Here it is, folks, my guide to some of the spectacular local Milwaukee restaurants I've visited so far in 2021! Spoiler alert, you WILL be hungry after seeing all these pics :)
Some of my goals this year are to 1) try as many new things as possible--I get into habits and comfort zones that leave me going to and doing the same things over and over when there's so much around me left to explore--and 2) try to support more local businesses whenever possible. What better (or more fun) way to work on both by trying local food, bars, and restaurants, and sharing my experiences?
Note that some of the below were restaurants where we just ordered takeout, but since Christian and I both tested positive for COVID over New Year's, we felt a bit more comfortable dining-in at restaurants that either had outdoor dining options or followed CDC guidelines for ensuring safe in-person dining experiences--dividers between separated tables, capacity limits, mask policies, you know the drill.
Here's a few local favs we were able to try these past few months from the Bayview + Walker's Point neighborhoods (they're the closest, since we live in WP). Check back tomorrow for those I visited in the Third Ward + Downtown Milwaukee, and stay tuned the rest of the week for my other great experiences from Q1 of 2021--books, documentaries, coffee shops, and more!
Type of food = Pizza, Lunch/Dinner
Dine-in / Takeout = Both, we do mostly takeout but they have a big open outdoor patio!
Favorite Dish = Garlic Lovers Pizza
I’m a bread junkie, so when it comes to pizza, the crust is a BIG deal for me. I’m the one who’s sometimes willing to give up the last slice as long as I can have the crust, and with Transfer's crust, that's always the case. It’s that perfect middle ground between the really thick + dough-y hand-tossed crust and the cardboard-thin frozen pizza-style crust. They also offer gluten free crust on all their pizzas so it's a great option for those with sensitivities!
Plus, they have a lot of fun specialty za’s to try--I especially love their garlic pizzas, which substitute the traditional marinara sauce with a delicious, strong garlic cream sauce. Their garlic cheese bread is also pretty good (because who doesn’t want some extra carbo-loading?) but we normally get 1 large and 1 small pizza and it’s more than plenty for two!
We usually order pizza to-go, but we’ve also eaten at their parking-lot-turned-cute-patio (see pic), which is a great spot for families (plenty of big picnic tables) or a date night in nice weather! Every pizza I’ve had has been good, but I’d recommend the Billy Bob, the Garlic Lovers, the Paisano, and the Bob’s Special (love the avocado!).
Type of Food = Indian
Dine-in / Takeout = Both, but it makes GREAT takeout meals
Favorite Dish = Malai Kofta + rice, Gobi Manchurian, and Naan (of course)
I hadn’t had much experience with Indian food prior to discovering Cafe India, but after our first time ordering it, it became an instant Sunday night takeout favorite. The menu selection is HUGE, and it takes me awhile to get through since I don’t recognize many of the names, but it has everything from tandoori (Indian BBQ) to various types of curry to traditional sides and apps like fresh-baked naan, samosas, basmati rice, and chickpea-based veggie dishes.
There’s literally something for everyone here! They’ve got TONS of different flavors and sauces for both their vegetarian menu (which is really extensive), as well as their meat dishes. Plus, with most of their entrees you can choose your spiciness level (mild, medium, or hot), which is appreciated for wimps like me who don’t like to fight their food--I always go mild!
You can expect most dishes to be deliciously saucy, so I always get a side of basmati rice (yum). The naan is always too good to pass up, although I’ve only ever gotten the plain naan--I’ll have to try one of their flavored naans next! You’ll see some of my fav dishes above, but I really encourage you to try some flavors you wouldn’t normally (like coconut or curry!). I’ve also heard it’s a cool restaurant with a great buffet, so I’m looking forward to dining in-person sometime soon!
Type of Food = Caribbean, Jamaican, Lunch/Dinner
Dine-in / Takeout = Both, but we’ve only dined-in (and it’s super cute)
Favorite Dish = Conch Fritters, fried plaintains
This is my absolute favorite new restaurant in Walker’s Point! It was opened in early 2020 by a Jamaican native who wants to bring Milwaukee the flavors and feel of the Caribbean--specifically, specialties from the Bahamas, St. Thomas, Barbados, the Grand Cayman Islands and Panama. I won't speak to the food’s authenticity since I’ve never been to these islands, but I CAN speak to its DELICIOUSNESS!
I’ve only been to Mobay Cafe once so far, but everything was so tasty, from the Beef Jamaican Patty to the Conch Fritters to the Cafe Jerk Chicken (see pics!). Christian’s Curry Chicken was also amazing, but we both agree that our next visit has to include the Oxtail and some seafood!
The atmosphere is just as great as the food, too. The bar and dining room have a great, casual island feel complete with decor, murals, and a giant chalkboard wall where guests can leave their name and positive messages. And, best of all, they take Happy Hour seriously--they have food + drink specials every day from 4-8 pm, including $5 margs, mojitos, and a must-try Jamaican Rum Punch (it’s as red as Hawaiian Punch but 5x as delicious!).
Type of food = Pizza, Italian, Lunch/Dinner
Dine-in / Takeout = Good for both!
Favorite Dish = Eggplant Fries
In total honesty, we prefer Transfer’s pizza over Fixture’s (again, mostly because Transfer’s crust is just so good!), but Fixture’s is definitely still tasty--especially the specialty za’s--and they have a more expansive menu if you’re looking to feed a group with more than just pizza. While I haven’t personally tried anything but their pizza and appetizers, they’ve also got options for wings, sandwiches, salads, soups, and pasta.
No outdoor dining here, but they have a really nice laid-back atmosphere and expansive bar for in-person dining with a wide variety of beer, wine, and liquor. Definitely try some of their sandwiches and pastas (and please report back!), but if you’re looking for my recommendations, go with the Great Lakes Distillery and Var Gallery for pizza, and the Eggplant Fries (a must-try) and Jake’s Fresh Garlic Cheese Bread for starters.
Type of Food = Asian
Dine-in / Takeout = Both, but we prefer dine-in
Favorite Dish = Nature Delight Clay Pot + Xion Long Bao Dumplings
Momo Mee is our FAVORITE date night spot! Both because of the approachable-but-upscale decor/vibe and, of course, the incredible food! The executive chef was born and raised in Hong Kong, and he brings a spin on Japanese cuisine unlike anything I’ve tasted.
It’s a little more on the expensive side--most entrees range from $16-$18--but the dishes are substantial, and the food is worth every penny! You can also get a sizable order of their famous dumplings (or Momo) for just $10--they’re most well-known for their Xiao Long Bao, a type of Shanghai soup dumpling that is absolutely mouth-watering (see pics).
Everything I’ve had at Momo Mee has been delicious, but the true star of the menu for me is the Cantonese Clay Pots (pic below)! They’re literally exactly what they sound like--cooking a hodge-podge of noodles, veggies and meats in a flavorful broth inside a clay pot to create a beautiful blend of flavors and textures. There’s a few different options, but my favorite is the Nature Delight--I’m a HUGE mushroom fan, and I love the texture of vermicelli noodles!
I could go on and on about Momo Mee, but the last thing I’ll mention is that they have an expansive selection of sake (they even do sake flights, see pic!) and beer and wine for those like me who just can’t handle their sake. Again, great spot for date night, but maybe get a sitter if your kids aren’t adventurous eaters!
Type of Food = Mexican
Dine-in / Takeout = Both, but the dine-in atmosphere is really fun, and they have one of the best patio dining spots in the neighborhood!
Favorite Dish = Combo Platters
Of all the Mexican restaurants I’ve tried in the southern neighborhoods of Milwaukee (I haven’t tried the new La Dama or many of the local food trucks yet), I’d vote Botanas as the best. They’ve got all your Mexican food staples--chips and house-made salsa + guac, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, you got it--but there’s a certain authenticity, freshness, and flavor to the dishes that just make it stand above the rest. Plus, we literally see guests walking in and out of the building CONSTANTLY (even like Mondays at 8:30pm), so you know it’s good stuff!
We didn’t have any margaritas when we dined there, but they have some really fun-sounding drink options. They have just about any traditional Mexican food you could want, which makes it really hard to choose! If you’re decision-challenged like me, get a little of all your favs with a combo plate--my favorite is the Enchilada, Taco, and Chimichanga combo plate! I bet their apps are great but we’ve never tried because we always stuff our faces with their bottomless chips and homemade salsa.
But what really shines about Botanas is the atmosphere. They have the coolest interior decor, from entire walls covered in murals to funky wall-hangings to a gigantic fun, well-kept (and partially covered) patio out back. Each room has vibrant, different Mexican decor, which can make you feel a bit like you’re visiting a different restaurant each time you go! It’s also huge, so you typically won’t have to worry about waiting for a table.
Type of Food = Mexican
Dine-in / Takeout = Both (we prefer dine-in for the chips/salsa and margs!)
Favorite Dish = Shrimp or Chicken Fajitas, Margaritas
This is the go-to spot for late-night food in Walker’s Point. And I mean LATE--like 4am! (although COVID has reduced their hours a bit over the past year.) Honestly, we didn’t realize it was a restaurant until a year after moving to the neighborhood, given it’s unassuming exterior! We were pretty hungry late one night when a bartender told us about Cielito Lindo, and it was PERFECT--a giant plate of cheesy, flavorful Mexican goodness for a reasonable price, especially given the complementary baskets of chips and homemade salsa they serve!
You’ll see above that I vote Botanas as the best authentic Mexican food in the neighborhood, but Cielito Lindo is a close second--especially with the amount of food you get for the pricepoint. Some of the more complex dishes are a bit more (like the shrimp and/or chicken fajitas that I love so much), but you’re always getting a good amount of food for what you pay. Plus, where CL really shines is in their margaritas! They’re one of the best I’ve ever had, and you can order them by the glass, pitcher, or half-pitcher--pre-COVID, Christian and I would often sit at the bar for an afternoon pitcher of margs and the homemade guacamole.
Overall, Cielito Lindo has a great dine-in vibe, featuring beautiful murals (since Cielito Lindo translates to “pretty sky”, after all!) and extremely fast service and food. The fajitas are my fave, but if you’re like me and have a hard time deciding between the Mexican staples--tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc.--you can’t go wrong with one of their combo platters!
Alright Bayview + Walker's Point neighbors, what did I miss? Looking to add to my list of restaurants to visit in Q2 (especially before I move to Wauwatosa in June), so I'd love your recommendations! And check back tomorrow for my faves of the Third Ward + Downtown restaurants I've visited so far this year <3