Maria Hedian
Maria Hedian
New York City, New York State, USA
Solo Traveler | Event Producer | Marketing Creative

Downtown Milwaukee: Dining & Nightlife

Milwaukee may be small...and freezing most days of the year, but within this small city lies an infinite number of places and possibilities for the best nights. Known for delicious restaurants and strong drinks - Milwaukee is the perfect place to explore with a group or on your own and have a blast. Be warned, this city is ever-evolving and the amazing restaurants that are here today, may not be there tomorrow. So, go! Explore this interesting city and feel free to use this guide as your personal roadmap to FUN. 

1. 600 East Cafe

600 East Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53202

If you're looking for a breakfast or lunch spot, look no further. This cafe is reasonably priced and has quick and very friendly service. For breakfast, there are fresh croissants and delicious bread. They also have great coffee from different local roasters. Lunch offers tons of options, most under $10! My favorite is the veggie wrap with house balsamic. They also give you the option to create your own salad or sandwich. Perfect for a quick stop and delicious food!

2. Jalisco Restaurant

2207 E North Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202-1211

Craving Mexican food, but your night out has stretched out to early morning and you're looking for delicious grub? Look no further! Jalisco is open daily from 9am to 4am (yes, DAILY till 4AM) and its famously delicious burritos will satisfy your craving no matter how late it is. This is a fantastic alternative to usual late night greasy food that you regret more in the morning than the multiple shots at the bar.

3. Ma Fischer’s Restaurant

2214 N Farwell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202-1117

No late-night dining list would be complete without including the famous Ma Fischer's! Open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, you can get anything from burgers to breakfast, or whatever your (probably) drunken heart desires. My favorites here include their tuna wrap with coleslaw and sweet potato fries and their amazing veggie burger. Their milk shakes are also to die for!

Stace Skyscanner

4. Stella Van Buren

550 N Van Buren St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Stella's is an unconventional Italian steakhouse located on the third floor of the Westin Hotel. Its atmosphere is bright and airy thanks to the open dining room, high ceilings and huge windows. The best part about this place is that the pastas are all made fresh and in-house. The happy hour here is superb with delicious drink specials and lite bites in addition to a lively crowd. Stella's is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and after-hours. Dinner ends at 10pm and the bar is open until 1am. For dinner, you can't go wrong with the arugula and tomato salad to start and the amazing roasted mushroom marsala (my favorite!). Honestly, I have yet to try something I haven't liked at Stella's. Don't miss stopping by this amazing place when you're in the downtown Milwaukee area!

PLeia2 flickr

5. Third Coast Provisions

724 N Milwaukee St, Milwaukee, WI 53202, USA

A Milwaukee-native friend of mine introduced me to this heavenly place the last time I stopped by for a visit. Third Coast is an upscale seafood restaurant that makes you feel like royalty by surrounding you with glitz and mirrors. A quick gaze over their larger-than-life menu offers options like a giant chilled seafood tower, oysters Rockefeller and something magical called Lobster Potholes that combines crab, lobster and ridiculously delicious amounts of garlic butter. In addition to their main dining room, there is also an awesome bar area downstairs called, The Oak & Oyster Bar, where they serve refreshing cocktails, delicious seafood tacos and unbeatable happy hour specials.

6. Red Light Ramen

1751 North Farwell Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53202

This place is amazing! The few times I have gone after a late night out, there have always been lines around the block - no matter the weather. Known for their delicious noodles as well as their brandy old-fashioned slushies (it's Milwaukee, of course there are brandy slushies available...) this place is definitely recommended if you are visiting or in the area. It's open until 1am Wed-Sat, perfect for that end-of-the-week night out!

7. Gyro Palace

602 S 2nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53204

Gyro Palace is excellent for what it is: a late night food joint. Whether you're craving some late night Greek food or starving after a night of partying with friends, this place has it all. The best part? It is ridiculously cheap. You can get full for less than $10! One of my favorite things on their menu are the Greek fries. They are well seasoned, always have the customary sprinkling of lemon juice and come with a side of tzatziki. They are open later than almost anything else in the area, every day of the week. PLUS, they have a drive-thru which is usually packed but could come in handy if you happen to be lucky and stop by on a slower part of the night!

8. DiModa Pizza

1758 N Water St, Milwaukee, WI 53202, United States

In a sea of overpopulated Italian restaurant options, DiModa has been able to set itself apart in a big way. They are dog-friendly, and by this I don't just mean they have a water bowl out for dogs by the bar. I mean, they have a full menu specifically created for your precious pup to enjoy! Their food is quite delicious, I've been for both brunch and dinner. Not only is it made well, it is fresh - you can taste the quality of the ingredients. If weather-appropriate, make sure to opt to sit out on their patio. They have awesome happy hour and brunch specials. Their Bloody Mary's and Sunrise Mimosas are to die for, so please have one for me the next time you go!

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9. Tin Widow

703 S 2nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53204, USA

Fantastic old-fashioned bar that feels like home the moment you set foot in the door. Entirely lit by candlelight, this place offers a ridiculous gin-menu (over 100 types for you to try!) and has a pretty extensive whiskey offering as well. They don't serve food, so definitely come here for their drinks. The ambiance is elegant and classy, without being pretentious. They bartenders are very laid back and friendly. Don't feel bad if you're overwhelmed by their insane gin selection, tell the bartenders what you're craving and they'll whip something delicious up for you!

Daniel S. foursquare

10. Brick 3 Pizza

1107 N Old World 3rd St, Milwaukee, WI 53203

Who can say no to pizza after a late night out? Brick's not only has the most interesting options, but they are open late which is perfect for those nightlife lovers. I recommend the Mac n Cheese pizza and the Caprese pizza, they are the stuff of dreams. Be warned: slices are much bigger than average - a large pie can feed 6! They also have a variety of beer which is a nice touch. Overall, you can't go wrong with Brick's. It's a small shop with a very big taste.

11. Real Chili Restaurant

419 E Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53202-3706

If you are in the Milwaukee area, Real Chili is a local iconic late night eatery and a MUST on your list of places to discover. They offer delicious chili bowls with seasoned ground beef (ordered mild, medium or hot) with your choice of beans, jalapeños, onions, cheese, sour cream and noodles. Yes, noodles. I think it's a Milwaukee thing, but don't knock it till you try it! This deliciously greasy meal will be just the thing you need after a night of drinking.

cogdogblog flickr

12. DOC's Commerce Smokehouse

754 Vel R. Phillips Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53203, USA

Aside from having an impressive menu of local beers on tap, Doc's has some of the best food around. With favorites such as brisket, mac & cheese, baked beans Redneck fries and wings - you can't go wrong! They also feature an array of different sauces you can try if you are feeling adventurous. And the dessert is to die for. I recommend the peanut butter pie. You'll still have dreams about it days after trying it, I swear! The staff is extremely friendly, the atmosphere is laid-back with a huge open space and blues is often the music of choice in the background. Also, random side note - my guy friends have told me that the men's bathroom is interesting as it has kegs for urinals!

Maria Hedian Skyscanner

13. Maison

5921 W Vliet St, Milwaukee, WI 53208, USA

The night I was visiting Milwaukee, the group I was hanging out with was European, predominantly French - all currently living in Milwaukee. We decided to have dinner at Maison, which at the time had recently opened and apparently taken over another French restaurant that was outstanding so the bar was set quite high. Right off the bat, the happy hour specials were delicious. Due to the size of our group (party of 8), once the food came, it completely took over every inch of space. We had everything from French onion soup (amazing) to steak frites (so good!) to flamme kueche and smoked lamb. We ended the madness with an array of desserts, including good ol' creme brûlée and a tarte tatin. A testament to how good this place is? My French friends LOVED it all and have gone back several times since!

14. The Diplomat

815 E Brady St, Milwaukee, WI 53202, USA

Looking for a delicious hearty meal? The Diplomat is a must. With options varying from tasty meats, to vegetarian dishes and wonderful soups - their menu has it all. One of my favorite "side" dishes are the Diplomat fries. Don't be fooled - these are giant potato wedges and should be shared to give you space for dinner! They also have a bar that is sectioned off by a really cool sliding mural door. The happy hour specials are great, the atmosphere is laid back and the staff is amazing.

15. Vermutería 600

600 S 6th St, Milwaukee, WI 53204, USA

Located in the posh Hotel Madrid, Vermuteria is a small bar with a very cool aesthetic, inspired by a 1934 cocktail index. Prohibition-era favorites like Slings and Manhattans are the stars and of course, fruit and liqueur spiked sangria is always available too. Their selection of vermouth did not disappoint and included several tap varieties. While we were there, we ordered a house-made Vermouth that was amazing. Their happy hour has fantastic drinks and light bites on the menu and the best part, all items are half off! Just make sure you get there while it's going on, happy hour is only from 5pm-6pm. However, Sunday's are all night happy hour from 5pm to close!

16. Duke's on Water

152 East Juneau Avenue, Milwaukee, WI, United States

Awesome little dive bar that offers cheap drinks, beer pong and flip cup tables, TVs and great music. The scene is often mixed, with some nights being more of a college night than others, however the ambiance is always the same - fun! Their happy hour is truly amazing as beers are only $1 and shots are $2 each! It's a great place to hang out with friends for cheap drinks. Just be warned - they don't offer food, so make sure you run out for some quick bites before having too many of those $2 shots!

Steve B. foursquare

17. Blu

424 East Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI, United States

One of my favorite places in all of Milwaukee, Blu is a beautiful cocktail lounge/bar on the top floor of the historic Pfister Hotel. Like the hotel, Blu is classic, upscale and slightly pretentious. However, don't let that stop you from experiencing all it has to offer! You have the best views of the city at your disposal, the staff is always super friendly and helpful and some nights, you're in for a treat with a live jazz band. Some light bites are offered and their drink menu is solid. Blu is great for a happy hour/sunset outing or perfect for a romantic date.

18. Boone & Crockett

818 S Water St, Milwaukee, WI 53204, USA

"Pretentious drinks. Without the pretentiousness." This is Boone & Crockett's motto. This place has awesome drinks - even better happy hour deals ($3 shots and $5 well drinks!) and my favorite part, its very own taco truck in the back! The wait staff was very friendly and knowledgable. The vibe was upbeat, packed and lively - but never overwhelming. B&C's is on my list of bars to go to anytime I'm in Milwaukee!

19. At Random

2501 S Delaware Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

It's Christmas all year round at this retro bar on the south side of Milwaukee. At Random is known for its incredible ice cream drinks and sweet servers. The year-round tinsel, twinkling lights and light jazz music create the perfect background to be transported to another time, a much simpler time. The drink menu is extensive - you'll have a hard time deciding what to order. My recommendation? The snickers, caramello, and mud slide milkshakes are always solid options. If milkshakes aren't your thing, don't worry - they also have signature slushie drinks!

20. Holler House

2042 W Lincoln Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53215, USA

This awesome Polish bar is also home to the oldest bowling alley in North America! Not your typical dive bar - there are no beers on tap, women's bras hanging from the ceiling and tons of Polish memorabilia everywhere. If you want to bowl, make sure to call in advance - they have human pinsetters! Overall, whether you stop by for a tour and a game or just for a drink - you need to check Holler House out. It's like no other bar in Milwaukee.

21. The Outsider

310 E Chicago St, Milwaukee, WI 53202, USA

A Wisconsin Wonder! It's a known fact that due to weather conditions often being in the negatives, Milwaukee does not have many rooftop bars. The Kimpton Journeyman Hotel changed that and opened a chic rooftop, complete with gas firepits and incredible views of the city. Food is also served, but I have only ever gone for happy hour or evening drinks, which by the way - are spectacular. They are pricier than most bars, but you are paying for the location and the view. The wait staff and bartenders are very friendly and try hard to get you what you need as quickly as possible, even on busy weekend nights. During the winter, the place is covered up but you still get awesome views of Milwaukee. Stop by for a drink - if only for the view!

22. LUCID Light Lounge

729 N Milwaukee St, Milwaukee, WI 53202, USA

Fun hookah bar with fancy lighting and a great space to dance. Drinks aren't as cheap as some of the other bars in the area, but you're paying for the entertainment as well. Wait staff is beautiful and very efficient. Music is loud and perfect. They also have great happy hour specials - usually $5 drinks and half price hookahs. I recommend if you want to have a fun night of dancing with friends.

Didriks flickr

23. Caroline's

401 S 2nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53204, USA

There is something about live jazz in a bar setting that makes you feel as though you're in another place, maybe even another time. Caroline's is small, with a stage in area and an oval bar, which makes the entire experience seem intimate. Add to that the candles all around, including at the bar, and you feel like it's a concert just for you! Local artists perform for open mic night Wednesdays and Thursday, professional jazz artists fill the space with magnificent music on Fridays and Saturdays. Drinks are moderately priced, but be warned - they don't have a drink menu, so you will need to know what you want before getting there. They have champagne, wine, beer on tap and cocktails. Also, there is a $5 cover charge on performance nights. If you haven't already been, I urge you to go! It's a great experience.

Don Fulano flickr

24. Nine Below

1905 E North Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202, USA

In true Milwaukee style, this bar is unlike anything else you've ever seen. Known officially as a "mini golf tavern", Nine Below is set literally 9 feet below ground on Milwaukee's East Side. If you decide to play, there are 2 options you can choose from: build your own course or play someone else's. If you opt to build your own, you can select obstacles per hole as well as name each hole and set a "par". It's fantastic with a large group of friends and lots of beer! If golf is really your thing, they also have video games and flat screen TVs. Drinks are reasonably priced and they also have light bar food (the nachos are to die for!) which means, you have no excuse to leave for many many hours!

25. This is it!

418 E Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53202, USA

Best bar with the best ambiance! We stumbled in randomly on a Monday night, which just happened to be karaoke night. We were in for a treat! The bartenders are so friendly and welcoming. The drinks are strong and cheap (2 for 1 specials when the lights flash!). The guests apparently are mostly locals and everyone seemed to know each other, which just made the experience that much better. By the end of the night, we were drinking, singing and even dancing as a whole group!

Last updated at Jun 27, 2018