You'll never find canned tomatoes or a pre-made pizza crust in the kitchen at Valentina's Pizzeria, where the staff prides itself on the ingredients it makes in-house every day, from the freshly grated cheese to the sauce mixed with herbs straight from the garden. Owner Greg Steele oversees the crafting of a menu filled with a selection of pizzas, calzones, and subs as well as sides such as eggplant fries and cheese bread.
In 1963, Sal Barbiere founded his eponymous Italian Inn on the principles of “Family, Superb Food, and Quality Ingredients,” according to the restaurant's website. So it was no surprise that he decided to keep the eatery in the family, passing Barbiere's to his son Steve when he retired. And when, 34 years later, Steve was ready to retire in his turn, he also passed the mantle to someone trustworthy: employee Mark Dempsey, who is himself nearly family—he has been working at the restaurant since he was 16 years old.
Today, Dempsey has expanded the restaurant to two locations, both still serving Sal's signature garlic bread and other tried-and-true Italian dishes. Chefs in his kitchens prepare pans of lasagna and spaghetti with meat or meatless sauce. Baked-to-order pizzas feature an array of topping choices including italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes. Grand Marnier from the full bar fortifies pitchers of housemade red sangria, which enhance the food's bold, Italian flavors as well as boring white napkins that definitely look better in tie-dye.
Recognized as one of Milwaukee's best Mexican eateries by WISN’s A-List, The Azteca Restaurant upholds its title by simmering meats and seafood in homemade chili sauces and blanketing tender tortillas in melted cheese. Most of the menu's bean- and rice-heaped platters come with sides of from-scratch guacamole, which chefs perk up with tomatoes, cilantro, and a single cactus tear. Within the restaurant’s vibrant adobe-colored exterior, desert murals span the walls and stimulate diners’ thirsts, which can be quenched by seven flavors of fruity margaritas, Mexican beers, and creamy homemade horchata.
Originally branded as the Top Hat Drive-In, Sonic didn’t acquire its nationally recognized name until 1959—six years after its inception in 1953. Today, the franchise operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: best value menu, best milk shake, and best drive-thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
In 1999, Dave Sobelman was serving burgers and pitchers of beer to blue collar workers in the rough and rugged Menomonee Valley. With the checks he cashed on weekends from the humble factory workers he began ordering some of the finest ingredients for this burgers - locally baked country-butter rolls and the best beef available.
Then one day, Dave walked out of his burger bar and saw a newspaper stand for the Shepherd Express. The cover story highlighted the Top 5 "Pub Grub" locations in Milwaukee and Dave's did not make the list. This omission was a turning point in Sobelman's history.
After seeing the article, Dave called the author of the story and invited him over for a burger. The local writer came into Sobelman's the next day and sat at the bar, ordered a PLAIN burger, and a beer. That very next week, Dave Sobelman had his own feature article on the front page of the Shepherd Express praising the burgers at Sobelman's Pub and Grill as the absolute best in Milwaukee.
Dave became wild with the possibility of fame after seeing his name and acclaimed burger in print. So with the help of this wife - Melanie - Dave began placing his energies into continuously providing the most quality ingredients and best tasting menu he could create for the public - and of course this menu included drinks. Dave's location is after all, a storied Schlitz tavern.
It's really not what's inside the glass that makes Sobelman's Pub and Grill's signature bloody mary stand out. The drink, or "Bloody Masterpiece" as it's affectionally called (not to be confused with the "Baconado" or "Crown Mary"), arrives with 13 garnishes. Brussels sprouts, celery, sausage, cheese, and even a cheeseburger slider stick out of the drink like an edible bouquet. The creative drink has garnered many fans, not to mention a feature on Good Morning America.
That slider garnish serves as an introduction to Sobelman's menu. The husband-and-wife team will proudly tell you that they have always had the best burgers in Milwaukee, and they back up the claim with a 2013 Readers’ Choice Award from Milwaukee Magazine and three other local Best Burger Awards in the last 3 plus years. Each Certified Prime Black Angus patty is sandwiched between a fresh baked country-butter roll and rests beneath toppings such as homemade chili, diced jalapeño, or The Piggyback's pork belly, which comes drizzled in bourbon sauce. These burgers have often been imitated around the city, but never duplicated. Aside from burgers, the cooks craft chicken cordon bleu sandwiches and host a Friday fish fry with beer-battered cod.
Despite the creativity shown on the menu, Sobelman's Pub and Grill's original location on St. Paul Avenue has a timeless element. The Sobelmans make great use of their building and they've kept original Schlitz tavern elements such as beer-barrel tables and strict adherence to the law of gravity in the revived Menomonee Valley neighborhood. Simply put, Sobelman's Pub and Grill is Classic Milwaukee.