An Insider’s Guide to Wauwatosa

This booming ’burb has plenty to offer residents and visitors alike.

Once a bucolic retreat for weary 19th-century city dwellers, Wauwatosa is now a small city in its own right, with 47,000 residents calling it home. In the midst of a three-year beautification project, its downtown “village” area is more charming than ever: Fairy lights, a brick pedestrian plaza and firefly-inspired signage (a nod to the Potawatomi translation for Wauwatosa) are already in place. Several blocks north, East Tosa is an up-and-coming destination itself. A tree-lined, bike-friendly stretch of North Avenue has seen a number of hip new bars, restaurants and other businesses pop up in recent years.

Pizzeria Piccola

Pizzeria Piccola; photo by Savage

7606 W. State St.

Come for the Neapolitan-style pizza.
Stay for the cozy upstairs dining room.

It’s the Bartolotta group’s take on fast-casual lunch. This authentic hole-in-the-wall is as mouthwatering as it is charming.

Juniper 61 [Now closed]

6030 W. North Ave.

Come for the inventive small plates.
Stay for the secret garden-esque back patio.

For a taste of Bay View on Tosa’s east side, try this upscale small plates establishment, run by the duo behind Café Lulu. Lulu’s famed Asian slaw makes a menu reprise, but Juniper’s tempura green beans are just as addictive.

Rocket Baby Bakery

6822 W. North Ave.

Come for the house-made pain de mie.
Stay for the grilled cheese.

Give us this day our daily bread (and almond croissant and kouign-amann). Head into the office with a box of Rocket Baby goodness, and you’re halfway to landing that promotion. But stick around for a sandwich served on slices of their artisanal bread, and you’ll forget all about work.


Ruby Tap, photo by Jeff Marini

Ruby Tap

1341 N. Wauwatosa Ave.

Come for the always-changing menagerie of tap wines.
Stay for the cheese boards.

The novelty of the self-serve wine taps outlasts their corresponding buzz. Treat yourself to a create-your-own flight (sips come in 1-oz, 3-oz and 6-oz pours) and while away a quiet evening in this chic neighborhood wine bar, which takes the same mix-and-match approach to cheese and charcuterie.

Lucky Joe’s Tosa

1427 Underwood Ave.

Come for the Texas Roadrunner.
Stay for the many other craft cocktails.

Those missing Second Street’s bygone Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room might be disappointed at the lack of kitsch (though the Roadrunner, a Tiki Room reboot, is quite good). But the level of detail and fresh ingredients prove Tosa residents are the lucky ones, tiki theme or no.

photo via Getty Images

Hoyt Park

1800 N. Swan Blvd.

Come for the outdoor recreation.
Stay for the beer garden.

We’ve seen many a well-intentioned bike ride or jog abandoned at the entrance to The Landing. This watering hole, just outside Tosa Pool at Hoyt Park, is dotted with picnic tables where beer drinkers clink glasses and listen to live music (sometimes polka). The only thing better than a beer garden is one situated conveniently in the middle of a running route. Prost!

The Landing at Hoyt Park, photo by Nick Mischo

Rosebud Cinema

6823 W. North Ave.

Come for the neighborhood theater vibe.
Stay for the comfy couches.

Get a slice of Tosa history at this iconic movie theater, which originally opened in 1931. Like many local theaters, Rosebud stocks a full bar and concessions. Sink into one of the couches with an old fashioned and you’ll never want to leave – even if the film’s a flop.

Ono Kine Grindz

7215 W. North Ave.

Come for the Kona coffee and macadamia nuts.
Stay for the Kalua pork (and a Hawaiian shirt).

Part specialty store, part Hawaiian deli, this North Avenue shop is a tropical oasis in the heart of East Tosa. The name roughly translates from Hawaiian Pidgin to “delicious specialty foods,” and that’s no bait-and-switch.

Studio Ric Rak; photo via Getty Images

Studio Ric Rak

7532A W. State St.

Come for the thrill of the vintage hunt.
Stay for the exceptional curation of mid-century housewares.

You don’t need to do much junk-rifling to uncover the gems at this garden-level vintage treasure trove – everything in the store is a gem, and you’ll find yourself promising to add afternoon tea and before-dinner drinks to your daily routine, if only to rationalize purchasing that colorful creamer or retro decanter. This is the store Anthropologie wishes it could be.

‘Tosa Time’ appears in the April 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning April 2nd, or buy a copy at

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Karisa Langlo is the Digital Editor for Milwaukee Magazine.