Where to eat late in downtown Milwaukee?
July 28, 2013 9:08 AM   Subscribe

I will be arriving in Milwaukee just after midnight tonight to conduct a few days of business. Could anyone provide recommendations for late-night eating suitable for a solo traveller? My hotel will be downtown on Water Street, so locations in that area, or between the airport and that location, would be ideal.

A bit more generally, my schedule is going to be pretty tight, but I will have breakfast on my own one day, and I may also have dinner on my own one day, so I would also appreciate recommendations for such meals as well. I am willing to drive a bit, especially if there are any places that are a "must go". (I am planning a late-night run to Leon's frozen custard)

Also, if there are any non-perishable treats that I can bring home to the family, I would love recommendations for those as well.

AskMeFi really came through on my last work travel question (Lancaster, PA) and I look forward to your kind replies to this question. Thank you very much.
posted by Tanizaki to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Reddit has the I'm visiting MKE, What should I do/eat/see? list.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of AJ Bombers (on Water), which is in a constant war with Sobelmans over who has the best burger in Milwaukee. Bombers loves their peanuts, and don't let the ingredients in the Barrie Burger scare you away. It's fantastic.

If you make it down to the Third Ward, everything down there is great, but I recommend Cafe Benelux.

OnMilwaukee has event listings if you want to see what's going on in the area. We've got a lot of music and festival events going on right now, and there's always art showings going on.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:22 AM on July 28, 2013

Best answer: Downtown is pretty dead late at night, especially after midnight, but there are a couple of options. Note that Water Street is bro bar central, so most everything open at that hour will be catering to people who have been drinking all day/night.

I'm a longtime vegan, but almost all of my friends are omnivores, so these are mostly their recommendations along with received wisdom from having spent my entire life here. I'm also limiting my recommendations to downtown-ish, even though some of the best spots are further out (Blue's Egg for breakfast, Odd Duck or Maxie's for dinner, all manner of non-American food restaurants) but if you're OK with more far-out destinations, just say the word.
For example, Bay View and Walker's Point are two awesome neighborhoods located between downtown and the airport; both have a huge number of amazing restaurants.

Late night: If pizza would do the trick, you could go to Ian's on the corner of Water and Juneau (right next to the river). The mac & cheese pizza is highly recommended. Pizza Shuttle is pretty much the standard late-night destination, although its quality, IMO, can be found lacking if you are not totally hammered. For more refined fare, you could hit up Elsa's on the Park (kitchen closes at 1 AM). For regional cuisine, Milwaukee Brat House.

Dinner: Sobelman's and AJ Bombers are the burgers I hear my friends talk up most often; AJ Bombers is proximal to your hotel but Sobelman's isn't too far out of the way -- Leon's is much further. For pub food, there's County Clare. For steaks, Mo's. Rumpus Room is a new and very popular gastropub. If you like Ethiopian food, there is no better place to go than Alem. Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro or Bacchus if you're feeling spendy. La Merenda if you like tapas.

Breakfast: Metro (in a hotel lobby), Cafe Pfister (ditto), The Knick (ditto). A bit further afield from downtown, I would recommend Comet; they cater to clientele I refer to as "bacon hipsters" but their food and drinks are damn good and almost always worth the insane wait on weekends.

For non-perishable treats, you could go to Spice House. If shrinkwrapped cheese and meat (our two main exports) could pass for non-perishable, try Wisconsin Cheese Mart or Usinger's Sausage -- all of these places are on Old World 3rd Street. There's also the Milwaukee Public Market, which has a ton of small, mostly food-oriented shops.

The weather will be great over the next few days, hope you like our town!
posted by divined by radio at 10:24 AM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a very good solo dinner at Karl Ratzsch's, if you want the full-on Wisconsin old German experience. Ian's is indeed great, but their "normal" slices are pretty average -- go there only if you are into weird stuff on your pizza (mac-and-cheese, philly cheesesteak, kung pao shrimp, whatever) because that's really what they do best.

I've never been to the Serbian place Three Brothers, but it's pretty renowned and might be worth a drive.

I second bringing home Usinger brats if you can.
posted by escabeche at 10:42 AM on July 28, 2013

Best answer: George Webb is a local greasy-diner chain that is open 24 hours and is kind of a Milwaukee institution. There's one close to the airport, and also one downtown on Old World Third Street.
posted by amusebuche at 12:55 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A couple of Third Ward ideas for non-late-night dining: I've been to Coquette Cafe a couple of times and enjoyed it. Name is a bit precious, but it's proper French eating for a medium price.

I've eaten at Tulip, too, for "nice" Turkish food (meaning more than just kebab). Third Ward in general is really nice and worth hanging out in.

Spice House is a favorite of mine, and a good suggestion for bringing something back home if you know people who cook, or even who grill. There is a Spice House outlet in the Milwaukee Public Market, too.

A few years ago, I was given a can of Alterra hot cocoa mix as a thank-you for giving a presentation at a conference--Alterra being a local coffee chain. Could be an easy choice for a Milwaukee-specific gift that most people would like.

And yeah, it's Wisconsin, so there's always cheese. Always.
posted by gimonca at 6:47 PM on July 28, 2013

Response by poster: I returned late night night, so I am posting to update and give thanks. Everyone gets a favorite answer because I went to at least one place mentioned in each answer. My itinerary ended up being:

Sunday late night: George Webb near the airport - burger and potato wedges
Monday breakfast (and beer): Café Benelux - Mrs. Hollander with two glasses of draught.
Monday dinner (worked through lunch): Rumpus Room – fried pig ears, bone marrow, and pork belly with a few whiskeys and beers finished with lemon cardamom panna cotta.
Tuesday breakfast: wanted to go to the Pfister but did not have time, so just ate in my hotel’s restaurant.
Tuesday lunch: AJ Bombers. I was going to go for the Barrie based on suggestions here, but the bartender sold me on the Milwaukee burger with his preferred toppings. I also had two local brews.
Tuesday snack: frozen custard (my first time!) at the Kehr’s in the Public Market. I also brought home some Kehr’s sweets for the kids and some Spice House blends for me and Mrs. Tanizaki.
Tuesday dinner: Usinger’s bratwurst at airport and picked up a few sausages to go.

Many thanks to all who took the time to lend their responses. I also enjoyed striking up conversations with friendly locals at the restaurants - a few gave me cards so I could call the next time I was in town. When I travel for work, I really enjoy trying to get to know the city as my schedule permits, and AskMeFi really helps with that. I hope to prevail upon yoru good graces again. Thank you very much.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:03 AM on July 31, 2013

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