Say you’re getting out of a concert or a play late in the evening—or simply want to nosh after a night of bar-hopping. While it might be super-easy to pick out a spot for dinner or brunch, knowing what places stay open late is practically insider’s knowledge. And maybe you want more than greasy-spoon diner fare from George Webb’s? Whether you’re craving a selection of small plates to share with friends or—let's be honest—pizza, here’s where to go! Most of these are on the East Side or in downtown Milwaukee, which you'll quickly learn is where the bar districts coincidentally are.
Waffling between cheesy pasta and cheesy pizza? Here they are, rolled into one menu item at this late-night pizza joint on the East Side. (Bonus: free parking underneath and stumbling distance from local bars.) Wisconsin Macaroni & Cheese Pizza is one of Pizza Shuttle’s dozen or so specialty pizzas, featuring mozzarella and cheddar cheese (culled from the Dairy State, naturally) and cooked elbow noodles on top of the pizza pie. There’s an option to add grilled chicken, too.
Open Until: 2 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 a.m. Friday & Saturday
A half block off Brady Street—an East Side neighborhood marked by many bars and taverns—is this wine-centric spot. If you’re craving a round of Bordeaux wine between 10 p.m. and midnight, and food, this is your place. The highly shareable (or what might be considered a light snack for one) is this tuna tartare, flavored with sweet wasabi vinaigrette and Sriracha served with wonton crisps for dipping.
Open until: 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, midnight Friday and Saturday
On a wintry or cool night, it doesn’t get any more perfect than a bowl of hot ramen noodles. And while the vibe at Red Light Ramen might be casual and the prices affordable, there’s a high-quality chef behind it all. Justin Carlisle, who owns the finer-dining farm-to-table concept next door called Ardent, opened Red Light Ramen as a late-night option last year. There are two ramen dishes on the menu: Mushroom Miso; and Tonkatsu, with pork, scallion, mushroom, bamboo shoots, nori, egg, fish cake and greens. Pair that with an Old-Fashioned Slushie and you’ll never want to go home.
Open Until: 1 a.m. Wednesday-Saturday
At last count, there are five locations of this fun, casual taco joint: Oak Creek, Wauwatosa, Brookfield and Milwaukee (near Brady Street and on Downer Avenue). And if you think you’ll have just one or two taco options to choose from, think again. There are actually 25 taco choices. An order of three tacos also gets you rice and black beans, making it a meal. Organized by “carne” (meat), “marisco” (seafood) and vegetarian, among the most eclectic options are Korean beef with Sriracha cream; lobster and shrimp with tomatillo salsa; and soy chorizo with avocado and diced potatoes (for the meat-free diners).
Open Until: 12 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 p.m. Sundays
Offering what's essentially fast food with a Greek focus, Apollo Café is wedged between lots of nightlife options along Brady Street. Items on the menu include falafel sandwich, Greek fish fry (Wisconsin fish fry with a twist, featuring olives), dolmas (grape leaves) and chicken souvlaki (chicken pieces served in a pita). If it’s a nice night, eat outside and enjoy the cool, crisp air.
Open Until: 3 a.m. daily
This East Side institution has a revolving menu (stay tuned to its Facebook page and Twitter feed for announcements of daily specials) but you can always count on cupcakes. Flavors range from red-velvet to carrot cake and lots of chocolate, matched with options like fruit, peanut butter and, yep, even more chocolate. This is also one of those rare items that has a vegan alternative daily. Bonus: ingredients for these sweet mini-cakes are locally sourced as much as possible. Inside, vintage details abound and the seating consists of vinyl booths or bar stools, and lots of formica countertops.
Open Until: Midnight daily