Most restaurants within walking distance of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which is in Milwaukee’s Upper East Side, are clustered along North Oakland Avenue (between East Edgewood Avenue to the North and East Locust Street to the South) and North Downer Avenue (between East Edgewood Avenue to the North and East Bradford Avenue to the South). The options tilt towards ethnic fare and prices tend to fall into the budget to moderate categories. Whether you’re craving a late-night bite or need a spot to entertain family, here are some good choices.
Type of cuisine: Pizza and Italian
When this beloved pizzeria's original location perished in a fire in 2010, lots of people were mourning a business that had been wildly popular since opening in 1970. But now you can order the same 16 signature pizzas—including its Pizza Man Special (pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, onion mushrooms and black olives)—at the Downer Avenue spot. Hearty pasta dishes range from wild-boar ravioli to chicken marsala. Meat-free diners can find plenty to eat, including zucchini “spaghetti,” and, of course, quite a few pizzas and traditional Italian dishes like fettuccine alfredo. Spanning two stories, and with a second-floor retractable roof, another reason this place is popular with locals is the wine list: lots of boutique California wineries are represented.
Type of cuisine: Gastropub
This was the first location for this Netherlands-inspired, all-day eatery to open in the Milwaukee area. On a warm day, snag one of the Parisian-like tables outside for al fresco dining or sipping (the beer list here is among the city’s best, with a special focus on German and Belgian selections, curated into a 15-page book). Options on the lunch/dinner menu range from mussels to a salmon salad on the seafood side, and many burgers (including a grass-fed burger topped with aged Wisconsin cheddar). Ordering a cone of the frites is a must: each order comes with a choice of two dipping sauces.
Type of cuisine: Middle Eastern
One of the city’s best Middle Eastern eateries, the options here range from a wallet-friendly lunch special (served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily). For $9 you get a plate of three entrees plus a choice of hummus or basmati rice and a fountain drink. The menu’s most expensive item is $12.99 (the “All Inn Grill Plate,” with a choice of three skewers, such as beef kefta kabab), although most others fall in the $5.50 to $8.99 range. Don’t leave without ordering baklava for dessert.
Type of cuisine: Middle Eastern & Persian
Known for its amazing buffet (served Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), the cuisine is filled with many lamb and beef dishes, although vegetarians and gluten-free dieters can find tasty options, too. (Vegetarian dishes are pulled out into a special section of the menu and gluten-free choices are clearly marked.) Seven salads are rich in flavor, like the Jerusalem salad with mint and jalapeño peppers, and there are also kabobs and seafood selections. Six combo platters are perfect for diners new to Middle Eastern cuisine and who desire a sampling of what this eclectic cuisine is all about.
Type of cuisine: Italian
Rooted in Sicilian cuisine, but with a modern twist, Sala is open for lunch (Tuesday through Saturday only) and dinner. Since 2001, the restaurant has used recipes from the Balistreri, D’Amico, and Gentile families. Apps like carpaccio, mussels and olive tapenade are perfect for sharing, and the salads are inventive, topped with ingredients like cranberries, avocado, tenderloin, and salmon. Entrees include Sugo (featuring the family’s tomato-basil sauce with angel-hair pasta), seafood pasta with scallop, shrimp, and mussels, lemon chicken, and hand-tossed pizzas.
The Dogg Haus
For a casual meal, The Dogg Haus can deliver—but there’s also a line-up of 17 specialty dogs that will make you rethink one of America’s most classic foods. Each is named for a region, such as “Wisconsin” topped with mozzarella, cheddar and nacho cheese; “Tijuana” with jalapeño peppers; and “Fifth Avenue,” as an ode to New York City’s Manhattan, with chopped red onions and yellow mustard. Note that there are also The Dogg Haus locations near Marquette University, on Brady Street and in downtown Milwaukee, should you find yourself in those areas of the city.