The word is out at last. Milwaukee has earned its keep as a tried and true food city. And it’s not just about beer and cheese anymore, though you’ll find your share of both in Wisconsin’s Cream City.
Wild about great food? Here’s one way to eat your way through the city and get some sightseeing in at the same time.
First things first: for breakfast or brunch, it’s worth the drive west to Blue’s Egg. Get there early for the fastest seating, or enjoy a cup of complimentary coffee while you wait. Meanwhile, scan the menu, filled with plentiful options from the creamy polenta with kale and mushrooms to the Dubliner Benedict, featuring succulent corned beef, to one of the best crab cakes in the city served with Challah and poached eggs.
After breakfast, head east to Milwaukee’s historic Brady Street, where you’ll want to take a leisurely stroll through the recently expanded Glorioso’s Italian Market. This 10,000-square-foot gourmet emporium for staples from Italy isn’t quite New York’s Eataly, but it’s worthy of a visit for its selection of delicious Italian cheeses alone.
If you’re full to the brim, which I presume you will be, take a break from food and stroll down Brady Street and enjoy browsing in its great little shops, or grab a movie at the beautiful Oriental Theatre on Farwell, a spectacular East Side landmark built in 1927. On the weekend, head over to Lake Park and take a tour of the North Point Lighthouse, a cream city brick lighthouse built in 1855, and still one of the oldest structures built AND still standing in the area.
For lunch, try out the curiously named Wolf Peach in Brewer’s Hill, a restaurant that bids homage to the ancient name for one of the world’s most popular fruits, the tomato. And you’ll find plenty on the menu – whether gracing the top of a wood-fired pizza, or served preserved alongside meats or charcuterie. Stop in for lunch and grab a house-made porchetta sandwich or opt for good health by indulging in one of the best kale salads I’ve ever eaten. Breads, pastas, and desserts are made in-house daily.
In lieu of an afternoon nap, take a tour of the Milwaukee Public Market, where you can pick up souvenirs, grab a glass of wine, or simply peruse the fine selection of artisan and ethnic products. Then, head south and make a stop at Milwaukee’s first urban cheese factory, Clock Shadow Creamery, which also happens to be located in one of the greenest buildings in the city. Take the tour to learn about the history of cheese-making and sample a variety of fresh cheeses. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch them on a curd-making day so that you can enjoy squeaky fresh cheese curds. If not, don’t worry, you can always grab an afternoon ice cream cone from the Purple Door scoop shop in the same building.
Beer lovers shouldn’t miss the chance to take a tour at Milwaukee Brewing Company, where sustainability is just as important as great beer. This interactive tour is just $10, and gets you a pint glass and plenty of beer samples.
Need a little bit of something before dinner? Grab a drink and enjoy one of the best views in the city at Harbor House. Located on the shore of Lake Michigan, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Calatrava, and access to some of the best seafood in the city. Order a handful of oysters from the raw bar and enjoy.
For dinner, head over to Walker’s Point, the ultimate haven for new food spots. Go upscale at C. 1880, where past meets present in a farm-to-table restaurant concept that's sure to please the most discerning of palates. As many restaurants these days go more rustic and casual, Chef Tom Hauck’s ever-changing menu features artfully (read: absolutely beautiful) prepared contemporary cuisine highlighting the seasonal bounty of Wisconsin’s finest farm-fresh produce.
If you’d like more of a “best kept secret” vibe, stop in at The Noble, a tiny little restaurant serving up big flavors. Antiques and reclaimed materials like vintage records, musical instruments and photos decorate the walls, giving The Noble an effortlessly "old timey" feel. Order a blood orange Manhattan and sit down for a dinner you’ll remember.
Or head further south to Bay View to visit the highly acclaimed Odd Duck, where diners can choose from an ever-changing variety of stellar globally inspired large and small plates, including a fine assortment of vegetarian options. Expertly mixed cocktails made with house-made syrups and infusions flow from the bar, while diners enjoy the lively buzz of a bustling dining room that never seems to be void of new faces.
Not quite ready to hang it up for the night? It’s worth your while to take a short drive over to Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge for a nightcap. Open since 1938, Bryant’s is Milwaukee’s oldest cocktail lounge and it’s as classy as ever. It has a terrifically sexy retro atmosphere and 450 world famous cocktails to boot.
Lori Fredrich is a writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener, blogger and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives. Lori's recipes and food writing have been featured at OnMilwaukee.com, in GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cooking Light Magazine, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and more. Read more about her adventures in the kitchen on the award-winning blog, Burp!. Connect with Lori on Twitter by following @Burp_blog.