Food & Drinks

The 38 Essential Milwaukee Restaurants

“Cliffie, quick. Breath test. What do you smell when I do this?” asks Norm.

“Milwaukee,” Cliff responds.

The punchline from season four of Cheers, which aired in 1985, made a joke of a city that smelled like its breweries and wasn’t known for much else. That era seems worlds away from 2019, when cranes dotted the city’s burgeoning skyline and civic leaders pondered how many new hotels they needed before the expected Democratic National Convention, when a communal feeling took hold that Milwaukee could be a big deal, could be more than the residence of the Bronze Fonz.

Looking back, both perspectives seem a bit naive. If 2020 taught Milwaukee anything — aside from the importance of comfy pants — it was to be grateful for what the city already had, including all of its amazing food: the empanadas, injera, pork belly tacos, stacked Bloody Marys, carbonara, cheese curds, small-batch coffee, stuffed cabbage, Neapolitan pizza, Southern-style barbecue, food halls, food truck parks, and yes, even breweries. With so much to eat and drink, who cares if the city smells a little bit like beer?

Todd Lazarski Is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and the author of the new novel Spend It All.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

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