Here we are, right in the middle of al fresco dining season. Take advantage of Milwaukee’s many sidewalk-dining opportunities and experience a beautiful view, a charming ambiance, fascinating clientele and, of course, great food and service?
Consider the following al fresco choices, from “A” to “Z”:
“A” is for Alterra. Alterra is ubiquitous, but none compare to the location at 2999 N. Humboldt. An old steel pergola provides a shady respite in a spacious courtyard. Relax with or without your dog at your side and people watch while enjoying the fair trade coffee or tea and nibble on treats made from locally grown ingredients.
“B” is for Barnacle Bud’s, which has a patio that seems to float on the bank of the Kinnickinnic River in Bay View. The tin roof makes even rainy days a great time to sit and watch life drift by from 1955 S. Hilbert.
“C” is for Cafe La Scala, with the pizzas and panini you expect from the Italian name. Seating in the quaint courtyard is a must at 631 E. Chicago.
“D” is for Dogg Haus, because dining al fresco doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. It just has to be good, and the Chicago-style hot dogs are perfection. Four locations: 1433 E. Brady, 1633 W. Wells, 318 E. Wisconsin or 3116 N Downer.
“E” is for Eagan’s, because seafood never tastes better than it does with water in view, even if it’s only 1030 Water Street.
“F” is for Fratello’s Waterfront, with a boardwalk dining space that accommodates 100+ diners at 102 N. Water, just feet from Milwaukee River.
“G” is for Good Life, where the Caribbean arrives at 1935 N. Water on a large patio filled with umbrella-covered tables.
“H” is for Hotch-A-Do, a café specializing in locally-grown, organic foods. Grab a seat alongside 1813 E. Kenilworth and commence people watching.
“I” is for an Irish pub named Harp at 113 E. Juneau. All it takes is the three Bs: burgers, beer and a bench seat.
“J” is for John’s, the Tosa sandwich shop that is an institution. Since 1963, folks have been enjoying the squares a day on the patio at 8913 W. North.
“K” is for The Knick, where the high style never overwhelms the substance of elegant food, simply prepared and served with panache at 1030 E. Juneau.
“L” is for La Fuente. It could be the fountains and colorful tile or the delicious margaritas, but you’ll swear you’re in an authentic Mexican courtyard, even though you’re at 625 S. Fifth.
“M” is for Molly Cool’s Fish Café, 1110 N Old World Third. Sure the sushi and oysters aren’t local, but if you squint your eyes and look at the Milwaukee River you can pretend. Besides, it’s the appearance and freshness that counts anyway.
“N” is for North Shore Bistro. A Friday fish fry, Sunday night jazz and a cute outdoor dining area at 8649 N. Port Washington make a great weekend spot.
“O” is for Ouzo Café, where you can pretend your are in Athens with classic, affordable Greek dishes, all of which are completely homemade. One taste of the tzatziki sauce and you’ll forget that you’re at 776 N. Milwaukee
“P” is for Palomino, an old-school tavern from the folks behind Fuel and Comet. The old school tavern at 2491 S. Superior specializes in lots of deep fried stuff and has some vegan fare as well.
“Q” is for the queen you’ll feel like on Brocach’s rooftop lounge while enjoying Irish fare from what appears to be a castle overlooking Water Street and the Milwaukee River at 1850 N. Water.
“R” is for Ristorante Bartolotta. How could you discuss dining in Milwaukee and not mention a Bartolotta place? The “cucina rustica,” at 7616 W. State in Wauwatosa, features traditional, simple foods that Italian families enjoy in their homes.
“S” is for Swig, a small plates joint at 217 N Broadway. For those of you with a heartier appetite, check out the specialty entrees, salads and desserts. A full bar makes this an outdoor oasis in the heart of Third Ward.
“T” is for Taste of India at 17800 W. Bluemound in Brookfield. Moderate prices, approachable Indian fare and plenty of vegetarian options there’s something for everyone on the vast menu. There’s nothing like a cold Indian beer on the patio to make a hot summer night more bearable.
“U” is for upstairs at Roots Restaurant and Cellar, 1818 N. Hubbard. The two-tiered restaurant offers fine dining above with a terrace overlooking the city. The lower level, also high above the rest of town, offers a more casual environment in which to enjoy the organic fare.
“V” is for Vecchio, where there’s fondue and focaccia, and cheese on just about everything at 1137 N. Old World 3rd on a beautifully maintained patio.
“W” is for Water Buffalo, with a two-story terrace perched along the RiverWalk at 249 N. Water offers some of the best views of the city.
“X” is for xenophobia: the only reason not to enjoy the international influences that flavor the menu at Soup Brothers at 209 W. Florida in Walker’s Point.
“Y” is for The Yard and its enormous outdoor patio adjoining the Iron Horse Hotel in Walker’s Point. It’s far from sedate with the soaring cables of the Sixth Street Viaduct Bridge and the occasional freight train passing by, but 500 W. Florida isn’t the place to be heard. It’s the place to be seen.
“Z” is for Zarletti. This Juneau Town hot spot offers rustic Italian fare on its street-side patio at 741 N. Milwaukee.