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New to Milwaukee, looking for guidance

We will be moving to Milwaukee at the end of the summer and are looking for a plan of attack for finding our food niche. We currently live in St. Paul, MN and essentially live off Asian food. We eat dim sum a lot, Japanese, Chinese (esp. Szechuan), some Thai, plenty of Vietnamese/Hmong. There are good options for all of these cuisines in the twin cities. While we are not looking to recreate our lives here, we would like some leads on how to find some new favorites.
I understand that one can search the boards, but what I am hoping is that people will either point me to particularly good threads or post some blogs or suggestions. I am getting that Peony is the beginning and end of dim sum in Milwaukee, is that right?
Thanks in advance!

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  1. For Thai/Laotion, you'd be hard pressed to find better than EE-Sane on N. Farwell. (you'll also find several other ethnic places on the same block, Ethiopian, Turkish, Indian and Middle Eastern a few blocks up). The place is somewhat of a dump (but clean), but the food is incredible. Unfortunately, you're right, Peony is the only place I know of that does dim sum. However, many Chinese consider Fortune in Hales Corners to be very authentic. Be sure to ask for the actual Chinese menu, as there is a menu for non-Chinese people (sweet and sour/egg foo young, etc.) and one for Chinese people. Many locals also like Emperor of China on Brady St. You'll also find a few good Vietnamese places in town. Milwaukee is full of local gems that you'll have a great time finding and trying. I'll will admit though, I takes a little more effort in Milwaukee than it does in other cities, but there are great places. The suburbs can be a little sparse as far as good ethnic options, but the the city is great! When you get to town I would recommend picking up a copy of the Sheppard Express (the local free paper) as there is a weekly review of a different place. Chains are VERY rarely written up. You can also try onmilwaukee.com. Although I can't stand there reviews, it will give you an opportunity to see what's out there! Good luck!

    -----
    Emperor of China
    1010 E Brady St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

    1 Reply
    1. re: KoolWhip

      We did go to Fortune for our very Jewish Christmas. It was better than what we have had so far around here, which is admittedly not much for Chinese food. The salt and pepper squid was a little less flavorful than I like and the Ma Po Tofu was also a little bland. I wonder if you need to press them on really wanting spicy authentic food.

    2. Welcome to Milwaukee. This site may also be of some use to you:

      http://www.milwaukeefood.com/blog/

      If you can tell us what part of town you will be living in, we may be able to give you suggestions close to home.

      1. Alice - A few other spots you might be interested to check out would include MeeKong Cafe on West North Avenue (near Wauwatosa), which offers a nice selection of Laos, Thai and Vietnamese food (including a number of family recipes).
        http://mekong-cafe.com/default.aspx

        Nanakusa in the Third Ward (close to downtown) is a great place for sushi and other Japanese cuisine -- and won't let you down for either cuisine or atmosphere.
        http://dinenanakusa.com/

        And Umami Moto downtown offers a variety of Asian cuisine, including dim sum on Wednesdays and Sundays.
        http://www.umamimoto.com/

        Admittedly, it can take a bit more effort to find great little spots in Milwaukee -- but they do exist, and I always think that half the fun is exploring the city in search of that perfect little spot.

        -----
        Umami Moto Milwaukee
        718 Milwaukee Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202

        Nanakusa Japanese Restaurant
        408 E Chicago St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

        MeeKong Cafe
        5930 W North Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53208

        4 Replies
        1. re: Burpblog

          These are all such great suggestions and ideas, I can tell I'm gonna like it here!
          We are moving to Whitefish Bay, but I will be working in Wauwatosa, and we are also willing to go anywhere for the best.
          On our next trip out there we will do some sampling.

          1. re: AliceS

            My fav thai is Thai-namite. Don't let the cheesy name fool you. On the east side of milwaukee.

            My fav viet is Hue in Bay View (southeast Milw). within walking distance of Burnheart's too (fun bar).

            Fortune at 108th and National Ave does get raves from asians as best chinese. I haven't tried it yet. But i found it interesting that someone else made the same comment.

            Ee-sane is great, but low atmosphere and spotty service. get there early for lunch or get carry out,. The service isn't horrible. It just takes forever to get your check when youre done.

            -----
            Bay View Bar
            3008 Patterson Rd, Bay City, MI 48706

            Burnhearts
            2599 S Logan Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

            1. re: Milwhawkeye

              been to Thai-namite twice now and I think their sushi is better than their Thai. Had some so-so drunken noodles the first time while the wife had very good spicy tuna roll. Last night had spicy tuna again, with a very good Red Dragon roll (spicy shrimp with tuna in a spicy mayo), the Mexican (tuna + cilantro and jalapenos roll, there was another fish in there too, I forget what), and a spicy shrimp tempura rolls. And the regular tempura itself was also very good. I love a nice green curry and I might break down and try theirs at some point, but I think I'll still generally stick to their sushi. Service is a bit on the slowish side but very, very nice.

              As said, EE Sane is the place for Thai, but service is so bad/slow it is almost comical. On some days the desire for great Thai outweighs the negatives of sitting forever.

              I'm a big fan of Szechuan cooking and haven't found anything since moving here.

          2. re: Burpblog

            Hong Thai on West Greenfield Ave in West Allis is a Thai place run by a Laotian family. I used to order off menu Laotian specialties. Granted this was a few years ago, but it was delicious, especially their "volcano chicken" with carmelized cabbage and onions.

          3. By the way, how is Jake's Deli?

            2 Replies
            1. re: AliceS

              Jake's is in the top five best corned beef and pastrami sandwiches between coasts. The neighborhood is dicey to some, but I've never had an issue with that, and they are not open at night anyway. It should not be missed by anyone who is a fan of kosher-style deli.

              1. re: Fydeaux

                We ate at Jake's yesterday on our short trip out, and I would not even add the "between coasts" caveat. It's the best Pastrami I have ever had, and I am from NYC. Best EVER.

            2. I'm learning about Milwaukee eats from my husband when we return to visit his family. I never eat Asian in Milwaukee, so I have a few suggestions from other cuisines. My suggestions are all on the south side or in Bay View:
              Jalapeno Loco--sounds touristy, but in fact has excellent moles
              Kopps & Leons--frozen custard better than anywhere
              Lulu's--their Asian slaw is worth the trip
              Canfora's bakery--their donuts, cookies and desserts are delish!
              Palomino bar--pub food, but nice vegetarian options and fun atmosphere

              New places:
              Honeypie--specializes in locally sourced and offers special dietary needs meals
              Pastiche bistro--french food, more expensive, but very good quality

              1 Reply
              1. re: scrub

                I will infinitely second Jalapeno Loco. Completely random looking place located more or less on the grounds of Mitchell Airport, but the food is delicious. Not to mention the fact that the service is insanely fast.

                Also will second Lulu's. Their grilled portobella sandwich with veggies and Boursin is one of my favorite lunches ever.

              2. I sincerely hope there is better Dim Sum somewhere in Milwaukee than Peony. We went there a week or so ago. While it was nice and inexpensive, very few items had any sort of flavor. Very disappointing. My bar is pretty low and it did not even meet those expectations. I could make better dumplings at home, and that is saying a lot.

                1. We also went to El Guapo's just out of desperation (we arrived in town around 6pm and needed to eat). It was pretty bad. Very fatty heavy salty not spicy Tex-Mex food. I had a torta which was served on toasted white bread (!) and was meh, hubby had 2 a la carte soft tacos, fish and chicken mole, both of which were the same level of meh as the torta. We sat outside which was positively infested with flies. When we mentioned it to the waitress, she seemed to be aware of it, but no one warned us. It was Wednesday so it was all day happy hour, and the Margarita was pretty good. Also the service was pretty good. But it is not a destination by any means. Sadly it seems that the immediate WFB area is pretty much chains and places like this, am I wrong?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: AliceS

                    For Mexican in the North Shore, try Poco Loco on Brown Deer Road, Mexican cantina style food, fish tacos are awesome. However, if you want authentic Mexican food, you really need to go to the south side of the city, where great places are plentiful. A few favorites are Las Esmerelda's on 11th and Maple, La Canoa (mostly seafood) on 15th and Lincoln. I'm sure other's can post their favorites which will be equally as good. I do have to say (and I'm sure there will be some who disagree with me) I love Conejito's, which is a total hole in the wall, mostly a bar. Good CHEAP food, nothing is more than $5, comes on paper plates, but has hit the spot for as long as I can remember!

                    -----
                    Brown Deer Restaurant
                    7835 N Green Bay Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53209

                    Poco Loco
                    4134 W River Ln, Milwaukee, WI 53209

                    1. re: AliceS

                      The immediate area of Silver Spring, I think you're right, chains and not much else. But, if you expand the scope a bit, there are good places. For example North Star American Bistro http://northstarbistro.com/

                      -----
                      North Star American Bistro
                      4515 N Oakland Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53211

                    2. Here are our favorites (we prefer Southeast Asian over Northeast Asian):

                      Phan's Garden on 19th & National Ave. is very good for Vietnamese! Cha Gio, Goi Cuon, H8, K3, Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio, Bahn Xeo, Bo Nuong Vi, Nem Nuong, Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Bun Bo Hue, these are some favorites. Also very good Pho, like the B1B. We don’t usually order Chinese food from the large menu, but the fried rice and pot stickers are exceptional! I can’t find the take-out menu, otherwise I would have listed more items.

                      Our favorite Thai place is the Thai BBQ at 34th & National Ave. Great curries. It reminds me somewhat of the Thai Royal – an incredible restaurant unlike the current crop. Closed – now a Holy Grail. Bangkok House on Layton Ave. near the airport is also quite good. It has a particularly good Thai lunch buffet on weekdays. The Thai Palace downtown, on 3rd St. at Kilbourn Ave., is also worth a visit.

                      Here are some others: The Fortune on S. 108th St. in Hales Corners (authentic Chinese, a favorite of Chinese nationals, ask for the red menu), the Emperor of China on Brady St., and the Mekong at 60th & North Ave. Yes, Peony is the only dim sum choice. But it’s pretty good – the taro puffs are excellent – and the only alternative is to drive to Chicago’s Chinatown.

                      For hard-to-find Indonesian, there are 2 choices. Mr. Wok in Pewaukee has a great Rendang Beef! This is a must-go-to-place. Peking Chef at I-43 & Brown Deer Rd. in Bayside has great Nasi Goreng, Singapore Roll, Ayem Goreng Mentega, Meaty Wonton in Garlic Sauce. Very good restaurant! The Thai dishes have an Indonesian influence that is wonderful.

                      Our favorite Indian restaurant is the Maharaja on the East Side at Farwell Ave.

                      -----
                      Thai Palace
                      838 N Old World 3rd St, Milwaukee, WI 53203

                      Emperor of China
                      1010 E Brady St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

                      Bangkok House Restaurant
                      4698 S Whitnall Ave, Saint Francis, WI 53235

                      Phan's Garden Restaurant
                      1923 W National Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53204

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: carts2

                        I should also mention Jing’s, on Buffalo St. in the Third Ward. The food is excellent, and they are the only place to find Shanghai-style broth-filled dumplings. It is probably the most elegant Chinese restaurant in Milwaukee.

                        -----
                        Jing's
                        207 E Buffalo St Ste 168, Milwaukee, WI 53202

                        1. re: carts2

                          I have to agree with KoolWhip, Conejitos is unique. I love the food and the atmosphere on the older side is---- very genuine, I guess you might say. Non-smoking now! We go there often.

                          1. re: carts2

                            oh, soup dumplings, so great! Thanks!
                            I tend to judge my Thai restaurants by their drunken noodles, do any of the places you mentioned have a good version?

                            1. re: AliceS

                              I'm not familiar with that name. An internet search showed it's similar to Pud See Euw. Thai BBQ's is quite good. They might have that dish under that name. I judge Thai places on their curries and Pud Thai. If those are up to snuff, I explore the menu.

                              1. re: carts2

                                I judge Thai places first and foremost on their tom kha gai (chicken galanga coconut soup). Other dishes I often order include panang curries, satay, cha yen (Thai iced tea), and in season, khao neeo mamuang (mango with sticky rice) for dessert.

                                1. re: carts2

                                  Pad Kee Mao is another name for Drunken Noodles.

                                  1. re: AliceS

                                    yeah, Pad See Ew is a different dish. Don't ask for pad see ew expecting drunken noodles/pad kee mao.

                                    And EE Sane's pad kee mao/drunken noodles (I think they call it drunken noodle on the menu) are very good. Thainamite's only so-so. Haven't tried it elsewhere...

                                    1. re: joypirate

                                      I had Drunken Noodles at Bangkok House, heat predominated with some basil flavor. Perhaps it wasn't a good version. You might try Pud Prik Sod (a basil-flavored stir-fry). It's very good if done well, although not a noodle dish.

                                      I have come to a point with my Asian cooking where I can make better versions of my favorites (Penang Nua, Pud Thai, Tom Ka Gai, Beef Satay, Thai Custard w/Sticky rice) than most restaurants. This can make it very disappointing trying new Thai places. I do always hope for the best. Thai restaurants have become like Chinese, most are not very good.

                                      I use the spelling "pud" for noodles. Nicky Noinaj from the The Thai Royal used this spelling. His amazing restaurant closed over 30 years ago. I was lucky to take cooking classes from him.
                                      As stated previously, Thai BBQ should be on your list to try. See link below about Bangkok House.

                                      http://www.expressmilwaukee.com/place...

                                      -----
                                      Bangkok House Restaurant
                                      4698 S Whitnall Ave, Saint Francis, WI 53235

                                      1. re: carts2

                                        >> I use the spelling "pud" for noodles.

                                        Most Thai places spell it "pad". If I'm not mistaken, it's usually pronounced the same as the English word "pod".

                                        1. re: nsxtasy

                                          There is no mistake. When you translate languages that use different alphabets, it is much harder to develop a standard spelling.

                                          "Thai restaurants have become like Chinese, most are not very good."

                                          Most Thai restaurants do not have Thai owners. Like the cuisine, the spelling goes all over the place.

                                          1. re: carts2

                                            >> Most Thai restaurants do not have Thai owners.

                                            I don't know about the Thai restaurants in Milwaukee, but most Thai restaurants in Chicago DO have Thai owners.

                                            1. re: nsxtasy

                                              Alice S.- I hope you stay in Milwaukee starts out well. There is a lot of good information in these posts.

                                2. re: AliceS

                                  After some sleuthing, I found out that Drunken noodles were a dish popularized by the Chinese living in Laos and Thailand. I had wondered why I wasn't familiar with it. We ate at Phan's Garden last night and it was great. Bo Nuong Vi and Bahn Xeo- outstanding as was Goi Thap Cam- a papaya, shrimp, and chicken salad.

                                  -----
                                  Phan's Garden Restaurant
                                  1923 W National Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53204

                                  1. re: carts2

                                    Jake's is awesome. last time i was there i got hit by a car. left in an ambulance. the friendly workers came out with towels to help stem the flow of blood from my head. i need to get back.

                                    anyway, i think they're the best corned beef in town. The atmosphere helps. Benjie's is a close second. Jake's was sold in the past year, and I don't know how it's holding up.

                                    1. re: Milwhawkeye

                                      there is a new corned beer place opening on Silver Spring, just past the Popeyes that had the murder this week. (55th?) Will give a review when they do open.
                                      Still a better neighborhood than Jakes, IMHO

                            2. We have been going to Ee-Sane for awhile now, and have a pretty good dining experience every time. That is, until last night. I ordered my usual, pad kee mow with tofu, medium spicy. Usually it's very good, but last night it was absolutely inedible and I had to send it back. Gummy, sticky, overly sweet noodles, barely a hint of hotness. It was really disappointing, and for me to send something back it has to be BAD!
                              Have they jumped the shark in the last few weeks? Do they occasionally have a different chef? My husband had the pho, which he acknowledges was a risky choice, and it was not very good, but he owns that mistake. Not sure if we can go back now though.

                              1. I have now eaten at 2 Vietnamese places, Hue and Pho 27.
                                We went to Pho 27 first. The waiter we had was super-nice and really made us want to go back. The food was quite good. Now, we just moved from MN where there is unlimited fantastic Vietnamese, so we are a little picky. We thought the pho/chicken pho was very good, but a little on the greasy side. It had a good flavor though. We liked it a lot, and will go back. Prices are very reasonable, appropriate for an authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Oh, the fresh spring rolls were fantastic!
                                We went to Hue tonight and were a little less impressed. The atmo is very nice, but it is pricey and a little gringified for Vietnamese. Not rough enough flavors, too refined. And I did not like the fresh spring roll at all, which is disappointing for a Vietnamese place. Probably won't go back.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: AliceS

                                  I havent been to Pho 27, but I assume that it is somehow tied to Pho 43, and I enjoyed the food there very much. You might also give Phan Garden [National Ave between 19th & 20th] a shot.

                                  1. re: Fydeaux

                                    A lot of Vietnamese restaurants/Pho places are called "Pho ____" with a number at the end, often the street number. This usually does not mean that one is connected to another.
                                    Phan Garden is on my list of places to try.

                                    1. re: AliceS

                                      We've tried some of the newer Vietnamese restaurants on the south side and Phan's is still our favorite overall. They are very hard to beat. See our July 31 post on this site.

                                2. Hey AliceS. I grew up in the Twin Cities and like you ate a lot Asian food . We recently lived in Milwaukee for 5 years and found it difficult to find a lot of Asian places in Milwaukee that compare. That being said I would definitely check out Phan's Garden. The highest concentration of SE Asian restaurants seems to be on National Avenue on the southside of Milwaukee. I think Izumi's is decent for Japanese/sushi restaurant. We lived in Bayview and enjoyed the restaurants previously mentioned: Jalapeno Loco, Honeypie, Palomino's, Lulu's. Also, if you have not been to the Public Market, it is worth a visit. Hope that helps.

                                  -----
                                  Phan's Garden Restaurant
                                  1923 W National Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53204

                                  Izumi's Restaurant
                                  2150 N Prospect Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202

                                  Honeypie Cafe
                                  2643 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

                                  1. since we're talking about viet food, check out Pacific Market at Grange and 27th. Pho Viet is there, a tasty pho house. Pacific itself is a giant asian grocery (bigger by far than anything here). and inside is a great little banh mi takeout joint. it's worth the drive down there. fun experience. good chow.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Milwhawkeye

                                      I absolutely agree. I havent been to Pho Viet yet, but the banh mi from that take out window are incredible. Their produce is really good (it's the only place in town that I have found purple yams). Their meat selection is not huge, but the prices for what they do have are quite excellent. The fish & seafood selection though, is wonderful. Well worth the drive to the south side.