Brunch, in addition to happy hour, is easily the best time of the week in Milwaukee. Even better, brunch is not just reserved for Sunday any more. Every year, new spots are added to the mix, and this crop accommodates diners nearly every day of the week.
1) The Fitz
Address: 2308 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m.– 2 p.m.
The Ambassador Hotel recently updated its restaurants, but preserved its art-deco charm. They even named the new digs “The Fitz” after ‘20s author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Their bestsellers are pumpkin pancakes with cranberry compote, oatmeal cookie crumble and orange zest butter and the brioche french toast topped with vanilla bean butter and maple syrup. If you prefer hearty, opt for the biscuits and gravy topped with thick, creamy sausage gravy, crowned with a sunny-side-up egg. The Fitz proudly supports local farmers and purveyors too, which is a plus.
2) Sweet Diner
Address: 239 E. Chicago Ave.
Hours: Monday-Sunday, 6 a.m.-4 p.m. for breakfast and lunch. Open 365 days a year.
The spacious, bright interior of this newly redesigned Third Ward space offers diners a chance to sit at a booth, table or counter. Sweet Diner offers a large menu of traditional and creative dishes. The berry blast pancakes were as close to pancake perfection as I’ve tasted in a long time. One the the best sellers is the chilaquiles, a Mexican dish of shredded tortillas, eggs, chorizo and pico de gallo. Also, many swear by the Monte Cristo – grilled French toast with ham off the bone, sliced grilled chicken, jam and gruyere cheese.
3) Stella Van Buren
Address: 550 N. Van Buren St.
Hours: Saturday-Sunday, 7 a.m.–4 p.m.
Inside the new Westin hotel, Stella Van Buren is an Italian steakhouse that serves pasta for brunch. Some of their bestsellers: country-style chicken Parmesan, pecan praline French toast and baked rigatoni carbonara. I can’t resist a good avocado toast, and their version with toasted pine nuts is a welcome addition. The third-floor restaurant offers city views and complimentary valet parking, which is an added bonus in the winter.
4) The Tandem
Address: 1848 W. Fond Du Lac Ave.
Hours: Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday
This welcoming spot is known for its fried chicken, but the warm kale salad with a poached egg, oxtail hash with root veggies and sage brown butter, and French toast casserole are also unique and flavorful choices from the menu. The chicken and waffles is an obvious brunch pick. Choose spicy Memphis-style or Georgia fried chicken to top your waffle, served with whipped butter and maple syrup. There are also several devotees of their brunch burger special, which changes every week but usually includes bacon and cheese, along with a few other creative twists. Owner Caitlin Cullen credits her devoted teenage chefs, who cook everything from scratch, for their consistently delicious brunch offerings.
5) Hotel Madrid
Address: 600 S. 6th St.
Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Known for its high-end dining, find a few unexpected sweet and savory items on Hotel Madrid’s more affordable brunch menu. Re-live your childhood with Fruity Pebbles pancakes or indulge in our of their well-done Benedicts, either with cured Spanish ham or avocado and heirloom tomato. Their brunch cocktail menu is also inventive and meant to share. Why not order Sangria for the table or a giant bloody Mary served in a ceramic bulldog? Watch out for new Spanish-inspired items rolling out in January.
Address: 800 N. Plankinton Ave
Hours: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
It better be good with a name like that! Brunch lives up to expectations with a menu ranging from rich and indulgent (“The Dad Bod” and cheesesteak omelette) to hearty and healthy (quinoa power bowl and vegan hash). It’s not exactly new, but the seasonal menu boasts features every week, so there will always be something new to try when you visit. Weekend specials are always posted on their Instagram account, so follow @brunchmke to wet your whistle, or if you’re just a glutton for food porn.
Their new location in Brookfield (18985 W. Capitol Drive) opens in January.