In a city famous for brats, fried cheese curds, frozen custard, and beer, trying to eat and drink healthy can seem daunting—impossible even. After all, you’re more likely to stumble into a bar than a grocery store in the state of Wisconsin. But there are ways to enjoy your dining experience without the phrase cholesterol levels, acid reflux, or food coma running through your brain. Read on to learn how to eat light in Milwaukee restaurants.
Embrace Your Inner Veg Head
The words vegetarian and healthy aren’t mutually exclusive. (Vegetarians who subsist solely on pasta and cheese pizza prove this point.) Luckily, some of the best restaurants in Milwaukee are vegetarian-friendly and serving up their fair share of salads, fresh-squeezed juice, and nutritious sandwiches.
Where to go: Riverwest Co-op Café cooks all of its food from scratch, using the same local, organic ingredients sold in its store.What to get: Start the day off with housemade maple granola and bananas, or go for bi bim bop, brown rice topped with steamed veggies and kimchi, for lunch or dinner.
Where to go: Beans & Barley, like Riverwest Co-op, doubles as a specialty grocery store and café.What to get: Try the always-fresh garden salad for a light lunch or fill up with a fan-favorite sweet-potato and bean burrito.Go for Small PlatesThe Midwest is known for its generous, some might say gargantuan, portion sizes. Enter tapas-style dining for those looking for high-quality food that doesn’t require a high-capacity stomach. Just remember: sharing is caring.
Where to go: La Merenda offers globally inspired small plates made with seasonal ingredients; cooks can often be seen plucking fresh herbs from the restaurant’s outdoor garden.Sample dishes: Rushing Waters pan-seared trout, prosciutto salad with arugula, seasonal tart of the day, and patatas bravas with chorizoWhere to go: Odd Duck serves a constantly rotating menu of small plates in four parts: Cheese, Charcuterie, Animal, and Vegetable.Sample dishes: Seared scallops, grilled bavette steak, gouda-stuffed Medjool dates, cucumber gazpacho, and maitake-mushroom crepesStock Up at a Local Farmers’ MarketWith more than 20 farmers’ markets in Milwaukee County, there are endless options to find locally culled fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and whatever else you might need to cook tonight’s dinner, or enjoy a healthy snack while on vacation.
Where to go: West Allis Farmers Market, located about 6 miles southwest of downtown Milwaukee, has been around since 1919.When to go: noon–6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 1 p.m.–6 p.m. Saturday, May through NovemberWhat you’ll find: fresh radishes, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, zucchini, squash, peas, snap beans, potatoes, corn, herb plants, and eggsWhere to go: The pup-friendly South Shore Farmers Market, which offers stunning views of Lake Michigan thanks to its location in South Shore Park.When to go: 8 a.m.–noon Saturday, mid-June through mid-OctoberWhat you’ll find: local honey, spring rolls, bubble tea, fresh crepes, raw oats and grains, and produce as far as the eye can seeWhen all else fails, get a bacon-stuffed bacon burger from Milwaukee Ale House and eat better tomorrow.Photo: Peach Salad by Ralph Daily under CC BY 2.0.