Milwaukee’s dining scene is vibrant enough that it’s tempting to always seek out the new, hot establishments. And while new can be great, Lake Effect contributor and Wisconsin Foodie host Kyle Cherek says not to forget our dining heritage.
"I'm not saying don't go to the new places, because we need that energy, they're beloved, people are working very hard," he says. "But when you're thinking about 'Where should we go?,' for many people it's being a tourist in your own town."
Milwaukee has restaurants over 80 years old that are still in operation, ranging from family establishments and burger stands, to five star establishments.
Cherek says, restaurants such as Three Brothers, Speed Queen Bar-B-Q, Polonez, and Beans & Barley are all legacy restaurants - even though we may not think of them in those terms.
He was given a stark reminder that legacy restaurants don't last forever after Karl Raasch's closed after 130 years. After that news, Cherek and his wife asked themselves 'why didn't we go?' and wrote down other legacy restaurants to visit. How many of these restaurants have you visited?
And, here are some highlights from Cherek's list:
Three Brothers - 2414 S. Saint Clair Street in Milwaukee - "It's been around from the fifties and it's gotten a James Beard Award (in 2002) for an American Classic, which is something that's woven into the fabric of American dining culture."
Mazos Hamburgers - 3146 S. 27th Street in Milwaukee - "That's the last vestige of a kind of mirco-chain here in Milwaukee. They opened up in 1934 and when you go in you get the feeling that right in 1951 they set it in amber. They're amazing burgers and right across the street is Leon's Custard."
"No offense to the FroYo's of the world and what have you, but if I'm going to put my calories and money behind a great custard experience it's going to be one of the legacy names," Cherek adds.
Kegel's Inn - 5901 W. National Avenue in Milwaukee - "It opened 1925 and started as a speak easy soda counter. But five generations later...they make the potato pancakes the same way they've been made for 60 or 70 years, and the carrot cake is exceptional."
Café At The Plaza - 1007 N. Cass Street in Milwaukee - "In the 1920s, it used to be a tea room because ladies had to have tea separate from the rest of the guests. In the 1950s it changed into that diner aesthetic and the breakfast is amazing. You go in and it looks like a film set."
Speed Queen Bar-B-Q - 1130 W. Walnut Street in Milwaukee - "It started in 1956 to compete with The Black King BBQ, which was the barbeque place. They set up across the street to basically do a few items more quickly and that's where the name came from. It's superlative barbeque."
Mader's - 1041 N. Old World 3rd Street in Milwaukee - "1902 for God's sake...A lot of people don't realize this, but when you walk the streets of Old Milwaukee 'The Comfort' was what Mader's was originally called."
"You can't get better Polish cuisine than Polonez, you can't get a better brunch than going to The Plaza, you can't get a better supper club experience without a long, long drive than going to The Packing House, you can't get the hasenpfeffer anywhere else (besides Kegel's)," says Cherek. "These are the flavors of our heritage and history, or even if it's just a novelty, go and I guarantee you're going to find it delicious."