Where to Get a Festive Holiday Lunch, Tea or Cocktail This Season

Take a slow, easy lunch, slip into the ‘new’ At Random for a cocktail; and take tea like you’re Queen Elizabeth.


801 N. Cass St. | 414-277-1111

This family-run bistro located in an 1897 Italianate building is pure warmth on a cold day. It doesn’t close between lunch and dinner service, so diners can linger over coffee or a Nutcracker Manhattan. And the menu of comforts with classy touches (things like oyster Caesar salad, lobster roll, Monte Cristo sandwich) is going to make you want to, happily, stay exactly where you are.

The massive Buckley’s expansion, encompassing three connected buildings (and thereby tripling the restaurant’s size and seating capacity), is finally winding to a close. The coziness should remain, and the makeover not only gives the staff the ability to flex more menu muscle, but it also gives co-owner Pam Buckley her longed-for pastry kitchen. Do not leave without getting a slice of her carrot cake or cheesecake. The decorating work here takes an elegant turn, a blend of twinkling white lights and garland greenery. $6-$19. 

High Tea

3209 W. Wells St. | 414-342-3210

Photo courtesy of the Schuster Mansion.

“Do you know where the tradition of putting up a Christmas tree comes from?” Laura Sue Mosier asks, injecting doubt in the questionee. Be prepared to learn at High Tea at the Schuster Mansion, the stately bed-and-breakfast Mosier owns with husband Rick. They offer tea service year-round at this 1891 beauty built for tobacco magnate George J. Schuster. Of the service styles offered, go big with Mollie’s Tea, featuring a tea “buffet”; savories, sweets and scones; and lessons in Xmas lore from the Mosiers. Thurs, Sat and Sun at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Cost: $48 per person.

Blue’s Egg

317 N. 76th St. | 414-299-3180; 4195 N. Oakland Ave. | 414-312-8551

Blue’s Egg in Shorewood

Tackling American immigrant cooking with a fresh approach, both locations are doing a German-themed menu for the month (available alongside the regular menu) featuring meats and cheeses and hearty specials such as Hahnchenschnitzel, a breaded chicken breast with buttered spaetzle, poached eggs, Dusseldorf hollandaise and curry fries.

Also expect baked goods like rugelach and Linzer torte and drinks (spiked eggnog, hot toddy) sure to add a healthy glow to your cheeks. $5.95-$15.50.

Erv’s Mug

130 W. Ryan Rd. | 414-762-5010
In 1981, Erv and Barb Kazik started decorating their then 2-year-old Oak Creek bar with simple red bows. Their festooning and bedecking efforts grew to theme rooms and motorized decorations suspended from the ceiling.
On one November day, a team of staff, family and friends creates the wonderland fit for Buddy the Elf. While it seems every inch of wall and ceiling space is covered in dazzling décor, second-generation owner Danielle Baerwald still hunts for festive finds that “in a house, would be gaudy” but stand a chance of being noticed at Erv’s. (Look for the “flying” sled).
Come Wednesday and Friday for the all-day fish fry – cod or perch. Or try the prime rib sandwich with horseradish and au jus. $10-$19.

At Random

2501 S. Delaware St. | 414-481-8030

At Random. Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.

After 54 years, Ron and Shirley Mae Zeller did the deed, selling Bay View’s At Random to cocktail kingpin John Dye (of Bryant’s and Jazz Estate fame). In early fall, although “knee deep in cleaning and polishing,” Dye stopped to talk imbibing and promised to keep most of the classic tiki and ice cream drinks and operate with “less random” hours. And look for more liquid diversity, like boozy NYC-style egg creams, nondairy “cream” vegan drinks, and classic Manhattans, martinis and old fashioneds that “walk the line between playful and sweet and serious and boozy.”




Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.