40 Reasons to Visit Milwaukee’s Western Suburbs

There’s a lot to love in the communities of Pewaukee, Oconomowoc, Genesee Depot, Wauwatosa, Delafield, Hartland, Brookfield, Waukesha, West Allis, Elm Grove, Wales, Okauchee, Nashotah and West Milwaukee.


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


BY ALLI WATTERS, ANN CHRISTENSON, CHRIS DRSONER, ARCHER PARQUETTE, LAURA BENGS, KRISTINE HANSEN, ASHLEY ABRAMSON, JENNA KASHOU, CHELSEA MAMEROW AND RICH ROVITO


Where to Eat

1. Artisan 179   

179 W. WISCONSIN AVE., PEWAUKEE   

Bookmark this fine dining locale the next time you really want to impress someone. As the setting sun sends shades of orange and red over resplendent Pewaukee Lake just outside this cozy haunt’s windows, you will feel like you’re on a mini culinary vacation, complete with exceptional from-scratch dishes such as pan-fried gnocchi with pesto cream and 16-ounce cider-brined Berkshire pork chop. 

2. Coco’s Seafood & Steakhouse  

151 ST. PAUL ST., OCONOMOWOC   

Inspired by the owner’s love for prime steaks and fish caught off the coast of Florida, this retro-meets-modern escape is where Lake Country folks go to feel pampered – in a white tablecloth setting that feels Lake Country relaxed. The menu has a classic steak-seafood house flavor to it, with top picks ranging from pan-seared sea scallops with mushroom risotto to a 45-day dry-aged cowboy ribeye. 

Coco’s Seafood & Steakhouse; Photo by John Hart Photography

3. Union House   

S42 W31320 HIGHWAY 83, GENESEE DEPOT  

This “country gourmet” retreat, housed in the circa-1861 former Union House Hotel, is a little outside what we’d usually consider the suburbs, but it’s worth the drive. The historic space is known for superb food and staff who lead diners through the experience like they feel personally invested. This is not the night to watch your diet. Indulge in the lobster bisque, roast half-duck with spaetzle, Wagyu steak and classic schaum torte for dessert. And the Tuesday-Thursday dinner specials are always a great deal.

4. Lago Su Bella  

128 W. WISCONSIN AVE., OCONOMOWOC   

This upscale but rustic Italian joint gets its name (Italian for On a Beautiful Lake) from its location along scenic Lac La Belle. It’s an unpretentious spot for a glass of Tuscan red wine and a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, or a negroni cocktail and the roasted branzino with limoncello caper sauce. The ricotta gnocchi with Italian sausage tossed in Gorgonzola cream sauce isn’t labeled a house specialty, but it should be. 

5. Le Rêve Patisserie & Café 

7610 HARWOOD AVE., WAUWATOSA

Tosans get their coq au vin and croque monsieur on at this humming two-level French haunt. Besides serving lunch, dinner and brunch, this must-stop also makes baked goods (those croissants!) and French desserts that are truly enchanté

Photo courtesy of La Rêve Patisserie & Cafe.

Suburb Surprise

6. Daybreak Mobil

622 GENESEE ST., DELAFIELD

Even if the tank’s full, it’s worth a stop for gas at Daybreak Mobil. And artisan cheese. And bottles of French wine. And Strauss lamb and free-range poultry in the deli and at the butcher counter. Look for the Cape Cod-ish red-brick, two-story building with dormers. Those run-of-the-mill gas pumps are out back. 


Where to Shop

7. DesignXchange

175 MAIN ST., PEWAUKEE; 600 HARTBROOK DR., HARTLAND

Empty your trunk before going, especially if you love one-of-a-kind finds. Consigners sell their furniture and home decor here, many of them antiques or from top brands. Store managers organize the eclectic wares in stylish scenes. The prices start high but drop each month – that is, if you’re willing to gamble that someone else won’t buy your prized item first. Head to Pewaukee for your porch and patio needs and Hartland for everything else. 

8. The Corners of Brookfield 

20111 W. BLUEMOUND RD., BROOKFIELD

Glittered with local boutiques and national retailers, including the only Von Maur department store in Wisconsin, this 5-year-old, upscale town center serves accessible luxury with a twist of small-town feel. But The Corners goes well beyond shopping, with popular dining options from Wisconsin favorites like BelAir Cantina and Café Hollander to national chains, and entertainment attractions like a live comedy club and dine-in movie theater. Its year-round special events are a consistent draw, too. 

The Corners of Brookfield; Photo courtesy of The Corners of Brookfield

9. The Smiley Barn Toy Store

2420 MILWAUKEE ST., DELAFIELD 

You’ll be smiling as wide as the yellow barn when you leave this old-fashioned toy and candy store with play areas sprinkled throughout the store’s collection of nostalgic and modern toys. Don’t miss the second level’s dedicated Playmobil-themed playroom – one of the first two in the nation (alongside New York City’s famed FAO Schwarz). 

The Smiley Barn Toy Store; Photo courtesy of the Smiley Barn Toy Store

Throwback

10. The Kiltie Drive-In

N48 W36154 E. WISCONSIN AVE., OCONOMOWOC

The surest sign of spring in Lake Country: the carhops of The Kiltie getting back in action. Founded in 1947 and marked by its towering neon sign, this busy burger-and-ice cream place is a haven for nostalgia-seekers. So fasten the tray to your window, crank up the classic rock and go ahead and dip those salty fries into your chocolate shake. 

The Kiltie Drive-In; Photo by Luke Wein

More Reasons to Go

11. Frame Park

701 W. MORELAND BLVD., WAUKESHA

Frame Park’s picturesque riverwalk follows the Fox River Trail as it hugs the shoreline, winds through the vibrant formal gardens, and connects to downtown Waukesha. The trail, peppered with segments of brick path, is bookended by a nationally recognized accessible playground and a transportation-themed tot park. The green space is easily explored on foot, but a bike or boat rental is best in summer months. 

12. West Allis Farmers Market

6501 W. NATIONAL AVE., WEST ALLIS

The 103-year-old source for Wisconsin-based fresh produce, meat, dairy and eggs, plus fresh flowers, plants and more, is beloved by food lovers and restaurant chefs alike. That’s largely owing to the market’s well-deserved reputation for quality. 

Plants and flowers are early spring draws at the West Allis Farmers Market; Photo courtesy of West Allis Farmers Market

13. Cranky Al’s

6901 W. NORTH AVE., WAUWATOSA   

The doughnuts that made this east Tosa joint famous are exceptional – the raised donuts are pillowy, the cake donuts crumbly, the crullers killer. But don’t sleep on the thin-crust pizza that’s recently gained wider distribution across metro area shops and bars. And Doughnut Don, the collaboration coffee cruller imperial stout made by fellow North Avenue business Vennture Brew Co., drops again this month. 

14. Sunset Playhouse

700 WALL ST., ELM GROVE

This community theater can pack the house with its diverse spread of productions. The shows range from fun musical tributes (The Artistry of Miss Peggy Lee this spring) to serious theatrical productions (Newsies this summer). There’s a regular children’s theater series, too, with Shrek the Musical Jr. a highlight of the upcoming season. 

Sunset Playhouse; Photo by Katrina Smith

15. Pewaukee Beach

100 BLOCK OF WEST WISCONSIN AVENUE, PEWAUKEE

This beach on Pewaukee Lake is clean and family-friendly, though it can be a bit crowded at times. That figures, because it’s a centerpiece of a great downtown with locally owned shops and eateries just across the street. (Is there any better spot for The Chocolate Factory ice cream/sub shop?) Events throughout summer – the music of Waterfront Wednesdays and the annual Kiwanis block party in late June – keep us coming back. 

16. Ten Chimneys

S43 W31575 DEPOT RD., GENESEE DEPOT 

Milwaukee-born actor Alfred Lunt and actress wife Lynn Fontanne – both Academy Award nominees – built this 60-acre, summer-home estate in the 1920s and ’30s. Now open to visitors, each of the estate’s 18 rooms holds artifacts and artwork: some were gifts to the couple from Golden Age stars like Noël Coward, Edna Ferber and Laurence Olivier

17. Nixon Park

175 E. PARK AVE., HARTLAND 

An idyllic small-town gathering spot, this park overflows with things to do. In summer, it hosts concerts and movies, an impressive splash pad runs on-demand from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and – to the joy of parents – it is home to the Lake Country Beer Garden. The Bark River, flanked by the Ice Age Trail, feeds a small pond perfect for fishing beginners. The last weekend in June, the park is home to the annual Hometown Celebration, including a festival in the park and a fireworks show worth traveling to see. 

18. Commemorative Air Force Wisconsin Wing

2525 AVIATION DR., WAUKESHA

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to fly in the warbirds of yesteryear, this nonprofit can show you. It runs flights of a brightly painted pair of World War II-era two-seater trainer planes (a SNJ-5 and PT-26, both built in 1943) and a 1955 Beechcraft T-34A from the Waukesha County Airport. 

19. Sanctuary Woods

NEAR 87TH STREET OFF OF WATERTOWN PLANK ROAD

This portion of County Grounds Park in Wauwatosa was once used for leisure by the residents of a mental hospital, and the ruins of related structures (and natural landmarks) were annotated recently by a park friends group. But the real star is the woods itself, an old-growth forest with trails weaving through the soaring oaks. 


Burb Bites

Before she was a Go-Go, Jane Wiedlin was born in Oconomowoc and lived in West Allis. The future pop star and her family lit out for LA when she was 6. 

After the end of World War I, Waukesha County dubbed itself “Cow County USA” due to the fact that it had more bovine residents than people. 


Beat of the Burbs

20. LeDuc’s Frozen Custard

WALES

Don’t cast your local custard crown without checking out this spot.

21. Doc’s Dry Dock

PEWAUKEE

Pizza rules, including the Mega Watt, created by football pro/pie fan J.J. Watt.

22. Suburpia

WAUWATOSA

A sub shop with great variety, even for vegetarians; don’t miss the mushroom brie soup.

23. TomKen’s

WEST ALLIS

Solid local bar with standout hot wings.

24. Sharon Lynne Wilson Center

BROOKFIELD

The west metro’s arts hub.

The 40-foot talllimestone chimney is a highlight of the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts’ lobby. and was hand-carved by Susan Falkman; Photo by Larry D’atillio

25. Champps Americana

BROOKFIELD

The vast beer list drops even a beer geek’s jaw.

26. Hoyt Park

WAUWATOSA

Pool, playground and beer garden are a potent trifecta for young parents.

The Landing at Hoyt Park; Photo courtesy of Friends of Hoyt Park & Pool

27. Mantra Indian Bistro

OCONOMOWOC

Perfect naan sense.

28. Raised Grain Brewing

WAUKESHA

Beer, of course, but also atmosphere and underrated food.

29. Smoke on the Water BBQ

OKAUCHEE

Tater tots smothered in Sloppy Joe meat sauce? You betcha.

30. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church

WAUWATOSA

The stunning Frank Lloyd Wright design reflects the faith.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox; Photo by Visit Milwaukee

31. SummerStage of Delafield

DELAFIELD

Theater without the theater – under the Lapham Peak stars.

32. Elm Grove Village Park

ELM GROVE

A great community park, pool and library in one spot.

33. Ray’s Wine & Spirits

WAUWATOSA

Exceptional wine and beer selection and service.

34. Golden Mast Inn

OKAUCHEE

One of the finest fish fries in Lake Country.

Weissgerber’s Golden Mast Inn; Photo by Kenny Yoo.

35. Hartung Park

WAUWATOSA

Hiking trails with sweeping views from the suburbs to Downtown.

36. Cal’s Collectables and Mantiques

WAUKESHA

Man cave decor has never been easier.

37. Spring City Wine House

WAUKESHA

A welcoming space in the thick of the downtown scene.

38. Red Circle Inn

NASHOTAH

Don’t miss the made-to-order dessert souffles.

39. Capri di Nuovo

WEST ALLIS

Casual family joint with unspeakably good lasagna.

40. Mad Rooster Cafe

WEST MILWAUKEE

A breakfast that draws crowds.


 

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

Find it on newsstands or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop

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