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Jun 29, 2010 03:34 AM

Downtown Milwaukee for a week-- recommendations?

I'll be spending a week in downtown Milwaukee, based at the Hilton, starting July 10. I'm looking for lunch and dinner suggestions across a price range from basic subsistence chow up to a high of $30 per meal, within a reasonable (15-20 minutes' walk) radius of the Hilton/Midwest Airlines Center.

Any suggestions? I'm particularly interested in unique little locally-owned places that are easily overlooked. I'm open to any cuisine. What are the stand-outs downtown?


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  1. $30 rules out a lot of the nicer places for dinner (and I'm not just referring to the high-end places like Sanford). For example, an entree and dessert at the affordable Coquette Cafe can exceed that, and that's without dessert, beverage (alcoholic or otherwise), or tax/tip. Concentrate your eating at lunch, when prices are lower than dinnertime.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy

      You may also want to check out Bastille Days. on Sat/ Sun July 10 & 11th. It is a festival (we have lots of festivals in Milwaukee) located on the streets just to the north and east of you. I'm sure the hotel can direct you. There will be food vendors there with tastings and there is usually a farmers market in that area on Saturday.

    2. When you search the board you should include the Third Ward in your search. Downtown Milw. isn't large, in the sense of what people refer to as downtown. The Third Ward is just the other side of the east-west expressway spur, around Water St. There's lots of options there, whereas around the Hilton there are not. Likewise, Milw. St. east of the river has a number of options.

      Zarletti on Mason and Milwaukee is one of my favorites.

      741 N Milwaukee St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

      1. You could definitely take advantage of happy hour specials and enjoy some options at some of the nicer places in town such as Hinterland or the Chophouse (in the Hilton). The Mason Street Grill (Pfister) also has a happy hour menu, some “lighter fare” choices, and a $20 Sunday Dinner deal.

        Some places I’d consider for a meal under $30…
        Milwaukee Ale House: Microbrewery with great patio on the river
        Tutto: Casual Italian
        Cubanitas: Affordable Cuban
        Branded: Bar in the Iron Horse Hotel
        Elsa’s: Burgers and pork chop sandwiches…in an upscale environment
        Rustico: Pizza
        Palms: Bistro fare

        For lunch, I would definitely make stops at the Milwaukee Public Market and the Waterfont Deli. For a quick hot dog, try the Dog Haus.

        If you’ll consider taking a cab or bus, I’d take in a meal at one of the Mexican Restaurants at 5th and National (Botanas is usually a good option), try Crazy Water (upper end of your budget, but definitely in the local “gem” category), visit the Roots Cellar, and do some eating on Brady Street.

        728 N. Milwaukee Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202

        Milwaukee Public Market
        400 N Water St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

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

        Milwaukee Ale House
        233 N Water St Stop 1, Milwaukee, WI 53202

        The Iron Horse Hotel
        500 West Florida Street, Milwaukee, WI 53204

        223 N Water St Ste 100, Milwaukee, WI 53202

        2 Replies
        1. re: bte576

          I'm always up for good Mexican-- sounds like it's worth a trip. Cubanitas sounds appealing, since the Cuban joint in hometown Ann Arbor has an interesting menu, but doesn't pull it off very well.

          728 N. Milwaukee Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202

          1. re: bte576

            I'd follow up to Waterfront Deli and mention that at lunch time at the intersection of Mason and Water, the Waterfront people are fronting a fine taco stand called Ofelia's. It only started a few weeks ago so they're still working out the kinks (they run out of stuff too early sometimes, sometimes have trouble with the grill) but the food itself is really, really good. And they do interesting specials. Had a chicken enchilada plate with red mole that was amazing. The specials are a bit more, $7 maybe, but tacos are $1.50. They've also got tamales, tortas, and burritos.

            In the event they're sold out, at Waterfront Deli, I have a hard time ordering anything but the BLT with smoked salmon. Very tasty.

          2. For "subsistence," try Real Chili. There's one within about a block at 4th & Wells, and another at 16th & Wells near Marquette U. Jane and Michael Stern extol its virtues as one of the best examples of Green Bay style chili, which is something you won't taste anywhere outside of Wisconsin (to my knowledge). Don't freak out that it's served over spaghetti - this ain't no chili mac.

            Real Chili Restaurant
            1625 W Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53233

            3 Replies
            1. re: Rick from Point

              Hmmm... 'hadn't realized that Marquette U was so close. That area might offer some cheap-ish options.

              Real Chili sounds interesting. I am intrigued.

              Real Chili Restaurant
              1625 W Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53233

              1. re: brakeman

                >> 'hadn't realized that Marquette U was so close

                The campus is just a few blocks west of the Frontier/Midwest Airlines Center.

                1. re: brakeman

                  Angelo's pizza on 16th and Wells. Pretty good pizza, maybe not the best in town, but often overlooked.

                  The Dogg Haus, a local chain. They don't quite get to the level they aspire to - the Chicago hot dog, but close. Also, on Wells, between 16th and 17th.

                  The Soup House on Michigan, east of the river, between Broadway and MIlwaukee, lunch only. Another good, cheap option

                  Soup House
                  324 E Michigan St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

              2. Real Chili (Affordable and Delicious) - A Staple To Milwaukee

                Real Chili Restaurant
                1625 W Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53233