast favorites, burgers, and desserts. With two locations open daily, Benji’s is a convenient stop for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

19. Smoke Shack

Milwaukee has no shortage of quality barbeque joints, but Smoke Shack stands out for consistency of high-quality food and service, and its easy convenience for tourists with its Third Ward location.

There is no questioning what Smoke Shack serves since you can smell the barbeque from blocks away. Step inside the cozy restaurant or pick a seat on their outdoor patio and get ready for all things smoked meats.

From the burnt ends appetizer ($13.50) to southern favorites like hush puppies ($7.50), it’s easy to get your meal started off right. Then move on to some of the classics, like pulled pork, brisket, smoked sausage, or smoked chicken. Just about anything Smoke Shack serves will please if you are in the mood for barbeque.

If you already have dinner plans but need some barbeque in your life, try to stop in for lunch or even for the weekend brunch. Milwaukee may not be known for its barbeque like some other places, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some awesome smoked meats just minutes from downtown.

  • Address: 332 N. Milwaukee St.
  • Hours: Monday – Friday: 11:00am-10:00pm, Saturday: 10:00am-10:00pm, Sunday: 10:00am-9:00pm

Dinner at Amalina - Spanish influenced food _ Best restaurants in Milwaukee

20. Amilinda

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 Friday for drink discounts, in addition to half off wine on Tuesdays at the bar and chef counter. During these times diners can also enjoy discounted Pintxos, or small bites, like patatas bravas and Spanish tortilla ($2). Amilinda also features a great drink list, discounted during happy hour, with specialties like the Sparkling Gin, with gin, cava, lemon, and elderflower ($6), and sangria by the glass ($5).

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 ($11). 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 ($21).

For local ingredients and creative spins on traditional Spanish and Portuguese dishes, check out Amilinda in downtown Milwaukee.

  • Address: 315 E. Wisconsin Ave.
  • Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 5 pm-9 pm, Friday and Saturday, 5 pm-10 pm
  • Closed Mondays

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That is just a taste of some of the best restaurants in Milwaukee. Do you live in Milwaukee or have visited and have a favorite restaurant? We’d love to hear you and we’re always looking for new restaurants in Milwaukee to check out. Leave a comment below!

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