The distance from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, to anywhere in Germany is vast, to say the least, and includes a trip over the Atlantic Ocean. But Schwefel's Restaurant—plopped right in between Madison and Milwaukee—cuts out lengthy travels and potential run-ins with hang-gliding sea monsters. Inside Schwefel's, the scents of sauerbraten and wiener schnitzel float amid cherry-red tablecloths in the understated dining area. Familiar American dishes, such as lobster and prime rib, share table space with German house specialties, such as the beef rouladen, a fusion of rolled beef, pickle, bacon, and onion. Regardless of the food's origin, Schwefel's makes each dish from scratch—right down to the soups and dressings. Though Schwefel's Restaurant is no stranger to formal dinners, a more casual bar area entertains patrons with arcade games and sports broadcasts.
Taqueria El Indo's menu boasts a bevy of authentic Mexican palate-pleasers and newfound tastebud seducers, all prepared from scratch. Prime protein contenders, including steak, grilled chicken, chorizo-potato, and tongue, don lucha libre wrestling masks and duke it out for a coveted spot in a traditional onion-and-cilantro-adorned taco ($2), cheesy quesadilla ($6), or burrito ($7). Dinner specials include the Shrimp Empanizando, in which shrimp plied with chipotle beer batter are deep fried and laid down to recover on a bed of rice and beans ($12.95), or a plate of three enchiladas filled with chicken, beef, grilled veggies ($8.95), or shrimp for an additional $2. For proper meal punctuation, reward taste buds or break in new bibs with a dessert of Tres Leches Cake ($3.25), fried ice cream ($3.25), or sips of a domestic ($2.75) or imported ($3) beer.
In 1957, Chuck’s Supper Club suffered its first fire. The second would come 10 years later as a blaze that completely demolished the building. The twice-rebuilt eatery then operated without incident until closing in 2000, lying dormant for 10 years before it became Burke’s Lakeside Restaurant and Bar. The restaurant’s owners renovated its interior, decking the walls in dark cherry accents and building a stone fireplace as the room’s centerpiece and an alternative entrance for hungry chimney sweeps. Inside the banquet room, a hardwood dance floor sprawls in front of a live-music stage, and outside, a wraparound deck overlooks the shores of Silver Lake.
At the bar, servers pour more than 17 wines and 10 draft beers. In the kitchen, chefs blend regional American recipes to craft dishes such as grilled 16-ounce steaks, Pabst Blue Ribbon–braised ribs, and cast-iron-seared salmon with avocado relish and jalapeño corn. They also design their own takes on international dishes such as shepherd’s pie, and lobster and shrimp wontons.
More than 50 wines at Wine Maniacs on the River stand at attention to be served by the glass or bottle. The bistro updates its food menu quarterly with dishes that celebrate the seasons and complement its complex varietals, using gourmet ingredients such as Wisconsin artisan cheeses. Small plates make creative use of such ingredients, with options that may include calamari spaghetti or duck-confit tacos ornamented, like a scarecrow's frankfurter, with corn relish.
Nice weather draws diners outdoors onto the patio overlooking the Milwaukee River, where they can sip while admiring the Water Street Bridge and views of the city from the 5th Ward. Guests can also stock up on their favorite elixirs at the establishment's retail shop, which sells wines by the case.
Spitfire Pub & Grill hums with the sounds of trivia questions and live music from local bands and artists on open-mic nights. Amid the lively atmosphere, guests swig local beers and wine while devouring hot-dog sliders, fish 'n' chips, and shredded-beef flatbread with a smoky barbecue glaze. They relax at hardwood tables inside or beneath the blue umbrellas dotting the expansive outdoor patio, which plays host to numerous flat-screen TVs broadcasting the Brewers game or an intense staring competition.
Overlooking Lake Nagawicka, Seven Seas serves a palatable menu of finely prepared meats and fresh seafood, along with more than 500 wines from around the world. Diners can furnish exquisite fermented sippers with digestive companions, such as the rumaki Seven Seas, a starter of chicken liver and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon and smoked salmon canapés with mustard-lime sauce ($10).