Milwaukee is easily the most underrated food city in the country. Quirky, humble, and charming, it’s probably not the first city you’d think to put on your culinary bucket list. But you totally should, and we’re here to prove it.
More than cheese and beer (although there is truly plenty of it), Milwaukee’s got some serious culinary game. With top-notch restaurants that are 10 times more affordable than most cities, Milwaukee will delight your tastebuds and charm the pants off of you with delicious food and Midwest charm.
Come frolic, because we’re friendly here in the #MidWestBestCoast.
1. Literally Anything at Odd Duck
If you’ve ever eaten here, you know why this is first on the list. It’s arguably the best restaurant in Milwaukee.
Offering small plates that change based on the season, the chefs at Odd Duck somehow manage to offer every kind of cuisine. The menu ranges from handmade pastas, to Korean tofu pancakes, to Indian-inspired dishes and desserts and somehow, Odd Duck knocks every single one out of the park. Service is always outstanding, and the food is extremely reasonably priced.
2. A Hand-Crafted Expresso Beverage and a Baked Oatmeal at Colectivo
Formerly known as Alterra, Colectivo is a favorite among locals. They’re known for consistently good coffee and food housed inside unique and comfortably decorated spaces (including some historic landmarks). A Colectivo cup represents “home” to many current and former Milwaukeeans alike.
The food is decent too, especially the fluffy, heaping bowl of baked oatmeal with fruit baked right in. It’s like eating a giant oatmeal cookie for breakfast in the best way possible.
3. Pie at Honeypie
If you love pie or cupcakes, you can’t miss this Bay View spot. Delicious rotating handmade pies range from classic fruit pies to whimsical over-the-top creations like mudslide, salted caramel, and Almond Joy. Vegan pies and cupcakes are also offered daily. They have pretty good regular food too, but dessert is consistently the standout.
4. Dessert at Le Reve
This place just feels like a cozy French restaurant. It’s romantic, charming and, most importantly delicious. The first thing you notice when you walk in is the gorgeous display case of pastries. They’re on display for a reason. Grab some macarons or an opera torte, or one of the chocolate domes filled with mousse. Grab crepes for breakfast, a light salad for lunch, or a decadent French dinner. Remember that dessert is always a must.
5. Handmade Pasta at Ristorante Bartolotta
The holy grail of Italian food in Milwaukee featuring perfect, handmade pastas, a charming interior, and outstanding service tucked in the heart of Wauwatosa Village. It’s a great place to celebrate a special event, or to dine any night of the week.
6. Pizza Margherita at Pizzeria Piccola
Located just a few steps away from its big brother, Ristorante Bartolotta, Pizzeria Piccolla is fast-casual dining at its best, and offers delicious made-to-order, stone-cooked pizzas at great prices. Pastas, salads, and panini are great, too. The open patio is a perfect place to spend a summer night with pizza, wine, and friends.
7. A Giant Slice of Pizza at Classic Slice
This is a can’t-miss pizza experience in Bay View with pizza slices twice as big as your face (or your dog) that are made-to-order. The menu offers traditional pizzas, unique creations, and oodles of gluten-free and vegan options.
8. Pizza and Iced Coffee at Anodyne Coffee
9. Brunch at Blue’s Egg
“Very Stuffed” hash browns (think hash browns with all the fixins), monkey bread, Southern comfort food, and classic brunch items round out the menu at this Milwaukee favorite. Even Bernie Sanders has eaten here.
#SpoonTip: Feel the Bern and order the blueberry pancakes with “a lot of of blueberries.”
10. A Ketchup-gramm’d Breakfast Burrito at The Comet Cafe
A divey diner that everyone loves, Comet offers everything from free baskets of bacon on Tuesdays to vegan Salisbury steaks to burritos with special messages. Go to Comet for good comfort food in a fun environment.
11. Pancakes and A Sweet Potato Black Bean Burrito at Beans and Barley
Yes, you do actually need to order both at this Eastside institution. Beans and Barley has delicious, healthy food, yummy desserts, and a little speciality grocery store all in one location. Go for a great for brunch, a light lunch, or a hearty yet healthy meal that won’t make you feel gross.
12. The Ambiance at Safe House
Okay, so the food here isn’t anything to write home about, but this is a dining experience you can’t miss in Milwaukee. First off, you have to enter through a side door in an alley and enter into a restaurant funhouse of secret passages, spy-inspired nooks and crannies, and booby traps. Experiential dining in MKE.
13. A Po’Boy at Maxie’s Supper Club and Oyster Bar
14. A Blood Mary at Sobelman’s
15. Custard at Kopp’s
A local favorite for giant burgers and custard, all served in over-the-top, Midwest portion sizes.
16. Custard at Leon’s
A Milwaukee institution, it’s the custard stand that inspired the hangout spot of the Happy Days crew.
17. A Signature Combo Platter at Saz’s
Oh, Saz’s combo platter. It’s filled with sour cream and chive fries, mozzarella marinara sticks, and beer battered cheese curds. This dish is best (and probably only advisable) to consume while intoxicated at a festival.
18. Brunch at Cafe Centraal
This Bay View brunch favorite offers classic brunch fare in a relaxed yet upbeat atmosphere.
19. Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds at Culver’s
Greasy, squeaky, fried cheese balls are the most quintessential Wisconsin food.
20. Sausage and Beer at The Vanguard
When someone opens up a cheap, fast-casual restaurant with house-made meat, vegan sausages and beer, you go. You go and you love it. Fun sausage twists like the Thai Breaker (with peanut sauce, cilantro, carrots, and ‘crispy bits’), or the Octopus Chorizo, paired with sides like thin cut fries and ginger burnt tofu keep people coming back. The outdoor patio is also a must in the summertime.
21. Whiskey Ice Cream at Purple Door
Purple Door is known for turning out delicious local ice cream in small batches. They offer many unique flavors, like Whiskey, Lemon Cardamom, and Beer & Pretzels, as well as classics like Butter Pecan, Vanilla and Chocolate Sorbet. Grab a sundae or take home a pint for later.
22. Empanadas at La Masa Empanada
A mix of traditional, Wisconsin-inspired, and dessert empanadas are on the menu at La Masa, all ranging from $3 to $4 in a fun, relaxed atmosphere complete with a bar. Perfect for a casual evening of catch-up with friends on historic Brady Street.
23. An Art-Inspired Meal at the Cafe Calatrava at the Milwaukee Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum is stunning (they even filmed a Victoria’s Secret commercial and part of a Transformers movie here). Go for the art and architecture, and stay for a meal with a beautiful view. Offering entrees inspired by rotating art exhibits, you can get your fancy on here. They have Sunday brunch, too.
24. French Onion Soup at Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro
Get your French food fix here with gorgeous, lakefront ambiance. Dessert is epic, too.
25. Breakfast at Cafe Simple
This is a Milwaukee brunch staple offering breakfast and lunch items with generous portions. The Korean BBQ Breakfast Bowl is a favorite, as are the seasonally-inspired egg dishes and Apple Crumb French Toast.
26. Chili at Real Chili
Apparently, this is a thing. Enough, at least, for Duff to put it on an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
27. Falafel at Hello Falafel
Another brainchild of the power couple behind Odd Duck, this is their take on fast-casual Mediterranean. Hashtag winning, hashtag yes please falafel.
28. Beer at Lakefront Brewery
Where else can you go on a 2-hour brewery tour for $10 where they encourage so much beer-drinking that it’s hard not to get smashed? That’s right, Lakefront Brewery. #BlessUp
29. $2 Tacos at Bel Air Cantina
Bel Air Cantina is a Taco Tuesday favorite. All their local locations are hoppin’ every Tuesday, and for good reason. $2 tacos, beers, and tequila shots can’t be beat. They offer an interesting menu that appeals to diners of all dietary patterns. Vegs and GF peeps will feel right at home next to carnivores.
30. Doughnuts at Holey Moley Doughnuts
The name pretty much sums it up. Holey Moley = holy yum. Unique doughnut flavors change daily and good coffee is tucked inside a building in the Third Ward. They even have vegan and gluten-free options, too.
31. A Cookie at C. Adam’s Bakery
Located in the Milwaukee Public Market, this bakery turns out homey, delicious baked goods that will make your taste buds very happy.
32. Root Beer at Sprecher Brewery
There is something about Sprecher Root Beer that makes it stand out among all root beers. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s made with real vanilla and honey. Whatever it is, it’s magical. You can buy it (or any other Sprecher soda or beer) at local stores. Better yet, go on a brewery tour. The tours are great because you can have beer AND all-you-can-drink craft sodas. Even non-drinkers will have fun here.
33. Half-Price Sushi at Fujiyama
Brookfield’s only hidden gem (they have a West Allis location, too). Fujiyama offers great sushi, fast and friendly service, and amazing half price deals on Monday and Tuesday nights.
34. Something You Can’t Pronounce and Probably Can’t Identify at Ee-Sane
Look at the menu. Pick a number. Order it at your desired spice level (warning: when they say hot, they mean HOT). Enjoy it. This is an authentic hole-in-the-wall type place with a bizarrely charming strange interior and delicious, delicious Thai food.
35. Mac ‘n’ Cheese Pizza at Ian’s
Based in Madison, Ian’s is the go-to spot for late night drunk eats. They were one of the first in the game to roll out the mac ‘n’ cheese pizza. Go for that, but try their other slices, too.
36. A Burger at AJ Bomber’s
37. A Pastry at Rocket Baby Bakery
The pastries are delicious and most definitely made by hand with fresh ingredients and love at this tiny and charming pastry shop tucked away in Tosa.
38. Doughnuts at Cranky Al’s
Another Tosa hot spot when you’re feelin’ something sweet, Cracky Al’s has a community feel of doughy goodness in the air, and is often packed with local families on the weekends. They have pizza, too, but go for the doughnuts.
39. Soup and Salad at Urban Beets Cafe
A newer but already popular lunch spot in the Third Ward, Urban Beets offers healthy and flavorful juice, breakfast, and lunch options that are constantly changing. The soups and salads are always on point, as are the sandwiches.
40. Ceviche and Plantain Chips with Guac at C-Viche
Another great addition to Bay View, C-Viche brings Ibero-American and Peruvian flavors to Milwaukee. Don’t skip the plantain chips and guac or the patatas bravas.
41. Tapas at La Merenda
A casual tapas bar in Walker’s Point, La Merenda is a hot spot for small plates and good times. The drink menu is also extensive and internationally inspired, making for a fun night out on the town.
42. A Little Oatie at Outpost
Outpost is Milwaukee’s favorite health food co-op. They have great bakery items and to-go food, too. A favorite is the Little Oatie: two chewy cookies filled with homemade buttercream. In other words, Little Oaties are a taste of pure nostalgia. Grab one (and maybe a piece of their banana bread) while you do your shopping.
43. An Ice Cream Cake or Milkshake at Babe’s
44. A Fruit Dumpling at East Side Ovens
A hand pie made with flakey crust, gooey fruit in the middle, and topped with a drizzle of icing. East Side Ovens sells their products at local farmer’s markets and in local health-focused grocery stores, like Outpost and The Health Hut. Though not advertised as so, all their products are egg and dairy free.
45. Coffee at Stone Creek Coffee
Stop by one of these beautiful cafes with superb and responsibly grown coffee. Their Barclay location also houses Radio Milwaukee, a local public radio favorite.
45. Small Plates and Drinks at Wolf Peach
Go for the small plates, snack plates, pizzas, and drinks with breathtaking views of Milwaukee. Great for a date night or GNO.
46. A Cream Puff at the Wisconsin State Fair
You can’t say you’ve been to the Wisconsin State Fair unless you’ve left with powdered sugar and whipped cream all over your face post-cream-puff fix. It’s a delicious and deceptively light-tasting dessert that screams Wisconsin in the summer time. They even have a drive-through just for cream puffs, in case you’re too lazy to go to the fair.
47. Locally-Sourced Dishes at Braise
Braise is restaurant committed to showcasing local produce and other foods from Wisconsin. Seasonally focused menus offer meat and veggie options with a farm-to-table commitment. Fun fact: They also have a culinary program.
48. The Lunch Buffet at Cafe India
Cafe India was born in a Milwaukee gas station. Yes, you read that correctly. After being a popular lunch and take-out spot for years, they opened a sit-down bar and restaurant in Bay View. All menu items are tasty, and you can sample a little bit of everything with the amazing lunch buffet special. Naan is naan-negotiable.
49. Apple Pie at Elegant Farmer
#SpoonTip: Pair with Purple Door Ice Cream.
50. Cheese Curds at Any Grocery Store (Or Even The Airport)
Wisconsin wouldn’t be Wisconsin without famous squeaky cheese curds. You have to try them yourself to really understand the hype and signature tooth-squeak that makes these a Sconie staple food. You can find them in most grocery stores in the cheese section. Heck, they even sell them at the Milwaukee airport. Wisconsin takes cheese very, very seriously.