clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Biscuits and bloodies at Don’s
Don’s Diner and Cocktails/Facebook

The 16 Hottest New Restaurants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Where to find biscuits and gravy, kibbeh and falafel, tacos al pastor, and deep-dish pizza in one of the Great Lakes’ greatest food towns

View as Map
Biscuits and bloodies at Don’s
| Don’s Diner and Cocktails/Facebook

Today, Eater returns to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to focus on 10 newish restaurants that have been garnering some serious buzz. Once again, local writer Todd Lazarski has offered up his picks for the hottest openings of the past 12 months.

“With a fresh downtown arena — Fiserv Forum, home of the NBA-leading Bucks — a gleaming new streetcar, and next year’s Democratic National Convention on the horizon, the city feels like it’s turned a page on its Rust Belt past,” says Lazarski.

Among his picks for this year is everything from soup dumplings and high-end Korean fried chicken to rock ’n’ roll French fare, Vietnamese tacos, neighborhood-centric food halls, and activism-minded community collectives. “But of course,” says Lazarski, “we still have plenty of beer, cheese, and sausage.”

Without further ado, and in geographic order, here’s the Eater Heatmap to Milwaukee.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Sherman Phoenix

Copy Link

This ambitious Sherman Park operation is a true phoenix, having risen from the ashes of a bank building damaged by fire during a protest in the neighborhood following a fatal police shooting in 2016. The multipurpose community collective bills itself as a “model for healing” and “strives to provide a high-quality space for small businesses-of-color offering diverse foods, wellness services and cultural activities.” Since opening its doors, the emporium has been host to art and film exhibits, and today houses nearly 30 independent businesses that offer everything from yoga to jewelry to counseling. Among the food offerings, you can find very excellent pizza, spring rolls, gourmet popcorn, coffee, local favorite Purple Door ice cream, and, coming soon, Brooklyn-based wings slinger Buffalo Boss.  

The Juice KItchen at Sherman Phoenix
Sherman Phoenix

Crossroads Collective

Copy Link

The bones of the famed Oriental Drugs pharmacy and lunch counter at the crossroads of North and Farwell could never quite figure out which skin to live in. Through the years, it has housed a multitude of burger and pizza spots to little success. So now it’s a bit of everything: a food hall that includes barbecue, tacos, falafel, ice cream, and even an after-hours speakeasy-style bar. It’s an experimental new start for the building that in many ways is the heart of the old East Side.  

A barbecue platter from Heaven’s Table BBQ at the Crossroads Collective
Crossroads Collective/Facebook

Uncle Wolfie's Breakfast Tavern

Copy Link

This century-old Brewer’s Hill tavern underwent a loving restoration and rebirth thanks to husband-and-wife team Wolfgang and Whitney Schaefer, who moved in upstairs and set up a home decor boutique on the same property. The final step is this Cream City brick, wood-filled, breakfast-focused spot. There are Johnny cakes and Benedicts, but also huevos verdes y jamon, PB&J-filled French toast, American cheese-stuffed burgers, and a cheesesteak made with coffee-rubbed chuck. Yet with such an Old Milwaukee aesthetic, the bar is still the heart. For a new way to get daytime-buzzed, look no further than the Sake Toddy.    

A morning spread at Uncle Wolfie’s
Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern

Kompali Taqueria

Copy Link

Banking on the success of Bay View stalwart C-Viche, with its eponymous seafood dishes and Peruvian-centric pan-Latin cooking, restaurateurs Karlos Soriano and Paco Villar opened this taco spot in the heart of the East Side. Offerings range from the traditional — pastor, carnitas, house-made chorizo — to worldly — Vietnamese beef, Argentinian steak with chimichurri. The tequila- and mezcal-forward cocktail list makes the place an easy fit in the bar-happy neighborhood.

Interval

Copy Link

Pilcrow Coffee owner Ryan Hoban and chef about town Travis Cook have teamed up to combine high-end cafe culture and modern American cooking under one easy-going roof. Think pour-overs, fluffy sausage biscuits, Brazilian lemonades, and languorous MacBook dreaming during the day. By night, it’s an ever-changing lineup of dishes like pork fat madeleines with cheese foam, trout with umeboshi, and liquid cheesecake with Sichuan pepper and burnt white chocolate.  

Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta

Copy Link

Oprah’s alleged favorite thin-crust Chicago pizza joint has opened a northern outpost in the town where she spent much of her childhood. A sprawling sports bar on a decidedly college-y strip of Water Street might not inspire thoughts of gastronomic greatness, but with its deep Chicago pedigree — the original was founded by Rudy Malnati Jr. in 1991, and regularly lands on Chicagoan lists of both best tavern-style and deep-dish pizza — Pizano’s instantly shoulders itself into the conversation for best pies in town.

Fauntleroy MKE

Copy Link

The greasy, gritty decadence of “Exile on Main Street” seems to echo at Fauntleroy, where chefs Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite, of Dandan fame, attempt to fuse a Rolling Stones vibe with haute French fare. Duck a l’orange, fois gras, escargot, and chicken liver eclairs run alongside a lunchtime French dip. Tablecloths and library lighting mix with a soundtrack of ELO and a copy of Bianca Jagger’s backstage pass on the women’s room door. But the spot can also be viewed in a more straightforward way: as a cool bar to get a killer burger in the Third Ward.  

A dish at Fauntleroy
Fauntleroy

Korean barbecue comes to the Third Ward, taking over the high-ceilinged, elegant space that used to house Hinterland. Fried or steamed dumplings, edamame, grilled avocado, and sweet-spicy-garlicky Korean fried chicken wings dominate the more casual flavor flow of shared plates. Or choose your own adventure on the hot grill stone, with cut options like beef or pork bulgogi, galbi, and cumin-curry chicken thighs. Chef Yosub Yoon is also afforded some room for experimentation: kimchi gumbo, kimchi paella, kimchi poutine? You get the idea.      

La Merenda Marketplace

Copy Link

La Merenda, the O.G. of Milwaukee’s small-plates scene, has a new little brother in the form of this Walker’s Point shop. Dan Bolton, La Merenda’s butcher, along with owner Peter Sandroni, have crafted a mini marketplace out of their former storage space, within which they sell locally sourced meats and gourmet foodstuffs from bacon to pickles to stocks. House-made sausages get creative — think pastrami and veal knockwurst. Or rather than waiting forever for a table at La Merenda, you can now cook that Argentinian beef at home.

The meat case at La Merenda Marketplace
La Merenda Marketplace

Don's Diner & Cocktails

Copy Link

Dons brings dressed-up diner fare to First Street, with a sleek, laid-back sheen that is equally conducive to pancakes or brandy Old-Fashioneds. You can have eggs all day or boozy milkshakes; biscuits and gravy or a fried bologna. There is also a signature burger that underscores just how far we are from your standard diner: Angus patty, aged cheddar, charred onion, demi-glace, and a brioche bun. Add foie truffle butter to really make it count.    

Fish fry Fridays at Don’s Diner
Donsmke/Facebook

Momo Mee

Copy Link

Amid the homogenizing condo sprawl of burgeoning Walker’s Point, there is at least a sliver of soul in the new Freshwater Plaza — and it arrives in dumpling form. Xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, are a specialty here, presented in steaming bamboo baskets with special slurping instructions from the waitstaff. There are also Sichuan wontons with oily, mouth-numbing intensity, as well as an assortment of dumplings, doughy Taiwanese buns, and ramen with handmade noodles.

Fiesta Cafe

Copy Link

The latest iteration of Valdemar Escobar’s Chicken Palace empire is this Walker’s Point breakfast nook, offering a sprawling menu of daytime heartiness that hits on both sides of the Rio Grande. Pancakes and omelets bump up against chilequiles, moyetes, and chorizo and scrambled-egg tacos. Either genre offers fortifying fuel for a long day of work, or just a tender morning after.  

Well-dressed pancakes at Fiesta Cafe
Fiesta Cafe/Facebook

Damascus Gate Restaurant

Copy Link

The most heartwarming tale to emerge out of Milwaukee’s most recent bone-chilling winter is this new Middle Eastern gem on Historic Mitchell Street. Syrian refugees Abdul and Riham Silan are behind staples like kebabs and hummus as well as impeccable platters of kibbeh, kofta, yelangi, cheese pies, and even pizzas — because when your space comes complete with a pizza oven, why not?

Falafel at Damascus Gate
Damascus Gate Restaurant/Facebook

Centraal Grand Café and Tappery

Copy Link

There was maybe nothing wrong with Cafe Centraal as it stood, but when the local favorite turned 10 years old last year, the Lowlands Group decided it was time for a physical and spiritual upgrade. There’s been a tangible refocusing since the overhaul, and not just because you walk in a different front door. There are now weekday brunches and a more global bent — kebabs sit next to mole on the menu, chili next to hot-and-sour soup. It’s all part of a fresh personality (bloodies on tap) that continues to nod to its namesake station in Amsterdam with 40 rotating biers.    

Centraal Grand Café and Tappery
Cafe Centraal/Facebook

Belli’s Bistro & Spirits

Copy Link

Out with the escargot, in with the fried chicken. When Pastiche abandoned its southern Bay View spot for fancier, Frenchier downtown digs, Charmice Dodson moved in, giving her catering business a permanent brick-and-mortar and bringing the neighborhood a new destination for elevated comfort fare. The menu is inspired by her grandmother’s cooking: whole chicken wings dry-rubbed or hot, honey-glazed salmon blackened or grilled, jambalaya, shrimp and grits. This is a homey, everyday spot, perfect for grabbing a po’ boy or a burger with a beer on a Tuesday night. But the space hasn’t lost that cozy date-night feel, and the ribeye and lobster tail will suit any special occasion. Whatever your mood, just be sure to side it with the mac and cheese.  

A fish entree at Belli’s Bistro & Spirits
Belli’s Bistro/Facebook

SmallPie

Copy Link

Honeypie and Palomino co-owner Valeri Lucks brings a miniature version of her cool aesthetic to this little Oklahoma Avenue garage. The indoor-outdoor counter-service hangout is part cafe, part cocktail stop, part pigout destination, and is already a favorite among locals for its cheesy melts, big brownies, and the main draw: delectable, oil-glistening pies stuffed with fillings like Cuban pork, spanakopita, and yes, cheeseburger.  

A quartet of pies from SmallPie
SmallPie/Facebook

Sherman Phoenix

The Juice KItchen at Sherman Phoenix
Sherman Phoenix

This ambitious Sherman Park operation is a true phoenix, having risen from the ashes of a bank building damaged by fire during a protest in the neighborhood following a fatal police shooting in 2016. The multipurpose community collective bills itself as a “model for healing” and “strives to provide a high-quality space for small businesses-of-color offering diverse foods, wellness services and cultural activities.” Since opening its doors, the emporium has been host to art and film exhibits, and today houses nearly 30 independent businesses that offer everything from yoga to jewelry to counseling. Among the food offerings, you can find very excellent pizza, spring rolls, gourmet popcorn, coffee, local favorite Purple Door ice cream, and, coming soon, Brooklyn-based wings slinger Buffalo Boss.  

The Juice KItchen at Sherman Phoenix
Sherman Phoenix

Crossroads Collective

A barbecue platter from Heaven’s Table BBQ at the Crossroads Collective
Crossroads Collective/Facebook

The bones of the famed Oriental Drugs pharmacy and lunch counter at the crossroads of North and Farwell could never quite figure out which skin to live in. Through the years, it has housed a multitude of burger and pizza spots to little success. So now it’s a bit of everything: a food hall that includes barbecue, tacos, falafel, ice cream, and even an after-hours speakeasy-style bar. It’s an experimental new start for the building that in many ways is the heart of the old East Side.  

A barbecue platter from Heaven’s Table BBQ at the Crossroads Collective
Crossroads Collective/Facebook

Uncle Wolfie's Breakfast Tavern

A morning spread at Uncle Wolfie’s
Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern

This century-old Brewer’s Hill tavern underwent a loving restoration and rebirth thanks to husband-and-wife team Wolfgang and Whitney Schaefer, who moved in upstairs and set up a home decor boutique on the same property. The final step is this Cream City brick, wood-filled, breakfast-focused spot. There are Johnny cakes and Benedicts, but also huevos verdes y jamon, PB&J-filled French toast, American cheese-stuffed burgers, and a cheesesteak made with coffee-rubbed chuck. Yet with such an Old Milwaukee aesthetic, the bar is still the heart. For a new way to get daytime-buzzed, look no further than the Sake Toddy.    

A morning spread at Uncle Wolfie’s
Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern

Kompali Taqueria

Banking on the success of Bay View stalwart C-Viche, with its eponymous seafood dishes and Peruvian-centric pan-Latin cooking, restaurateurs Karlos Soriano and Paco Villar opened this taco spot in the heart of the East Side. Offerings range from the traditional — pastor, carnitas, house-made chorizo — to worldly — Vietnamese beef, Argentinian steak with chimichurri. The tequila- and mezcal-forward cocktail list makes the place an easy fit in the bar-happy neighborhood.

Interval

Pilcrow Coffee owner Ryan Hoban and chef about town Travis Cook have teamed up to combine high-end cafe culture and modern American cooking under one easy-going roof. Think pour-overs, fluffy sausage biscuits, Brazilian lemonades, and languorous MacBook dreaming during the day. By night, it’s an ever-changing lineup of dishes like pork fat madeleines with cheese foam, trout with umeboshi, and liquid cheesecake with Sichuan pepper and burnt white chocolate.  

Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta

Oprah’s alleged favorite thin-crust Chicago pizza joint has opened a northern outpost in the town where she spent much of her childhood. A sprawling sports bar on a decidedly college-y strip of Water Street might not inspire thoughts of gastronomic greatness, but with its deep Chicago pedigree — the original was founded by Rudy Malnati Jr. in 1991, and regularly lands on Chicagoan lists of both best tavern-style and deep-dish pizza — Pizano’s instantly shoulders itself into the conversation for best pies in town.

Fauntleroy MKE

A dish at Fauntleroy
Fauntleroy

The greasy, gritty decadence of “Exile on Main Street” seems to echo at Fauntleroy, where chefs Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite, of Dandan fame, attempt to fuse a Rolling Stones vibe with haute French fare. Duck a l’orange, fois gras, escargot, and chicken liver eclairs run alongside a lunchtime French dip. Tablecloths and library lighting mix with a soundtrack of ELO and a copy of Bianca Jagger’s backstage pass on the women’s room door. But the spot can also be viewed in a more straightforward way: as a cool bar to get a killer burger in the Third Ward.  

A dish at Fauntleroy
Fauntleroy

Char'd

Korean barbecue comes to the Third Ward, taking over the high-ceilinged, elegant space that used to house Hinterland. Fried or steamed dumplings, edamame, grilled avocado, and sweet-spicy-garlicky Korean fried chicken wings dominate the more casual flavor flow of shared plates. Or choose your own adventure on the hot grill stone, with cut options like beef or pork bulgogi, galbi, and cumin-curry chicken thighs. Chef Yosub Yoon is also afforded some room for experimentation: kimchi gumbo, kimchi paella, kimchi poutine? You get the idea.      

La Merenda Marketplace

The meat case at La Merenda Marketplace
La Merenda Marketplace

La Merenda, the O.G. of Milwaukee’s small-plates scene, has a new little brother in the form of this Walker’s Point shop. Dan Bolton, La Merenda’s butcher, along with owner Peter Sandroni, have crafted a mini marketplace out of their former storage space, within which they sell locally sourced meats and gourmet foodstuffs from bacon to pickles to stocks. House-made sausages get creative — think pastrami and veal knockwurst. Or rather than waiting forever for a table at La Merenda, you can now cook that Argentinian beef at home.

The meat case at La Merenda Marketplace
La Merenda Marketplace

Don's Diner & Cocktails

Fish fry Fridays at Don’s Diner
Donsmke/Facebook

Dons brings dressed-up diner fare to First Street, with a sleek, laid-back sheen that is equally conducive to pancakes or brandy Old-Fashioneds. You can have eggs all day or boozy milkshakes; biscuits and gravy or a fried bologna. There is also a signature burger that underscores just how far we are from your standard diner: Angus patty, aged cheddar, charred onion, demi-glace, and a brioche bun. Add foie truffle butter to really make it count.    

Fish fry Fridays at Don’s Diner
Donsmke/Facebook

Momo Mee

Amid the homogenizing condo sprawl of burgeoning Walker’s Point, there is at least a sliver of soul in the new Freshwater Plaza — and it arrives in dumpling form. Xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, are a specialty here, presented in steaming bamboo baskets with special slurping instructions from the waitstaff. There are also Sichuan wontons with oily, mouth-numbing intensity, as well as an assortment of dumplings, doughy Taiwanese buns, and ramen with handmade noodles.

Fiesta Cafe

Well-dressed pancakes at Fiesta Cafe
Fiesta Cafe/Facebook

The latest iteration of Valdemar Escobar’s Chicken Palace empire is this Walker’s Point breakfast nook, offering a sprawling menu of daytime heartiness that hits on both sides of the Rio Grande. Pancakes and omelets bump up against chilequiles, moyetes, and chorizo and scrambled-egg tacos. Either genre offers fortifying fuel for a long day of work, or just a tender morning after.  

Well-dressed pancakes at Fiesta Cafe
Fiesta Cafe/Facebook

Damascus Gate Restaurant

Falafel at Damascus Gate
Damascus Gate Restaurant/Facebook

The most heartwarming tale to emerge out of Milwaukee’s most recent bone-chilling winter is this new Middle Eastern gem on Historic Mitchell Street. Syrian refugees Abdul and Riham Silan are behind staples like kebabs and hummus as well as impeccable platters of kibbeh, kofta, yelangi, cheese pies, and even pizzas — because when your space comes complete with a pizza oven, why not?

Falafel at Damascus Gate
Damascus Gate Restaurant/Facebook

Centraal Grand Café and Tappery

Centraal Grand Café and Tappery
Cafe Centraal/Facebook

There was maybe nothing wrong with Cafe Centraal as it stood, but when the local favorite turned 10 years old last year, the Lowlands Group decided it was time for a physical and spiritual upgrade. There’s been a tangible refocusing since the overhaul, and not just because you walk in a different front door. There are now weekday brunches and a more global bent — kebabs sit next to mole on the menu, chili next to hot-and-sour soup. It’s all part of a fresh personality (bloodies on tap) that continues to nod to its namesake station in Amsterdam with 40 rotating biers.    

Centraal Grand Café and Tappery
Cafe Centraal/Facebook

Belli’s Bistro & Spirits

A fish entree at Belli’s Bistro & Spirits
Belli’s Bistro/Facebook

Out with the escargot, in with the fried chicken. When Pastiche abandoned its southern Bay View spot for fancier, Frenchier downtown digs, Charmice Dodson moved in, giving her catering business a permanent brick-and-mortar and bringing the neighborhood a new destination for elevated comfort fare. The menu is inspired by her grandmother’s cooking: whole chicken wings dry-rubbed or hot, honey-glazed salmon blackened or grilled, jambalaya, shrimp and grits. This is a homey, everyday spot, perfect for grabbing a po’ boy or a burger with a beer on a Tuesday night. But the space hasn’t lost that cozy date-night feel, and the ribeye and lobster tail will suit any special occasion. Whatever your mood, just be sure to side it with the mac and cheese.  

A fish entree at Belli’s Bistro & Spirits
Belli’s Bistro/Facebook

Related Maps

SmallPie

A quartet of pies from SmallPie
SmallPie/Facebook

Honeypie and Palomino co-owner Valeri Lucks brings a miniature version of her cool aesthetic to this little Oklahoma Avenue garage. The indoor-outdoor counter-service hangout is part cafe, part cocktail stop, part pigout destination, and is already a favorite among locals for its cheesy melts, big brownies, and the main draw: delectable, oil-glistening pies stuffed with fillings like Cuban pork, spanakopita, and yes, cheeseburger.  

A quartet of pies from SmallPie
SmallPie/Facebook

Related Maps