Milwaukee is my second home town. When I got first moved to this city as a 17-year old college freshman I was so intimidated. All of the interstates confused me. All of the neighborhoods looked the same, and this whole paying to park your car thing was not something I was accustomed to in my little rural hometown.
Four years later, Milwaukee was officially my city. I knew my way around, could drive in rush hour traffic with the best of them, and had my favorite places in each neighborhood of the city. Today I’m talking about food and all of the places in Milwaukee that are going to make your taste buds scream with joy!
Colectivo began in 1993 as Alterra Coffee Roasters. At the time, Milwaukee lacked a local and unique coffee scene, so people quickly took to Alterra. Fast forward to today, the company has changed their name from Alterra to Colectivo and has 13 cafes in the Milwaukee metro area.
Colectivo coffee shops differ in size at each location, but they are all slightly hipster with great decor and ambiance. My favorite shop is Colectivo by the Lake, which is located right on edge of Lake Michigan in the old historic Milwaukee River Flushing station building. This is a popular location and can be extremely crowded on the weekends so come early, or be ready to stand in line.
In college, I lived a block away from Roast. When I needed to get out of the house and buckle down on some studying it was my go-to place. It’s not a huge shop, but I always loved their baristas who would encourage me to try something “new” but would always remake any drink if it wasn’t quite my taste. Roast has great ambiance. I love the huge windows in the front of the shop, and of course, the abundance of power outlets is always a plus in my book.
Located on Milwaukee’s upper east side, just down from the popular hipster neighborhood of Brady Street, Comet Cafe is one of my favorite places for breakfast or brunch. Nearly everything on the menu includes bacon or gives you the option of adding bacon. Literally, all the bacon, all the time. If you need more convincing, look up the Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Find the episode that features the Comet Cafe in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Ma Fisher’s is a no-nonsense kind of place. The menu is huge and they’re open 24 hours a day. Ma Fisher’s is located just off of North Avenue, which is a popular area for UW-Milwaukee bar goers. On a Friday or Saturday night around 2am, Ma Fisher’s is packed with college kids looking to chow down post bar close. All of their food is good, but their breakfast is my favorite. Awesome food and huge portions means a good meal, and of course left-overs to take home.
Cafe Hollander has a few locations in the Milwaukee metro area, but my favorite location is located on the Upper East Side on Downer Street. In my college days I lived just a short walk from Cafe Hollander. Many times when my girlfriends and I wanted a break from $5 foot longs and Qdoba, we’d head here and indulge in real food. Not only is the food good, but the ambiance is totally my style. The brick from the outside carries on into the inside and the exposed duct work gives it a rustic loft feel. Another staple of every Cafe Hollander is their love for bikes! That’s right, you’ll find bicycles hanging from the ceiling, the walls, and everywhere in between.
Milwaukee Public Market
It may not be as famous as Chelsea Market in New York City or Pike Place in Seattle, but the Milwaukee Public Market is pretty awesome in its own regard. Built in 2005, the MPM is located in Milwaukee’s trendy and historic Third Ward Neighborhood. The Public Market is an indoor space featuring food, drinks, deserts, flowers, apparel, and everything in between. The best thing about the Public Market is that it has such a wide variety of food and vendors. If you’re in a group of people who can’t decide where or what to eat, head to the Public Market. There will be something for everyone.
If I had to narrow this list down to 3 or 4 places you need to visit in Milwaukee, Benelux would definitely be on that list. I love this place. Located just down the street from the Public Market, Benelux has tons of space, a huge beer menu, bloody mary’s with tons of toppings, an adorable rooftop patio, and just downright good food. I’ve been here many times, and I’ve never had a bad meal. Trust me, you’ll love it.
Milwaukee is known for its amazing burgers. Seriously, it’s kind of a big deal. In fact, I wrote an entire post about where to find the best burger in Milwaukee. Any of the places in that post will rock your burger world, but my favorite of all, and the most “Wisconsin” place, is hands down Sobelman’s. This place is tucked away a little bit just off of Marquette’s campus on St. Paul Street. The building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the food will leave you without any doubts.
Water Buffalo is located in the Third Ward right on the Milwaukee River. I love eating here in the summer time and sitting out on the patio watching the boats go by, but even in the winter time the inside is always cozy and inviting. All of their lunch-time sandwiches are between $12-$15, and their most expensive entree is $27. It really is great food and an upscale casual vibe at a good price. This is going to sound really lame, but one of my favorite things here is their creamy tortilla soup. I get it every time I eat here!
I’m of German decent so I love a hearty meat and potatoes meal. Mader’s is classic German food at its best. In fact, whenever my parents came to visit me and my sister in college, Mader’s was the one place we always went to eat. Mader’s has been owned and operated by the Mader family for many generations. Not only is the food great here, but the atmosphere tops it off. All of the waitresses are dressed in traditional German dirndls. That’s right it looks like Oktoberfest all year-round at Maders. Also, if you’re into cocktails and beer this is some place you’ll really enjoy.
Milwaukee Chop House
Milwaukee Chop House is definitely on the higher end of the budget, so save it for a special occasion. Located in the historic downtown Hilton hotel, the Milwaukee Chop House is the perfect place to give into those cravings for a juicy perfectly cooked steak. My order is always the filet done oscar-style and a side of brussels sprouts and lobster mac and cheese. I’ve also heard good things about the rib-eye.