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Aug 30, 2007 06:54 PM


What's the food and food culture like in Milwaukee? My wife and I have been discussing moving there so that she can work on her thesis. We both adored New York and I'm especially enamored with it, so I'm a little cautious of moving to a city that's not a, well, "celebrity" city so to speak (LA, Boston, Miami, Seattle etc.). I'm trying to feel the place out a bit and a CH search only yields a post about Kosher restaurants there.

Any ChowHounders live there now or frequent the area? What's the feel food-wise? I'm not just thinking restaurants, but markets and classes and Food-centric volunteer operations (ala City Harvest), for example.

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  1. I am not a Milwaukee resident - I live 80 miles south of there - but I'll pass along a few thoughts. Milwaukee has a nice restaurant scene, with a wide variety in many different types of cuisine, price categories, etc., everything from fine dining (including Sanford, one of the top restaurants in the Midwest) to frozen custard and brats. One media resource you might want to take a look at is the searchable restaurant listings and reviews in the Journal-Sentinel, their largest newspaper, at www.jsonline.com/index/index.aspx?id=126 Their annual articles on the "best restaurants" and "best new restaurants" have been insightful. Unfortunately, their excellent restaurant reviewer, Dennis Getto, passed away earlier this month, and he will be missed. Milwaukee Magazine occasionally has some good dining write-ups as well, at www.milwaukeemagazine.com Milwaukee has a very nice public market, which you can read about on its website at http://milwaukeepublicmarket.org

    I have no idea what a "celebrity city" is - is that one of those "New York concepts"? ;) Also, I'm not sure why you say a CH search only yields a post about Kosher restaurants there. I did a search on "Milwaukee" on this forum and found 95 topics, and that was the standard search for topics in the past year. Granted, a few of them were not related to food in Milwaukee, but most of them were.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy

      In my infinite wisdom, I'm pretty sure I spelled it wrong when I did my search. When I say "celebrity" city, I sort of think of A-list cities. I don't know how else to explain that, it's already a pretentious idea without my trying to defend it. Thanks for the resources! It makes me feel a little less cold to the idea.

    2. I live in a 'Celebrity' beach city in California & go to LA a lot & still have a blast in Milwaukee. Trocadero, the Social, Sanford, the bar the the Inter-Continental, both bars at the Pfister, the City Market, Sendick's, one of the best grocery stores in the world... Milwaukee has a lot to offer, considering it's size. Plus, there's always Chicago just an hour south, but enjoy Milwaukee first!

      1. I remember a quote from Calvin Trillin in which when asked why he lived in New York City, he replied "because we like to eat out a lot." As far as Milwaukee is concerned, you would want an additional reason to live here. But you can still do very well eating out a lot.

        Restaurants in Milwaukee will run the entire gamut of levels of quality from sublime to rediculous, just like pretty much any place else. With the exception of what I would consider some of your more 'esoteric' African and Asian cuisines (I am not personally aware of any restaurants featuring Sri Lankan or Botswanan food, but I could be wrong), you will find the restaurants of Milwaukee to be extremely diverse. There is no KoreaTown or Curry Hill here, but there are Korean and Indian restaurants that will stand up proudly.The chefs and the cooks of our restaurants are as inventive as anywhere, and as familiar as your mom.

        There are weekend farmer's markets (seasonal, naturally) on every side of town, in addition to co-ops. Food-related voluteer programs are also present.

        As far as food shopping is concerned, if the high end werent already well represented by the homegrown Sendik's, Graasch's, and V. Richard's, there is also Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and Fresh Market. I have heard tell of a Costco coming to the area. But there's also Glorioso's, Mercado El Rey, Cam Rahn Bay, The Kosher Meat Club, the Slovenian sausage place on North Avenue (I cant remember the exact name) and all kinds of other local ethnic grocers.

        (On the definite downside, you would be really disappointed in the bagels available here, and knishes...dont get me started! But no place is perfect.)

        I'm not an oenophile, but I have an uncle from New York City who is, and loves to visit a couple of wine shops here that he says have items from some very exclusive wine auctions.

        So while you might not be able to simply walk down to the corner for some bi bim bop or blinis, you probably dont have to go too much further than that. And in many parts of town, you literally CAN walk to the corner for a cold beer and some friendly conversation. Tell us what you're hungry for; we'll help you find it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Fydeaux

          There's a Trader Joe's? SOLD. God, I miss TJ's.

          Thanks for the info, guys. I feel a little bit better about it now. I tried to do some cursory research and couldn't find much and got bummed out. Better to turn to the experts!

        2. You'll be fine in Milwaukee, food-wise. I just got back from a brief visit, during which I ate constantly and happily. It's turning into quite the eating town!

          I've had some great Indian food in Milwaukee (Bombay Sweets), and my favorite dish these days is the spinach burek from the Three Brothers Serbian Restaurant. Not to mention great smoked salmon (on-a-stick from the St. Paul Fish Company in the Public Market) and, of course, the most amazing custard in the universe (I'm dreaming of the pink cinnamon custard from Leon's last Thursday).

          Milwaukee has many strengths, like great beer, Friday fish fries, middle European food (German, Polish, Serbian), and that fabulous custard. Plus lots of authentic-looking Mexican taquerias and bakeries.

          And, for that big-city feel, take an occasional eating trip to Chicago.


          P.S. Other Milwaukee threads to check out:

          My first month in MKE

          Anything Chowish in Milwaukee?

          Milwaukee 1st Visit Help

          Milwaukee -- Report (way, way longer than necessary)

          1. Disclaimer: I live in the Chicago area and I love the restaurant and food scene here.

            As a Milwaukee attraction, several people have mentioned how close Chicago is to Milwaukee (90 miles, downtown to downtown, with easy connections by interstate highway, intercity train, etc). And it's indeed easy to travel between the two cities. I've occasionally thought of what it would be like if I lived in Milwaukee. I suspect that I, too, might move there thinking that I would often get back to Chicago for food shopping or for dining with one of the country's top chefs. But I'm also quite certain that, once I actually lived in Milwaukee and became more familiar with all the restaurants and food stores there, I would rarely bother traveling that 90 miles to Chicago for food (except maybe if I had friends there whom I also wanted to visit). And I can't think of a higher testament to the quality and variety of the food scene in Milwaukee than that.

            1 Reply
            1. re: nsxtasy

              I am from Milwaukee and visit frequently, currently live in Chicago, and also have lived in NYC. I love all places, and I must admit that after NYC Milwaukee will be very different. While it is changing rapidly, part of its very charm for many people is that it is decidedly not a "celebrity city," and people seem to like it that way.
              Food-wise, many of my favorite restaurants are in Milwaukee and this includes my favorite Thai, Pizza (sorry Chicago and NYC), Indian, Chinese...etc.
              And if you like beer, Milwaukee and WI in general is the place for you. I have friends from NYC visit every year, we go up to Wisconsin, and they have a blast. You can always think of it this way- with the money you'll save living in Milwaukee rather than NYC, you can eat like a king, and even travel more if you need that occasional escape.