Art Bar, called a "Painter's Paradise" by Urban Milwaukee magazine, isn't your typical watering hole. In its enchanting interior, hundreds of soda bottle caps create an argyle pattern on pillars, wine corks stud an oval-shaped bar, and paint-by-number pieces—depicting everything from horses to the Virgin Mary—plaster a wall.
The kitschy aesthetic offers a glimpse into the creative mind of owner Don Krause. Krause left his former career as an interior designer for Ethan Allen to brave the trials of opening a bar in Riverwest. And he did it his way: His joint pours more than 40 microbrews by night and Alterra coffee by day in a space adorned with the rotating creations of local artists. The beer lineup includes seasonal brews from Bell’s, Founders, Lakefront, and New Glarus, as well as “mystery beers” served for three bucks cloaked in a crumpled brown bag—the way Wisconsin dignitaries drink. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel describes the venue as “a feast for all senses” and “one of the hottest spots in Riverwest,” thanks in part to its comedy, musical, or artistic events.
INdustri Cafe evokes local industry in more than its name—its New American menu prizes local ingredients , and it’s served in a rustic warehouse-style space hung with the work of local arts. The bistro brings fine dining out of the realm of diamond-encrusted waiters in order to bring the delicate flavors of lobster, pulled-duck, and truffle oil to a wider audience. The menu shifts with the seasons, but diners can expect to find American favorites graced with a gourmet touch—burgers topped with sautéed apple and poblano barbecue sauce, for instance. Serious Eats found that burger " juicy and rich and well seasoned" with toppings that "all worked together in total harmony."
Weathered wood and exposed brick surround the dining room at INdustri, which is illuminated by rows of bright globe lights. Another level of seating sits atop the bar’s canopy, while beneath it patrons sip from a beer list that only includes Wisconsin brews.
Jennifer Nowicki really loves produce; she's named her third restaurant Verduras, the Spanish word for vegetables. The completely vegetarian menu employs ingredients such as grapefruit, beets, and teriyaki-infused carrots to insulate sandwiches, salads, and soups, many of which are also vegan or gluten free. However, the ever-shifting curls of steam that tickle the hardwood floors, exposed rafters, and large windows hint at Verduras' primary focus: teas from all across the globe. Beneath the ivory-hued exposed bricks, white, green, rooibos, and local Rishi teas steep in hot water, filling mugs with the flavors of wild rose, hibiscus, or chai. The floral aromas of darjeeling fill the air as patrons gaze at the art on the walls, rendered in crisp black and white like a zebra’s yearbook page.
When Sababa's founder and head chef, Ed Wahhab, isn’t whipping up a homestyle menu of Middle Eastern dishes, he can be found in the dining room reading diners' fortunes in the bottoms of their cups of Arabic coffee. Ed’s banter and his love of card tricks create a sense of camaraderie that fills Sababa—Hebrew and Arabic slang for "awesome"—as patrons settle in at the bar, puff strawberry-daiquiri-flavored hookah on the patio, or sample housemade hummus and falafel.
Putting a modern American slant on traditional Mediterranean cuisine, the kitchen flavors beef sliders with kifta spices and creates nachos with pita chips, feta and cheddar cheese, lemon tahini sauce, and a medley of garbanzo beans and vegetables. Bartenders pour wine, crack open bottled beers, and mix up specialty cocktails, such as a manhattan with cardamom and a French martini, whose blend of Chambord, pineapple juice, and vanilla vodka is served in the traditional French way, by a weeping clown.