The 2018 Milwaukee Dining Year in Review

A look back at the biggest changes to our restaurant scene last year.


1) Snack Boys

It’s been a year since this small bites-focused bar opened — in the former AP Bar & Kitchen. There’s nothing traditional about it but it isn’t completely low-brow. The best way to drink here is tiki and to go rogue with the menu. Try everything from tots with caviar to sliders to roasted cauliflower to pork belly tacos. The owners also run Boone & Crockett, which moved to 818 S. Water St., in the one-time Hot Water Wherehouse (Snack Boys, 814 S. Second St.).

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Plus: Read the 2017 Milwaukee Dining Scene Year in Review here.


2) Sze Chuan

If you like dishes from the Chinese province of Sichuan, this is as good as it gets in MKE. Look for specialties such as steamed egg with beef, pork kidney with Sichuan peppercorn and cumin pork knuckle. You like hot pot? They have hot pot. (11102 W. National Ave., West Allis)

3) Kompali

It wears the big shoes of old East Side favorite Cempazuchi. Besides the inevitable tacos (traditional and as they say, international), the menu offers specials like fajitas and chiles rellenos. Its older sibling, C-viche lives in Bay View (1205 E. Brady St.).

4) Belli’s Bistro & Spirits

In the former Bay View home of Pastiche, owner/former caterer Charmice Dodson is offering Southern dishes like jambalaya, shrimp and grits and blackened catfish, along with burgers, sandwiches and steaks (3001 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.).

5) Blue Bat Kitchen & Tequilaria

Late April was the rollout for this successor to Water Buffalo. It’s also run by the same parent company, Hospitality Democracy, as WB. The menu boasts tacos (chicken fried chicken, curried cauliflower) you can turn into a bowl, plus 160 kinds of tequila (249 N. Water St).

6) Char’d

In mid-spring, this Korean fusion rest replaced Hinterland Gastropub. Expect gable (bone-in beef short ribs) and beef bulgogi, as well as kimchi paella, dumpling soup, cod on radish, soft tofu stew and much more (222 E. Erie St.).

7) Celesta

If ever a restaurant were created to make plant-based dining fun (and never boring), it’s Celesta. Owner Melanie Manuel is constantly mixing it up with things like “fishes” Friday, a beetles Chicago sandwich with giardiniera and au jus and her ever-rotating vegan tacos (1978 N. Farwell Ave.).

8) Fauntleroy

The owners of both nearby Dandan Restaurant and Batches Bakery opened this “modern French” in Third Ward digs known for coq au vin (Coquette Cafe). But these guys are proving that French in any incarnation need not be predictable or stuffy. The menu continues to evolve and recently debuted pork schnitzel with celery root remoulade and sauce gribiche (316 N. Milwaukee St.).

9) Merge

The people who run Char’d in the Third Ward followed up that opening rather quickly with this Korean fried chicken wing joint on east Kenilworth. (It has taken over the ramen joint Yokohama.) The counter-service place, decorated with murals inspired by nearby Black Cat Alley, offers its double-fried wings with four sauces. It also offers kimchi fries, a KFC burger, tacos, cheesy jalapeno corn dogs and more (1932 E. Kenilworth Place).

10) Brandywine

Both modern and historic. Co-owner Andrew Wilson cleaned up a gorgeous old 19th century building with a boatload of history. There he’s offering his home-made pastas and comfort-food large plates featuring whitefish, short ribs or duck (W61 N480 Washington Ave., Cedarburg).

11) View MKE

Pizzas are still on the menu at this Brewers Hill address formerly known as Wolf Peach. The summer arrival also feature shareable plates like caraway pork meatballs, shrimp and grits and a charcuterie board (1818 N. Hubbard St.).

12) Midtown Grill

The sister restaurant to North Avenue Grill serves everything from omelets and pancakes to creme brûlée French toast and breakfast sandwiches with hash browns. Midtown started doing  its comfort classics schtick in early September (8913 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa).

13) Tavern At Turner Hall

The early-October opener at Turner Hall is serving both the crowds coming to Fiserv Forum and Turner Hall Ballroom with tavern fare like Scotch eggs, chicken wings with a bunch of different sauces, burgers, sandwiches, Friday fish fry and Saturday night prime rib. It’s run by Mike Eitel’s Caravan Hospitality Group (1038 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.).

14) Don’s Diner & Cocktails

The same peeps who run Hotel Madrid and Movida (and who operated ill-fated Yokohama) opened this “modern diner” in late October inside the old c. 1880 digs. They’re serving B, L, D, with some classic-sounding diner fare (milkshakes, bacon pancakes) but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a timewarp back to the 1950s (1100 S. First St.).

15) Sherman Phoenix

The much-anticipated development held its grand opening at the end of November. Tenants specialize in everything from culture and food to health and wellness. The culinary side offers eat-there or take-to-go foods from Funky Fresh Spring Rolls, The Next Level Vegan, Lush Popcorn and pizza business Sauce & Spice (3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave.).

16) Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern

Mid-December was the rollout of another longed-for restaurant, this one specializing in breakfast/lunch in a sweet restored building across the street from View MKE (the old Wolf Peach). Candied bacon granola, PB&J stuffed French toast, eggs benedict and breakfast burritos are among the choices (234 E. Vine St.).

17) Crossroads Collective

The city’s first “food hall” debuted right before Christmas 2018 and features six vendors, including Laughing Taco, Scratch Ice Cream, Heaven’s Table BBQ, Beerline Cafe, Falafel Guys and Frida. It’s also got a hidden speakeasy called Shanghai (2238 N. Farwell Ave.).


1) c. 1880

Within a month or so of closing 6-year-old c. 1880 (1100 S. First St.) — back in April 2018 — chef/owner Thomas Hauck took the position of culinary director for Lowlands Group, which operates the Cafe Hollanders, among other restaurants. c. 1880’s GM Joshua Wolter took on a short consulting job for Meraki in Walker’s Point.

2) Yokohama 1910

Ramen shop Yokohama 1910 (1932 W. Kenilworth Place) closed in February 2018, after being open less than a year.

3) Juniper 61

The sister restaurant (6030 W. North Ave.) to Bay View’s Cafe Lulu  closed in summer 2018, after being open almost 10 years. It will be replaced this year by Ca’Lucchenzo, owned by Zak and Sarah Baker, formerly of Pizza Man.

4) Swig

Small plates bar Swig (217 N. Broadway) operated for a fairly impressive 15 years in the Third Ward before calling it quits in October 2018.

5) Mykonos Gyro & Cafe

December 30, 2018 was the goodbye date for Greek-American restaurant Mykonos Gyro & Cafe (1014 N. Van Buren St.), which served dishes like saganaki (flaming cheese), Athenian chicken, moussaka and, of course, gyros.



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.