Best of Milwaukee 2016

Milwaukee Magazine’s guide to some of the most outstanding retailers, restaurants, services and you-name-it in town.

Hear ye, hear ye! The Best of Milwaukee is back, after a brief detour last year into a love-letter iteration called “Reasons to Love Milwaukee.” Make no mistake – this feature is still packed with amorous feelings for our city. But this year, in addition to a bit of heart-felt gushing, we aim to offer a useable guide to some of the most outstanding retailers, restaurants, services and you-name-it in town. So whether you have a hankering for above-par chicken tenders, or are wondering what’s the best local band right now, our list of over 60 “awards” will help. In fact, we’ve packed this story with enough suggestions (and just a little nostalgia) to last you until, well, this time next year.

By Ann christenson, Matt hrodey, Jenna Kashou, Kevin Mueller, Carole Nicksin, Adam Rogan, Dan Simmons and Tom Tolan. Edited by Claire Hanan.


Movie Night

Bay View’s Avalon Atmospheric Theater, remodeled and reopened in 2014, features Moorish arches and a starry ceiling (1,300 LED lights) that evoke a night in Barcelona. There are even computer-programmed shooting stars. “The first time I saw one I thought I’d had a slight stroke,” says assistant manager Jeff Schmidt. (TT)

New Date Night Venue

Before you gaze seductively into his or her eyes, consider this romantic scenario happening amid twinkling stars, high-rise rooftops and fresh air. Holy time-for-a-kiss! But first, you must take the elevator inside the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel up to the ninth floor. When the doors slide open, you’re in The Outsider (310 E. Chicago St.), the part-plein-air destination where time stops only for day-bed lounging, cocktail-sipping, snacking and languidly watching the sun go down. (AC)

Group Workout

The November Project is as much a community of support as a fun, free outdoor workout for all fitness levels. Just show up at 6:26 a.m. any Wednesday, no matter the weather, at di Suvero’s The Calling. And prepare to sweat. (JK)

Table Sport

Shorewood and China may not seem much alike. But here’s one thing they share: a yen for outdoor ping-pong. At Shorewood High School and at nearby River Park, “park pong” tables invite you to play this addicting game under the sky. Just be sure to account for the wind. (DS)

Tuesday Night

Pay a visit to Tonic Tavern (2335 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) on a Tuesday night, and you’ll soon recognize that you have walked into something special. That’s when the Picker’s Circle, a congregation of musicians started by Mark Meaney, meets. “The concept of music sessions in pubs where anyone can join in is very common in Ireland [Meaney’s native land] but uncommon here. I wanted to create an informal gathering open to anyone,” says Meaney. It’s a simple premise: players sit in a circle and take turns choosing a song, then everyone in the circle joins in. Each evening takes on its own identity, depending on who drops by. (CN)

Picker’s Circle at Tonic Tavern. Photo by David Szymanski.

Read the rest of this story in the October issue of Milwaukee Magazine. Find a copy on newsstands beginning Monday, Oct. 3, buy a copy online at, or read it now using Member Pass.

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