Nighthawks at the diner: a guide to Milwaukee’s 24-hour greasy spoons
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The 24-hour restaurant upholds a fine, longstanding tradition of so-called “greasy spoon diners.” These late-night eateries are havens for teenagers unable (or unwilling) to pick up fake IDs, as well as drunks looking to head off a hangover with an injection of 20 ccs of grease. Big-name chains like Denny’s and Perkins are fine, but there are quite a few local options for connoisseurs of pitch black coffee, drink-straw wrapper origami, and people-watching at a time when you’re not sure what’s a hallucination and what’s not. The A.V. Club serves up a report on the most notable of these beacons of the night, while waiting for some more coffee, dammit.
Genesis Family Restaurant & Bakery
Located near the intersection of Highway 100 and Beloit Rd., Genesis may look like a strip club—complete with a ’90s font-nightmare sign—but don’t be deceived.
Cheapskate special: Greek family restaurants like Genesis seem to have one of everything on their menus. A huge bowl of chicken soup with a dinner roll will settle any belligerent tummy.
Deadliest thing on the menu: The banana split waffle should probably come with a free glucometer to make sure you don’t go into a diabetic coma at the table.
For years, Wisconsin’s very own George Webb restaurants have been scattered throughout the southeastern portion of the state. Hanging out at a Webbs post-bar is worth the price of a cup of coffee, if just to experience the sometimes-unruly mix of people inside.
Cheapskate special: Nothing is better than the Buy-One-Get-One-Cheeseburger coupons you can tear off from the placemats.
Deadliest thing on the menu: The Seven Burger Bag sounds like a secret kung fu technique, and is just as likely to stop someone’s heart if eaten in one sitting.
The Griddlers Cafes are a rag-tag collection of George Webb franchisees that recently walked away from the brand. Check your local Webbs to see if it has defected to the other side.
Cheapskate special: A bowl of chili with noodles will keep you warm even if the holes in your pockets have holes.
Deadliest thing on the menu: The Country Style Breakfast includes ham, bacon, eggs, and sausage. Apparently, “Country Style” means “we have to eat all the animals before the bank forecloses.”
Johnny V’s Classic Café
Johnny V’s is located in West Allis, near State Fair Park. A high volume of high school kids mixed in with the occasional carnival folk can be found inside.
Cheapskate special: Seasoned fries with ranch dressing add the perfect flavor to an ill-advised midnight meal.
Deadliest thing on the menu: Is the pasta sampler featuring lasagna, spaghetti, and fettuccine alfredo on the same plate really necessary?
Located a block south of Farwell and North, Ma Fischer’s is a perfect location for a mix of drunken college kids, aging hippies, and cross-dressers who may or may not be headed to The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Oriental.
Cheapskate special: Where else in the city can you get fried eggplant at 3 a.m.? (Hint: nowhere.)
Deadliest thing on the menu: The steak and rib combo for $15 seems like a pretty big stretch of the words “steak” and “ribs.”
Michael’s Family Restaurant
Located west of the Marquette campus in the shadow of the Ambassador Hotel redevelopment, Michael’s is a good choice for that post-Rave, two-drink-minimum comedown.
Cheapskate Special: Two eggs can be had any style you want for less than three songs on iTunes.
Deadliest thing on the menu: Sure, the omelet won a Best Omelet award, but the steak across from it on the menu looks wicked.
This South Side staple is located on KK near Lincoln, and a stone’s throw from the sadly not-open-all-night Cafe LuLu.
Cheapskate special: A cheeseburger and a bowl of homemade soup are just like mom used to make, when she’d come home from a raging kegger.
Deadliest thing on the menu: The beer may be free with dinner, but it makes PBR look like Guinness.