"Cocktails, beer and wine reflecting on a black background."

2017 Readers’ Choice Awards: Wine, Beer & Cocktails

Get your drink on at one of these reader-selected watering holes. First, pick your poison, then find out who won the category.


Pizza Man may have extended its audience reach to Oak Creek since our last survey, but this year, it ceded No. 1 to the East Side’s Balzac Wine Bar (1716 N. Arlington Pl.), whose vino list combines pours from California, Italy, France, Spain and New Zealand. Pizza Man took the silver for its 30 by-the-glass options (three locations). And Thief Wine Shop & Bar came out of the ether to take the bronze (Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St., 4512 N. Oakland Ave.), for up to 35 choices (emphasis on lesser-known vineyards) offered by the glass, taste and flight.


Cafe Hollander nailed it again, and it’s the local chain’s dominance with Belgian-style beers, steady thread of beer dinners, beers of the month or other promos that send citizens into beer frenzy (multiple locations). At No. 2, Goodkind (2457 S. Wentworth Ave.) stepped into a category it had never been in before. The tap line of 20 beers is well-curated (Surly, Black Husky, Founders) and designed to pair well with food. Reliable Stubby’s Gastrogrub & Beer Bar took third (2060 N. Humboldt Ave.). A bar with 53 rotating taps, a reserve cellar list and Stub Club that rewards its members for being diverse drinkers deserves a spot on this list!

A meal at Goodkind: No. 1 for Restaurants With Great Cocktails and No. 2 for Beer Selection. Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

Local chefs and serious bar folk pooled their talents to create Goodkind, which features an inventive, seasonally updated list of cocktails, its mixed-drink program led by the talented Katie Rose. In second and third places are Odd Duck – whose seasonal and staple cocktails get numbers instead of titles (like #46: citrus vodka, gin, mint, snap peas and fresh lime) – and Elsa’s on the Park (833 N. Jefferson St.), where a Cosmo and Manhattan are exactly what you should be drinking.


Notwithstanding the craft beer renaissance we’re experiencing, readers dubbed 30-year-old Lakefront Brewery the micro-king (1872 N. Commerce St.), with the toddler-age Good City Brewing Company (2108 N. Farwell Ave.) – whose strong summer included the opening of its rooftop patio – in the No. 2 position, followed by 20-year-old Milwaukee Brewing Co. (613 S. Second St.), whose future looks very bright. The Walker’s Point-based brewery is scheduled in 2018 to open a 46,000-square-foot brewery and tasting room.


Clearly $1 oysters and dollar-off beer, wine and cocktails are enough to keep Maxie’s (6732 W.
Fairview Ave.) in first position. The demise of Bosley on Brady – which had killer, great-deal HH appetizer specials – opened the door to some interesting changes to positions 2 and 3. Swingin’ Door Exchange (219 E. Michigan St.) moved up from third place last year, and newbie to the list Hotel Madrid (600 S. Sixth St.) showed its mettle against a lot of competition, but the Madrid bar’s Sunday (all) night happy hour is the frugal diner’s dream – half off the bar-food and drink menus.

  1. Balzac Wine Bar (1716 N. Arlington Pl.)
  2. Pizza Man (three locations)
  3. Thief Wine Shop & Bar (Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St., 4512 N. Oakland Ave.)
  1. Cafe Hollander (multiple locations)
  2. Goodkind (2457 S. Wentworth Ave.)
  3. Stubby’s Gastrogrub and Beer Bar (2060 N. Humboldt Ave.)
  1. Goodkind
  2. Odd Duck
  3. Elsa’s on the Park (833 N. Jefferson St.)
  1. Lakefront Brewery (1872 N. Commerce St.)
  2. Good City Brewing Company (2108 N. Farwell Ave.)
  3. Milwaukee Brewing Co. (613 S. Second St.)
  1. Maxie’s (6732 W. Fairview Ave.)
  2. Swingin’ Door Exchange (219 E. Michigan St.)
  3. Hotel Madrid (600 S. Sixth St.)

2017 Readers' Choice Awards


2017 Readers’ Choice Awards

Our readers said what? Our annual dining survey is at its revealing best. You’ll want to know the results!



‘2017 Readers’ Choice Awards’ appears in the September 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning August 28, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.