I live in Chicago and so far I'm three for three on Milwaukee restaurants. For those of you who are in the area and looking for a good place, check these out.
1.) Elsa's on the Park. It's downtown across from Cathedral Square, and they have amazing burgers and pork chop sandwiches. Also, on Fridays they serve a shrimp cocktail that was out of this world (the shrimp were fresh...a hard to find thing in the Midwest, and they were HUGE). I also love the chicken wings, no kidding, it was some six-sigma stuff. There were three different types of wings on the plate--buffalo, and two different types of barbecue. If you split a plate of shrimp and a plate of wings with a friend you're set, and you can pass on the burger. Sounds like lame Applebees shit but it the place is actually really cool and has some really nice art. Everything is between $8 and $10...drinks are pricey for MKE.
2.) The Social in Walkers Point. It's on Second about half way between the Downtown and the Allen-Bradley clock. It's in an unassuming, Wicker Park-circa-1995-esque location. Some of the top chefs in the city banded together to form it. It's basically a small bar, and the kitchen is in plain view behind the bar. The food is Midwestern with a slightly French twist. I had the Wisconsin Cheese Plate to start ($10.95), which contained an assortment of fruit & nuts, a 5-year sharp cheddar, a blue, a French fontina, and a smoked cheese that I forget the name of. They were all excellent, but not the type of cheese plate you get if you want something exotic. Very splittable. I also had the Duck Confit with Mushroom Risotto. It was served on the bone and came with an asparagus/wax bean salad, and a some type of cherry/wine reduction and a nice vinaigrette on the salad. At $15 it's a no-brainer if you like duck. I've also had their beef dishes but I haven't been enamored. People like the macaroni and cheese, but I've never been able to get on the goat cheese trolley. Summary--a rock solid meal at a great price.
3.) Butch's. It's downtown southeast of the Hilton. It is a classic supper club with the bread basket, iceberg wedge, all that. Supper Club atmosphere i.e. a little seedy and campy but clean. I had a tenderloin there and it was excellent. The thing that really made the meal was that you could add-on three jumbo scampi-style shrimp swimming in butter. The place is more of a pig-out experience that is great for entertaining out-of-towners than a "fine" restaurant. I remember the prices being a little high for the area, the steaks were all $20-$30 and the shrimp add-on was like $10.
Tula's sucks a D.
Grenadier's is nice for a fancy cocktail and an appetizer after work.
I've heard that Mader's is nice for a heavy but un-exciting German meal.
Mad props to Alterra coffee.
The cafe in the lobby of the Pfister is nice for breakfast. Good coffee and pastry. I like to get the English muffin...about an inch thick, tender, and is served with those little jars of French jam. Old school fancy.
Get Culver's if you've never been to Wisconsin before.
I'm looking for other recommendations. I've heard good things about Coerper's 5-O'Clock Club and good things about Louise's.