Category Archives: ABCs of Milwaukee Dining

ABCs of Milwaukee Dining: A Conclusion

Late 2011 at Firefly Urban Grill + Bar, Wauwatosa

Late 2011 at Firefly Urban Grill + Bar, Wauwatosa


“For a moment … we’re all immortal. Time stretches out forever. There’s a moment like that in every meal. If you pay attention it’s there … where oblivion is replaced with infinity … and then, the check comes.” -Aaron Wolfe from “Ruthy’s Dinner” at The Moth.

It has been eight months since our ABCs of Milwaukee Dining quest ended. Eight months where I’ve tried to figure how to sum up a two-year quest with my best friends. This is the best I could do.

Looking back, it is astounding to see all the things that have changed in the two years of our ABCs of Milwaukee Dining quest. Adam, Cindi, Shannon, TJ, Michelle and I have experienced two marriages and two babies. New houses. A new dog. New jobs. New friends. Vacations. And other things too. Continue reading

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Z is for Zaffiro’s Pizza



In late October, we made a trip to a frequent location–Milwaukee’s East Side–for our final ABCs dinner. On a moderately chilly Monday night, we drove up and down the streets that make up the Brady Street neighborhood…

None of us had ever been to Zaffiro’s but we had certainly heard about it before–it was Michelle and Adam’s selection. Continue reading

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Y is for Yen Ching



Whenever we select a restaurant I’ve never been to, I am eager to go online and see the reviews.

Thanks to Michelle’s winning entry of Yen Ching (Adam also picked it), I found mixed results of a curious, unsurprising variety. I saw claims that Yen Ching is the best Chinese in Milwaukee. I saw that Yen Ching was featured on Dirty Dining.

I was eager to form my own opinion, so on a sunny Friday evening in early June, we made the half-hour trek from Bay View to Brown Deer and pulled up in front of a restaurant festooned with life-size golden lions, red siding, green shingles and large Chinese characters.

The interior carried the theme further. The large dining space was decorated with items meant to evoke ancient China, and they looked like they had been in place for about as long. Adam said:

I loved the gold Buddha statue and paper-style lantern light fixtures.

The mostly windowless dining area was maybe a third full on a Friday night–no reservations necessary. Although, Cindi notes: “I noticed a lot of people picking up their take-out.” Continue reading

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X is for Wildcard: Harbor House



Since there are no ‘X’ restaurants in Milwaukee, we decided to make this round a wildcard round.

Harbor House is one of Milwaukee’s premier restaurants because of its location. Set out into Lake Michigan between Discovery World and the Milwaukee Art Museum, Harbor House’s best tables allow diners a picturesque perspective of Milwaukee’s skyline and its changing reflections upon the lake.

Besides its view, Harbor House is known for seafood. Everyone but Mike had been there (it was Michelle’s submission). Continue reading

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W is for Wolf Peach



Nothing could quite hit the spot after our morning tour of Lakefront Brewery (read about it here) than a great brunch, so we were counting on our “W” restaurant, Wolf Peach, to deliver.

Wolf Peach, named for the tomato’s European nickname with a menu that honors the fruit, was Shannon’s selection. Most of us had not been there before. Adam said:

The brewery tour served as a nice way to go buzzing straight into lunch. The first thing I noticed walking into Wolf Peach was the excellent view of the city. The restaurant sits perched on Brewer’s Hill and the entire back wall is a floor-to-ceiling window looking over the city. It also has a raised patio that I’m guessing seats people come spring and summer.

You almost exclusively see downtown from the Lake, but the view from Wolf Peach, atop a bluff above the Milwaukee River, highlights the city and its iconic buildings from a more impactful vantage point.

The place is small, rustic and was lively and packed throughout our brunch. Our spot was in the middle of the dining room, at a tall table–it seems like no space is wasted–the aisles are tiny and tables seem to take up every possible other inch. Reservations were necessary. Continue reading

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V is for VIA Downer



This winter has been pretty rough on Wisconsin. Frigid temperatures and mountains of snow make it easier to stay home, underneath the covers with wine and Netflix.

But on a Friday in early January, we found many similar souls braving the weather for pizza and drinks at VIA Downer on Milwaukee’s Eastside, which was chosen by Adam, Cindi, Michelle, Mike and TJ (Michelle’s entry was selected).

I walked in, kicked the snow from my shoes and when the fog cleared from my glasses, I was in a large dining room with a modernist, industrial feel featuring high ceilings, artwork on the walls, exposed beams, wires and pipes. To my right was a hostess stand, to my left was a large, crowded bar and beyond were tables full of people.

VIA, the sister restaurant of Transfer (near the Allen Bradley Clock Tower AKA “The Polish Moon”), was crowded and our reservations, with a group our size, came in handy. Mike said:

The atmosphere was cool. You can tell they were busy but you could also hear everything any of us were saying and sometimes that doesn’t happen with seven people at a table.

We were seated near the middle of the room at large table. It seemed like a good mix of people on dates and large groups of friends. Continue reading

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U is for Union House



Go west from Milwaukee on I-94. Use Exit 285 in Delafied and head south on 83. Pass the crappy chain restaurants and large box retailers and then six miles of subdivisions, forest and farms until a sign appears–Genesee Depot. The Union House is impossible to miss, a massive, two-story supper club with a wrap-around porch in the center of town.

Arriving at the Union House is arriving in the past.

And we arrived there on a weeknight early in December. Our reservation was unnecessary, but there were several diners in each of the dining rooms, as well as a small number of people at the bar.

As the first person to arrive, I pulled up a stool and ordered a beer … sadly, it turned out to be a flat Guiness. About half of us had been there before, including Cindi, whose submission was picked (Michelle and Adam also selected Union House). A number of us were excited about Union Houses wild game specials. Continue reading

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T is for Tenuta’s Italian Restaurant



Sometimes, in certain neighborhoods, in the right places–the beautiful ones that seem unchanged by time, frozen several generations ago–if I squint hard enough, I can picture my grandparents, enjoying a meal with friends, smiling and laughing.

It is a comforting thought, these spaces shared with those who came before; home to conversation, fun and revelry, food and beer.

Bay View’s Tenuta’s (TJ’s pick, Shannon also submitted two entries) is one of those places. Cindi said:

How lucky are we to have such an idealistic Italian pizza place in our neighborhood? There is a certain charm to this cozy nook; you can tell that everyone around you feels it. There are few places I’d rather eat at on a chilly, Wisconsin night.

We were there on a Friday, and our reservations came in handy. The place was packed. Many of us had been there before, but this was my first time inside. Continue reading

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S is for Seoul Korean Restaurant



I’ve driven past Seoul dozens of times without even realizing it. You probably have too. It is on Prospect Avenue on the eastside–across from Urban Outfitters.

Adam selected it because he had enjoyed the lunch buffet when he worked in the area. He said:

I try to pick places that other people in the group would never try on their own. I feel like that is part of the fun of doing this–to step outside your comfort zone and experience what people from all walks of life call “food.”

The rest of us never had never tried Korean food before, so we’d be out of our comfort zone. Continue reading

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Q is for Quivey’s Grove



Two moments of musical clairvoyance bookended our visit to Quivey’s Grove in Verona, Wis. (near Madison). This was fitting since our group of friends came together around our similar taste in music.

The first moment happened on the car ride to Quivey’s Grove. Since there were no restaurants in the Milwaukee-area that met our criteria, we expanded our range to include Madison and Chicago and all picked Quivey’s Grove (Shannon’s submission was selected).

I told my car-mates TJ, Shannon, Cindi and Michelle that I didn’t know the song “Blurred Lines.” No one believed me, but I was honest. TJ, who was driving, was incredulous, and said it was the song of the summer and it was probably playing on the radio at that moment.

A turn of the dial and there it was … Robin Thicke’s hit.

This was just before we pulled into the palatial plot of land that accommodates Quivey’s Grove–two century-and-a-half-old buildings housing two distinct dining options–the Stone House and the Stable Grill (both buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places). Shannon chose the Stable Grill because it had a larger menu and was the more casual dining option. Continue reading

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