Put Milwaukee, Wisconsin on your travel bucket list. Trust me, or rather trust former Top Chef and recent Milwaukee transplant Heather Terhune.
“I was this total big city snob, I still kinda am, but Milwaukee is so exciting,” Terhune said, admitting she did a double-take when Kimpton Hotels asked her to move from Chicago to Wisconsin to open and run the restaurant Tre Rivali in the company’s new hotel, the Journeyman. “It’s an untapped resource, it’s really growing in a rapid way,” Terhune said of the city.
The city on Lake Michigan has a friendly, laid-back midwestern atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. In the summer and early fall it explodes with color as the flowers and trees bloom, and people when the city hosts one of the world’s biggest music festivals. But even during non-festival times Milwaukee is full of things to do, see and eat and drink.
At Tre Rivali, Milwaukee’s only Mediterranean restaurant, Terhune is constantly introducing people to new cuisines and trying out new techniques in the kitchen.
“I’m excited to push the envelope,” Terhune said.
With so many farms nearby, Terhune’s menu is very seasonal. When we spoke she was adding things such as Gulf shrimp and crayfish to the menus and excited about focusing more on vegetables.
Here, Terhune shares her favorite places to eat and drink in Milwaukee, including at Tre Rivali.
WHERE TO EAT IN MILWAUKEE
Dan Van Rite’s and Dan Jacobs’s place. It’s really modern Chinese, with great dumplings, and I love to go there and just hang out.
360 East Erie St., Milwaukee, WI; 414-488-8036 or dandanmke.com
The Laughing Taco
Justin Carlisle of Ardent recently opened The Laughing Taco, which is this great little taqueria serving tacos and beer in a cool casual place. His wife is from Monterrey, Mexico and they spent a lot of time doing research. It feels so authentic.
1033 S 1st St., Milwaukee, WI; 414.210.3086
Right now, I’m working a lot with vegetables. I can’t stand it when you go to a restaurant and don’t see any vegetarian options. We just added a vegan soup to the menu. We’re playing with other techniques like a compressed watermelon soup where we pickle the rind, as way to use the whole watermelon.
200 North Broadway, Milwaukee, WI; 414-291-3971 or rerivalirestaurant.com
A very locally sourced restaurant. They have their own little garden. It’s a great place to go for something different.
1818 N Hubbard St, Milwaukee, WI; or wolf-peach.com
Leon’s Frozen Custard
You have to go, everyone argues about the best place for frozen custard but I take everyone to Leon’s. They make three flavors; chocolate, vanilla and butter pecan, and it’s cash only.
3131 S. 27th St., Milwaukee, WI; 414- 383-1784, leonsfrozencustard.us
WHERE TO DRINK IN MILWAUKEE
Photo Courtesy of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge/Facebook
This is a good place when you just want to chill. They have 60 plus craft beers.
441 E Lincoln Ave, Milwaukee, WI; 414-481-2393 or mysugarmaple.com.
Foundation Tiki Bar
It’s this fun tiki inspired bar. They also have an AirBnb upstairs, so you could even stay there.
2718 N Bremen St., Milwaukee, WI; 414-374-2587 or foundationbar.com
Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge
Bryant’s is this old-school cocktail lounge. It’s been around since the 1940s and is just really cool. They’re famous for their ice cream dreams. There’s no menu, it’s a dark, no frills place, but the bartenders are very knowledge. Tell them what you like and they’ll make you a great drink. It’s one of Milwaukee’s hidden gems.
1579 S 9th St., Milwaukee, WI ; 414-383-2620 or bryantscocktaillounge.com