The 7 Great Restaurants in Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s dining scene continues to evolve, weaving in traditional farm-to-table meals that capitalize on the state’s rich agricultural belt as well as fusion spins on ethnic cuisine. This year’s crop of new restaurants includes an eatery wired to the “meals in bowls” concept trending nationwide as well as a fried chicken outpost in Bay View. Fine dining options show no sign of weakening thanks to Stella Van Buren inside the new Westin Milwaukee as well as The Fitz, also in a hotel. Options are not only in downtown Milwaukee, but also dot busy East Side streets and contribute to the night-life enhancements in the village of Shorewood, just north of Milwaukee.

01 of 07

Stella Van Buren

Stella Van Buren

Type of cuisine: Italian

Stella Van Buren—on the third floor of The Westin Milwaukee—proves that hotels are ground central for cutting-edge culinary trends. Served in a sprawling, glass-walled dining space, daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices are Italian-inspired—think dishes like bruschetta topped with goat cheese, truffle honey, and strawberries as a starter before easing into heartier fare such as red-wine braised short-rib pasta with black-truffle Alfredo sauce. Also, meat lovers take note: this is a sweet spot for a steak. The brunch menu is pure indulgence, with pasta dishes (like baked rigatoni carbonara or Cacio e pepe spaghetti), breakfast staples (such as the cheesy truffle eggs bruschetta; or the brunch burger, with a fried egg and tomato jam), and fun beverages like Nutella Mocha Smoothie.

02 of 07

Bowls Restaurant

Bowls Restaurant
Casual Restaurants
4.6

Type of cuisine: Vegetarian, vegan, and health-minded

Sharing ownership with another Walker’s Point delicious find (The National) is this bowl-focused eatery, another concept by local chef Nell Benton. Morning and all-day smoothies (served in a bowl, and as whole ingredients) include the Super Green Smoothie, Apple Pie Smoothie, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie. These are all vegan and gluten-free. Other categories on the menu are Pudding (options include Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Pudding), Grains (such as Mediterranean Tuna) and Greens (salads).

03 of 07

Kindred on KK

Kindred on KK

Type of Cuisine: New American

In February, this brick building on the main drag in Bay View got a major makeover, turning a former bar into a boutique hotel with a ground-floor restaurant called Kindred on KK and upstairs accommodations (that’s Kinn MKE Guesthouse). Run by the same owners as the former Bjonda in Wauwatosa, the dinner-only menu starts with seasonal craft cocktails with female names, like Dolly or Margo, and shareable bites such as “the gather board” with cheeses and charcuterie. Much of the menu, in fact, is small plates, including duck poutine and wild-board sliders, as well as entrees like pork tagliatelle and a grass-fed burger topped with bacon, caramelized onions, and Hook’s four-year cheddar.

04 of 07

Cloud Red

Cloud Red
Casual Restaurants
4.3

Type of Cuisine: New American

Snazzing up downtown Shorewood as part of an overall trend in this village north of downtown Milwaukee is Cloud Red. The menu shifts nightly based on what ingredients are available and in season, and the casual vibe makes it feel like more of a gathering place (with a bar serving craft beers, cocktails and glasses of wine) than it is a fine-dining restaurant. Food options might include grilled pork nachos, shrimp tacos, grilled-steak sandwich with chimichurri, or fresh spring rolls. Nightly specials include Taco Tuesday, with $5 pork, shrimp, or tempeh tacos. It also has a weeknight happy hour (from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.).

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Hot Head Fried Chicken

Hot Head Fried Chicken

Type of cuisine: Fried chicken

One of the culinary buzz-worthy topics of the year has been Nashville Hot chicken—and you can now get that at Hot Head Fried Chicken in Bay View (the Nashville Hot, seasoned with cayenne pepper). For what it’s worth, three other styles are available: Southern Fried (traditionally fried), Carolina Gold (tangy golden BBQ sauce), and 414 Fire (incorporating ghost pepper). Choose from a two-, four-, right- or 16-piece meal, or a sandwich. Included in the nine sides are mac & cheese, creamed corn, collard greens, and creamy cheese grits. There are some interesting comfort food appetizers, too: deep-fried pickles or foie-gras donuts, anyone? Saturday and Sunday’s brunch menu features chicken and waffles, Southern breakfast biscuits, and more.

06 of 07

The Diplomat

The Diplomat
Fine Dining
4.8

Type of cuisine: New American

Open for dinner only, this space (the former Bosley on Brady) is now home to contemporary twists on old favorites, like Meat & Potatoes (New York Strip with potato puree and cured egg yolk) or French fries (here, they’re triple blanched and served with garlic mayo). Upmarket entrees include beef short rib, lobster, and grilled pork shoulder. Be sure to save room for dessert as the decadent selections definitely don’t disappoint, such as peanut butter pie and eggnog custard. Many ingredients are sourced from local farms and reflect what's truly fresh and in season.

07 of 07

The Fitz

The Fitz
Fine Dining
4.3

Type of cuisine: New American

This Art Deco gem of a hotel ushered in a new chapter for its dining and beverage venues in 2017. The Fitz continues the Art Deco theme in fun ways, including its Gin Rickey (reportedly a favorite drink of F. Scott Fitzgerald's). Also in the hotel is Deco (a coffee bar) and Gin Rickey (a cocktail lounge). The Fitz is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as Sunday brunch. A typical dinner might begin with a bowl of Mike's Mushroom soup, featuring locally foraged mushrooms; later easing into dishes with regional flair (and international inspiration) such as Rushing Waters Trout Meuniere, five-spiced duck breast or Maple Creek Farms pork chop with a side of cave-aged cheddar au-gratin potatoes.