3 Downtowns to Visit in Milwaukee’s Suburbs

As we were scouring these neighborhoods for our Best of the Burbs feature, we fell in love with these charming downtowns.

This story is part of our Best of the Burbs feature from the April Issue of Milwaukee Magazine. To read our full guide to the finest that Milwaukee’s suburbs have to offer, order your copy today




One indicator you’re in Cedarburg? All the limestone and Cream City brick structures. These date back to the mid-1800s when immigrants constructed Italianate-style buildings along Washington Avenue. What was once a dirt road is now a vibrant downtown. The cobbler and woolen mill – just two examples of past businesses – have been replaced by pizza parlors and antiques shops. But the Greek Revival-style Cedarburg Mill still stands proud, showing off its 1855 roots and perched above Cedar Creek, which flows into the Milwaukee River. A few blocks north, sip locally made Cedar Creek Winery wine in another historic structure: Cedar Creek Settlement. Or catch a first-run feature film at the single-screen Rivoli Theatre, which was built in 1936, though its striking art deco facade and sign were part of a 2007 renovation.

Can’t Miss Pick: Mimicking a general store, Frannie’s Market stocks pantry staples, plus cheese and charcuterie, but also carries fun and fancy items for the home, such as reclaimed-wood coffee spoons hand-carved by Guatemalan artisans. Or learn to create a terrarium in one of its classes. W61 N486 Washington Ave.

Downtown Cedarburg; Photo by Alamy


2. Brookfield


Skip Bluemound Road and Capitol Drive’s neon lights and big-box stores to step back into time: Brookfield’s lesser-known quaint village environs. In the 1830s, a schoolhouse, tavern and inn first popped up in the area and by 1840, 148 people lived there. Spurred by a new rail line, Brookfield grew in the 1850s, including the building of a sawmill making railroad ties and rail cars. In fact, the 1867 Italianate-style train depot still stands, although it has been moved from its original location. Today, businesses are tucked into older structures, some with porches, and parking is right out front. A buzzy new opening, C.C.’s Elbow Room bar and grill joins Biloba Brewing Co. (which also serves at the summertime beer garden down the street) and Vino Cappuccino (a piano bar with a robust Italian menu) on the food and drink front. Other indie businesses allow you to give Fido a shampoo and cut (Caring Fur Canines), drop the kids off for dance class (Brookfield Center for the Arts) or invest in new eyeglass frames (Point of View Optical Gallery).

Can’t Miss Pick: Coffeevile Co. opens inside the former train depot this spring. Take a latte to-go on the Waukesha County River Bike Trail – the depot doubles as a trailhead. 2825 N. Brookfield Rd. 

Bilboa Brewing in Downtown Brookfield; Photo courtesy of Bilboa Brewing


3. Greendale


Architects, historians and foodies alike adore Greendale’s downtown, a three-block stretch along Broad Street with flower beds, antique lampposts, a gazebo and a four-faced clock. Sit down to a throwback relish tray and fish fry at Joey Gerard’s – A Bartolotta Supper Club or custard and burgers at Milk Can Diner. For a quick jolt, chocolates crafted from molds at Apples of Eden or offbeat coffee drinks like a White Rabbit at Broad Street Coffee do the trick. There’s a reason for this Norman Rockwell-type vista. In 1936, the Roosevelt Administration built Greendale as one of three planned “Greenbelt Communities,” the others in Maryland and Ohio. Don’t leave without walking past some of the famed Greendale Originals: the federal-built tract homes often called “backward houses” because the living room is in the back and the kitchen looks out onto the street.

Can’t Miss Pick: The wines that Vintage 38 owner Jennifer Lyden sells and pours at her bar stray from the big brands you’ll easily find elsewhere. Can’t make a decision? Flights are your friend. Pair with artisan Wisconsin meats and cheeses – or at night, a pizza from Ricardo’s across the street, a Greendale institution since 1970. 5690 Broad St. 

Greendale’s Gazebo Park is a central spot for entertainment and social gathering in the unusually tight-knit community; Photo courtesy of Jason Reblando


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s April issue.

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A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine), FoodRepublic.com, CNN.com and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.