Milwaukee Essentials

Need a midnight snack? A coffee fix? This visitor guide's got the goods.
By: Kristine Hansen
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Food and Drink Essentials: The Best Places To ...


Outpost Natural Foods (three locations), (414)431-3377

Most natural-foods stores are tiny, cramped spaces, but Outpost mimics a traditional grocery store with its selection and how it’s organized (think wide aisles and full-size carts). There are three locations in Milwaukee. Pick up free-range eggs, vegetables sourced from local farms, organic meats and even organic ice cream.


Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St., (414) 336-1111

Modeled after Seattle’s Pike Place Market, vendors at this four-year-old market celebrate locally produced foods, including more than 200 varieties of Wisconsin cheese (even cheese curds!), homemade chocolates and just about any spice blend you could desire from Spice House, a foodie’s staple for years. Hint: Start with the rosewater lemonade from Aladdin, a restaurant that shuttered its downtown spot but reopened with a stand here. Cooking classes are offered upstairs by Milwaukee’s favorite chefs and foodies.


Benji’s, 4156 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood, (414) 332-7777

The city’s most-recognized Jewish deli for 35 years is a no-frills, East Coast-diner kind of place where the wait staff is friendly and serves not only homemade bagels (and bagels and lox) but also matzo-ball soup and latkes.


Bacchus, 925 E. Wells, (414) 765-1166

On the ground floor of Cudahy Towers is where James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest winner and executive chef Adam Siegel labors over gourmet prix-fixe meals, and other menu items, inspired by French bistros and adapted with artisan cheeses and other Wisconsin-grown products. Try to get seated in the all-glass conservatory. Siegel is also head chef at Lake Park Bistro just up the street, so definitely save some of your money for a second meal orchestrated by him.


Ouzo, 776 N. Milwaukee St., (414) 272-6896

When it’s late and the bars are closed but your stomach is still growling, pizza and burritos are old hat. Ouzo, a Greek restaurant downtown just doors away from many clubs and bars, offers a fresh alternative. Open until 3:30 am on the weekends, the menu includes spanakopita, dolmas and gyros.


Sven’s European Cafe, 2699 S. Kinnickinic Ave., (414) 517-8383

German native Steve Goretzky rehabbed a corner gas station in Bay View and turned it into a European-style cafe, with fresh flowers on the tables and art hung on the walls. On Sundays, cups of Kona coffee join the menu and there are always vegan pastries from East Side Ovens and raspberry-chocolate cheesecake from Simma’s, another local baker.


Alterra at the Lake, 1701 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, (414) 223-4561

Inside the city’s former flushing facility is a loft-type coffeehouse from local roaster Alterra Coffee Roasters. During summer, the place bustles with Rollerbladers, dogwalkers and bicyclists sprawled on the lawn with iced tea or cold espresso drinks. Interior decor is reminiscent of a North Woods lodge, an appropriate accompaniment to a rustic cup of coffee or tea.

Nightlife: The Best Places To ...


Cafe Luna + Lounge, 106 W. Seeboth, (414) 223-1558

Right on the Riverwalk, and where the Third and Fifth Wards meet, pretend like it’s Venice at this year-old lounge when you choose a table on the terrace (during summer) or hole up inside the cozy space while snow falls outside. Decadent after-dinner desserts (like Irish cream cake or chocolate banana cake) can be paired with cocktails such as a flight of four creamy cordials termed the "banana split tower." Coffee drinks include cafe au lait or cafe Cubano. Just look for the orange glow beneath glass windows.


Trocadero, 1758 N. Water St., (414) 272-0205

This French-inspired place along the Milwaukee River, just a few blocks north of downtown, has a tabac (with magazines and newspapers for sale, a mix of French and English) and espresso stand near the front entrance. In back -- and across cobblestone flooring -- is a bar, dining room and a patio with heat lamps. Cheese flights, bistro-style food, French wines (bien sur!) and a Sunday brunch are all here, but be warned: Even a quick visit might make you feel like you’re lingering somewhere on the Left Bank.


Decibel, 1905 E. North Ave., (414) 272-3337

A favorite among the under-35 crowd is Decibel, owned by veteran club-owners and where well-known DJs do the spinning and the vodka menu in DeepBar (inside the space) numbers around 100.

Lucille's Piano Bar, 1110 N. Old World Third St., (414) 225-0304

This venue brings couples and bachelorette parties together for sing-alongs (and the moves to go with them) that range from Billy Joel to Frank Sinatra -- even the Oscar Mayer jingle. Expect little elbow room on a weekend night, but isn’t that part of the fun?


Gallery Night & Day, Historic Third Ward neighborhood

On the third weekend in January, April, July and October, the Historic Third Ward neighborhood packs the streets and its galleries during Gallery Night & Day, starting Friday evening and continuing when galleries reopen the following morning. All of the galleries offer free admission and many offer wine and elegant edibles at no cost. Head to the Marshall Building for the most options, including the gallery of former fashion-couture designer Phyllis Toburen, now an acrylic, glass and slate artist.

Outdoor Essentials: The Best Places To ...


Lincoln Memorial Drive, between the Milwaukee Art Museum and the University of Wisconsin

Runners, Rollerbladers, dog walkers, bicyclists and even those out for a stroll line the sidewalks and bicycle path along Lincoln Memorial Drive, a three-mile stretch between the Milwaukee Art Museum and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that hugs Lake Michigan, McKinley Marina and Veterans Park. In 2008, a local restaurant group added a casual eatery on Bradford Beach that serves martinis, hosts wine tastings and organizes beach volleyball tournaments. On the north side, check out one of the county parks system’s greatest gems: the Brown Deer Park disc golf course.


Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E. Park Place, (414) 964-8505

Tucked into Riverside Park near Oakland and Locust, Urban Ecology Center is an all-green, super eco-friendly education center that ranks high with area children. Drop in for scheduled programming or soak up all the knowledge with the placards hung throughout this sustainably constructed building, including low-flow toilets and a rain garden.

Discovery World, 500 N. Harbor Drive, (414) 765-9966

Or, head to Discovery World, an interactive aquarium-museum on the lakefront that, on some days throughout the year (anchored at the dock), has the world’s only re-creation of a 19th-century, three-masted Great Lakes schooner, the S/V Denis Sullivan.


South Shore Park / South Shore Yacht Club, 2300 E. Nock, (414) 481-2331

For the best view of Milwaukee’s skyline, cruise into the parking lot behind South Shore Park in the Bay View neighborhood, where South Shore Yacht Club is. From this lower elevation, and from a position that juts out into the lake a tad, the condo high-rises on Prospect Avenue and the stark-white wings on the Milwaukee Art Museum really sparkle, among other landmarks.

Entertainment Essentials: Best Places To ...


Miller Park, One Brewers Way, (414) 902-4000

Taking in a Milwaukee Brewers game at Miller Park means arriving early for tailgating in the stadium’s parking lots. You might also arrive an hour or so before game time for an opportunity to catch balls hit into the stands during batting practice. For the best chance at catching a home-run ball during the game, reserve seats in the left-field bleachers (Sections 234-237) or in Friday’s Front Row section, also in left field.


Marquette University’s Haggerty Museum of Art, North 13th Street and West Clybourn Avenue, (414) 288-7290

Unlike the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Haggerty Museum of Art does not charge admission. It hosts a renowned collection of permanent art, including Old Masters paintings, but also brings in traveling exhibits such as Jack Kerouac’s On the Road manuscript.


Near South Side

An eclectic collection of eateries serving chile relleno, guacamole, mole and more is in this part of town, illustrating the city’s large Mexican-American population. The under-30 crowd enjoys slicked-up La Perla (734 S. Fifth St., (414) 645-9888), but for a grungier, more casual meal, head to the enormous La Fuente (625 S. Fifth St., (414) 271-8595) down the street where the interior walls are salmon-pink, the ambiance festive and the patio a substantial size. Late-night barhoppers and in-the-know deal-scorers head to Conejito’s Place (539 W. Virginia St., (414)278-9106), where a plate of food isn’t more than $5 and the margaritas around $3.


Fox Skylight Gallery of Antiques, 112 E. Mineral St., (414)382-0006

For one-stop antique shopping, peruse the stalls at Fox Skylight Gallery of Antiques in Walker’s Point, for everything from Fiestaware pieces to vintage sweater sets to Depression glass. Items are arranged over three levels.

Chattel Changers, 2520 E. Capitol Drive, 414-961-7085

Chattel Changers, in Shorewood, sells a mix of carefully procured antiques on its first floor, and lower-priced knickknacks and glassware in the basement.

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