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Apr 4, 2012 12:21 PM


Im taking my 15 year old son to Milwaukee for some ball games in early July. I'd like to find in downtown area a nice lunch and a nice dinner place, any ideas?

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  1. Hi,

    Early July is a good time of year to visit Milwaukee. Not sure if you are coming for a tournament or games at Miller Park but you can find a lot of great food either way.

    Please help us help you...

    What kind of food do the two of you enjoy?

    Would you want to try local specialties?

    What is your price range?

    You said, "nice". Does that mean more upscale?

    Will you have your own transportation? If so, how far will you be willing to travel?

    Is there a certain type of cuisine the two of you do not care for?

    The more info you provide, the more helpful the responses will probably be for you.

    32 Replies
    1. re: Fowler

      Thanks for the response. We're coming in for 2 brewer games. The first is a night game so we want lunch. Anything that someone from Milwaukee would say,"ya gotta go there.". Nice or dive, no matter. The next day's game is at 3 so looking for a dinner spot, same criteria. My son loves good food, so even a nice, high end spot is fine. We'll probable be downtown, probably won't have a car but would take a taxi if needed. Thanks for the help.

      1. re: Runningman1018

        It might be too late, but sign up for the Palermo's Pizza tour which is within sight of Miller Park.

        1. re: Runningman1018

          >> The first is a night game so we want lunch. Anything that someone from Milwaukee would say,"ya gotta go there.".

          The quintessential Milwaukee restaurant is Karl Ratzsch's, for German food. They're open for lunch Wednesday through Saturday.

          If it's a Monday or Tuesday, a similar backup choice open for lunch those days is Mader's.

          Ratzch's opened in 1904, Mader's in 1902.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Good call, nsxtasy. I really like the German lunch idea.

            Eddie, Ratzsch's is straight forward traditional German food in an Old World setting. It is very good. Mader's is more of a modern twist on traditional German fare. The restaurant is also a multi-million dollar museum of German art and antiques. I'm thinking a 15 year old boy might think the suits of armor and the like would be cool to see in person. Both restaurants are downtown.

            If you want an upscale dinner, I would highly recommend Sanford.

            In my opinion it is better than some of the "famous" restaurants in New York , Chicago or San Francisco. It is high-end as far as food and service but not snooty or outrageously priced. They have won James Beard awards so you know they are good. Their Elk loin entree is fantastic.

            If you have any more questions, let us know!

            1. re: nsxtasy

              I'll be in Milwaukee in the next couple of weeks for a day trip (to pick up an accordion--yay!) and my son and I are both enthusiasts of German food. I lived in Germany for two years and know how hard it is to find in the States.

              Now to nsxtasy, whose regional recommendations I've always esteemed, I am wondering: are the Milwaukee German places (Ratzsch's and Mader's) oddly overpriced? I mean, $35 for a Weiner schnitzel on the dinner menu? That would blow minds in Germany. It's a pretty cheap food to make, unless you were to use veal, which they evidently do not.

              And how would you compare these places to Chicago German places, because we'll be driving through Chicago anyway on our way to and from Milwaukee.

              1. re: Bada Bing

                Hmmm. I thought schnitzel is a dish in which a scallop/cutlet of any kind of meat is breaded and fried, but wiener schnitzel is the dish made from veal. I see that Mader's refers to a "wiener schnitzel" made from pork ($30, with a $5 upcharge for veal); I didn't think that was correct terminology.

                Chicago has good German places, too. The Berghoff, in the Loop (downtown), has been around even longer than Mader's and Ratzsch's (1898, to be precise), but these days their menu is a bit more contemporary and less Old World. Wiener schnitzel there is $19.95. For a more authentic (less contemporary) German menu in Chicago, you can go to Laschet's Inn on the north side, where wiener schnitzel is also $19.95. That price at both places supports your point regarding Ratzch's and Mader's prices being on the high side, at least for that dish.

                Where would I go? Well, I'm not a big fan of wiener schnitzel, but these are all good places. Maybe try both - one of the Chicago places on your way to and from, and one of the Milwaukee places while you're there?

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Thanks for the details. You're always so helpful. American places almost never use genuine veal in their Wienerschitzel. So the misnaming's akin to calling any sparkling wine Champagne.

                  Actually, though, I was just using [Wiener] Schnitzel as a benchmark kind of item that all places with pretensions to German cuisining offer. Probably not the most likely thing I'd order. The differences between a Americanized Wienerschnitzel and the meat put into midwestern "tenderloin" sandwiches are minimal.

                  These places we're considering here go a step further, though, and offer things like Königberger Klöpse, Kasseler Rippchen, Rouladen, braised pork shanks, and assorted other German specialities that most Americans never experience.

                  1. re: Bada Bing

                    >>>American places almost never use genuine veal in their Wienerschitzel. So the misnaming's akin to calling any sparkling wine Champagne.<<<

                    Bad analogy. Champagne refers to a region. I do not believe there is a Veal region and only veal from that region can be labeled veal. It may originate in Australia, Italy, USA, etc. and still be veal unlike Champagne which must originate in the Champagne region of France.

                    I have had the schnitzel at Maders and it is genuine milk-fed veal. Also, Karl Ratzsch's does not claim to offer veal schnitzel (they actually make it crystal clear it is NOT veal) and the schnitzels they do offer are no where near the $35 you mentioned.

                    I am simply mentioning these things so someone else that may read your comments are not confused. I hope you enjoy your visit and your new accordion!

                    1. re: Fowler

                      May I mention how proud I am to have a local place to repair accordions. Germantown, they repaired a small unit for my kid to make his grandfather happy.

                      Now as to German food. Berghoffs in Chicago has been one of the most awful places I have ever been to. Mader's recently comes close. The last time I was at Mader's the nice lady serving us apologized for everything we ordered.

                      1. re: exvaxman

                        Neat. Is Germantown the name of the place?

                        1. re: Bada Bing

                          Not 100% certain [Exvaxman will have to weigh in personally] but I think he may be referring to Baldoni Accordions. which is actually in Menomonee Falls, more or less the same general area as Germantown. Baldoni's reputation is world-wide; I recently had a 1920 Hohner button accordion restored there.

                          But as to German food in Milwaukee, I cant be of much help other than to suggest a stop at Usinger's for sausage. Ratzsch's and Mader's have the big names and reputations, but I have the feeling that much like finding a good bratwurst around here, the best are to be found either at a church festival or at someone's home.

                          1. re: Fydeaux

                            Thanks! Increasingly, with an eye to timing, I'm thinking of stopping only at Usinger's with a big cooler in the car and hauling some goods homeward. I'm open to ideas about how best to pick among Usinger's offerings. Sounds like their fresh brats are the baseline, must-have item.

                            I can say that I'm mainly interested in sausages for cooked dishes, from fresh Brats to cured andouilles and the like (as opposed to those kinds of sausages that people serve sliced cold on cheese trays, etc., though I'm open to a bit of that, too).

                            1. re: Bada Bing

                              Usinger's brats are good but nothing hits the spot like their summer sausage with some good cheddar when you're in the mood. It also will last a lot longer (60 days according to their site). It never lasts that long in my house though!

                      2. re: Fowler

                        Don't mind that I caught you in an exacting mood. Well, no analogy is perfect. But you get some logic points, and I esteem that.

                        Please do observe the Mader's menu, though, which says "pork" for Wiener Schnitzel, at $30:


                        As to Ratzsch's, you're right, it's not $35 but $27:


                        It appears that other items hit or clear the $35 range.

                        1. re: Bada Bing

                          I think both the prices and the heaviness of the fare at either place kept me from visiting when I was in Milwaukee last fall. Of course, I have the luxury to indulge in any number of German dishes in the summer.

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            Again, so none are confused Bada Bing...did you happen to notice that the Mader's menu you linked to even says "milk-fed veal" is an option for the schnitzel? That is the one I had and was talking about.

                            Also, of the many items on the Ratzsch's menus only 2 are $35 or more and those are clearly beef tenderloin and filet NOT veal.

                            Unfortunately we are not going to be of much help to you if you are unwilling to read the menus and ignore what you are being told. Regardless, have a nice visit.

                            1. re: Fowler

                              May I also mention that Mader's is nothing close to what it used to be? Sorta like how awful berghoff's is now in Chicago.

                              1. re: exvaxman

                                "May I also mention that Mader's is nothing close to what it used to be? "

                                That does not surprise me, exvaxman. Over the course of my lifetime they have had fairly wild swings in quality. And I do not mean from one night to another, but from literally one decade or so to another. They really seemed to have gotten a breath of fresh air when they hired the new chef several years ago. He brought somewhat of an update to the menu and an improvement in quality. We met friends there twice last year and were pleased with the quality of food and service. However, it sounds like from your comments in this thread that they have now reverted to one of the disappointing decades.

                                I just hope your visit to Mader's was not where you ended up going after your visit to Saint Paul's Fish Company. :-)

                              2. re: Fowler

                                Sorry to seem flip. I didn't read all items all the way through. But note that the veal substitution does make the Wiener Schnitzel $35 pretty exactly. But we'll have to write this off as me being lazy and you being prickly and call it a day, I think. I'm sure others are not entertained by this back and forth.

                                p.s., all this reminds me of a time I was living in Germany and found what was at that time (1980s) a real rarity: a Mexican restaurant. What was striking to me was the somewhat upscale set-up of the place and the pricing: $16 for a burrito, anyone? How about three tacos, $14? Clearly, it's a pricing and marketing scheme that applies in certain circumstances where foods which are in essence not very expensive to make nonetheless mark up for their rarity factor. I'm not complaining, though. All power to them.

                                That last episode did give me one of my most memorably unusual language experiences: talking with a Mexican who spoke quite decent German but with a real Mexican accent. Never thought I'd hear that combination until then!

                          2. re: Bada Bing

                            Not just in murrka, I'm afraid. Tons of German restaurants all over Germany go the pork route for "Wiener" schnitzel, which really, in this case, should be called schnitzel "Wiener Art".

                            But it's usually the Austrians who are the biggest sticklers for it. Understandable, since it really is an Austrian dish.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              Yes, "Schnitzel, Wiener Art" (Art=style). That is how I recall many menus rendering it.

                              I wish I had your luxury of indulging in German foods regularly in Germany. Lowbrow as it may seem, I'd kill to try a genuine Berliner Döner Kebap. Virtually unfindable in the USA.

                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                Tell me about it. Though I generally don't exceed 1-2 döners per summer. Sad, I know.

                                Come to think of it, I don't believe I had a single one last year. Don't hate me '-)

                          3. re: nsxtasy

                            I should add one clarification, in case some non-German speakers get confused. The "Wiener" part in Wienerschnitzel" indicates "from Vienna" [Wien, in Austrian], just like Hamburger means from Hamburg.

                            So even if Wien and Veal sound alike, that's just coincidence. It was simply the Vienna style to use veal for their Schnitzels. Other parts of Germany freely use pork and with great success and no eyebrows raised. Probably would just call it a Schnitzel, though, in Europe. Both forms are "authentic."

                            1. re: Bada Bing

                              These responses seem generally unhelpful. Speaking as the father of a 15-year old son who has eaten all over the country with me, i don't think he would put sanford or german food at the top of his list here in mke. the german places are stilted, boring and full of retirees. There's a reason why german cuisine is not sweeping the nation--it's time has come and gone, like otto von bismarck's. and sanford is not the kind of place most 15-year olds want to spend a couple hours, no matter how good the food is.

                              I would suggest something more fun. In July you could sit outside at Smoke Shack for BBQ (good by MKE standards).

                              Kopps is a good call for lunch or custard. And there is no place safer than Kopps.

                              Northpoint is a nice place to sit outside on lake michigan for a decent burger and custard at lunch. As is alterra by the lake which has good sandwiches for lunch.

                              Grafito, while not great, is a decent place to sit outside on the river and eat italian food for dinner (something all kids like, unlike teutonic chow). and it has the ryan braun connection that a junior baseball fan may appreciate.

                              Cempazuchi is tasty mexican in a lively neighborhood close to downtown that would be great for dinner. dad can get mke's best margarita there. if he likes thai food, go to thai-namite for dinner just down the street from cempa. bad name; good food. also within walking distance is philly way (cheesesteak lunch) or dawg house (dogs and italian beefs for lunch).

                              the food at the iron horse is good. as is the hotel. that was a good call. great breakfast too.

                              tutto is solid italian downtown in a sports-themed place for dinner. my daughter just went with friends for a bday dinner. kids like it. dads do too. zarletti is the best italian downtown, but tutto is better atmosphere for kids (it's more nightclub actually, but kid friendly). that's my my kids say anyway, and they have been to both.

                              if you're putzing around, go to bay view for classic slice pizza for lunch or dinner. they have pasta too.

                              oh, and Usinger sausage is not worth the trip. You are better off getting johnsonville brats from your local grocery store. or driving to the house of homemade sausage in germantown. or bunzels on the westside. or skipping it altogether.

                              sorry for my rant. it's great that people try to help out. but it seems they think about what they would like (rouladen) rather than what makes a 15-year old cringe (rouladen).

                              1. re: Milwhawkeye

                                If you are referring to the Kopps in Glendale, it is not the safest place. The FedEx office next door has the highest rate of car break-ins in the area. The same with the hotel on the other side. You have to try and park on the street side where your car remains visible.

                                1. re: Milwhawkeye

                                  I appreciate the copious advice. I can assure you, however, that my son would love a decent rouladen dish. In fact, we've ben making German foods at home lately--Spaetzle, Sauerbraten. He is uncommonly adventurous with foods--he'll try just about anything. I'm sure it's because I'm a single dad for him and he's been brought up his whole life seeing food as various and as a scene of exploration, mostly home-cooking.

                                  As this trip has already happened, I'll say this much. My time was limited, so I made my visit to the art musueum (spectacular place) figured I'd stop at Usinger's on the way to pick up my accordion, and I did stop there and looked about. But because it was lunchtime, I decided to try a cooked brat first and went to the Brat House (or something like that) across the street to try a Usinger's brat first. It was a very good thing, served on a pretzel roll with onions and kraut.

                                  But I wasn't so blown away by it that I felt like going to the trouble a getting a foam cooler and the like for a safe trip home with tons of sausages. Just seemed not really called for given that I'm telling myself I should be on a diet anyway. So I passed on take-home.

                                  I will say about Milwaukee that I was fascinated by the church architecture and felt that the city had many beautiful qualities. On the other hand, the freeways had me puzzled and I've never seen so many detour signs in my life in one city.

                                  Great place to find an accordion, though!

                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                    Anyone who recommends Usingers over Klements sausage does not know what they are talking about.

                                    1. re: mizznicole

                                      >>>Anyone who recommends Usingers over Klements sausage does not know what they are talking about.<<<

                                      I certainly do not have a pony in that race but am curious to know what objective measures you use to arrive at your conclusion?

                                      1. re: mizznicole

                                        "In matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane."
                                        --Mark Twain

                                        I have found Johnsonville to be an edequate substitute if there is no Usinger's to be found; Klement's has always been more of an 'oh well, any sausage in a storm' choice. But then, I probably dont know what I'm talking about.

                                        1. re: Fydeaux

                                          Fydeaux, Klement's must be the best. Just look at how fast those sausages can run.

                                          1. re: Fowler

                                            Brats are required whenever I return to that beautiful city on the lake. Neighbors are quick to point out they have Usinger's on the grill. Johnsonville seem to be the stash in the freezer. Nobody has yet boasted about Klement's.

                                            Love the margaritas at the park. Tip him generously before he pours, and you don't care who won the game.

                                            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                              "Neighbors are quick to point out they have Usinger's on the grill. Johnsonville seem to be the stash in the freezer. Nobody has yet boasted about Klement's."

                                              Of all my friends, family members, neighbors, business associates, volunteer group pals, colleagues, and fellow club members this is how it breaks down as far as which sausages they eat or serve:

                                              1:) The stuff they killed and made themselves
                                              2:) Usinger's
                                              3:) The sausages from the little artisanal producers like Bernie's or Fox Brothers
                                              4:) Grasch's or Ray's sausages
                                              5:) Johnsonville

                                              1013:) Anything from the Klement's factory

                      3. I don't care how old or young, wealthy or poor etc folks are if I have visitors from out of town visit me they are going to Kopps. This is a local place that serves frozen custard that is world class and a really good burger. There is one in Brookfield (west suburb) one near Bayshore Mall (east and slightly north just off I43) and one near Southridge Mall on Layton. They don't offer much for indoor seating - so if you can pick a nice weather day and head there for lunch. The funny thing is now that I'm really trying to limit my calorie intake whenever friends come to visit they demand a return visit to Kopps.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: chocchic

                          If you go to the Kopps in Glendale, try not to park on the Kinko's side (south), try to park by the main road on the north side. There have been many car break-ins in the Kinko's and Cousins lots (just south of Kopps).

                            1. re: Milwhawkeye

                              Um, as a local severely disagree. The FedEx/kinko's just south of the Glendale kopps is the breaking king for the area.

                              1. re: exvaxman

                                Exvaxman is right and I will add that even the kids from North Division will not park their cars in the Glendale Kopps lot.

                                1. re: Fowler

                                  As a local, I am shocked. I live in Whitefish bay and have never had a problem there in 20 years. Where do kids from North Division park when they got to Kopp's?

                        2. If you are open to taking a care package back home, across the street from Mader's is Usinger's. Fantastic european style sausages. Ask for entire packages from the odds and ends table. Great price savings. The Milwaukee Public Market is a short walk away and you can get a great variety of cheeses that never seem to leave the state. Personal favorite is Carr Valley. Colby and brick unlike any you get from the supermarket. I think Mitchell airport is the only one in the nation that does not consider cheese in carryon luggage as potential plastic explosives.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                            I'll be in Milwaukee briefly tomorrow and am starting to think that my main experience will have to be what I can take away in a cooler in the car home. Internet searching brought my attention to a place called European Homemade Sausage Shop:


                            Not sure I wish to go to multiple sausage shops. Anyone know how this one compares to Usinger's? Or is it just a matter of individual taste, in which case I roll the dice?

                            1. re: Bada Bing

                              This looks like a GREAT place that I am going to have to check out soon!

                              This would appear to be an excellent example of an old Polish neighborhood shop like ones common 50 years ago.

                              Usinger's would by contrast be more of a full frontal ethnic experience. Their shop on Old World 3rd St always has me expecting to hear someone spontaneously break out an aria from Lohengrin.

                              But personally, I cannot yet compare the products. Soon though.

                          2. If you havent already booked your hotel or if you can still cancel your resveration, you should stay at the Iron Horse. Its one of the best hotels in the country...and they have great food...I love their DLT (duck lettuce tomato) but the entire menu is fabulous. Your son will probably enjoy the atmosphere in the hotel.
                            Also for great local food for dinner - Braise

                            1. I went to the Brewers game on Monday night and needed a place for dinner before the game. I was a bit worried about getting to the game on time - needlessly, perhaps - so I was looking for places that open before 5 pm. I looked at Carol Deptolla's Top 30 article ( ) and decided on Pastiche, which is a French bistro that opens at 4 pm. It's located in the Bay View neighborhood, about halfway between the airport and downtown. I thought Pastiche was great! The menu is mostly traditional French bistro fare. I started with the steamed mussels, which is a special every Monday. I then had a spicy corn bisque, which was a special of the day. For the main, I had the sautéed skate wing. I loved all three dishes, just fantastic. The desserts sounded great but unfortunately I was too full to continue. Highly recommended!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                Having read many of your posts, I've come to respect and appreciate your judgments very much. Thanks. And I'm thoroughly fascinated by how extensive your dining experiences are. I hope someone else is paying your way!