Now seating: 5 great Milwaukee restaurants that opened in 2009
The new places we loved eating at this year
A bunch of our favorite businesses died this year (RIP Atomic Records, Paper Boat Boutique and Gallery, and Schwartz Bookshops, to name three), but that didn’t stop a handful of optimistic entrepreneurs from jumping into the restaurant game in 2009. While there weren’t a ton of new places to eat in Milwaukee, these rookie restaurants offered quality yet affordable dining.
1. AJ Bombers (1241 N. Water St., 414-221-9999)
This fun, smoke-free pub arrived amid a flurry of Twitter updates. But AJ Bombers had more going for it than canny use of social media. Free peanuts (you can throw the shells on the floor!), handmade fries, and a burger that was an instant best-in-the-city contender made this corner spot a worthy lunch or dinner destination. Even vegetarians—typically left to starve on Water Street—get lots of choices here, including the sinful Stuffed ’Shroom, which is a breaded and fried portabella crammed full of cheese and topped with mysterious Bomber Sauce.
2. Coa (5750 N. Port Washington Rd., Glendale, 414-967-1451)
We didn’t expect to find a great restaurant at Bayshore Mall, but Coa’s diverse menu makes it a good dining option even if you’re not already shlepping bags between the Gap and Banana Republic. There’s everything from tortilla soup and enchiladas to baby-back ribs and a Friday night Dos Equis-battered fish-fry. But it’s Coa’s flavorful tacos that will really take care of your shopping-fueled hunger.
3. El Fuego (909 W. Layton Ave., 414-455-3534)
El Fuego might turn off Mexican food snobs who think great food can only come from an out-of-the-way hole-in-the-wall, but this south-side eatery and faux-hacienda delivers where it counts—the food is delectable, the margaritas are cheap (even if you order them by the pitcher), and the staff is so attentive that you’ll probably never see the bottom of your salsa bowl. An instant success in a business strip clogged with faceless chain restaurants, El Fuego offers some of the city’s Mexican food outside of Walker’s Point.
4. Honeypie (2643 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., 414-489-7437)
Bay View restaurant-goers mourned the closing of Annona Bistro last year, but the wound was soothed when Honeypie opened up in its place. Serving from-scratch meals with fresh, local ingredients in a space packed full of deer heads and mounted fish, Honeypie fills up diners with folksy dishes like porkslaw, the Turkulator, and a pasty of the day.
5. The National (839 W. National Ave., 414-431-6551)
This spiffy Walker’s Point coffee shop opened in December 2008, but its menu really got going this year. Bright and cheery with a neighborhood vibe, The National’s menu—including wraps, sandwiches, and fresh soups—focuses on local and organic ingredients. It’s a great neighborhood spot with a laid-back vibe that’s perfect for a casual meal or a quick shot of espresso.