Milwaukee Neighborhood Guide: 29 Reasons to Visit the East Side's North Avenue

What to do and where to go on the easternmost stretch of bustling North Ave.

 The best-known chunk of North Avenue runs from roughly Oakland Avenue to the lake, with a block or two extending to the north and south. The area seems pretty vital these days, with a new crop of storefronts and dreams. Come, let us share these dreams.

Map of East Side North Ave. Hotspots

Ma Fischer’s

2214 N. Farwell Ave.

Milwaukee isn’t big on all-night cafes or coffee shops, but there’s always Ma Fischer’s, which is open 24 hours. It’s a place to see local politicians, spillover from the Milwaukee Film Festival, all/most segments of society, and it’s got one of those tall, cylindrical cases that rotate cakes and pies. The menu is about 60 pages long, and you could probably eat at Ma Fischer’s once a day for a year and never eat the same thing twice.

North Point Water Tower

2288 N. Lake Drive

This tough old standpipe tower opened in 1874 and lasted until 1963. The pipe was built to relieve pressure from the North Point Pumping Station, according to the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee.

Crossroads Collective

2238 N. Farwell Ave.

Crossroads Collective’s The Pharmacy

This corner has not had an easy go of it, but Crossroads is pulling out all the stops. “Milwaukee’s Foodiest Food Hall” (also one of its booziest) has the mysteriously named Heaven’s Table BBQ, Frida Soup and Sandwiches, Scratch Scoop Shop (ice cream), Beerline Cafe, the Falafel Guys, Egg and Flour Pasta Bar and Raw Bar (seafood). Some of those are iterations of existing local places, and some are new.

Milwaukee Public Library East Branch

2320 N. Cramer St.

Teen Space in the East Library

The old East Side location used to be humble and a bit dim. Now it feels futuristic. The space has increased by a few orders of magnitude, and you can rent chunks of it for meetings or presentations, or browse a variety of media. The project also included upscale apartments upstairs, which helped to finance the facility below.

The Waxwing

1800 E. North Ave.

Fun dishes at Waxwing

If you’re looking for something tasteful and cool that references Milwaukee or Wisconsin, this is a good place to start. Waxwing carries the work of local and national artisans and has roots in Shorewood, where artist/owner Steph Davies first opened.

Sip & Purr Cat Cafe

2021 E. Ivanhoe Pl.

When this place is closed on Tuesdays for a respite, the cats take over, lounging in the windows on little wooden beds. On open days, you might think Sip & Purr is a simple business: a little coffee, a little cat time. But there’s a lot going on, including a concierge in the Cat Lounge you have to check with before touching a cat. You can also adopt cats and play Drag Bingo With Cats.

Black Cat Alley

alley between Ivanhoe and Kenilworth Place

Black Cat Alley

Approximately every 30 seconds, someone walks down Black Cat Alley, often hand-in-hand with someone else, so the outdoor art gallery (17 murals by 18 artists) is never lonely during warm months.


1932 E. Kenilworth Pl.

Merge’s upper level

Don’t trust the cover on this former ramen place. Inside a relatively plain doorway is a split level bar with bright murals and painted glass. Merge’s food is adventurous bar fare, plus Korean Fried Chicken (abbreviated KFC, not to be confused with the other KFC).

Oriental Theatre

2230 N. Farwell Ave.

Oriental Theatre

Now featuring a women’s bathroom! Next to come is a proper organ, part of Milwaukee Film’s management of the historic three-theater plex built in 1927. The “Oriental” design comes from a mish-mash of Byzantine and other near-east ideas. Milwaukee Film’s captaining has meant greater variety and a surfeit of special event screenings.

Hacienda Beer Co.

2018 E. North Ave.

Hacienda’s bathrooms

Hacienda is a shockingly different joint than the old G-Daddy’s BBC it replaced. Hacienda looks like a place to sit down next to Ernest Hemingway or Indiana Jones, for that matter, and order a lime and rum. It doesn’t have a zinc bar, just a swooping marble one, and the bathroom sign is one of a kind.

Ian’s Pizza

2035 E. North Ave.

Milwaukee isn’t overflowing, dripping, with pizza-by-the-slice. This one is the kind that puts unusual toppings on its pizza, such as macaroni and cheese, broccoli and vodka-tinged ravioli. They also have salads and vegan pizzas, but if you were of that persuasion, you might just walk across the street to Whole Foods.

Donut Squad

2264 N. Prospect Ave.

Fun doughnuts, cheap doughnuts, classic doughnuts. Donut Squad delivers after 10 a.m. and on Friday and Saturday nights. Takeout is possible from 6 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Whole Foods

2305 N. Prospect Ave.

The North Avenue location is going through some changes, swapping out the old burrito station with a new bar and a couple multi-cade arcade machines. Somehow we’ve reached a point where you can’t have a bar without the concomitant classic video games.

Mr. Senor’s

2335 N. Murray Ave.


The tacos are good at this Dude Llanas-owned takeout window, and the presentation is, most likely, one of a kind. Let’s just say it (openly and admittedly) centers on images of fertility.

North Ave. Hall of Fame

Vitucci’s, 1832 E. North Ave. An 80-year-old bar with old-fashioned decor.

Von Trier, 2235 N. Farwell Ave. This German tavern almost died, but now it has a new owner.

Hooligan’s Super Bar, 2017 E. North Ave. Another 80-year-old bar, this one with a predilection for sports.

Beans and Barley, 1901 E. North Ave. Vegetarian and non-veg fare and a store/deli.

More Notable North Ave. Spots

Baccanera Enoteca, 1732 E. North Ave. A new upscale wine and cocktail bar.

Blooming Lotus Bakery, 2215 E. North Ave. Gluten-free, grain-free, oil-free, dairy-free.

FreshFin Poke, 1806 E. North Ave. Popular poke joint rich in ingredients.

Fusion Poke, 1813 E. Kenilworth Pl. Poke bowls and ramen.

Nine Below, 1905 E. North Ave. Indoor putt-putt course and bar under Beans and Barley.

Splash Studio, 1815 E. Kenilworth Pl. A drink-and-paint bar.

Chubbys Cheesesteaks, 2232 N. Oakland Ave. Reigning local cheesesteak chain.

Izzy Hops Swig and Nosh, 2311 N. Murray Ave. Thirty-plus craft beers on tap, 30 bourbons and assorted food.

Divino Wine & Dine, 2315 N. Murray Ave. Lighter Italian fare with large wine selection and ice cream drinks.

Kawa Ramen and Sushi, 2321 N. Murray Ave. High quality ramen and sushi, open late.

The Drive-Thru, 1801 E. North Ave. Late night sweets and sandwiches from a small structure.



Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.