Milwaukee’s restaurant boom shows no signs of letting up, especially considering the last 6 months or so. Daytime-only restaurants keep springing up to satisfy what appears to be a never-ending thirst for Bloody Marys and brunch, and international cuisines are still a big hit. We also got our very own food hall with a dizzying array of choices, and a new spot that could contend with some of the All-Time Best high-end restaurants. So whether you’re hoping to try something new or want to revisit a classic MKE stalwart (just the click the button to jump to that section), check out these stellar restaurants.
Gregory León, chef and co-owner of Amilinda, drew his Spanish-Portuguese menu from his travels. He is one the most approachable restaurateurs in the biz. Everything at Amilinda from tiles, exposed Cream City brick walls, paintings or the brightly colored rooster sitting on the chef’s counter (aka bar) has a story he is willing to share. However, this story doesn’t end with the décor, but carries over to a creative and thoughtful menu. Bravo to León for doing fewer menu items, doing them well and changing them daily (menu prices fluctuate based on market prices). León works with local farmers, taking what is in season and creating an abbreviated menu that doesn’t have so many choices it makes your head spin. Almost everything is made in house (Alisa Malavenda)
Chef Gregory Leon combines the many roots of his existence—Oklahoma, Venezuela, San Francisco, a deep love of the food of Spain and Portugal—into a singular, precise, limited-menu vision in his first full restaurant. There are really only a few things to eat on any given night, so it is with a certain amount of trust that a diner must embark upon the hip Wisconsin Ave eatery. Yet just one meal can teach you to believe in his artistic yet comforting flair. There are the simple fall time pleasures of a smoked trout salad; a skirt steak, plopped in romesco sauce, pepped by shishitos; a pork chop, the tender hunk bathing in adobo sauce, sided with broccoli raab, and, because Leon clearly wants us to be happy, linguica. It’s a buzzy, sceney spot to spend a night downtown, and Amilinda reminds that that can sometimes still be a soulful thing.
Orry León, co-owner of the Spanish- and Portuguese-inspired restaurant Amilinda downtown, said half of the wine drinkers at Amilinda love Spanish wines and are thrilled they’re on Amilinda’s menu, while the others are completely unfamiliar with them.
That’s where servers step in to ask, “What do you usually drink?” Then they can suggest a Spanish wine that will appeal to diners.
But what León really likes is when customers try the wine that’s their server’s favorite — which varies from server to server.
“It’s just like when you’re traveling,” he said. “You go to the bartender and ask, ‘What’s good here?’ ”
It’s not the restaurant trying to sell a more expensive bottle, he said, it’s just helping the customer try something new. “We enjoy it; we want you to enjoy it,” he said.
Amilinda carries at least 30 types of Spanish wines, on a list of up to 55 bottles (the rest are Portuguese). Any bottle is available by the glass, thanks to the Coravin.
“Before you buy that $100 bottle of wine, I can give you a taste,” León said.
If you’re like me, you get into a surprising number of silly disagreements with your significant other over where to eat… not because you want to go to different places, but because neither of you wants to make a decision. Now that winter is finally over in MKE, there’s an even larger pool of drink and dining options to waffle on, so we’re here to help you make those harder-than-they-should-be choices. Here are the best restaurants in MKE right now, including the best patios, barbecue, and beer gardens for summer fun.
Candles hanging from the brick walls and vintage tiles underfoot give this downtown restaurant an Old World feel, but the oversize prints and red, blue and yellow accents make it feel contemporary. Perfect, really, for chef and co-owner Gregory León’s modern dishes influenced by Spain and Portugal.
Amilinda Restaurant provides a welcome addition to Milwaukee’s Downtown menagerie of international restaurants with its focus on Spanish and Portuguese food and cocktails and emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. The menu changes weekly subject to which vegetables are in season.
The space seems a bit small at first, but it’s really narrow and expansive, with an impressive granite bar stretching out for a good half of the restaurant. An open-ish kitchen allows for all kinds of wonderful scents to waft by the tables.
Promptly upon being seated, I was offered a ricotta cheese and ramp spread accompanied by Rocket Baby sourdough, which in its softness and sourness is an excellent complement to the savory spread.
A dining experience at Amilinda is well paced, and I’d recommend adjusting your expectations a bit to enjoy a luxurious meal. Order a cocktail while you wait for your appetizer—the Spanish G&T ($11) is a gin and tonic with a splash of sweet vermouth to round out the mouthfeel and give it some, well, sweetness. The Spanish Shipwreck ($10) sparkling cocktail—a mixture of rum, cava and bitters—is bright and fun. Their red wine list naturally skews towards tempranillo and garnacha, with several solid by-the-glass options.