Summer Al Fresco!
Patio dining in Milwaukee
These days, to lure
Milwaukeeans who want to take advantage of the brief warm-weather bliss, many
local restaurants are going above-and-beyond setting out tables on the
sidewalk. Here are a few of the locally owned restaurants that offer a proper
patio, a defined outdoor space elevated or set apart where customers can eat
and drink. We took note of features that provide comfort, convenience and
pleasure (think spectacular views, comfy furniture and outdoor heaters),
elevating these outdoor oases far above their brethren.
2999 N. Humboldt Blvd.
Beneath the rusted steel
beams of a sawtooth pergola, people from all walks of life gather (often with
dogs lying at their feet) in Alterra’s spacious courtyard, sandwiched between
the coffee roaster’s café and Loop Yarn Shop. Among weatherworn wood, native
plants and textured concrete, diners can enjoy Alterra’s wide selection of Fair
Trade and organic coffees and teas, as well as a creative menu brimming with
locally grown ingredients. There are plenty of bicycle racks for commuters,
and, on some days, you can catch a heated game of cricket unfolding across the
street at the Pumping Station Playfield.
Anaba Tea Room
2107 E. Capitol Drive
Visitors to Anaba Tea
Room’s rooftop greenhouse and garden will feel elevated in both body and
spirit. Located on the roof of a Shorewood building that houses a retail store
called the Garden Room, the space offers a true escape from the commotion of
the ground level. Customers can choose to sit either in the glass greenhouse or
at one of the four outdoor tables overlooking Capitol Drive for a selection of delicate
tea sandwiches, robust salads, homemade soups and a wide variety of teas.
1955 S. Hilbert St.,
Tucked away in a
secluded industrial area along the banks of the Kinnickinnic River
in Bay View, Barnacle Bud’s has a gem of a patio that springs to life in the
warmer months. The restaurant resembles a deep woods crab shack, girded with a
large wooden deck and crowned by a tin roof. The menu—equal parts surf and
turf—is served in plastic baskets on picnic tables shaded by colorful
umbrellas. The casual atmosphere draws an unpretentious crowd, with many
arriving by boat and tying up at the boat slips operated by Skipper Bud’s Marina.
Brocach Irish Pub and Restaurant
1850 N. Water St.
Brocach’s large rooftop
lounge has the feel of a fortified Irish castle, complete with an ample supply
of Irish food and dark stout to sate any visitors. Located on the roof of a
130-year-old Cream City brick building, the backside of the patio is
built into a landscaped hill, while the front overlooks Water Street and, beyond that, the Milwaukee River. Long wooden pews, a number of
metal bistro tables and a big picnic table mean favorable odds of finding a
The Horny Goat Hideaway
2011 S. First St.
The folks at Horny Goat Hideaway have a long-term plan to
transform the banks of the Kinnickinnic River in Bay View into a full-blown
entertainment experience. They constructed a seawall on the waterway and added
an expansive patio and dock made of ironwood, complete with 14 boat slips. The
brewing company’s recent expansion also includes an outdoor covered bar with
six large flat-screens, four bar stations and seating for 50. Four sand
volleyball courts, a live music stage, gas-fed fire pits and a corn-holing
green will have you working up a thirst for Horny Goat’s six craft beers.
625 S. Fifth St.
La Fuente adds to the
thriving tradition of local Mexican restaurants that offer prime outdoor
patios, one started by the old La Casita on Farwell Avenue. Located in the heart of
the Latin Quarter, La Fuente’s patio embraces
the architectural elements of a classic Spanish courtyard, complete with
fountains and walls decorated with colorful tile. Speedy service and a
well-placed outdoor bar mean that one of La Fuente’s fruity margaritas fuertes can be at your umbrella-topped
5921 W. Vliet St.
Chef Jan Kelly couldn’t
have picked a better place to operate a quaint, creative, moderately priced
restaurant than in a revitalized section of Washington Heights, an ethnically
diverse, laid-back neighborhood on the far west side of Milwaukee. When it’s
warm, diners from both the city and the suburbs flock to the calm respite of
Meritage’s secluded backyard deck, where they can indulge in Kelly’s
well-rounded, compelling dinner menu and ample wine list under a canopy of
delicate garden lights. Kelly’s contemporary American cuisine consistently
demonstrates her talent for highlighting the best of what the seasons (and
local food producers) have to offer.
Milwaukee Ale House
233 N. Water St.
Boating enthusiasts will
tell you food just tastes better after a slow cocktail cruise on the river,
which is exactly why the six boat slips outside the Milwaukee Ale House are
such valuable commodities during the season. The Ale House takes advantage of
its location on the popular RiverWalk, luring in thirsty boaters and passers-by
with six, sometimes more, freshly crafted beers and a menu full of
group-friendly appetizers, a slew of sandwiches and hearty entrees. The Ale
House offers seating on an upper deck beneath a bright red-and-blue-striped
awning decked with lights, and below on a shady recessed brick patio where the
lower level bar is just steps away.
Roots Restaurant and Cellar
1818 N. Hubbard St.
Whether sitting at one
of the bistro tables on the restaurant’s upper deck or relaxing on the cushy
lounge furniture outside of the cellar, a visit to Roots in the burgeoning
Brewers Hill neighborhood is accompanied by a phenomenal view of Milwaukee’s skyline. The
outdoor patio is carved into the hillside, where diners enjoy Chef John
Raymond’s seasonal menu surrounded by a lush garden filled with organic herbs
and native plants.
5133 S. Lake Drive
Sheridan House, an
upscale boutique hotel with a dozen guest rooms, isn’t near Milwaukee’s
more popular Downtown tourist destinations, but it does occupy valuable real
estate very close to Lake Michigan, just south of Milwaukee
Ample, comfortable seating under fabric umbrellas, free-standing heaters, a
babbling fountain, a brick fire pit, a pergola wrapped in vines and stone
garden boxes planted with fresh herbs make this picturesque patio popular with
Sheridan House guests, as well as cyclists from the nearby Oak Leaf Trail and
golfers playing the course across the street at Warnimont.
1758 N. Water St.
By opening Trocadero in
a refurbished corner tap, the Diablos Rojos restaurant group gave something novel
and spirited to a diminished industrial neighborhood south of the Milwaukee River
on the city’s East Side. They were ambitious
when it came to offering outdoor dining, first with a comfortable year-round
heated patio, then a more secluded covered structure wrapped in grapevines, and
a charming multi-level stonework patio with a tranquil fountain that speaks of
a Parisian courtyard café. Trocadero recently underwent a transformation from a
French bistro to a gastrobar, and the new menu reflects it with an emphasis on
wildly hand-shaken margaritas and dishes from various ports of call.
The Yard at the Iron Horse Hotel
500 W. Florida St.
There are a number of views to behold from the swanky confines of The Yard, the tremendous outdoor patio adjoining the Iron Horse Hotel in Walker’s Point: the soaring cables of the Sixth Street Viaduct Bridge, the occasional freight train passing by, and those looking to see and be seen. Blazing fire pits are set in a bank of immense rocks that offer seclusion from the road, and colorful “sails” of fabric provide shade to visitors and locals alike who sip pricy drinks and dine on a small but select outdoor menu that includes sophisticated starters and spreads, as well as a few entrees like a burger and ribs.