It's got imaginative cocktails, gallons of craft and mainstream brews, and hearty comfort food, but The Hotch Spot is as much about what you do as what you eat and drink. Depending on the date, there might be a live band rocking out on the stage or a board-game day with a DJ. The bar's '80s and '90s nostalgia permeates everything from the special events to the scrunchie slingshots that land plates on tables.
And while the food's homestyle preparation may remind guests of family meals, modern touches such as organic ingredients and craft beers update the fare. Weekend brunches feature the signature Hotch Hash, full of entire refrigerators worth of mix-ins, from broccoli and artichokes to turkey and andouille sausage. At lunch and dinner, burgers, salads, and pizzas quell appetites. The bar pours drafts and cracks open brews from New Glarus, Angry Orchard, and Stella Artois, among others. Bartenders can also mix up a variety of drinks, including The BLT, a bloody mary with Guinness garnished with practically a side salad: bacon, lime, and tomato.
Crisp Pizza Bar & Lounge’s super-heated Neapolitan-style oven bakes crunchy cracker-like crusts topped with chef-curated ingredient bouquets or build-your-own-pizza creations. The restaurant also transforms into a morning-meal factory for Friday–Sunday brunches, flipping expectations on the heads with funky adaptations of morning classics, such as the breakfast pizza topped with scrambled eggs and a pepperoni-wrapped alarm clock. By night, the eatery doubles as a music venue, with a rotating schedule of DJs setting hips asway with high-octane playlists.
In the warm spirit of Italian-style cooking, VIA Downer comfort diners with a hearty selection of homemade pastas and pizzas, which were described as "beautifully crisp" by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. A parade of palate-popular dishes emerges from the restaurant’s open kitchen flaunting bowls of al dente fettuccine milano draped in a flavorful blanket of tangy goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and fresh basil. VIA Downer's menu also accommodates special diets with plentiful gluten-free options, from smoked salmon crostini to gluten-free garlic pizzas topped with cheese and grilled portobello. Diners break bread within the restaurant’s cool, laid-back setting with brightly painted modern art and exposed brick walls strong enough to withstand huffs and puffs from a hungry pack of wolves.
Homemade from egg, spinach, or whole wheat, The Pasta Tree Restaurant & Wine Bar's namesake pasta earned the eatery the honor of best Italian restaurant and runner-up for best romantic restaurant on Express Milwaukee's Best of Milwaukee 2012 list. Now celebrating 30 years of dining excellence, chefs toss them with ingredients such as a gorgonzola Alfredo sauce, caramelized mushrooms, and Australian lobster tail. They incorporate more local ingredients into other homemade delicacies, such as fresh baked bread and tiramisu.
To help wash down each homemade bite, barkeeps pour reds and whites by the glass, whip up classic cocktails, and decant local beers. Feasts unfold in The Pasta Tree Restaurant & Wine Bar's European-style bistro, split between an intimate dining room and a cozy wine bar. There, a fireplace thaws chilly customers in the winter, while a secret garden patio opens in summer to surround diners with aromatic flowers, tranquil fountains, and gnomes that lust after your food but never touch it. Customers also have the option to take the bistro fare to take to a festival or enjoy in a park or on a boat by ordering the gourmet picnic basket for two .
Brick 3 Pizza’s chefs make their pies so easily accessible, it’s a wonder the city’s residents are eating anything else. While most pizza places are content to deliver their pies to doorsteps, Brick 3 Pizza offers eat-in, delivery, catering, and curbside service for clients craving their menu of specialty New York-style pizzas. The shop’s doors even stay open until 4 a.m. on weekends, allowing barhoppers to finish their night with a slice of mac ‘n’ cheese, mostaccioli-and-meatballs, or pesto-chicken pizza. Brick’s gigantic 34-inch extra-large pizza is a meal boon for guests with a lot of mouths to feed or as bait to catch Sylvester Stallone. Alongside their pizzas, the staff creates handheld calzones and traditional desserts such as cannoli and cheesecake.
"Eat pizza ... be happy!" might be Upper Crust Pizza's slogan, but it seems that eating the restaurant's hoagies, burgers, and cheesy garlic sticks will also put customers on the journey to happiness. Along with hand-tossed, gourmet pizzas (such as the 5 Meat, which saves families from bitter feuds on the pepperoni vs. sausage front), Upper Crust also serves cheesesteaks, subs, and sandwiches on bread from Peter Sciortino's Bakery. And sides such as onion rings, breaded mushrooms, and chicken wings can accompany meals.