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Mar 10, 2014 11:58 AM

Milwaukee - typical dishes? And what does Milwaukee do better than anyone?

I'm visiting Milwaukee for the first time, and have no idea what you guys eat! :)

I'm looking not just for recommendations to specific restaurants, but also guidance as to what kind of dishes screams "Milwaukee"?

And what types of dishes (or drinks) do you do better than anyone?

Aside from the beer factory at the opening of Laverne & Shirley, I really have no sense of what is typical and traditional to your part of the world.

Thanks in advance!

Mr Taster

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  1. Frozen custard
    German cuisine
    Fish fry
    Fried cheese curds
    Beer Cheese Soup
    Serbian cuisine
    Raw beef, onion and Limburger cheese on rye bread

    2 Replies
    1. re: Fowler

      Thank you! This is a very useful starting point to base my research on.

      Mr Taster

      1. re: Fowler

        That's a pretty good list provided by Fowler. However, you could easily miss some of the very best restaurants in Milwaukee if you focused exclusively on that list. I've eaten some great dinners in Milwaukee, with cuisines/categories ranging from fine dining (Sanford, will try Ardent soon) to contemporary American (Hinterland, Crazy Water) to French bistro (Pastiche). I'm not telling you to ignore those local specialties, but rather, there's some terrific food out there that you also don't want to miss. For more on this, Carol Deptolla's most recent list of the top 30 restaurants is a good place to start -

      2. Fowler has pretty much summarized it :-)

        Fish fry is huge on Fridays --very "typical."

        I grew up in the Madison area and remember the Friday fish boils --almost always cod (the healthier rendition of the fish fry). If there is one thing I do not miss food-wise, since leaving Wisconsin, it is the fish boil, which as a child, always seemed to involve a mouth full of little bones. But don't let that stop you from trying a local specialty.

        Also look for "Sheboygan" style brats. See somewhat dated write up here:

        Drinks. You mean other than beer? Sprecher is perhaps the best-known local beer outside of Milwaukee/WI among the sort of nouveau "craft" type beers, and they have an excellent national award-winning root beer. (Or PBR if you are into beer nostalgia.


        As Fowler indicates, lots of meat/potato/milk-based hearty fare. Keep in mind also that while Wisconsin has great fresh veggies, none will be available this time of year that does not perhaps come from a greenhouse, given the winter they've had.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MagicMarkR

          Also, Milwaukee is one of the few places you can find Sprecher Root Beer on tap. Swoon.

        2. nsxtasy is correct as always. I was answering your question from a perspective of what is more unique to or as you say "screams Milwaukee". Having fried cheese curds in a blue collar bar on the South Side of Milwaukee is going to be a much, much different experience than an upscale French meal at Lake Park Bistro. I would prefer a dinner at Lake Park Bistro but you can get good French bistro food in a number of places around the world. It is not specific to Milwaukee. Same thing with Bratwurst. I have no idea where you live, but a grilled beer brat with sauerkraut is not something someone from Japan would ever see but it is a Milwaukee and Wisconsin tradition.

          nsxtasy posted a great link to some of the best restaurants in the Milwaukee area. If you are looking for a great dining experience in general, that is a wonderful resource but keep in mind many of those restaurants do not "scream Milwaukee". You can probably get a good steak, for example, in your home city.

          If you have the time, you could do some of the things I mentioned for lunch and then visit the higher echelon places in the link nsxtasy provided for dinner. Kind of the best of both worlds.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Fowler

            My interest is primarily finding things that I couldn't find easily (or that I would only find inferior versions of) in Los Angeles or New York. So yeah, I'm not concerned with fine dining, French bistro, Mexican food, or any type of Asian food, for example. That's why I found fowler's list particularly spot on.

            Mr Taster

          2. Let me tack on to Fowler's great list.

            Frozen custard is best at Leon's, Kopp's, and Oscar's.

            There is a continuous battle between Mader's and Ratzsch's for the best German cuisine.

            Every family has their favorite Friday night fish fry. Try the Serb hall for a blast from the past.

            Speaking of Serbian, 3 Brothers is a pain to get to, but well worth the effort. I particularly like the burek and the roast goose.

            Milwaukee has a high density of pubs, grills, and bars. My favorite is McBob's Pub and Grill. Definitely go for the corned beef or fried fish.

            Did somebody mention beer? As in a brewery tour? Miller is impressive, Sprecher's offers premium soft drinks as well, but my favorite is Lakefront Brewery. Try to get the guy with the handlebar moustache. Not for the prudes. On Friday night after the tour, you can have the fish fry and watch the kids and grandparents do the polka. With each other.

            Hamburger's are just as opinionated as frozen custard. You have the choice of Sobelman's, Solly's, and the local chain Culver's. Ask for the butterburger.

            If you are on Brady street doing a tavern crawl, stop in at Peter Sciortino's Bakery for fine Italian breads, pastry, and gelato.

            And what should we be drinking in the land of bars and taverns? Try an Old Fashioned with American whiskey, a brandy Manhattan, and a Bloody Mary garnished with jerky or smoked sausage.

            As well as Central Europe, Milwaukee has a rich heritage from Central America and Southeast Asia. But I will let others more conversant with those establishments to chime in.

            3 Replies
            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

              IRF -- they are building a Culver's on University Pkway in Sarasota -- CUSTARD!!

              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                I second IRFL's recommendation for a trip to Lakefront Brewery. The tour is fun, the beer is excellent and while not the best fish fry, it is still better than average and you get the music and polka dancing to boot.

                Lakefront Brewery also still has the "slide" from Milwaukee County Stadium where every time the Brewers hit a home run, a man named Bernie Brewer who was watching the game from a small chateau high over the bleachers overlooking the field would come out of the chateau and ride down a slide into a prop that looked like a huge mug of beer.

                1. re: Fowler

                  Sorta out of the thread, but "no longer Here" I think it was called was just on MPTV. I broke down in tears when they mentioned John Earnst. The only place where waiters were perfection.

              2. You didnt mention when you were planning on visiting, but regarding bratwurst, I would wait until warmer weather sets in and you can get a brat right off a grill set up in front of a grocery or meat market. I all honesty, I cant think of a single restaurant that gets it right. And if anyone can suggest one, I would love to hear about it.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Fydeaux

                  >>> I would wait until warmer weather sets in and you can get a brat right off a grill set up in front of a grocery or meat market. I all honesty, I cant think of a single restaurant that gets it right. And if anyone can suggest one, I would love to hear about it.<<<

                  Karl Ratzsch's
                  Milwaukee Ale House
                  Delafield Brewhaus
                  Turner's Hall
                  Wegener's Inn

                  Just to name a few restaurants that get it right IMHO.

                  1. re: Fowler

                    Would you REALLY send someone to Pandl's for a bratwurst?

                    The brat sliders at Saz's are pretty good, but in my own opinion, a bratwurst is best off the grill [cooked in the open air] rather than from a kitchen.

                    I'll give the Ale house a try next time I'm in the third ward though.

                    1. re: Fydeaux

                      "a bratwurst is best off the grill [cooked in the open air] rather than from a kitchen."

                      I am in total agreement with you, Fydeaux and my response was simply a list of restaurants that prepare them well. I would prefer a brat fresh off the grill in the parking lot of Lambeau but that was not your question.