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Jun 3, 2008 12:33 PM

first time in milwaukee

headed to milwaukee this coming sunday through tuesday for a conference and looking for food advice. we are staying at the ambassador hotel (2308 W. Wisconsin Ave at N. 23rd) but will be spending a fair amount of time on marquette's campus.

anything in the area or close by that shouldn't be missed? any good cheap student places?

thanks in advance!

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  1. Try Coquette Cafe on Milwaukee St.- not really walking distance, but not much is from the Ambassador. A nice french bistro-ish place with things like french onion soup, coq au vin and grilled hanger steak. Not too pricy, either- I remember entrees in the lower teens? The Ambassador is a fun place- a great old Art Deco-era hotel that was redone a few years ago. The rooms are a little small by modern standards, but well furnished. It's in a neigborhood that's either coming or going, hard to say. The Cafe in the hotel is a nice place to start the day, with good baked goods (brought in, but good quality). Have a great trip, and be sure to hit the park on the lake down by the art museum!

    Coquette Cafe
    316 N Milwaukee St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

    1. I love the Ambassador hotel! I've stayed there twice. What a great classic. But I haven't discovered any great food in the immediate area - it seems to be all fast-food chains. (Would love to learn differently.)

      If you have a car, I'd go for classic Milwaukee food - brats & beer, a Friday fish fry, custard - many recommendations on this board (mine is that I prefer Leon's to Kopp's). Other chowish places that I've read about, but haven't tried, are Jake's Pastrami, Speed Queen BBQ, and Real Chili. See these threads:

      If you like Indian food, I recommend Bombay Sweets for cheap, filling, delicious vegetarian dishes and snacks. But you'll definitely need a car to get here.

      If you don't have a car, take a bus downtown (they run often - during weekdays, at least) for places like Cubanita's. See these threads for downtown ideas:

      And definitely go to the Milwaukee Public Market - it's a bit yuppy/touristy, but there are great browsing and noshing possibilities. I love the fish place at the far end.


      1. The Ambassador Hotel has a restaurant called Envoy. I haven't been there but friends have a nd raved about it. Might as well check out the menu as long as you are staying there.

        Too bad you are missing out on downtown dining week it ends this week $10 lunches and $20 dinners at specific restaurants. There is a great selection of places.

        Envoy Restaurant & Lounge
        2308 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53233

        1. Hey there,
          Grew up in Milwaukee, moved back after years in San Francisco = foodie paradise. I was skeptical at first, but eventually came to realize that compared to other Midwestern cities of its size, Milwaukee is miles ahead in the restaurant biz...Well, ok, Madison may have it beat as far as ethnic restaurants are concerned...

          I must respectfully advise that you avoid Coquette Cafe. Owned by the same people that own Sanford's (the tasting menu-y type of place in Milwaukee), it just doesn't measure up. Went there several times and each time was met with poor service and bland, uninspired food. I have never been in a French restaurant where a waitress refuses to bring more than one pat of butter for a table of 7. Really? Because the French are so anti-butter? Also, the disco mirror ball and blaring music from the Arthur Murray dance studio across the street...Not the greatest ambiance ever....Went there for med school graduation dinner and was embarrassed about the food and the service, I really wish I hadn't brought the fam there for the occasion.

          So I have to say that I am pretty snooty about food and drink, but here's what I loved when I was there, (I now live in Ann Arbor: where good food goes to die)

          Comet Cafe on Farwell and Irving: great diner with amazing beer selection, non-smoking, the Buttafuco is awesome; everything is. This is my absolute favorite restaurant. I'm talking favorite, like I like it better than any Michelin star place than I have eaten at. Seriously.

          Down the street on Farwell near Brady: Zaffiro's pizza. Old school Laverne and Shirley type of place with thin crust pizza cut into squares. You know the kind.

          Just down the street on Brady: Dog Haus. Best Italian beef sandwich north of Mr. Beef in Chicago. This would be my last meal before death. I hear that there is one in the Marquette area now.

          Trocadero: Pearson and Water St. French bistro with great wine list and nice specials and a nice outdoor seating area. Plus, they bring you butter when you ask instead of being bitchy.

          A fun bar you might like is Von Trier on North and Farwell - German, with antler chandeliers, nice beer garden, a pretty back room that looks like any restaurant in Munich, and it's pretty quiet.

          Coerper's 5 o 'clock club at State and 24th. Best steakhouse north of Kinzie chophouse in Chicago, and you get a ridiculous amount of food for the price. This place is awesome.

          As others are mentioning, the bar and restaurant in the newly spiffed up Ambassador are supposed to be nice. Classic Art Deco, but without all the trashy surgery residents like you run into at Cafe Metro (I hear).

          Not a fan of Cubanitas, I find their food bland and they can't even make mojitos, but that's a personal thing for me. Others seem to like it though, so maybe I am weird.

          Fish Fry at Turner's Hall would be cool and you MUST go on the Lakefront Brewery tour!!! It's the greatest!

          If you are downtown, Karl Ratzch's is a much better German restaurant than Mader's.

          I would avoid anything on Milwaukee St. high on pretense and atmosphere, low on taste and quality. Saketumi is ok I guess if you like fancy rolls with lots of sauce.

          If you are splurging, the Lake Park bistro is great.

          Will you have a car? What type of restaurants/bars do you like? Everything is busable, let me know if you have any ?s I can tell you which buses to hop on. If you have a car, I have another long list of places that you might like. Everything I mentioned except Lake Park is really cheap, I went there as a student. A lot of what I mentioned is by the lakefront, which is really nice. Try to visit it and get away from the Marquette area if you have the time. The suggestions others made are great too, museum, public market, etc.

          4 Replies
          1. re: beardofbees

            Just checking on your opinion - the Dogg Haus' beef is better than Glorioso's?

            1. re: beardofbees

              I agree that nothing was ground-breaking at Coquette Cafe, but it sounds like we had different experiences there. My rec came mostly from the excellent service I got- the waiter was great with suggestions and we talked about ingredients and preparations. They even did a special batch of pomme frites with duck fat for me. I guess it's all the luck of the draw. The Arthur Murray dance studio across the street was seen and not heard, providing visual interest in the form of tortured boyfriends being forced to foxtrot. I was traveling on business and dining alone, so it was a welcome diversion.
              If I had the same experience you did, I wouldn't have mentioned the place. I guess they are a little inconsistent. The OP will have to consult the menu and call ahead to be sure they can get all the butter they may desire, and check the playlist at the Arthur Murray.

              1. re: lagniappe

                I have to pile on about avoiding Coquette Cafe. Chintzy wine pours. Bad timing of delivery of plates to the table (not even halfway through first course when second one arrived -- and the place was not busy at all, and I was a party of one).

              2. re: beardofbees

                No car and with a group that might be less inclined to take a bus somewhere out of the way. I love public transportation, though, and would be willing to venture out on my own.

                Thanks for the tip about the lakefront. It doesn't seem too, too far away from the Ambassador so hopefully I can get over there at least once on this trip.

                Thank you all for the great recs and ideas!

              3. If you have a car , you have so many options. Even if you don't cabs are also readily available. One place that we highly recommend is the Hinterland Gastro Pub in the Third Ward. I'd also suggest checking out the Milwaukee Public Market. Not huge , but has quite a few vendors and they are very friendly with quite a bit of variety.

                Here is a thread with more suggestions:

                Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub
                222 E Erie Street, Suite 100, Milwaukee, WI 53202

                2 Replies
                1. re: Living4fun

                  Cool! Is that place new-ish? What did you like best there? I will have to check that place out. I wonder what else is new or that I totally missed (I moved a year ago). Thanks Living4fun

                  1. re: beardofbees

                    Hinterland opened up last fall. They have two other restaurants, one in Green Bay and the other in Door County--Fish Creek(DC is called Whislting Swan). The Hinterland brews their own beer but they are not a brew pub. They have a back lounge that is small plates and the main dining room is fine dining. I haven't had anything that disappointed me. Here is a link to a recent journal review: