Upscale Burgers | Late-Night Kitchen | Local Artwork
While You're Waiting: Admire the artwork lining the dining room walls. The collection rotates frequently to showcase the works of different local artists.
Inside Tip: Make a note, night owls: Elsa's kitchen stays open until 1 a.m. every day. The eatery's bartenders, meanwhile, keep pouring shots and lifting wine jugs over their heads to demonstrate their brute strength until at least 2 a.m.
When to Go: Head over on a Monday night, when Elsa's expands its normal menu to include 10 gourmet-chicken sandwiches, including versions that highlight Chinese, Mexican, and Italian flavors.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Ogle an extensive collection of ceramics made by Pablo Picasso at the David Barnett Gallery (1024 E. State Street).
After: Nurse a proper brandy old-fashioned while watching some live music at Swingin' Door Exchange (219 E. Michigan Street).
Showcased on the Travel Channel’s Food Paradise for its gargantuan cuts of prime rib, Ward’s House of Prime elevates plates with formidable servings of steak, veal, seafood, and pasta within an elegant, leather-tinged dining room. Chefs slice the signature prime rib in a spectrum of portion sizes ranging from modest 8-ounce morsels to The Al-Mighty Halaka's behemoth 160 ounces. Those who conquer these savory leviathans garner immortalization in Ward’s Hall of Fame, where caricatures of past protein vanquishers smile from behind their trusty steak knives. At the bar, an extensive wine list gilds glasses with varietals hailing from throughout the globe as drinksmiths craft a bevy of inventive cocktails. The dining room’s studded-leather seating flanks tables clad in white linens, and the outdoor patio’s umbrellas keep diners dry during worcestershire storms brought on by their steaks' gravitational forces.
After emigrating from Germany, Otto Hermann forged his place in downtown Milwaukee by opening Hermann's Café in 1904. Since then, the eatery has passed from generation to generation, taking the name of Otto's step-daughter's beau-turned-husband Karl Ratzsch and remaining a staple for heaping platters of classic German cuisine. The kitchen's homemade applesauce and fluffy spätzle festoon free-range goose and crackling pork shank, which the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes as “[emitting] the most intoxicating, delicious aroma.” The vast dining room's ambiance echoes the Old World cuisine, its chocolate-brown wooden beams and sturdy chandeliers reminiscent of a Bavarian hunting lodge. Ornate antique beer steins store whispered wishes for new pairs of lederhosen, and stained-glass windows cast the vast dining room in a kaleidoscopic glow.
As one of the first churrascarias in the United States, Rodizio Grill acquainted Americans with extraordinary dining traditions from Brazil, where founder Ivan Utrera was born. One such custom was making desserts of flan and chocolate cake from scratch. Another was flame-grilling meats on a rotisserie while applying a delectable mix of seasonings and sauces. But most impressive was the style in which the meats were served?skewered on three-foot spikes, carried to each table, and thinly carved by the attending gaucho.
That unique culinary experience has made Rodizio Grill a destination for adventurous?or merely hungry?diners since its first location opened in 1995. Guests inform their waiter of how well they'd like their meat cooked, then enjoy unlimited servings of more than one dozen proteins, including steak, chicken, pork, and fish. Picanha, or top sirloin, remains a crowd favorite, but the menu also features Brazilian sausages, bacon-wrapped turkey breast, and even grilled chicken hearts. The full Rodizio dinner provides access to all of these savory options, as well as the gourmet salad bar stocked with sides such as fresh salads, vegetables, black bean stew, and whipped potatoes. And, for those seeking sweeter slices, glazed and grilled pineapple arrives pinned upon the sword with which it was justly slain.
Port of Call's nautical atmosphere sets the stage for marine dining with a model ship at the helm and a 1,300-square-foot patio overlooking the Milwaukee River. The restaurant responds to the siren call of the sea by serving up fresh fish daily. Tilapia and salmon entrees sweeten themselves up with beurre blanc and maple glaze, while Door County whitefish sits back and enjoys getting grilled on a cedar plank. A bounty of burgers competes for most creative toppings with options for avocado, maple-roasted apples, Stilton bleu cheese, and memories of burgers past, each stacked on Miller Bakery’s pretzel buns. Port of Call also sponsors dinner cruises that travel out onto Lake Michigan and serve multi-course dinners.
Milwaukee Ale House echoes with notes of live music and the laughter of pub goers, but the building is also the site of serious work. Beyond a pair of glass doors, the pub's stainless steel fermentation tanks bubble with Milwaukee Brewing Company's creations. When they're ready, these beers make the short leap from brew room to bar tap, forming a beverage selection that Esquire described as, "plentiful and tasty, complementing the top-notch food."
The menu sports a convenient pairing chart that helps diners match prime rib, pulled-pork sandwiches, and spicy beef-and-chorizo burgers to house brews. Ideal with chicken, Louie's Demise exudes the smooth maltiness of a typical amber ale but with a balanced kick of Perle and Tettnanger hops, A meat-and-potatoes porter, the Admiral Stache ages for one month in bourbon barrels, lending a toasty vanilla flavor to subtle notes of milk chocolate and dried fruit.
Situated in the heart of the Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee Ale House's century-old building provides the main dining room and patio areas with waterside views of the Milwaukee River. The pub's decor exudes its own historic charm with exposed brick, a scattering of empty wooden barrels, and vintage beer signs. When live bands aren't performing, focus turns back to the bar area, where the taps form an ornate centerpiece built to resemble a copper-topped wooden vat. Around the vat hang white mugs belonging to members of the Mug Club and office workers who "got lost" during their coffee break.