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Milwaukee: some specific restaurant requests

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Hello Wisconsin!

My husband and I are coming from Baltimore to Milwaukee soon for a few days and would appreciate some recommendations for good eats. It's our first time to the city apart from the airport, and we're really excited for this trip. This is going to be a long-ish post because we have some schedule and dietary constraints, but I figure more info is better than being vague, right?

First, I'm vegetarian and he's not, so ideally recommendations would be places that would keep us both happy, and for me that means something besides salad or a sandwich with cheese and raw vegetables - nothing against either, but I can make those myself at home. Other than the vegetarian thing, we're both extremely adventurous eaters.

Our visiting schedule's a little goofy, as we arrive on a Tuesday morning, stay Tuesday night in the city, leave Wednesday morning to visit family near Fond du Lac, return Sunday afternoon, and fly out again Tuesday night. This means we need a place to eat Sunday night, which I'm finding to be a challenge.

We're staying the first Tuesday at County Clare, and Sunday-Tuesday at the Intercontinental. (Would've done County Clare for the second leg as well, but they were full.) We will have a car for the first leg but not the second, so we're ideally looking for places either within walking distance, a short cab ride, or a no-transfer bus ride. Long walks are not a problem.

In general, we're trying to stick to casual places like bars, cafes, even food trucks, to keep costs reasonable; we're also trying to pack light, so wouldn't have fancy clothes. I'd like to keep lunches under $20 per person and dinners under $30 excluding alcohol. That being said, we do appreciate good food, and if there's somewhere exceptional we should try, we're willing to splurge.

Here's some specific things we're looking for:

*Take-out sandwiches to bring with us to the Brewers game on a Tuesday night, hopefully near County Clare. Somewhere similar near the Intercontinental would be good, too, to bring to the airport and have before our evening flight.
*Somewhere to grab a quick to-go breakfast near the Intercontinental. I'm hoping that Starbucks is not the only option.
*A bar to have lunch/dinner with great beer and good, creative food that's not overpriced (let's say $15-ish or under per person for food). To give an idea of what we're looking for, some of our favorite places like this in Baltimore are Alewife and the Brewer's Art, and Monk's in Philly. Milwaukee's obviously famous for its beer, so I have pretty high hopes here.
*Anywhere that's open Sunday night for dinner.
*Anywhere else that meets at least most of our ridiculous criteria. :)

I've already done some research and come up with a few places that sound tasty, like Roots Cellar, Zaffiro's, Honeypie, Comet Cafe, and the Swingin' Door Exchange. Am I on the right track? Also plan to visit the Public Market, take the Lakefront Brewery tour, and go to Wolski's, because I'm told it's just wrong to visit Milwaukee and not hit Wolski's.

Thank you in advance for your help!

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  1. I think you are on the right track, but I would specifically endorse going to Roots Cellar and the Public Market.

    And yes, you should take a brewery tour if you like beer. Lakefront is great and we recently did Milwaukee Brewing Co. and had an awesome time as well.

    Speaking of beer, if you do make the trip down to Honeypie, there is a great beer bar on the way called Sugar Maple.

    Waterfront Deli (close to the Intercontinental) makes a great sandwich to go. There is also a Brueggers right on Water close to the Intercontinental…perhaps not any more exciting than Starbucks, but just so you know it is there.

    Rustico Pizzeria in the Third Ward is very good and has several vegetarian options.

    When staying at County Clare, you could walk over to Gloriosos (Italian Market) on Brady to grab sandwiches to go. The Knick restaurant is also close, I would see if their menu sounds good to you. I know they are open Sundays.

    I was also going to suggest an Alterra Café for a casual lunch and good coffee…they actually have locations at our airport, so you could just get some there rather than bringing to the airport.

    -----
    Rustico
    223 N Water St Ste 100, Milwaukee, WI 53202

    Sugar Maple
    441 E Lincoln Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

    Honeypie Cafe
    2643 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

    County Clare
    Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53202

    7 Replies
    1. re: bte576

      Another possibility is to get your sandwiches to go for Tuesday's game at Milwaukee Public Market.

      Since you don't have a car, I'm guessing you're taking the bus to Miller Park. There are several ways you can do this. Keep in mind that, in downtown Milwaukee, County Clare is about six blocks north of Wisconsin Avenue, a main east-west street.

      The #10 bus goes southbound right near County Clare, and then goes west on Wisconsin Avenue. It's about a 15-minute walk from 38th and Wisconsin where the #10 bus drops you off to the stadium. The #90 bus goes straight up Wisconsin Avenue and goes all the way to the ballpark, eliminating the walk at the other end, so you could walk the 15 minutes from County Clare to Wisconsin to catch the #90, then have no walk at the other end. Or, you could take the #10 and get a free transfer, then use it to switch onto the #90 downtown. If you do this - take the #10 and transfer to the #90 - you could do it by getting off the #10 at Water Street, walk two blocks south to Milwaukee Public Market, get your sandwiches at Milwaukee Public Market, and then walk back up Water to Wisconsin and hop on the #90 with your transfer and sandwiches. Hope that makes sense.

      You can find more information on public transit in Milwaukee at www.ridemcts.com

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

      County Clare
      Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53202

      1. re: nsxtasy

        Thanks for the bus info, and the suggestion to get pre-game food from the market. I hadn't considered that, and it looks like it would work out really well. Do you know how full the #90 tends to be after games? Just curious if we'd be better off walking up to the #10 stop to avoid waiting for a bus that wasn't jam-packed. (This happens on the light rail after Orioles games in Baltimore.)

        1. re: guenevere51

          I was at a three-game series last year, and even though the stadium was nearly full, getting the #90 at the ballpark after the game was not a problem at all. Yes it was busy, but getting on was not a problem and it wasn't so full that it was uncomfortable. Also, the walk to Wisconsin Avenue from Miller Park is uphill, which is not very pleasant. So I'd recommend catching the #90. If you wanted to avoid the walk from the #90 to the hotel, you could then transfer to the #10 anywhere along the route. There are schedules on their website, but I know the #10 runs frequently even well into the evening.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Thanks again. Anyone know if there are any good local beers available at Miller Park, or is it mostly mass-market?

            1. re: guenevere51

              The namesake brewery (which is right next to the stadium) pretty much holds the monopoly on beer at Miller Park. If you want to avoid the standard Miller and Coors products, try a Leinenkugels Summer Shandy or Sunset Wheat. Miller owns their distribution rights, but the beer is still made up in Chippewa Falls, WI and is pretty darn tasty. The stadium also sells deep fried cheese curds that are made with a Leinie's beer batter :)

              ETA: From the Miller Park website- "Leinie's Draft — Sections 101, 106, 120, 129, 213, 221, 232, 411, 434; Specialty Beers — Sections 110, 126, 212, 225"

              Not sure what "specialty beers" they sell, but I'm guessing it's something other than Miller-Coors products. Perhaps Lakefront? They tend to be pretty widely distributed in the Milwaukee Metro area.

              Also, the Fridays Front Row restaurant in left field lets you buy drinks at their bar and take them back into the stadium. I've never bought anything but Long Islands there but they may offer some other local brews as well.

      2. re: bte576

        Thank you for the endorsements and suggestions - I do love beer, so I'm quite excited about the tour and various bar options.

        I vaguely remember getting a cup of coffee at Alterra from the airport last time we flew through there, and being very happy with it. It's so nice to see local places getting some love in airports as opposed to Starbucks, which I believe is all our airport has.

        How upscale is Roots Cellar in terms of dress/atmosphere? I found it a little tough to tell from their website.

        1. re: guenevere51

          Root Cellar is casual…I would normally wear jeans, but would dress “fashionably casual” I guess you would say.

          Miller Park does serve micro-brews, they are just at different beer stands scattered around.

      3. Will try to add to the food end of the post a bit more, but fyi, the Intercontinental is on Water st. home to the 15 bus line, which will take you to the Comet, Zaffiro's and HoneyPie. Don't get the fish at Comet. Also, beyond that area, but still on the 15 is Hotch-a-do and Beans and Barley, both on North Ave. Both serious about vegetarian food.

        1. I'd second the rec for Glorioso's for carry out, and not just for sandwiches. There's a variety of stuff in their now expanded cold case.
          The tough one will be breakfast to-go near the Intercontinental. For some reason, downtown Milw. cannot grasp the idea of breakfast. Either sit-down or carry-out.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mike_d

            Thanks for the info & recs. I love checking out good Italian markets; I've been spoiled by those in Philly and a surprisingly good one in Baltimore.

            I'm not entirely surprised about breakfast, but in a pinch Brueggers and/or Starbucks are better than nothing. Or I'll throw some granola bars in the suitcase. :) Shame there isn't an Alterra downtown besides the US Bank, which I gather doesn't serve food.

            1. re: mike_d

              One suggestion for breakfast would be The Knick which is a bit of a walk from the Intercontinental but not too terrible. And, it is a VERY short cab ride. Just walk east on Juneau. Nice tables outside in nice weather!

            2. I would definitely not waste my time going to Wolski's. Who told you it is "just wrong to visit Milwaukee and not hit Wolski's."??

              West Bank Cafe is great for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

              -----
              West Bank Cafe
              732 E Burleigh St, Milwaukee, WI 53212

              1. Okay, everyone, don't drum me out of Chowhound for this suggestion, but this place unexpectedly was a lot of fun and surprisingly good food.

                Mr. Shaja and I always stay at the Inter-Continental when we're in Milwaukee. We were in town yesterday for my mother's 68th birthday to see Jersey Boys, which is playing across the street at the Marcus.

                My mother has talked forever about going to the Safe House back in the 1970s, (which I could tell you is in this vicinity but as a new spy I am sworn to secrecy ... go to their website, you'll see) So, as a birthday treat, we took her there for lunch before the show.

                I really wan't expecting anything except a trip down her memory lane. Boy, was I wrong. This .place. was . fun.! And the food was pretty darn good, too. My half-pound hamburger was juicy and cooked perfectly, Mr. Shaja's Cobb Salad was huge and tasty (it overflowed the big bowl it came in), and we couldn't stop gawking around at the spy memorabilia that covered the walls.

                So what if the place has been there 40 years. So what if the food isn't gourmet. If you want a bar, decent food and a unique experience, this was really pretty cool. They really did the spy theme up very well. We have to go back and find the secret exit.

                PS - Mr. Shaja said to mention that Kil@Wat, located in the Inter-Continental, is good although they aren't open for Sunday dinner. We went to Port of Call for Sunday dinner once, and liked it a lot.

                -----
                The Safe House
                779 N Front St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

                Port of Call Restaurant
                30420 E Johnswood Rd, Drummond Island, MI 49726

                Kil@Wat
                139 East Kilbourn Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202

                1. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions - wanted to report back on a fantastic trip. We had a great time in the city and are already eagerly planning our next trip back. Highlights:

                  *Sugar Maple - great selection, atmosphere, and service. The Sprecher Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout was out of this world. Little empty as we were there on the early side, but that only meant getting more one-on-one time with the awesome bartender.
                  *Honeypie - absolutely hit the spot to soak up all the beer from Sugar Maple. My husband had the braised short ribs and seriously thought about licking his plate; I had the veg version of the Turkulator sandwich with the apple-celery root slaw. Nice touch to have a side besides fries or a standard garden salad.
                  *Public Market - we could've spent all day here. I think we were there for a good 2 hours including eating, and wanted to stay longer, but had to leave to make the brewery tour. This place is everything a good market should be, lots of variety, delicious food, plenty of space to sit.
                  *Glorioso's - ended up getting sandwiches for the Brewers game here, and they were delicious. I got the caprese, husband got the Human Torch, and liked it so much he insisted we go back the next day to get another sandwich for the drive up to Fond du Lac. As a bonus, we also found some smoked aged provolone, which is a particular favorite of his dad. He's picky about his cheese and gave this one an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
                  *Roots Cellar - really nice, creative food in a relaxed, unpretentious setting. We shared pierogies and veg sausage soup for appetizers, and for entrees I had the sesame mock duck and he had the cioppino. Everything was great, but we were both huge fans of the pea puree that came with the pierogies. It really shows when a restaurant gives such attention to detail to all the components of a dish, and we appreciated that.
                  *Cheese Mart - this was a recommendation from my mother-in-law, and I'm glad she mentioned it. It was a nice, easy lunch at an odd hour close to the Intercontinental (we needed to be back there at 4 to catch our shuttle back to the airport), and was quite good. Only quibble was that they won't sub out cheeses on the plate pairings, but I saw they were planning to have custom plates available soon.

                  Again, thanks to everyone for the suggestions. Between fantastic food, tons of beer, friendly people, a walkable downtown, and a great ballpark, Milwaukee's become one of our new favorite cities.