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Milwaukee’s Best Outdoor Dining Spots

Libby Lang
Milwaukee Magazine
Ann Christenson says that Cafe at the Plaza has one of her favorite secluded patios.

Now that the warm weather is finally here, many people are taking advantage. From backyard projects to exercise, it's as if everyone in the greater Milwaukee area is putting on sunblock and getting outside.

One of our favorite ways to celebrate the summer is by dining al fresco. Restaurants put tables on the sidewalk and long enclosed patios are opened up and filled up by hungry patrons eager to enjoy the fresh air.

Senior editor and dining critic Ann Christenson wrote the cover story in this month’s Milwaukee Magazine. She shares the inside scoop about what makes a place a good spot for outdoor dining and where some of her favorites are:

Christenson says that when she’s looking for space to eat and drink outside, she thinks about where she’d want to bring a group or friends from out of town. Her checklist includes: comfy seating, enough shade, fun energy and some kind of extra aesthetic amenity (like charming trees or fire pits).

Some of her top picks for summer 2019:

Bay View

LuLu Cafe (2265 S. Howell Ave.)

“It’s one of my favorite people-watching spots because it’s such an interesting and busy and lively intersection of streets.”

Barnacle Bud’s (1955 S. Hilbert St.)

“It’s one of the best patios if you want to feel completely transported from the city … You kind of feel like you’re on this little island out in the middle of nowhere.”


Credit Deer District / Facebook
If you want to be in the middle of the buzz in Milwaukee, Christenson says you should be in the Deer District.

The Deer District

Good City Brewing (333 W. Juneau Ave.)
Punch Bowl Social (1122 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.)
The Mecca (400 W. Kilbourn Ave.)

“That’s where you really want to feel like you’re part of a group of people … You want to feel like you’re part of the energy of this city, and I don’t know of another place where you feel that more than [in] the Deer District. You feel like you’re part of this scene.”

Third Ward

Credit Libby Lang / Milwaukee Magazine
Milwaukee Magazine
Christenson says the rooftop views at the Outsider can't be beat.

Cafe Benelux (346 N. Broadway)

“It’s hard not to mention Benelux, if only because it has the rooftop patio, and they have it set up so perfectly.”

Blue Bat Kitchen & Tequilaria (249 N. Water St.)

“It has a really nice kind of double deck patio that’s right on the water ... [and it's] a beautiful spot to watch the sunset … It gives you that sense of being on the quiet water — you might see some kayakers go by — and it’s just like the city winding down. So, I think that one is kind of perfect too.”  

The Outsider (310 E. Chicago St.)

“It’s amazing. There’s nothing else like it … It’s a beautiful spot, and the rooftop view is incredible.”

East Side

Cafe at the Plaza (1007 N. Cass St.)

“Unless you were in the building, no one would know [the patio was] there. You’re not going to be able to see it from the street.”

Walker’s Point

Boone & Crockett and Taco MOTO food truck (808 S. Water St.)

“Food trucks or street food is such a major component of summer eating; it goes part and parcel with patios.”

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.