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Milwaukee 1st Visit Help

We will be travelling to Milwaukee in August to see the Mets play the Brewers as well as take in the Museums and State Fair. We will be arriving late on a Thursday and staying at the Pfister and I'm hoping for some hounds recommendations on...

Dinner after 10 on a Thursday night?
Anything in particular we should seek out at Miller Park?
What shouldn't be missed at the fair?
Should we try Raatzsch or Maders?
We won't have a car - would Coerpers 5 o'clock or Jakes still be worth visiting? We are NY's so we certainly have steak and pastrami at home.
I'm thinking of the Hi-Hat Lounge for Sunday Brunch - or should I rethink this?
Would a Friday Fish Fry be worth it and if so where?

Thank you all!

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  1. A couple suggestions - you could check with the desk at the Pfister to see what restaurants on Milwaukee st. might still be serving. One certainty, Elsa's will still be serving, sandwiches and burgers, but upscale sands. and burgers.

    Jake's would be a long cab ride. Others have raved about Coerpers, so I don't need to.

    I've heard the HiHat is good, haven't been. I've been to Ratzsch's recently but don't think it's as good as it used to be.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mike_d

      To follow up, sorry about my confusion about Jake's (there's a very good American restaurant, with an emphasis on steak that's way out in the western suburbs called, yes, Jake's).

    2. I hope you enjoy your visit. I'm not a local, but I visit Milwaukee often as my wife is from there.
      Here is what I can suggest:

      Dinner after 10: Brady on the East Side is likely your best for food that late, otherwise there might be some spots on Water Street still serving food. Hopefully there is a good mexican/C.A. joint open that late as that is one cuisine Milwaukee has some great options in.

      Miller Park: Have a Leinenkugels from the Leinie's Lodge. I think they still serve Johnsonville brats at Miller Park which I am not a fan of. However, since the sausage race is sponsered by Klement's, look for one of their brats. (Perhaps someone can set me straight on this, the brats at the dome are Hormel and they suck.)

      I have been to the Wiso State Fair twice, and it seemed like all of the food is made by the same food service company...burgers, brats, BBQ, all sorta generically similar etc. but that might be me. If you see Usinger's brats, get one, and make sure it was boiled in beer and onions first (add mustard, kraut, maybe some horseradish and onions)! I suppose fried cheese curds, but to be honest, they weren't very good at the fair. (Feel free to visit the MN State Fair if the Twins have a homestand with the Yanks in August next season, best cheese curds around, which is odd ;) ) I know they have curds in upstate NY so this might not be that much of a delicacy.

      I like Maders. It is solid German food, a bit pricey for Milwaukee, but with a cold stein and smoked pork loin, it's hard to go wrong.

      Jake's is not better than anything in NYC as far as we can tell (compared to Katz's, Ben's or Carnegie). The sandwiches are CONSIDERABLY less expensive at Jakes than at, say, Carnegie. We've made two trips and it is very good and definitely the best we've had in the midwest. One word of caution, and I mentioned this in a review, while leaving after our first visit we were not treated very well by other patrons when asking them politely to move so we could get to the door.

      I like Hi-Hat's brunch. The biscuits and gravy are good and my wife likes the stuffed french toast. Also, good (and pretty cheap) bloody marys. Also, if you haven't already been to the east side by this time, this will give you a chance to see Brady Street.

      A friday fish fry is definitely worth it. It is, for me, the quintessetial Milwaukee experience. While fish fry's can be found at restaurants in the city, may I recommend you go to a hall? Long banquet tables where you sit down and before you can get your drink order out (Old Fashions are our tradition) a hot basket of beer battered fish and fries is put in front of you. Rye bread is a must. Be warned however, Milwaukee hasn't instituted a smoking ban yet (bars, restaurants or halls), so be prepared for that. My highest recommendation goes to Clifford's (not in the city proper, but close).

      Also, hit up Kopps or Leon's for some frozen custard. I love the vanilla malt at Kopp's, both have several locations in the metro.

      Have a fun trip and GO BREW CREW! ;)

      1. If you're going to the fair then you have to get a cream puff. As for Miller Park, I usually suggest a brat with secret stadium sauce. Nothing mind blowing, but it's the local flavor. The best thing to do at Miller Park (other than the game) is walk around and take in the tailgating scene pre-game.

        1 Reply
        1. re: beerambassador

          Great call on the cream puffs! Also, the flavored milks for $.25! 100% unique.

        2. Don't forget to have some Kringle...a must when you're in Wisconsin.

          1 Reply
          1. re: willhike4food

            For late night (post 10pm eats) I can't recommend anywhere in Milwaukee more highly than Conejito's. It's a Mexican dive (home made comidas on paper plates, $2 beers) and it's always lively. It can be tricky to find...it's right @ the end of a long bridge (6th Street?) out of the west part of downtown.

            For Sunday brunch, if you get good weather I would recommend Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro followed by a stroll around the park w/ great views of the Lake.

          2. In addition to the cream puffs and the milk at State Fair (Root Beer flavoured milk! Whooda thunkit? Get a chocolate and a peanut butter and mix them together!), get an ear of roasted corn on the cob. I like to go early and have breakfast at the fair. There is at least one place that has all you can eat pancakes, but I like the potato pancakes from the Polish restaurant stand (Polenez?). I also have greatly enjoyed the lamb sandwich at Rupena's.

            If somehow the food at the fair does not do it for you, right across Greenfield Avenue from State Fair Park is a bar call TomKen's which advertises "friendly fried chicken". This may well be the best nearly unknown fried chicken on the planet. OK, maybe that's a little bit of hyperbole, but I really dont understand why this place isnt talked about more, unless it's that Milwaukee Chowhounds are keeping it to themselves.

            The High Hat has an excellent Sunday Brunch. Others may recommend Lake Park Bistro, and it is very good but very expensive, and is too much of a (Milwaukee's version of a) B&T crowd for my own taste. But you might also want to consider Sunday Brunch at the Hubbard Park Lodge in the nearby suburb of Shorewood. They have a website, but unfortunately no menus are posted.

            Coerper's is my own favourite Milwaukee steak house, but it is not a place to go if you have anything planned that you have to be on time for afterwards. The food is first rate though.

            As for late night on a Thursday, and depending on what you are up for, there is Real Chili on East Wells St, not at all far from your hotel. I dont think they are open 24/7 anymore, but I'm sure they are open quite late.

            Serb Hall is generally considered to have the quintessential Milwaukee Friday Night Fish Fry, but it's way off my own beaten path, and I've never had it myself. I'm sure some others can weigh in as to whether it's worth the cab ride or not.

            Enjoy your visit!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Fydeaux

              I can attest to the fish fry at Serb Hall. I thought it is very good, but according to my inlaws, it has gone downhill over the past few years. HOWEVER, it does offer that hall experience and is a great throwback. I liked it and I think the beers were $1.

            2. Late dinner is tough in MKE...go to Elsas , the Knick, or I think Cubanitas serves late. All an easy walk from the Pfister. I lake Ratzshes because the last time I looked at the Maders menu it had some sad attempts to modernize in a California fusion way which is so not cool ina traditional German restaurant. Go to Ratzches and one of you should probably order some type of braised shank (goose or pork, you can't go wrong). Another nice place within walking distance is the County Clare, it's like an Irish Pub. For a fish fry you can walk to try Turner Hall, or for better atmosphere but a longer walk, the Palm Garden at teh Lakefront Brewery. Neither would qualify as best in the city but they're OK and close. Just so you know, you can't just walk outside and get a cab here like you can in New York so you may want to stay close to the Pfister.

              1. I forgot to say...the corned beef here is different than at your New York Jewish deli. It is cooked until very tender and sliced much thicker, and most always served warm. It's pretty delish. Jakes is good, as is McBobs (on North Ave around 50th st), but both in cruddy neighborhoods.

                1. There is a new restaurant that just opened and I believe they serve late night, Water Buffalo, on the river at Buffalo and Water. I believe Kil@wat also serves late in the Intercontinental Hotel on Kilbourn and Water. The Metro Bar and Cafe serves until 11 on Sat. Metro has also recently opened a rooftop bar that is pretty neat. Yanni's is a great restaurant , their menu highlights steak, but if you go make sure to get the crab cake appetizer...outstanding.

                  At State Fair I'd make sure to get a pork loin sandwich, very good. Cheese curds from the stand that has the big mouse on top. There is also a Micro brew tent that serves up a lot of Wisconsin's micro brews. Rupena's serves a chicken roast that is also good.

                  You won't have a problem hailing a cab downtown, Milwaukee has joined the big leagues and cabs are just about everywhere downtown. I am able to get one at any time from just about any street downtown.

                  1. I would suggest you rent a car - they're super-cheap in MKE and, except for the never-ending construction, it's pretty easy to get around - this will open up a world of possibilities, like Three Brothers for Serbian, Trocadero for late night French 'plates' - they serve til midnight, Hubbard Park someone has mentioned, get you to the game & the fair. Do check out the Milwaukee Public Market for local specialties and enjoy both the bars at the Pfister - super plush and great views from the roof top Blu. I'm jealous - when my daughter was younger, we always went back to visit the grandparents during Fair time. Now that she's 16... Oh, and the Coquette Cafe and Harlequin Bakery are both good too!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: torta basilica

                      the best single dish in milwaukee is the burek @ 3 brothers

                      1. re: g rote

                        I'll second that! I'm planning another trip to Milwaukee just so I can eat some spinach burek at the Three Brothers. (And some good custard, of course.)


                    2. Ratzsch's for the food, Mader's for the tourists. 3-Brothers is a great place and the burek is superb.

                      1. Ratzsch yes, Maders no! (for the reasons outlined above.)

                        Serb Hall's fish fry has gone downhill big time. I was there 4 months ago and every piece of perch was identical, probably purchased frozen. Not good.

                        Pubs are a big part of the local scene, and I am partial to McBob's Friday fish fry on 41st and North Ave. Get the potato pancakes! You might want to catch a cab to get there.


                        Also, you might want to find out what festival is going on at the Meyer Festival Grounds out on the lake.

                        Enjoy Milwaukee. It's a great city.

                        1. Being a true Milwaukean, I love downtown Milwaukee. You will find everything you need within a 30 min. walking radius.
                          If you are around on Thursday check out Jazz in the Park on Cathedral Square. (Bring you Picnic Basket from the goodies you bought from the Milwaukee Public Market!)
                          Dinner after 10 I recommend NOT going to Water St. the 20-somethings already began their weekend. I suggest going to Third Ward area for late dinners. Yes, Water Buffalo is a good one. Or try Palms or the Wicked Hop.
                          The Fair: Don't miss the pig races, cream puffs, the WI made building (save your appetite for this one) and the birthing barn, those are my favs.
                          If you want good German liveliness head to Old World 3rd St. for the Old German Beer Hall! Buy a couple nails and play the game in the back corner.
                          I suggest Trocadero's for brunch, but Hi-Hat is good too.
                          Don't forget Altera on the Lake for Coffee and a stroll on the Riverwalk.

                          As for Miller Park...my specialty... TAILGATE! you can join me! I'll bethere one of those days for sure! Tailgaters are usually very friendly and love to share! and Don't miss the Sausage Race! Go Hot dog! GO CREW!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: JBostwick

                            People are on to something here. Try the typical Milwaukee things.
                            Try a real brat. I would go early to the Brewer's game and stroll around the tailgating scene and I'm sure one of us nice Milwaukeeans will offer you one.
                            At the State Fair for sure try the cream puffs and roasten corn and see the pig races.
                            I'd go to eithe Raatches or Maders, both are good.
                            3-Brothers is a must, listen to these people.
                            Frozen custard also typical. Kopps or Kitts are excellent. May be tricky without a car.
                            A Friday fish fry is a must, as is a Brewery tour. Kill two birds with one stone at the Lakefront brewery. It's a "hall" and a brewery, you'll get a tour, and maybe not the most typical fish fry, but there is nothing wrong with a fish fry inside a brewery.
                            Have fun.

                            1. re: thebelly

                              Thank you all for so much great information! I can't begin to tell you how excited I will be to see the Sausage Race in person and I promise to report back.

                              Thanks again to everyone!

                          2. Thanks to all of the great chowhound advice we had a fabulous time in Milwaukee!

                            Miller Park is a great stadium, we didn't get there as early as we would have liked but we were amazed at the tailgating scene. Had an OK brat and a really good margarita.

                            The fair was amzing, we caught the pig races, fried cheese curds, sheboygan brat, usingers polish sausage, cream puffs and a number of other treats. We loved the made in wisconsin area and were completely blown away by the cream puffs. I wish we had fried cheese curds in NY.

                            We chose Raatzsch's for our German dinner which was wonderful, that quality German food just isn't available near us, the smoked pork loin was really out of this world as were the usingers hungarian sausage starter - the red cabbage and sauerkraut were some of the best I've ever had. We tried to make it to Usingers store but they had closed - i may have to order their sausage online it was excellent.

                            We did Lakefront Brewery for our fish fry. Lakefront was just a great scene and we really liked the perch, pancakes and ESB Organic. We wanted to try McBobs but we were being a bit frustrated by transportation at that moment.

                            Our last day we ended up having the champagne brunch at the pfister simply for the convenience, it was fine but I'm just nort a huge of those big hotel brunches, the room and service however was really lovely.

                            The pubs we tried were terrific and Blu was great for a nitecap (even with an iffy crowd).

                            We are already looking to bring friends back next year! Thanks again for all of the great feedback.