Alright guys, more great Milwaukee-area restaurants, comin' at ya--here's Part 2 of my guide to the local restaurants I've visited so far in 2021! This time, we're talking Downtown and the Third Ward!
And in case you missed it, click here to see Part 1, featuring some of the great restaurants I've visited recently in Bayview and Walker's Point. Part 1 also gives some background on my mission to try new and support local, which has led me to these quarterly reflections of my fave nearby stops.
Note that Christian and I felt a little more comfortable about dining in--either at places with outdoor seating or that had established COVID-safe precautions--since testing positive for/recovering from COVID over New Year's.
Here's a few local spots we were able to try these past few months from the Third Ward + Downtown Milwaukee neighborhoods. And check back this weekend for some other great experiences from Q1 of 2021--coffee shops, breweries, books, documentaries, and more!
Type of Food = Farm-to-Table American
Dine-in / Takeout = Both! We’ve only dined in, but they were churning out to-go orders too
Favorite Dish = Corned Beef Tongue Reuben Sandwich, Cheese & Charcuterie Board
This neighborhood butcher shop/cafe combo is as cute and delicious as they come. Don’t let the fancy name fool you--Bavette indeed has some fancy charcuterie boards, but their vibrant and fun decor, approachable vibe, and unique flavor combos in their sandwiches, soups, salads, and entrees make this a fun and tasty lunch spot for anyone and any palette!
Possibly the coolest part about Bavette, though, is how consciously they source their meat and other ingredients from local farms--it’s a complete local-farm-to-local-table experience. They have complete animal traceability for everything in their meat counter AND on their rotating menu, and the chef hand-picks a selection of Wisconsin meats, cheeses, jams, vinegars, wines and more to sell at the cafe. So, if you want to feel good about what you’re putting into your body AND where it comes from, visit Bavette--you’ll leave with a full belly and a handful of delicious local goodies every time!
Bavette is well-known for their unique cheese & charcuterie boards, and Christian and I loved trying all the different flavor pairings (see pic). We’ve also tried some of the sandwiches, soups, and snacks from their dine-in menu, and can’t rave about them enough! If you’re having trouble deciding, go with the Corned Beef Tongue Reuben, the BBQ Pork with Cabbage-Apple Slaw, the Potato Salad, and the Smoked Trout Deviled Eggs--but definitely be sure to stop back specifically for a cheese & charcuterie plate!
Type of Food = a little bit of everything from a bunch of different local vendors, from Thai to Vegan to Seafood and more
Dine-in / Takeout = Both! Some places have a few bar spots or tables, but there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating across the market if you want to just order to-go.
Green Kitchen = there’s a million-person line here every day for lunch, but with made-to-order salads, juices, and sandwiches/wraps from the freshest ingredients available, it makes sense--everyone on any diet can find something they love here. I’ve had everything from the Buffalo Chicken salad to the Asian Sesame Wrap, but I’ve literally gone out of my way to visit the Market just for their Balsamic Chicken grilled sammie (see pic)!
On-The-Bus = this vegan sandwich, smoothie + mini-grocery spot is shaped like a retro BMW wagon, and the food options are just as fun! They’ve got some creative sandwiches, plus great avocado toast and smoothie options if you’re just looking for a snack. We definitely aren’t vegans, but love the unique flavor combos (that “I can’t believe this isn’t bacon” comment happens frequently)--Christian likes the Breakfast Bagel, and I like the Portobello Truffle!
Foltz Family Market = this family-owned Milwaukee Public Market staple has something for everyone! They have a wide assortment of fresh gourmet sandwiches and grilled paninis, as well as a big stone-fired oven for their delicious pizzas and calzones (see pic). I haven’t tried their true specialty yet--hand-made sausages and burgers! On top of all that, they have a looong deli counter filled with freshly made take-home options, like pasta salad mixtures, meatballs, stuffed peppers, desserts and more!
Aladdin’s Taste of the East = this is the spot for all your Middle-Eastern-inspired favorites, especially falafel, samosas (yum), and authentic plates like shakshuka, tikka masala, and lentil soups. But I also really like the custom-order pita and bowl options, where you can mix and match your favorite flavors. One of their specialty bowls--the Green & Grain Bowl--is my fave, and it’s FILLING.
Type of Food = American diner-style (great for breakfast!)
Dine-in / Takeout = Both, but dine-in if possible, it’s a great old-school diner experience
Favorite Dish = Spinach + Feta Omelette
Ok, I’ve only been to Ma Fischer’s once (I can hear the disappointment in your sigh), but what. a. BREAKFAST! This is everything you want in your late-night meal after a night of drinking, or in a hangover brunch--a large, greasy skillet or platter of meat-and-cheese-and-potato goodness. They’ve been a staple on the Ease Side of Milwaukee since 1932, and it’s easy to see why--they’ve got a full menu of classic diner brunch/lunch/dinner specials served 24/7 (although they might currently have reduced hours due to COVID), which means giant plates at a great price.
We went for brunch, and it was everything I wanted--a giant omelette + fruit + toast for me, and a big greasy skillet + toast for Christian, with constant refills of bitter coffee from a waiter running around with a brew-pot (and those little ceramic dishes with the half-and-half creamers, of course!). The food was amazing but I’d honestly return for the atmosphere--most of the seating is old-school booths, the floor is checkered tile, there’s a glass case with spinning pies and desserts, and you pay your handwritten check at the front counter. The staff is nice but constantly on the move, meaning your food isn’t just diner-cheap, but diner-fast too.
I’m convinced you can find something you like on the huge menu, but I’d definitely recommend a skillet (you’ll drool when you see the Hangover Skillet) or an omelette!
Type of Food = Italian, Pasta/Pizza
Dine-in / Takeout = Both, but it’s a lovely and chic dine-in experience
Favorite Dish = Arrabiata pasta, Biancellino pizza
Nestled right in the middle of busy Brady Street (aka, plenty of nearby spots for pre- and post-dinner drinks), Dorsia is a perfect spot for date night! It has very modern, upscale, and artsy decor but a laid-back vibe, with a HUGE wine selection to accompany all the unique pasta dishes. And the pasta spans from the more acquired/adventurous palettes (Duck Carbonara, Lobster Mac, Arrabiarta, you get it) to the most simple, but deeeelish lasagna or alfredo.
Can’t decide which pasta to try? Dorsia’s perfect for you, because they’re known for their pasta flights! Literally, they’re giant wooden boards with 2, 3, 4 (or more, if you’re really feeling it) heaping piles of pasta. But their pizzas are worth trying too, and no worries if you’re the only pizza fan in the crowd--they come in 9”, 12”, or 16” so you can share or have all by yourself!
I do need to try some of their other menu items like the sandwiches and desserts and brunch, but every time I go, the pasta is just too great to pass up! My recommended meal is the Burrata Bruschetta as a starter, the Biancellino for pizza, or ANY of the pastas for dinner. May as well try a flight next time you’re there--that’s what to-go boxes are for, right?
*NOTE - I literally ate my pasta flight and pizza so fast both times I've visited that I don't even have a pic to show for it!
Type of Food = Bar Food with a German flair
Dine-in / Takeout = Both (and a great little back patio with picnic tables)
Favorite Dish = Any of the Specialty Brats, Tiger-Style Wings
Milwaukee Brat House has my vote for the best bar food in downtown Milwaukee (don’t worry Steny’s, you still win in the Walker’s Point neighborhood!). And that’s saying something, because between Water St, Old World Third St, Brady St, and all the other popular downtown streets, there’s a LOT of bars!
I’d categorize MBH as a sports bar--two floors with TVs in every line of sight, we’ve enjoyed MANY Packers, Brewers, and Bucks games there--but the menu has some more unique options than just your standard bar fare. Their wings are AMAZING (you’ve gotta try the Tiger sauce!), and their burgers, sandwiches/wraps, and apps are great (especially the Fritos Pie and the Cheese Curds), but where they really shine are in their crazy variety of specialty sausages! With 13 different flavor combos using local Usinger’s brats and hot dogs--plus a build-your-own-brat option--there’s a brat for everyone, including vegans with their Beyond Brat!
While we love The Southsider, The Milwaukee Dog, and The Chorizo Dog, we discovered the best option yet last time we were there--the Brat House Sausage Sampler, a platter of their four most popular sausages (with toppings!) and a pretzel roll (see pic)! But even better than the food is the atmosphere--with classic metallic ceilings, old-style wooden bars, cool Milwaukee/bar memorabilia, a free shuttle to literally every sporting event, and some of the world’s most efficient and friendly staff, you can’t go wrong spending an afternoon or night at MBH!
Alright Milwaukee peeps, 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 this weekend for some of my other local faves from the last few months, especially coffee shops and breweries!