Featured on OnMilwaukee.com during its early-aughts inception, Sala Da Pranzo's dinner and lunch menus offer both contemporary and traditional Italian fare to fill the boot-shaped hole in Milwaukee's collective heart. Dinner diners get the chance to taste the ricotta-enhanced grandeur of the house specialty appetizer, the eggplant con pane ($11). Pastas like the saporito ($18.50), which tosses shrimp, tomato, basil, and garlic into the capable hands of fettuccini pasta, are available all day, and scene-stealing entrees such as the grilled salmon ($26) with chive cream sauce or the tenderloin porto vino ($34) shine like a strobe light covered in smaller strobe lights. For afternoon eaters, the veggie balsamic sub ($7.25) staves off narcolepsy with the time-tested jolt of mozzarella, tomato, onion, cucumber, lettuce, and balsamic vinaigrette.
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.
Every day, Breadsmith kneads and breeds made-from-scratch breads, honoring the practices of centuries-old French bakers. The delectable dough sculptures receive the royal treatment, with all delicate yeast bubbles bursting inside of a 6-ton stone-hearth oven. The oven's sweltering heat creates a cushy crust for American-style breads. In the presence of lightning-quick steam injections, European-style breads take on a crisp, crumb-dressed outer core. April's daily bread offerings range from $3.65 to $7.50 a loaf and include french baguettes ($3.65), pepperjack sourdough ($7.50), country buttertop ($5.05), raisin cinnamon ($5.55), and apple pie bread ($6.70). Use today's Groupon to fill up the family with lusciously leavened loaves fresh from the oven—or wait for them to go stale and then wield them as harpoons during the next potato-soup hunt.
Shiraz Persian Grill’s cooks recreate recipes from across the Middle East, serving up their flavorful dishes in a cozy 32-seat dining room. Once the buffet-style lunches of kebabs and sandwiches draws to a close, waiters begin ferrying dinner entrees, such as spicy lamb chops, chicken shish kebab, and meatball stew with housemade beef-chickpea meatballs, that are all prepared with halal meats. The menu also includes lamb lari that’s marinated in housemade yogurt and the falafel Monster pita wrap with tahini and vegetables. Like operas with all-gingerbread-man casts, desserts of persian saffron ice cream and delicate sesame cookies conclude everything on a sweet note.
Moorish style plastered walls adorned with filigree Moroccan lanterns set the aesthetic tone at Shahrazad Restaurant, an East Side culinary institution since 1993. The decor is not the only Middle Eastern element of the restaurant, however—the restaurant earned a 2012 award for best Middle Eastern food from LocalEats.com. In the kitchens, cooks sprinkle slices of broiled lamb with crunchy nuts and sear swordfish marinated in house herbs and spices. There's also freshly blended hummus and crispy falafel. These staples can pair nicely with selections from the extensive wine list, which features a broad range of varietals. The staff pours sweet German riesling and an oaky cabernet sauvignon from Cyprus that's as bold as pursuing a degree in typewriter engineering.
Just as Thomas Edison stumbled through useless prototypes of light bulbs and movie cameras before perfecting the phonograph, the alchemists at Qdoba Mexican Grill took 47 attempts before landing on the franchise's signature blend of three cheeses, known simply as queso. That attention to detail still pervades every aspect of the menu, as employees spend hours each day chopping, dicing, and simmering the fresh ingredients that find their way into burritos, taco salads, and grilled quesadillas. Beyond the marinated bites of chicken, beef, and pork and hand-crafted tortillas, cooks protect their ripe, fragile avocados from harm by smashing them into batches of fluffy guacamole.