Downtown Dining Week requires decision making and strategy. Here's the low-down on ten restaurants to keep on your radar.
From June 1-8, a lengthy list of downtown Milwaukee eateries will be offering chef-selected three-course meals for lunch ($12.50) and dinner ($25-$35). With forty-two restaurants participating, it can be difficult to narrow down the options and devise your plan of attack.
We take a look at the five restaurants new to Downtown Dining Week, then highlight five staff favorites from last year to help guide you (and your fork) through the week.
New to the Game
This contemporary cafe, featuring a menu with both traditional and inventive brunch items, is the perfect choice if breakfast is your favorite meal of the day. Its DDW lunch menu includes your choice of breakfast tacos, fruit plate or buckshot fries for an appetizer; an avocado egg BLT, Wiscomelette or Waldorf grinder entrée; and apple cinnamon biscuits, Bluth banana pancake or café latte crepe for dessert.
800 N. Plankinton Ave.
This street-style Mexican restaurant is a festive, vibrant location to chow down on tacos with friends. Choose from chips and salsa or elote (Mexican corn) as an appetizer; your choice of two tacos for your entrée; and homemade churro or Horchata ice cream for dessert. Its $35 DDW dinner menu includes your choice of a fiesta taco dip or shrimp ceviche appetizer and any three tacos with rice and beans for your entrée.
1110 N. Old World Third Street
Although the restaurant’s name refers to our shoreline, the Great Lakes aren’t the main source of the menu’s fresh catches. In these modern times, it doesn’t matter where you are – fresh seafood flown in daily to the Midwest from the coasts is no sweat. For dinner, choose from blue crab and pimento croquettes, New England clam chowder or 3CP greens salad for your appetizer; dig into lobster mac n’ cheese, pan roasted lake trout or spicy Thai shrimp; and enjoy key lime semifreddo or chocolate trifle for dessert.
724 N. Milwaukee St.
If you’re looking for a luxurious setting to enjoy some fine French cuisine, we recommend heading to Pastiche at the Metro. For lunch, choose either a bistro salad or roasted tomato bisque for your appetizer; vegetarian ratatouille or croque monsieur as an entrée; and chocolate mousse or strawberry shortcake for dessert. Its $35 DDW dinner menu lets you pick from a bistro salad, roasted tomato bisque, pastiche onion soup or country style paté to start; vegetarian ratatouille, grilled pork with sweet corn salsa, pan roasted chicken breast with lemon herb sauce and steak and frites as an entrée; and chocolate mousse, strawberry shortcake, cheese plate or rosé granita for dessert. Semi-frozen rosé with fresh berries? Yes, please.
411 E. Mason St.
Rare Steakhouse is not only a great place for well-heeled diners to enjoy a steak dinner, but it now also offers weekday lunch. Its DDW lunch menu includes your choice of Caesar salad, creamy tomato bisque or duck fat frites as an appetizer; truffle mac and cheese, rare burger or grilled chicken wedge for your entrée; and berries and cream, sorbet or carrot cake for dessert. For dinner ($35), start the night off with Caesar salad, tomato bisque or pan seared crab cake; then choose from truffle mac and cheese, seared Atlantic salmon or broiled filet mignon; and finish the meal with berries and cream, vanilla crème brulee or smoked gouda plate.
833 E. Michigan St.
Even as a national chain, The Capital Grille in Milwaukee manages to stand out among the several steakhouses in the city with its Milwaukee and Wisconsin decor. Beyond its homegrown aesthetic, The Capital Grille has plenty of delicious choices on its menu, including its abbreviated DDW lunch and $35 dinner options. To start off your lunch, choose between a field greens salad, dressed with a tangy parmesan vinaigrette, or New England clam chowder. The entrée choices include a dry-aged sirloin hash – a dish our former managing editor Dan Simmons found to be “a religious experience,” seared citrus glazed salmon or Caesar salad with all-natural chicken breast. For dessert? Choose between a just-gooey-enough flourless chocolate espresso cake and classic crème brulee.
Begin dinner with your choice of wedge salad with blue cheese and smoked bacon, Caesar salad with Grana Padano croutons or clam chowder. With no shortage of entrée options, choose from an 8 oz. filet mignon, herb-roasted chicken, apple cider brine and mushroom risotto, a 14 oz. bone-in dry aged NY strip, seared citrus glazed salmon or porcini rubbed sliced tenderloin. For an additional $10, you can enjoy filet mignon and grilled jumbo shrimp with herb butter or an 18 oz. bone-in Kona crusted dry aged NY strip with shallot butter. Accompany your meal with either Sam’s Mashed Potatoes or french beans with heirloom tomatoes.
310 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Take a long lunch break at the Historic Third Ward’s classy French café. Start your meal with either the Potage Parmenier (a leek and potato soup with tarragon oil), or the Field Greens Salad with a light Dijon vinaigrette. For your entrée, choose between Alsatian flatbread pizza with Bosc pears, bleu cheese, Wisconsin Swiss cheese, toasted walnuts, a balsamic reduction and fresh cheese spread, croque monsieur, and the Roasted Beet Salade filled with beets, feta cheese, spiced hazelnuts and an orange-garlic vinaigrette. For dessert, indulge in rich, decadent chocolate mousse, or opt for the Oeufs à La Neige (meringue snow eggs with caramel sauce, creme anglaise and praline).
The $25 dinner menu offers four delicious entrée options: Coq Au Vin (red wine braised chicken, mushrooms, pearl onions, Usinger’s bacon and garlic mashed potatoes), a grilled Atlantic salmon salad, bacon-wrapped strauss veal meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed green beans and a porcini reduction, or a casserole of sautéed eggplant with tomato concasse and Parmesan custard.
316 N. Milwaukee St.
Kanpai, a Japanese fusion restaurant that opened in 2012, is one of the more mellow places in town to tuck into a lot of fine sushi, with tall booths bordering what’s normally a quiet street. The Downtown Dining prix fixe lunch travels down two distinct paths: sushi and bento box, the latter being a Zen-master-version of the container that originated in lowly box lunches and dinners. In the little squares, you get tofu, chicken, beef or sweet potato, salad, white rice and some light, flavorful vegetable tempura (the sweet potato is killer). If you go down the sushi road, you can also have sweet potato, or tekka, shrimp tempura, California, spicy tuna, trio or avocado. For a grand total of $12.50, you start with a plain miso soup, a salad with ginger dressing, or humble edamame and end with vanilla ice cream with fruit or chocolate pudding. This is fusion, after all.
Dinner rises significantly in price ($35), and adds more fusion, with Wagyu beef used in the jalapeno popper starter. Pan-seared Scottish salmon is paired with shrimp and served with coconut cabbage, mango salsa and teriyaki sauce for a delicious entrée option. You’d be mistaken to pass over the sushi and maki rolls, however. Finish your meal with cheesecake or affogato, a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with almond slices, chocolate and caramel syrup and served with a shot of espresso.
408 E. Chicago St.
With a slightly dim, yet cozy and romantic atmosphere, the menu at Italian restaurant Onesto “pays homage to traditional Italian, but with our modern touches,” says restaurateur Joe Sorge (of Holey Moley, Smoke Shack, Swig and Water Buffalo.) The DDW menus stay true to this concept, playing up housemade pastas and protein-based entrées. Begin lunch with either a fennel arugula salad or panzanella salad; choose fusilli, open faced tomato or meatball sliders for your main; and end on a sweet note with housemade tiramisu or chocolate pot de crème.
Instead of a starter, Onesto’s $35 DDW dinner menu offers you an 8 oz. wine pour to pair with your meal. Entrée options include wild mushroom ragu, roasted short rib, sweet corn ravioli with grilled chicken or bolognese. Fresh spaghetti intertwined with fork-tender brisket and a tomato-based sauce, the bolognese is an Italian staple done right.
221 N. Broadway
If the weather permits, snag a seat outside on the restaurant’s cozy patio and enjoy the smell of barbecued meats that emanates from inside. The DDW lunch menu offers three starter/appetizer options: a wedge salad, fried green tomatoes and Kansas City egg rolls made with premium Iowa pulled pork, monterey jack cheese, cabbage, honey mustard and Kansas City sauce. Choose from a pork sandwich, brisket sandwich and BBQ Seitan Sammich (a vegetarian option featuring Upton’s seitan, arugula, red onion and house BBQ sauce) for your entrée. Finish up the meal with bourbon bacon brownies or bourbon praline cake.
The $25 DDW dinner menu nixes dessert in favor of an adult beverage. Choose a 12 oz. craft beer, Texas Mule (Texas-made grapefruit vodka, fresh lime and ginger beer) or Ghost Punch (Jim Beam Ghost and citrus with a splash of Sprite). Start with the fried green tomatoes, candied bacon or a house salad. Meat lovers can choose between the Pulled Pork Entrée and the Personal Three Meat Combo, while a roasted portobello sandwich serves as the vegetarian option. All entrées are served with sweet potato fries or kettle chips.
332 N. Milwaukee St.