As a result of watching hours of Food Network, I have rightfully earned the title of an acclaimed food critic. Not really, but I do know of some pretty great places to eat. In my opinion, these 5 restaurants are some of Milwaukee’s best (in no particular order). Let me also preface this blog post with the fact that I am a meat eater, but most of the restaurants I am mentioning have great options for those who prefer a meat-free diet.
301 W Juneau
Milwaukee, WI 53203
Carson’s claims to be “America’s #1 Barbecue” and while I don’t know about that, I do know that the food is good. I’m not just talking “oh, this tastes pretty good” good, it is more like “I need 3 orders of this and 5 orders of that” good. A few of my favorite dishes to get from Carson’s are the corn bread, a meal called the “BBQ Marriage”, and the “Ultimate Double Baked” potato.
9155 W Bluemound Rd
Milwaukee, WI 53226
I cannot make a list without giving La Fuente some recognition. The location that I grew to know and love here in Milwaukee closed unfortunately, but La Fuente has been a staple for me growing up in Milwaukee. I’m not sure when or how I started going to La Fuente, I just know that I’ve celebrated most of my major accomplishments (and birthdays) at La Fuente. They knew me and my family, and even had our orders memorized. I also knew most of the staff by name. Since the location on South 5th Street closed, I have not frequented La Fuente as much, but I recently went to the location on Blue Mound and saw one of my favorite waiters from the former location. We shared a hug, he asked about my mom, and my day was made instantly. (He also told me that I had lost some weight, and I told him it was because I hadn’t been eating there as often. We shared a nice laugh).
Now... to the food. I am a pretty picker eater, so I typically stick to what I know when I go places. I also like to keep it simple. When I go to La Fuente, I typically get a combination plate that comes with a taco, a chimichanga, and an enchilada. Most entrees come with rice and beans as well. The food is great, but my favorite part of my experience is always the service.
816 S 5th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53204
Botanas has become the “go to” ever since La Fuente on South 5th closed. They were actually located on the same street. You could walk out of both restaurants and see the other one. I don’t think I could ever go to any restaurant as many times as I have been to La Fuente, but my mother enjoys Botanas and goes almost every week, so I tag along every now and then. As far as food goes, I’ll typically get three steak tacos with rice and beans. The food is good, the prices aren’t too bad, and the environment is very welcoming and friendly.
4401 W Greenfield Ave (On Miller Park Way)
Milwaukee, WI 53214
I’ll start by saying this... I love breakfast food. I could eat it for breakfast (obviously), lunch, and dinner. I’ve gone to a few different places and I’ve found Mad Rooster Café to be one of the best. I’ll typically get a “Carnivore Omelet” and corned beef hash. You also get a choice of toast or pancakes; I always go for the pancakes because, why not? Mad Rooster Café is open every day, but only from 7AM-3PM, and they typically have a long wait time, particularly on the weekends. Even with all those factors considered, the food is worth it.
Honorable breakfast mentions: IHOP, Blue’s Egg on Blue Mound and Devon’s at Bayshore (Devon’s has an all you can eat brunch on Sundays and the lobster mac and cheese is delicious).
1724 N Farwell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Also located inside of most Marcus Theatres
Most of the people who know me well, know that pizza is key to my survival. Although I typically only get pepperoni on my pizza, I am open to all varieties of crusts. The reason why Zaffiro’s is on this list is not necessary because it is my absolute favorite pizza, but because I love to go to the movies. Since there is a Zaffiro’s inside of most of the Marcus Theatres I go to, I eat Zaffiro’s by default most of the time. Zaffiro’s serves thin crust pizza (when I say thin, I mean thinnn) so you have to eat quite a bit of it to get full (or maybe that’s just what I tell myself), but it is still great quality pizza. They also serve wonton mozzarella sticks that are tasty as long as they are fresh. If you’re looking for a pizza experience that fits your fancy, there are many different pizza options available to you in Milwaukee, but if you enjoy catching $5 Tuesdays as much as I do and you’ve never had Zaffiro’s, I would definitely recommend it. Typically, there are also deals on pizza at some Marcus locations on Tuesdays. Did I mention that you can take the pizza into the theater? Well if I didn’t, YOU CAN TAKE THE PIZZA INTO THE THEATER. For me, pizza and a movie sounds better than popcorn and a movie any day, but that might just be personal preference.
5526 W North Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53208
Scene 1 Restaurant and Lounge is a modern take on the upscale dining experience, and it is located near 55th and North Ave. My entrée of choice would be the Red Velvet Waffles served with chicken wings. Now, the waffles are good, but the chicken wings? You HAVE to try them. I could get an order of 100 and still want more. The appetizers are good and the entrees are spectacular. Scene 1 serves burgers (including a flavorful veggie burger), seafood, chicken, and salads. The food is enough to draw you in, but the décor and the service inside are also points of delight for me and many other people who have visited the restaurant. There are also frequent specials, so be sure to follow them on social media to stay in the loop! One of the owners of the restaurant, Lenzy Crawford, has City Year roots and is also one of my favorite people ever. Aside from that, I am always an advocate of supporting local restaurants owned by black and brown people. Definitely add going to Scene 1 Restaurant and Lounge to your list of things to do over break.
Article written by Deja Garner, Team Leader on the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County Team at James Madison Academic Campus