Milwaukee’s Epicurean Epicenters

By Kristine Hansen | Pictured: Milwaukee Public Market

On the heels of food halls thriving in other cities — such as Seattle’s legendary Pike Place Market and Chelsea Market in New York City, not to mention the flurry of downtown-Chicago debuts — Milwaukee has embraced the “all under one roof” culinary concept.

It began with the 2005 opening of the Milwaukee Public Market in the Third Ward. Vendors include a chocolatier, coffee roaster, seafood restaurant, Middle Eastern to-go counter, olive-oil retailer, taco bar, vegan eatery (served out of a VW bus) and more. Seating on the upper level is perfect for small groups with varied food cravings. Thief Wine Shop & Bar’s employees don’t mind if food purchased within the market is brought in so you can, for example, pair artisan Wisconsin cheese with a flute of champagne. Plus, classes at Madame Kuony’s Kitchen this fall will expand your culinary repertoire by teaching the art of pickled Bloody Mary fixings and Instant Pot techniques.

Sherman Phoenix, on Milwaukee’s west side, is an homage to racial riots that took place in the Sherman Park neighborhood during the summer of 2016. Comprised almost entirely of Black-owned businesses, this two-story food hall (home to 27 food and wellness-focused small businesses) is appropriately named for a phoenix rising out of the ashes. Dine on vegan food, pizza, ice cream, spring rolls, buffalo wings, cakes and more — or maybe drop in for a cup of coffee from Shindig Coffee. The building also hosts a barber shop, yoga studio, massage studio, manicurist, jeweler, hair salon and a beauty bar.

A similar mix of businesses makes Crossroads Collective — a food hall on the east side since 2018 — so successful. Where else can you enjoy a progressive meal as diverse as oysters to start, followed by barbecue or pasta, then a scoop of ice cream or fruit pie? Like other food halls, this shared-space concept allows budding entrepreneurs to test their tasty concepts. With lots of natural light pouring into this corner storefront, and its location a few blocks west of Lincoln Memorial Drive along Lake Michigan, Crossroads Collective is popular year-round.

Two more food halls expect to open in Milwaukee by the end of 2020. Flour & Feed Marketplace plans to put roots down in the Bay View neighborhood while 3rd Street Market Hall will pop up in downtown Milwaukee inside the former Shops at Grand Avenue as part of the new The Avenue mixed-use development. With an opening date still forthcoming (pushed back because of COVID-19), Flour & Feed’s 11,000 square feet will make room for six to eight food vendors — likely a coffee shop, brewery, full bar and “several culinary-driven micro-restaurants,” says director of operations Emily Chirillo — and four retailers. Because Flour & Feed opens up to Zillman Park, a neighboring green space, this creates an al-f resco, family-friendly spot to further enjoy the market’s food and drinks. Or, guests can eat in the dining area, right in the center, making it easy to return to a vendor for seconds or splurge on dessert.

Spanning 35,000 square feet, 3rd Street Market Hall expects to welcome both established chefs and up-and-coming food entrepreneurs, as well as serve as a host site for food festivals, beer and food tastings, and private events and benefits. Proof that food breeds community? Activities like ping pong and bocce ball — plus a vintage- style arcade — will also be at the hall.

Please note due to COVID-19 that indoor dining options and hours may vary for these establishments. Please check their websites for more information.

This article originally ran in the 2020 issue of Experience Wisconsin magazine, a Nei-Turner Media Group-owned publication and was accurate at the time of publishing. Some information may have changed since then.

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