Top 12 Best Restaurants in Milwaukee

Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Known for beer and cheese, Milwaukee also boasts a blossoming food scene centered around farm-to-table cuisine. While beer-soaked taverns and custard stands remain mainstays, the city’s modern culinary direction focuses on sourcing hyperlocal and experimenting with global flavors.

Restaurant NameCuisine TypeHighlights
Odd DuckNew AmericanInventive small plates, local ingredients
GoodkindGlobalCraft cocktails, vibrant plates
SanfordNew AmericanFine dining, global influences
Hungry SumoPan-AsianUnique sushi, Japanese fusion
AmilindaSpanish/PortugueseWood-fired dishes, Iberian flavors
La MerendaTapasSeafood specialties, Mediterranean flavors
ZarlettiItalianHandmade pastas, wood-fired dishes
Le Reve Patisserie & CaféFrenchScratch-made French cuisine, pastries
Tre RivaliItalianBold Italian fare, pasta focus
CaminoSpanish TapasOpen-kitchen concept, Latin American influences
FauntleroyMidwestElevated regional ingredients, tasting menu

Trendy upstarts challenge old-school fine dining institutions as nationally recognized chefs take the helm at various venues. From small plates hotspots to craft cocktail dens, Milwaukee’s restaurant landscape captivates with something for every palate.

Odd Duck

Name and Location: Odd Duck is an inventive American small plates restaurant located in Milwaukee’s hip Bay View neighborhood focused on creative seasonal fare.

History and Significance: Open since 2010 in a storefront space, Odd Duck brought imaginative shared plates dining to Milwaukee by young chef Ross Bachhuber, garnering awards like the city’s Best Restaurant from critcs and loyal neighborhood fans for playful presentations supporting local producers.

What to Expect: Couples nibble house made charcuterie, graze garden fresh salads, savor seasonal vegetarian noodles and more globe-spanning flavor profiles as dishes change with inspiration. Clever desserts end meals on a high note celebrating regional ingredients.

Visitor Information: Serving dinner nightly plus brunch on weekends. Reservations recommended either on website or by calling (414) 763-5881. Street parking available, ride share drop-off works well.

Helmed by a 2018 James Beard Award Best Chef: Midwest semifinalist, tiny Odd Duck delivers hugely inventive New American small plates starring local, seasonal ingredients playfully reimagined. Housed in a former auto body shop in Bay View neighborhood, the hip eatery doubles down on oddity through quirkily decorated walls alongside global tapas-style shareables. Creative plates like duck heart pastrami sandwiches on rye or carrot and sunflower seed pâte drizzled tableside with parsley oil elicit menu envy. Meanwhile, the modest wine list overflows with funky biodynamic pours enjoyed at reclaimed wood tables under edison bulb lighting in this destination-worthy, reservations mandatory hot spot.

Goodkind

Name and Location: Housed in a converted pharmacy on Historic Mitchell Street, Goodkind offers elevated comfort fare celebrating global influences within an energetic contemporary space.

History and Significance: Open since 2015 by hospitality veterans, Goodkind brought playful sophistication to the Bay View neighborhood through vibrant flavor fusions in dishes, craft cocktails and eclectic decor channeling road trip spirit distilled down to a welcoming neighborhood locale filled with heart.

What to Expect: Share bites like General Tso’s Cauliflower or Pepperoni Pizza Potstickers paired with fun cocktails as dynamic as the blotched napkins. The buzzy atmosphere sparks lively partner conversations across rustic wood tables under a neon arrow.

Visitor Information: Dinner from 5-9pm Tuesday through Sunday. Call (414) 635-0661 for reservations accommodated whenever possible. On-street parking available, ride share drop-off convenient.

Exuding rock and roll energy channeled from its dynamic husband-and-wife chef team, Goodkind takes the title for best restaurant in Milwaukee on several national lists. The exposed-brick corner tavern comes alive with killer craft cocktails washing down globally inspired sharable plates vibrant in both flavor and presentation. Behind the nightly changing menu dictated by hyper seasonal and regional ingredients, Goodkind cheekily self-brands as “vegetable forward” to highlight bright produce brought center stage. While proteins like smoked sturgeon rillettes and roast chicken do shine through, flavors headline through creative executions on veggies and starches – perhaps carrot cooked in hay, parsnip-chickpea fritters or corn panna cotta. Two seatings per evening foster an intimate vibe for enjoying this loud yet friendly Walker’s Point destination.

Sanford

Name and Location: Sanford restaurant resides in an airy renovated warehouse along the Milwaukee River downtown, helmed by lauded Chef Justin Carlisle crafting refined seasonal New American cuisine.

History and Significance: Open since 2016 from award-winning hometown chef Justin Carlisle in a chic industrial space made for lingering, Sanford adds marquee dining missing from the downtown fine dining scene while pushing boundaries on visually striking plates celebrating Midwest ingredients and diverse cooking techniques.

What to Expect: Partners indulge in artfully composed dishes marrying flavors and textures by a pioneering culinary artist using local produce, fish and meats for inspiration to delight tastebuds – perhaps Fennel Sausage Gnocchi or Cured Atlantic Char. Silky desserts cap off.

Visitor Information: Elegant dinner service runs Wednesday-Saturday evenings starting at 5pm. Valet parking available at adjacent garage. Reservations recommended via website or calling (414) 212-5111.

For fine dining fixtures near downtown, Sanford has ranked among Milwaukee’s top tables for over two decades thanks to the consistent creativity of founding Chef-owner Sandy D’Amato. An elegant yet relaxed ambiance fills the exposed brick and whitewashed timber space focusing on a menu spotlighting D’Amato’s take on New American cuisine inflected with global preparations. Ever changing plates allow regional produce, seafood and meats to sing – like honey lacquered quail over goat cheese polenta or butter-poached lobster with Marsala-fig sauce. Extensive wine features join an impressive roster of craft beers while superior service completes the special occasion experience that is Sanford.

Hungry Sumo

Name and Location: Tucked away in Milwaukee’s hip Walker’s Point neighborhood, cozy Hungry Sumo serves contemporary Japanese fare focused on sushi and small plates in a laidback environment.

History and Significance: Opened in 2015 by young chef Phillip Hong, Hungry Sumo brought an inclusive vision of high quality Japanese eats emphasizing bowl foods and nigiri sushi options to an area filled with diverse dining shepherded by someone truly passionate and knowledgable about this cuisine.

What to Expect: Under hanging bulb lighting, pairs fuse fortunes reading out playful fates across wooden tables swirling fragrant ramen broth and admiring pristine fish atop fingers of sushi rice expertly formed by Hong himself behind the bar.

Visitor Information: Dinner Tuesday through Sunday starting at 5pm. Limited street parking otherwise garage/ride share suggested. Moderate pricing. Call (414) 885-7836 for reservations. Closed Mondays.

Tucked inside the understated Third Ward neighborhood, this pan-Asian restaurant hiding minimal signage truly transports through its uniquely executed sushi and sharp Japanese fusion plates. Graze tender hamachi crudo salad or walleye-avocado sashimi before sinking teeth into steaming bowls of ramen crowned with melt-in-your-mouth chashu pork. Bibimbap, poke and bao all make appearances across Hungry Sumo’s broad menu stamped with Japanese and Korean highlights plus regional Chinese nods in a sleek, modern exposed-kitchen setting. Endless omakase options keep sushi lovers satiated while killer happy hour deals beckon budget-focused foodies to belly up to the restaurant’s pristine wooden bar.

Amilinda

Name and Location: Housed in a converted warehouse on the edge of downtown, Amilinda highlights elevated Wisconsin fare focused on hearth cooking with wood-fired ovens turning out craveworthy fare.

History and Significance: James Beard-recognized chef Gregory León helms the kitchen at this urban restaurant opened in 2014 emphasizing Midwestern soul food dishes cooked over open flames from vegetables at peak freshness to creative meat preparations bringing depth of flavor. The ambiance invites lingering.

What to Expect: Under exposed ductwork, couples savor shareable snacks like smoky cauliflower or cheesy cornbread giving way to wood-kissed steak, trout, chicken, and pledged veggies sometimes dashed with global twists across an approachable season-driven menu.

Visitor Information: Serving weekday dinner from 5-10pm plus brunch Friday through Sunday starting at 10am. Call (414) 209-3001 for reservations, limited street parking otherwise utilise structure across street.

Spanish and Portuguese flavors mingle inside Amilinda, a creamy-hued contemporary eatery tucked down an alleyway bearing little more than their logo. Once inside, globally inspired wood-fired dishes star alongside Spanish tapas classics and tempting meat and cheese boards. Sip your way through Spanish Tempranillo or Ribera while snacking on spreads of paprika-spiced pork, fried chickpeas and garlic shrimp. Heartier plates include whole juicy fish baked in banana leaves or tender suckling pig crowned with pork crackling. An extensive brunch menu joins the dinner fare within this bi-level Milwaukee standout effortlessly fusing Iberian essence with contemporary Midwest hospitality.

La Merenda

Name and Location: Historic Walker’s Point harbors La Merenda behind an unassuming storefront window, masking a lively tiny tapas bar filled nightly with friends sharing small plates and drinks Spanish-style.

History and Significance: Peter Sandroni opened cozy La Merenda back in 2007 fueled by dreams of recreating his travels through Spain and Italy packed into a diminutive dining room bringing transportive tastes to Milwaukee through pinchos and raciones that quickly won over local palates and critics as a needed cosmopolitan addition.

What to Expect: Crowded community tables stage lively discourse and friendship building fueled by chef’s composed bites from patatas bravas to rotating cheeses and meats begging to be smeared atop grilled breads, accompanied by affordable wines/sherries/beers perfectly suited.

Visitor Information: First come, first seated from 5pm-12am with a line not unusual. Expect wait on peak weekends. Cash only payments. Validated parking at lot 1/2 block west at nights/weekends.

As Milwaukee’s finest tapas restaurant located inside a historic bank vault downstairs in Walker’s Point, La Merenda dishes outstanding Spanish bites worth seeking out. Much like its ocean-invoking name suggests (la merenda means “little seafood snack” in Catalan), seafood specialties like salmon gravlax pop alongside imported cheeses and charcuterie platters studded with cornichons. But the menu’s real star? Housemade toasted bread rounds crowned with ever-changing vibrant toppings – perhaps goat cheese-leek marmalade or sardines tossed in orange and fennel. With ingredients sourced from artisan local farmers and producers, the cozy subterranean brick environs of La Merenda effortlessly transport through standout Mediterranean flavors in Milwaukee’s signature casual way.

Zarletti

Name and Location: Popular pizza and Italian restaurant Zarletti can be found across two metro Milwaukee locations, serving homemade cooking and Old World hospitality from the Bartolotta family since 1982.

History and Significance: Brothers Joe and Sal Bartolotta opened the original Zarletti location in Milwaukee’s Italian-heavy East Side neighborhood back in 1982 focusing on classic family recipes with heaping portions. Today both locations continue that rich tradition of familiar flavors dining over 30 years later.

What to Expect: Under murals of Sicily and red/white checker cloths, pairs split generously stuffed pastas before individual thin-crust pizzas emerge hot from the ovens, waving away tempting dessert trays groaning under stacks of cannoli and tiramisu. The vibe brims with loud banter and affection.

Visitor Information: Serving lunch daily, dinner starts at 5pm. Expect waits on weekends or call ahead for seating at either location. Free adjacent parking available. Cash payments accepted.

James Beard Award semifinalist chefs head the kitchen at Zarletti – an Italian hotspot named among the best new U.S. restaurants the year it debuted. The ingredient-driven venue centers around handmade pastas crafted to order as well as wood-fired meats and fish dishes vibrantly plated. Twists on al pomodoro and carbonara join creamy mushroom tortellini, rigatoni bolognese, and veal-stuffed torchio coated in velvety fonduta cheese sauce. Beyond housemade pastas, seared salmon with English pea purée and prosciutto-wrapped chicken highlight the hits at this laidback eatery promoting community dining along shared tables. It all unfurls nicely inside a historic Milwaukee building housing floor-to-ceiling wine storage adding Old-World essence.

Le Reve Patisserie & Café

Name and Location: Charming French patisserie Le Rêve drizzles old world Parisian baking charm through downtown Milwaukee unique creations like macarons and elegant pastries served at its cafe.

History and Significance: Opened in 2008 by chef Andrew Schneider and wife Alicia, Le Reve (meaning “the dream”) transports guests to Continental decadence savoring bretagne cookies, macarons bursting with seasonal fillings, cream puffs, tarts and more baked goods crafted meticulously onsite at their Broadway location.

What to Expect: Within the sunny cafe, couples indulge human-scale exquisite treats indeed evocative of idealized Parisian scenes, yet perfectly at home in Milwaukee, before taking a few pastel boxed items to-go for later hotel room picnics. Très magnifique!

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday-Friday 7:30am-6pm, weekends 8:30am-5pm. Free 2-hour street parking or structure behind. Call (414) 930-2406 to pre-order larger bakery orders.

France meets Wisconsin at Le Rêve Pâtisserie & Café, a sunny Third Ward refuge delivering Parisian essence through seating set beneath the Eiffel Tower itself. At least, a charming mini replica version lives onsite. While Le Rêve’s beautiful laminated pastry and pristine macaron cases steal the scene upon entry, the venue’s scratch-made French cuisine impresses at brunch, lunch and dinner. Begin mornings with a cortado coffee washing down stuffed crepes or golden French toast paired perfectly with berry compote before returning for elegant composed salads or Croque Monsieur sandwiches oozing Emmental. And no matter when you dine, always leave room for something sweet – Le Rêve’s macaron flavors and fine French desserts reign supreme.

Tre Rivali

Name and Location: Modern rustic downtown restaurant Tre Rivali emphasizes handmade pastas, wood-fired pizza and Italian classics at reasonable pricing served in a sleek contemporary space.

History and Significance: The Bartolotta Restaurants opened Tre Rivali in 2018 next to the Milwaukee Public Market to fill an accessible lunch and dinner neighborhood dining void downtown with Chef Heather Terhune at the helm focused on pastas, shared plates and thin crust pizzas perfected using an imported Italian pizza oven turning out bubbly hot pies consistently.

What to Expect: Under futuristic bubble lighting, pairs feast upon craveworthy pasta brimming with seafood in sauces like a mattone arrabiata lush with tomatoes and chili flakes across sleek wood tables surrounded fellow downtown dwellers sipping Italian wine selections.

Visitor Information: Serving lunch/dinner daily alongside weekend brunch. Valet parking offered or large public garage underneath. Call (414) 226-3197 for reservations or book online via website.

The name means “three rivals” in Italian, though inside this modern downtown Milwaukee dining room, only excellence prevails on the plates and inside glasses. Head Chef Heather Terhune tackles bold Italian fare focused on pasta perfection across Tre Rivali’s seasonally changing menu. Housemade squid ink linguine in sea urchin cream sauce makes frequent, decadent appearances alongside duck ragu lasagne and pecorino-sauced mafaldine featuring blistered tomatoes and breadcrumbs toasted in brown butter for crunch. From the in-house dry aged steak program to Italian varietals populating their Wine Spectator lauded list, Tre Rivali commits to quality for sophisticated yet welcoming upscale dining along the Milwaukee River.

Camino

Name and Location: Housed within a repurposed firehouse in Bay View, convivial restaurant Camino brings rustic European flavors to handmade dishes and craft drinks perfect for lingering over as an intimate evening unfolds through multiple cozy spaces.

History and Significance: The wild boar mounted above the bar sets the tone at Camino – Expect bold, intensely flavored plates and original drinks strong enough to stand up to the hearty fare created by hospitality veterans Chef Kasey and Sarah at this neighborhood destination restaurant opened in 2013 sparking cozy celebrations of shared indulgences nightly.

What to Expect: Sip thoughtfully mixed Sagamore Old Fashioneds beside the crackling fireplace before knife and fork tackle housemade tagliatelle studded with nubs of tender rabbit sugo one table over, as an all-vinyl soundtrack keeps the mood nimble.

Visitor Information: Serving nightly dinner starting at 5pm plus weekend brunch. Reservations smart via website or call (414) 771-3411. Arrive early to grab limited street parking spots.

An early anchor sparking Walker’s Point’s dining renaissance, Camino brings regional Spanish tapas to life through an open-kitchen concept overlooking a bursting herb garden. Since launching in 2013, Chef-Owner Karen Bell creatively intertwines Latin American touches across small shareable plates stellar for grazing post-work or enjoying leisurely over weekends. Empanadas, patatas bravas and suckling pig bocadillos join larger composed plates like whole rockfish baked in corn husk and cider-braised chicken enlivened by preserved lemon. Carefully selected wines and sangrias wash down the Parmesan-crusted Brussels sprouts, mushroom conservas and veggie-centric options attracting both Herbivore and carnivore diners to bright, beautiful Camino.

Fauntleroy

Name and Location: Hip modern Milwaukee restaurant Fauntleroy focuses on showcasing wild-caught sustainable fish and seafood served within a chic slightly rebel vibe environment in the Historic Third Ward.

History and Significance: First opened New Year’s Eve 2018 by young owner/chef David Wallner, Fauntleroy brought an edgy yet thoughtful seafood-centric dining vision to downtown in a tortured concrete and timber environment that lets the striking plates shine while rocking a straightforward vibe welcoming all to enjoy prime sea fare.

What to Expect: Under swirling schoolroom pendant lights, pairs feast upon composed seafood plates like Hawaiian Kanpachi Crudo getting hands dirty with Brown Butter Lobster Claw gnocchi as ambient club music keeps the mood chill and inspired conversation flowing freely over colorful distressed wood tables.

Visitor Information: Dinner served Tuesday through Saturday starting at 5pm. Reservations strongly recommended via website or by calling (414) 988-9277. Nearby garages available, ride share drop-off convenient.

Helmed by a chef named Food & Wine’s 2018 Best New Chef: Midwest, intimate Fauntleroy brings elevated credentials to ingredients humble Midwesterners know best. Located in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward district, the ingredient-forward venue centers around a frequently changing tasting menu highlighting regional meats and seasonal produce through precise preparations. Expect plates like aged duck crusted in sunchoke and walnuts or sumac-cured steelhead trout garnished with fermented berry yogurt whey. Alternatively, pop in on off-hours to belly up to Fauntleroy’s marble bar slinging zero-proof cocktails every bit as craveable as their small batched takes on whiskey highballs starring in the brief reserve list.

Beyond downtown’s bar-and-restaurant studded Historic Third Ward neighborhood, Walker’s Point has emerged as a dynamo dining district lined with hotspots like Goodkind and Camino uphappily challenging the Meat and cheese focused established order. Wherever you dine across Brew City, Milwaukee’s contemporary culinary landscape spotlights ingredient quality through technique driven global plates prioritizing thoughtful presentations starring local essence – all nicely washing down one of over a dozen area craft brews, of course. Because beer may reign supreme, but Milwaukee’s food scene undoubtedly holds its own.

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