Top Five: Milwaukee

Welcome to our Top Five series, where bomb women show us their city's food scene through their eyes. From speakeasies in Cleveland to roadside spam in Hawaii to whole hog barbecue in Charleston, they're showcasing their local haunts and the places you wouldn't find on your own. 


Curated by Meg Kilkenny

Meg Kilkenny is an avid cook and food activist in Milwaukee. There is inherently community through food, so she works towards making sure there is food for the community! She finds the “good food” scene to be incredibly meaningful work. Outside of her job, she also runs a monthly cooking club, specifically targeting millennials, which gathers together to become expert chefs in their kitchens and beyond. When she's not pondering environmental issues or what she plans to cook and eat next, you can find her at a local venue for a show on any given night of the week.

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Credit:  Colectivo

Credit: Colectivo

(1) Coffee

Colectivo Coffee

2999 N Humboldt Blvd, Milwaukee, WI 53212

Colectivo has been part of Milwaukee's coffee and culinary scene for decades. They have made a name for themselves regionally, with locations now in Madison and Chicago. The Humboldt Avenue location is where it all begins - it is where all of the beans are roasted! You can grab a cup of coffee, or any of their delicious food menu or bakery options, and watch the roasters working in the warehouse that is directly connected to the cafe. Chill vibe, great place to do work, meet up with a friend, or have a professional meeting.


(2) Breakfast

The National 

839 W National Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53204

Chef Nell Benton is one of Milwaukee's top female chefs. She took a male-dominated industry by storm here in Milwaukee by opening a breakfast and lunch spot that rivals any other cafe in the city. Truly unique menu items meets cafe practicality for one of the coziest spots in town where it really is all about the food. Nell is in the rankings of Milwaukee's farm-to-table minded cooks, where everything is as locally sources as possible. Get the polenta cakes for breakfast, a cup of coffee, and stay for a while in Milwaukee's Walker's Point neighborhood.


Credit:  OnMilwaukee

Credit: OnMilwaukee

(3) Lunch


1848 W Fond Du Lac Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53205

Chef Caitlin Cullen is perhaps the most ambitious chef/owner restauranteur in Milwaukee. Tandem is the place for the best fried chicken in the whole city. Housed in a historic building in Milwaukee's Lindsay Heights neighborhood, this lunch and dinner spot is worth the trip for any visitor. Caitlin's entire team both front and back of the house are residents of the Lindsay Heights and surrounding neighborhoods. Providing employment for youth in an area where job opportunities are generally low is part of what makes Tandem so unique. That and the fact that any other restaurant attempting true Southern fried goodness is darkly overshadowed by Tandem, the reigning queen.


(4) Dinner 

Irie Zulu

7237 W North Ave, Wauwatosa, WI 53213

Anyone in the food scene in Milwaukee knows the name Yollande Tchouapi Deacon at the drop of a hat. A native to West Africa, she began as a food entrepreneur in Wisconsin by creating Afro Fusion Cuisine, a brand of traditional spice blends and African cooking sauces. She then later opened her restaurant Irie Zulu to continue educating the population of Milwaukee on traditional African cuisine with a menu that explores all different countries and regions of the continent. Carnivorous eaters and vegans alike will find something to their liking on her menu, which changes according to seasonal produce availability.


(5) Drinks


2718 N Bremen St, Milwaukee, WI 53212

This darkly-lit tiki bar is the ultimate shelter for warmth during a Wisconsin winter. Tiki-themed drinks populate their extensive cocktail menu, where everyone behind the pine is wearing Hawaiian shirts and hanging out by the fish tank. Packed on the weekends, there is always still luck to find a spot with a group of friends not only at the bar, but also with the space's several booths and tables with overhanging puffer fish lights to boot. Come on a weeknight where it is incredibly chill for a nice conversation with a friend over neon blue drinks with umbrellas in them.