Brady Street's Eclectic Indie Restaurants

Fantastic Eats on Happening Milwaukee Street

Brady Street in Milwaukee
••• Runaway Wind/CC/Flickr.com

Milwaukee's Brady Street, which covers nine blocks from Lake Michigan west to the Milwaukee River, boasts a number of independent, locally owned restaurants that appeal to a wide range of tastes, with fare ranging from Middle Eastern falafel to Midwestern-style hot dogs. Price and ambiance also range from cheap to chic. Call ahead and reserve a table or simply wander until you find something suitable. Brady Street is a popular nightlife strip, and this part of the city is also a great place to find some late-night eats.

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    If you want authentic Greek food without going to Athens, the Apollo will punch your ticket. It serves up dishes made from recipes that have been passed down in families, and it doesn't get more real than that. The atmosphere matches the food, and in warmer weather you can eat alfresco.

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    Balzac is a great date night choice, with its emphasis on small plates and plenty of reds and whites to choose from. Milwaukee Magazine named it the Best Wine Bar in the city from 2011 to 2015. The menu offers feasts small and large, from cheese plates, flatbreads, and salads, to seafood and meat entrees.  

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    Classic coffeehouse bites shine at Brewed Cafe. Kick off the day with a hearty scramble (egg or tofu available); snack on a plate of pita and hummus; or fill up on a steaming cup of soup — the menu rotates daily, with out-of-the-box choices like voodoo chili, creamy peanut, and black bean zydeco on offer. The cozy environment (and free wi-fi) encourages lingering, especially when you're sipping on a hot latte or iced green tea matcha. 

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    The famous movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman inspired the name of this restaurant. Why? Simply because it's the favorite film of the restaurant's founder, chef Jesse Musa. Musa was born in Jerusalem, and he brought his love for simple and spicy Middle Eastern food of his heritage to Milwaukee in 1987. And his restaurant has been the place to go ever since for authentic Middle Eastern flavors.

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    For a casual, all-American meal, few things beat a hot dog. Or in the case of the Dogg Haus, a Vienna Beef sausage, the one that made Chicago-style franks famous. Start with a hot dog on a sesame seed bun and build your own with mustard, onions, pickles, and relish — or go rogue (and fiercely anti-Chicago) with toppings like ketchup and sauerkraut. 

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    Mix up your typical cheese curds and IPA routine at Easy Tyger, a gastropub that serves up Asian-American fusion dishes. Feast on ahi tuna poke, pho egg rolls, and fried duck wings — all while sipping on local Wisconsin brews and clever cocktails. Standouts include the Toki Highball, a refreshing mix of Perrier, mint, and Suntory Toki Japanese whisky; the Sake Sunrise, with rice wine, aperol, citrus, and bitters; and an Old Fashioned, the class drink made with Iwai Japanese whisky and house-made bitters. 

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    This family-owned Chinese restaurant has been dishing out classics like kung pao chicken, cashew shrimp, and egg drop soup since it opened in 1986. It's no wonder the place has lasted so long: The restaurant offers well-priced lunch specials, a seemingly endless menu, and Spotted Cow beers for sale — a beloved brew available only in Wisconsin. 

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    The Hi Hat Lounge and Garage was one of Milwaukee's craft cocktail pioneers in the late '90s, and its mixology blends are still on-trend today. Choose from a menu of house creations — each concocted by a different bartender — or sip on all-time classics, including a Manhattan made with Woodford Reserve or a Sazerac with Jack Daniel's. 

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    The empanada gets a decidedly Wisconsin twist at La Masa, a Latin-American restaurant that serves 12 different types of the pastry. Although the menu offers classics like the Argentine beef or queso and jamon, unorthodox options stand out — consider the cheese curds and bacon, Thai chicken peanut, or meatball and provolone varieties. Whatever you choose for dinner, save room for dessert: Ricotta-and-chocolate chip or banana-Nutella empanadas are all up for grabs.

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    Rochambo Coffee and Teahouse has been serving hot drinks and booze for nearly 20 years on Brady Street, all with an unapologetically eco-friendly ethos. Everything on the menu is organic, non-GMO, and free of artificial flavorings — not to mention tempting. Enjoy a freshly brewed coffee (made from locally roasted beans), a hot pot of tea, or even a cold Spotted Cow on tap. Want to double up on your buzz? Order the signature Irish coffee, made with Tullamore Dew whiskey, the exclusive Rochambo House Blend Coffee, and plenty of organic heavy cream. 

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    Spring rolls, crab rangoon, tuna tartare, and pad Thai are just a tiny sample of the long list of choices that await at this Thai food hub. You can eat in the small, minimalist Brady Street restaurant, or get carryout to enjoy at home.

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    Zaffiro's Pizza isn't technically on Brady, but it's delicious enough and near enough that it deserves a spot on this list. We wouldn't blame you for struggling to make a decision — the huge menu of pizzas, salads, pasta, and sandwiches is intimidating. Forget calories and order a few options…then indulge in spumoni or tiramisu for dessert.