HOME > Chowhound > General Midwest Archive >


Milwaukee Looking for new ideas

I've been to Milwaukee several times but somehow get the feeling its best chow is eluding me. Can anyone help?

Particular things I wonder about:
-local whitefish
-local smoked whitefish
- meat/fowl (lamb & duck/goose)
-places unlikely to be found in popular guide books etc. but excellent to try
-Wisconsin breakfast as it should be done
- always 24-hour diner type places

Any hints on general geography ("NW side for this or that ethnicity" etc.)

I fondly also remember stumbling into one of the uncountable neighborhood bars where they played nothing but Wagner and had impressive beer selections. If only I could find that place again. Wagner & suds works well for me.

Anyway mainly looking for something that will enable us to latch on to the real food locals savor.

Thanks a bunch.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hi,
    I really like Yaffa. It's downtown on Wells st. http://www.yaffalounge.com/ It's middle eastern influenced. Love the dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon, great lamb, duck... Interesting drinks ginger mojitos etc.
    Have fun!

    1. Here is a recent thread that highlights some restaurants and areas;
      I can't really say particular geographical areas are known for certain cuisines. There is a high concentration of Mexican restaurants on the near south side, 5th Ward. There are Serbian and Polish restaurants on the south side too. German restaurants are throughout as well as Italian.
      24 hour diners are abundant , for some reason Milwaukee has a lot of Greek family style restaurants that are open 24 hours. Ma Fischers on the east side is a favorite late night/early morning destination.
      Do you remember what part of town you stumbled into and found your Wagner and suds place? That may help to narrow it down.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Living4fun

        Thank you. "Greek Diner" is music to my (ex East Coast) ears. :-)

        As I recall the Wagner (mind's eye only) it is on the south of downtown although I cannot say whether also south of the airport (but I think maybe just North or South thereof). I can visualize a very wide street with brick old houses along both sides, some of which (duh!) are bars. You parked on the street right outside.

        I seem to recall having to climb up a set of steps so the houses/bar may have old-fashioned steps up to them.

        The bar was along the right wall as you walked in (this is not a huge place) and there was a sort of "self serve" cooler with all sorts of beer exotica on the left (far left) wall as you went in. There may have been a back room maybe that was a dining room at night. I recall scant eats: but a bologna sandwich was rustled up. (Maybe this was a Sunday prior to catching a flight home.) Maybe a staircase on the right past the bar as well. Up or down? Maybe down to the "facilities." Not sure.

        I am not sure that there was not also a railroad nearby. That I may be dreaming. As you looked out you woul dbe looking east towards the lake. I am pretty sure of that. But it was a very residential are in feel except for these businesses. Farther to the south (north?) you ran into more industrial warehouse areas.

        On this topic,. rather than a quest for the Holy Grail (Wagnerian joke) recaptured, are there any bars you can instantly feel at home in and never want to leave that you might recommend. I like the Wisconsin habit of "light & airy" bars (even with kids about) with windows and looking out versus any dark and claustrophic watering holes.

        This was a nice place.

        I keep vowing to keep a "little black book" with me at all times to jot down the names and locations of such places. One always tends to think one's memory will stand up but absent 10 years (this was since I was there) the memory goes.

        Thanks a lot.


        1. re: bishopsbitter

          And as I think about it I think it had a verandah or at least a little patio area out front with a couple of tables. I think that's where the kids were hanging out with their parents.

          Those who have not contemplated "The Ring" as good drinking music need to load up a Bayreuth CD and chug a few. I guarantee it's a good combination.

          1. re: bishopsbitter

            Hmmm, thanks for the great description, I'm going to have to think about this for a bit. Hopefully I can help you out on this one.
            Neighborhood bars are abundant in Milwaukee. A bar and church on every block, so it seems. There is a great bar in the Bay View area called The Palomino,2491 S. Superior St.,Milwaukee, WI 53207. They serve good food and they also have live music. Their Sunday brunch is very good.

          2. re: bishopsbitter

            It was Zur Krone [sic?] on the near south side, I bet. While there's probably lots of places with good beer on tap, Von Trier on the corner of Farwell and North (east side) has a good beer selection on tap. No food. Lot's of places nearby. A search with east side will turn up a bunch

            1. re: mike_d

              EUREKA - That was it. The name is instantly ringing bells.
              In fact I found
              I was right about the steps, and the "verandah" in summer must have been tables on the sidewalk only.
              But . . . CLOSED. Why does this keep happening to me!!!!!?????

              1. re: bishopsbitter

                Zur Krone is closed but in its place is a great restaurant called Crazy Water. The Chef cooks everything right behind the bar area.


                Crazy Water
                839 S 2nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53204

        2. Omega on 27th & Morgan is, IMO, the best 24 hour Greek/diner place in the city. Beats Ma Fischer's food by a mile. Only in Milwaukee will you find dinner specials that include entree, soup or salad, dessert, AND BEER.

          My favorite Mexican is Riviera Maya in Bay View (2200 ish block of S. Kinnickinnic.) Much more of a true restaurant experience as opposed to the Walkers Point places, which are more of a loud cantina type atmosphere. They have six mole sauces--out of this world.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MilwaukeeChow

            After Singalong Sound of Music concludes at the Cabot / Skylight theater (guilty confession that is partly why we are going to MKE! unrequited goatherd (not goat cheese: chevre is not my cuppa tea) obsession~ http://www.singalonga.net/usa/index.html !) Omega has our name on it for a late dinner. Thanks!

          2. Just got back from a dog show at Oconomowoc (about an hour west of Milwaukee) - had great German food at Schwerfels - liver dumpling soup, sauerbraten and strawberry schaum - big lunch menu. Also had dinner at Wisconsin's oldest restaurant "Zak's Pleasant Valley Inn" in West Allis WI ( 414-321-4321) - great historical building, great food; it was lobster night but we chose the duck and the halibut - great ambiance, comfortable chairs, nice service and A+++ food. I had one of their speciality cocktails Brandy something and lived to tell the tale. Definitely worth the detour as Michelin would say.

            1. Not probably found in a guidebook, but excellent is Emperor of China. It has blasted the restaurants I have tried in the Chicago area out of the water with its Chinese cuisine.


              1. Trip report

                Thanks to all for the great suggestions. It was a good trip.

                First dinner was at (no surprise) Karl Ratzch’s preceded by cocktails at a place caddy corner to it. A boutique hotel with an art deco theme and name which escapes me. But it was a pleasant venue for drinks. They also had a fair dinkum-looking pasta bar all-u-can-eat for $7 or so. Pasta cooked to order. There was a bit of intrigue when I requested to buy 1 all-you-can-eat in order to get a few nibbles (which I love with drinks) but they seemed to think this was a plot to defraud them into us both (my wife & I) gorging ourselves silly for the price of 1. I assured them (but they took some convincing) that I was quite willing to pay $7.95 for about 3 biscuits and a couple pieces of salami. And that’s what I had but their attitude of suspicion I could have lived without.

                Ratzch’s I had been to before. There’s nothing not to like. Even the prices are not too exotic (although we added on a very nice champagne which bumped it up). What I did notice on a Thursday night is that the clientele seemed 100% out-of-town business crowd. This I don’t like on general principle as something must be wrong if the locals are not in evidence. But the décor was good. My goose shank, quite good if not brilliant. My wife’s goulasch, not quite so dandy. A very slight hint that it had scorched. But the smoked salmon pate was a standout appetizer. In previous visits I seemed to recall matjes herring but wither I am dreaming or it’s now gone from the menu.

                Breakfast next morning at Ma Fischer’s. It was good but nothing drastically noteworthy.

                Best meal of the trip was a Saturday lunch at Kegel’s Inn (5901 W. National Ave.). This is a place made in heaven in my book. Charming and 100% unstuffy atmosphere, lovely dining rooms with old-world touches galore (including stained glass) and top-hole bar with vampire-busting sun-light in evidence. We both had the regular fish fry and had to order “another round” of fish. Very good. But the best find was when I spotted people at the bar with elegant (and huge) ½ L tulip glasses of good-looking beer. I ordered these and these weiss beers which arrived were superb with an aromatic “nose” akin to wine! Unusual for me to like light, lager-style, beer. But this was great beer and perfect with fish with a lemon slice.

                Late dinner was at Paul’s Omega Diner (27th & Morgan) and this was AOK. Nothing can revitalize a late night appetite like a greek salad and gyros plate. The tomatoes. The onions. The salad dressing & feta. It is a great late-night choice. Not that sure about their habit of (‘after [x] o’clock’) whopping on a mandatory 15% service charge on the ticket even for 2 persons. I can sort of see that drunks may stagger in, be pesky to serve, and omit to leave any tip, but still. It was a bit too “socialistic” for my liking. I never stiff waitresses or waiters and their net was a loss by making the service mandatory as 15% was less than I would normally have left.

                Breakfast the next morning as Miss Katies diner. This one is overlooking the big casino (quite a good casino). A pleasant sunny spot for breakfast but VERY LIMITED menu. Also I ordered “country ham” and I hate this when I discover that “country ham” is not “country” ham at all but “country” only applies vaguely to ham vaguely being a product of a farmscape, not that it is hacked off a huge edifice from Kentucky and salty & tasty as hell. Overally can’t enthuse about Miss K’s. Memo to self: must order some country ham!

                Lunch was at the Milwaukee Ale House. Their cask-conditioned ale was irritating as it was obviously very well made but a very sweet porter impossible to drink much of unless you had a palate of a 5 year-old, which few beer drinkers do. I ended up doing Frankenstein experiments with ½ of that mixed with their (fairly awful) non-cask bitter. The food was nothing to write home about but that was not the reason for going. Service was good at the bar.

                Dinner was skipped following The Sound of Music. The singalong sound of Music was marred by people laughing not “with” but “at:” this epic of cinema  Also a fairly naff sound system. But the True Faithful of Juliedom also voiced up quite well at times.

                Breakfast (farewell one) back at Paul’s Omega. A darned good breakfast was had. Paul’s cakes & pies also demand attention in their sugary splendor at the cases up front.

                Milwaukee has good eats. It really does.

                Kegel’s Inn though is the place of them all I would head back to on a regular basis.

                Thanks for reading.