We get it. You don’t expect much when you eat at an airport, but take a closer look next time you either land at or depart from General Mitchell International Airport, which is Milwaukee’s lone commercial airport. Non-stop flights are available to 35 different cities, including major hubs in Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Newark. In recent years, the tide has shifted from pre-packaged sandwiches and salads to not-so-bad cuisine. From Wisconsin staples like frozen custard and cheese to three outposts of the city’s finest-dining restaurant group, not to mention a café linked to a local artisan-coffee roaster, here is your guide to filing your belly next time you’re at the airport. Oh, and don’t forget to tool around with the ping-pong table which is located near the C concourse. What better way to ease flying nerves and pre-trip jitters?
One unique angle to dining at Mitchell International Airport is that local vendors are part of the mix, so you aren’t stuck with just Starbucks (in the Main Terminal), Chili’s (concourse C) or a Quizno’s sub (Main Terminal). Not that there’s anything wrong with those vendors, but you can find them at most other airports across the country. While in Milwaukee, get one more taste of the culture before your board a plane.
In the Main Terminal, this beer-focused pub—from MillerCoors, a direct link to Milwaukee as Miller Brewing Company started here in 1855—opened inside the Main Terminal in 2014. It’s also a great place to catch your favorite sports team (thanks to plenty of televisions). Belly up to the bar for a draft beer (Miller Lite or Leinenkugel’s Red Lager?) or settle in with one of these Wisconsin favorites: fried cheese curds, Hennings cheese plate, Wisconsin butter bacon cheeseburger, and artichoke grilled-cheese sandwich. Usinger’s sausages (made in Milwaukee) are also on the menu.
Fair Trade and organic coffee and espresso drinks are the main thrust at Colectivo—which is in the main terminal as well as concourses C and D—but the breakfast options for early-morning flights are just as good. Try breakfast burritos, breakfast sandwiches or nearly a dozen pastries, from pumpkin-chocolate-chip bread to croissants, as well as cookies if it’s an afternoon snack you crave.
A little sibling of a custard stand of the same name at Bradford Beach on Milwaukee’s East Side, this joint offers burgers, fries and—of course—custard. But don’t assume this is just a greasy spoon. As part of the Bartolotta Restaurants’ empire—other eateries include Bacchus and Lake Park Bistro—the quality is superb. NorthPoint is located in the Main Terminal.
Open only since 2015, this wine bar—in concourse C—has locations in quite a few airports. Not just a spot to sip a glass of wine, or share a bottle with your travel companions, small plates are on the menu, too, such as sandwiches and smoked-salmon rolls.
An offshoot of the Wauwatosa Pizzeria Piccola location—and folded into the Bartolotta Restaurants—this place opened in concourse C four years ago. Pizzas are baked in a wood-burning oven, such as the signature Pizza alla Piccola or Pizza ai Quattro Stagioni (provolone, prosciutto, mushrooms, black olives, artichokes and tomato sauce). Salads and sandwiches are also on the menu, for lighter fare. There’s also a breakfast menu (including egg sandwiches and smoked-salmon pizza), to help with early-morning flights.
For some genuine Italian cuisine, head to Nonna Bartolotta’s in concourse D, another restaurant that’s part of the Bartolotta Restaurants. If you’re in need of a sweet treat, there’s gelato, but there’s also stone-fired pizzas, pasta entrees, sandwiches, and salads.
An ode to a well-liked Wisconsin product (Usinger’s sausages have been made in Milwaukee since 1880), a full-on restaurant in concourse D features brats, of course, but also sandwiches and entrees (and, yes, Wisconsin cheese). Highly recommended if you need a major, hearty fuel-up before take-off. Need a souvenir when you land? Sausages and cheese—both with Wisconsin roots—are sold on site.