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Quick Milwaukee visit - recs needed

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My husband and I will be in Milwaukee next Friday for the Aziz Ansari comedy show. We'll be in town (from Chicago) lunchtime Friday to lunchtime Saturday and I'm looking for some restaurant recommendations. There's a timing issue with dinner so I could use some extra help with that aspect - because of activities we have planned Fri afternoon there won't be time for to eat unless it's a quick place and rushed. So I'm thinking a late dinner, but we're used to Chicago schedules and so many restaurants seem to close at 10 pm in Milwaukee, so I'm not sure the best option for something at 9:30ish that won't be dead or feel rushed.

For background, we love fine dining and great food/restaurants, but this isn't a fine dining kind of night with the schedule, etc. However, my husband will also just have finished his last law school exams ever so we kind of want to celebrate a little bit without going crazy. What I'm hoping for is someplace that will be lively (as in restaurant energy, not as in drunk and clubby) at 9:30-10 pm, and that food and atmosphere would fall in the upscale-casual-hip vibe - special enough for a little celebratory meal, but approachable and chill. Maybe with good cocktails or maybe another recommendation for an after-dinner drink?

Here are some places I came across that I'm thinking could potentially fit the bill, but I'm not sure:
Crazy Water
Hinterland
Trocadero
Rumpus Room
The Noble
Braise (? Says bar menu until 11, not sure what it entails though)
Balzac
Smyth

And then any ideas for brunch Saturday would be welcome. I really wanted to do Roots on this trip but they're closed for renovations until next Saturday and only do brunch in Sundays so that doesn't work, some of the above were also on my potential brunch options (Trocadero, Balzac) as well as Honeypie.

Any thoughts would be very welcome and much appreciated!

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  1. You don't mention where you're staying (downtown?) or how you're getting around (car?), which could have an impact on recommendations. Of the places you mention, the only ones I've been to are Hinterland and Crazy Water, both of which would fit your needs to a T. Hinterland is in the Third Ward and is walkable from much of downtown Milwaukee; Crazy Water is further south in Walkers Point and would require a car or cab. I can't help on brunch because when I visit I'm usually in the towns west of Milwaukee and I am guessing that's not where you're staying.

    1. For dinner I would check out something on Milwaukee St., such as Umami Moto or Carnevor. You could go to Distil right next door for some great craft cocktails. All of these places have great food with a very trendy, hip atmosphere and plenty of energy. I think it will fit what you're looking for.

      For brunch I would go to Blues Egg if you don't mind a 10 minute drive from downtown.

      1. I have been to Hinterland, Crazy Water, Smyth, Trocadero.

        I would pick Hinterland. Consistently excellent, creative dishes, using local ingredients like venison. Nice enough for a celebratory dinner. Love their desserts, too. I have been several times and never been disappointed. It might not be super lively as the space is rather big and spread out. There is also a second bar in the back, though.

        Crazy Water has good food, too, but doesn't seem nice enough for a celebration. It's a bit loud and cramped. The food is generally good but can suffer from being too busy and having too many components on the plate. Creative but "busy" dishes,

        Trocadero is too casual for a celebration and you probably have something like it in Chicago. I liked it for brunch though. My husband adores their Bloody Mary's with Dijon mustard and a blue cheese stuffed olive. Nice patio, too.

        Wasn't a fan of The Smyth. The starters are good but the entrees are mixed. I think the less ambitious dishes hit the mark more often. The hotel/bar/lobby menu is solid, too, but also not very ambitious. We have stayed at the Iron Horse Hotel and love the rooms, decor, and lobby. Is a nice place to hang out. I only wish the drinks and service were a tad bit better than they are.

        If you eat Asian food often in Chicago, stay away from Umami Moto. I was not impressed when we went.

        After dinner, if you want to do it up old school, look into At Random (the room is a hoot--1970s rec room) for alcoholic milkshakes or Bryant's (they don't make them like this any more) for classic cocktails.

        For modern craft cocktails, The Hamilton, Distil.

        http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/m...