Spend a weekend exploring Brew City! This guide includes everything from Milwaukee vegan restaurants and breweries to upscale dining.
Plus, fun things to do to fill your time between meals. (The Bronze Fonz gives it two thumbs up!)
If the name Milwaukee makes you think of Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, double brat hats, and cheese curds, you are in for a delicious surprise.
There’s much more than meets the eye to Wisconsin’s most populous city.
With a downtown RiverWalk that is reminiscent of the one in Chicago, Milwaukee has a similar outward appearance to the Windy City. But the general vibe in Milwaukee is more relaxed.
It feels like a smaller city but with big city amenities – including a thriving vegan food scene.
It is flush with plant-based options like vegan beer cheese, handmade seitan bratwurst, and even a Gardein-based fish fry.
Dead Bird Brewing
Dead Bird Brewing is a vegan restaurant and brewery with arcade games aplenty, and an outdoor patio.
(They also do vegan catering!)
In addition to beer, they offer non-alcoholic drinks & enticing cocktails.
To go with your drink of choice, they offer a wealth of snacking options.
The beer cheese is served cold with pretzels and tortilla chips. It has undertones of Kolsch beer.
The Robertina taco is topped with chick’un made by local seitan maker, Cedar Teeth.
It’s finished with salsa, pickled red onions, and a radish carrot slaw.
Feeling brunchy? Visit on Sundays when they serve brunch from 10 am to 2 pm.
Look for options like a wet burrito, chick’n & biscuit sandwich, and chilaquiles.
On The Bus
Milwaukee Public Market is a large food hall with shops in stalls selling spices, sauces, mustards, and local specialties. There are restaurants and bakeries.
You’ll know you’ve reached the right place in this indoor market when you see a small VW bus, home to On The Bus, an all-vegan eatery.
They have sandwiches & burgers aplenty, smoothies, and homemade ice cream.
If you love vegan reubens, you’ll want to try theirs.
This corned beef-style seitan sandwich is stacked with sauerkraut, aged vegan cheddar, and Russian dressing on toasted rye bread.
It’s great with bus fries and ranch dressing for dipping.
For something on the lighter side, grab a blueberry smoothie.
This refreshing drink is flecked with berries and filled with bananas, almond butter, dates, and oat milk.
I’ve also heard good things about the Cuban sandwich, as well as the basil pesto sandwich.
On The Bus also sells some grocery-type items like Heath-style vegan chocolates from Hands Off My Chocolate, and vegan Stroopwafels, made in Austin, Texas. Both are terrifically good.
Be warned that On The Bus in particular & the Public Market in general gets busy on the weekends.
On a Saturday, we waited in line for about 15 minutes to order. Then the food came 20 or 30 minutes later.
There are picnic tables for dining outside.
Or if you’d prefer to dine indoors, grab a glass of Rioja at Thief Wine while you wait for your On the Bus order. Then eat your sandwich there when it’s ready.
They also have more general seating upstairs.
Beerline Cafe is a fast casual vegetarian restaurant with indoor & outdoor seating.
Pretty much everything on the menu can be made vegan with some substitutions.
They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The spartichoke crepes are filled with sautéed spinach, artichokes, and vegan smoked gouda.
The crepes are topped with a smattering of walnuts.
Who needs English muffins when you could have hashbrowns for the base of a Benedict?
This hashbrown Benny is a vegan eggs Benedict with baked tofu ham and tofu scramble on hash browns. The tofu ham is wonderfully toothsome & smoky.
The Ethiopian lentil & sweet potato wrap is made with berbere seasoned lentils, sweet potatoes, lettuce, and tomato with garlic cucumber tzatziki in a grilled flour tortilla.
The breakfast wrap is loaded with rosemary potatoes and seasoned tofu, and a drizzling of vegan nacho cheese in a grilled tortilla. It’s served with chipotle-jalapeño salsa.
Flavorful chickpea chorizo tacos are topped with jalapeño cheese, cashew lime crema, and sliced avocado.
The loaded nachos are top notch.
They are piled high with queso, black beans, chickpea chorizo, avocado, and pico de gallo. They are finished with a zigzag of cashew lime crema.
I’ve also heard raves about the cinnamon roll pancakes.
The Lafayette Place
Every inch of The Lafayette Place is Instagrammable. (It’s in the former location of vegan restaurant, Celesta.)
They’ve truly made the most of their small space, which is warm, inviting, and beautifully decorated.
This vegan restaurant is open for brunch and lunch.
It would also be a nice place to order a coffee, and work remotely. There are plug-ins widely available by the bar and certain tables.
The classic is a sampler-style platter with tofu scramble, two Impossible sausages, crispy potatoes, sliced tomatoes, avocado, and toasted sourdough.
The seasonings on the scramble are on the mild side. The flavor could be bumped up for my tastes. And the sausages would be better browned.
But it is still a filling and tasty start to the day.
Don’t leave without getting something from the pastry case.
The oatmeal cream pie took me back to eating Little Debbie’s in high school for breakfast.
And the zebra cake is phenomenal.
Another Little Debbie’s-inspired dessert, it is super moist and layered with a cream filling.
Odd Duck is a high-end, vegan-friendly foodie place that focuses on small plates.
Whenever I visit Milwaukee, it’s my favorite meal of the trip.
While they have plenty of non-vegan options, scroll right across them to the “vegetable” section of the menu, where veganizable options are marked with a V.
(Keep in mind, their menu changes with the season. So what you see on the menu may vary from what is shown here.)
The fennel & citrus roasted olives are served cold. I love savoring the buttery bites of fennel.
Crispy tempura oyster mushrooms are topped with cucumber.
They’re placed on a cooked daikon radish. The flavor is a cross between a potato and an artichoke.
The garlic cauliflower is beautifully toasty. True to its name, it pops with the round flavors of garlic.
It is served on farro with dilly beans for contrast, green goddess dressing, and breadcrumbs.
The South Indian sambar has layered & intoxicating flavors. There is delicious crunch, along with spicy lentils.
It’s served with idli rice cakes. Then it’s finished with green chili chutney and cilantro.
If you go and this is on the menu, don’t miss it.
When I visited for my birthday, they topped my vegan cheesecake with a candle, and included glasses of complimentary champagne.
Such a thoughtful touch!
If you yearn for a vegan fine dining experience, definitely find your way to Odd Duck.
They space out the dishes perfectly, leading from lighter dishes all the way through an indulgent dessert.
Vanguard is a non-vegan restaurant that specializes in sausages.
They have several handmade seitan sausage options. They make all of them in-house, which is always so much cooler than pre-packaged.
In addition to their indoor dining space, they have a nice little patio out back.
The vegan sausages can be topped in a variety of ways with things like onions, cold or hot sauerkraut, hot giardinera, relish, and sport peppers.
The vegan brat is seasoned with nutmeg, ginger, garlic, and mustard seed. It is delicious topped with cold sauerkraut and a squeeze of mustard.
The outside is delightfully crusty around the edges, and the flavors are on point.
Other delicious dishes include:
- Vegan Italian with relish & onions
- Vegan schnitzelwurst
- Vegan chorizo sausage served Tijuana-style
- Vegan chili cheese fries with pickled jalapeños
Definitely make room for the chili cheese fries!
It has a mouthwatering spicy-but-not-hot flavor mixed with swirls of non-dairy cheddar.
I’ve also heard good things about the burnt ginger tofu.
Babe’s Ice Cream
Babe’s Ice Cream is a non-vegan scoop shop with a number of vegan options.
All of their non-dairy ice creams are oat-based. (In the past, they’ve had ice creams with other bases, as shown in these pictures.)
In addition to standard scoops, vegans can order shakes, ice cream sandwiches, ice cream cake slices, brownies, and cookies.
Vegan ice cream sundaes can be made with one topping, whipped cream, and a cherry.
Or you can enjoy a brownie sundae or a banana split.
When I tried a sample of the Door County cherry crisp, it was pretty icy, like it had been in the freezer too long. (Maybe the turnover isn’t great?)
But then I ordered it in a shake with soy milk, and that made it creamy again. It was finished with a generous swirl of whipped cream.
Delicious! Especially the bites that included both light & fluffy whipped cream and shake.
(After you’ve finished your ice cream, wander down the street to Voyageur Book Shop to meet the polydactyl cat, Bustofer Jones!)
Ian’s Pizza is a casual order-at-the-counter style pizzeria.
This chain has three locations in Milwaukee, in addition to restaurants in Denver, Madison, and Seattle.
At their downtown Milwaukee location, they have old school video games upstairs, as well as tables & paper plates for dining in.
Their focus is on pizza by the slice. But you can also order whole pizzas.
They have lots of interesting vegan specialty pizzas like mac & cheese, gyro, Philly cheese steak, taco, macho nacho, and roasted cauliflower pesto.
They make their own seitan pepperoni and walnut sausage in house (shown above on a pizza with mushrooms and Good Planet mozzarella).
With a mild, easy flavor & foldable crust, it is what you’d expect from a New York-style by-the-slice pizza joint.
When a restaurant has vegan chilaquiles on the menu, it’s basically as if they sent me a handwritten invitation. I’m RSVP-ing with a vehement yes.
There are two locations of Café Corazon. They both serve breakfast 7 days a week until 3 pm. Plenty of time to sleep in and still get your brunch on.
The restaurant has an uber casual vibe with plastic tablecloths and a menu taped to the table. They also have outdoor patio seating.
The vegan chilaquiles (above) are generously portioned.
They’re made with fried corn tortilla chips, tofu scramble, and black beans smothered in red & green enchilada sauce. (The green sauce is easily the best!)
The chilaquiles come with your choice of vegan protein.
I went with the soy chorizo, which tastes exactly like the one that’s a staple on my Trader Joe’s grocery list. I’d say it was the dominant flavor of the chilaquiles.
The vegan tofu scrambler is made with herbed tofu and soy chorizo with rice, black beans, and tortillas.
Add more decadence to the plate & add an order of fried plantains.
Always so good! Crisp on the outside & sweet on the inside.
The vegan best burrito is filled with an assortment of sautéed vegetables including broccoli, black beans, soy chorizo, rice, and avocado in a flour tortilla.
It’s topped with both red and green enchilada sauce.
The vegan taco plate comes with your choice of vegan protein (mushrooms here!), black beans, cilantro, radishes, onions, and tomatoes.
You also get your leafy greens in with a salad on the side, which is a nice complement to the heavier comfort fare.
If you’re feeling like a margarita to go with your meal, I hear theirs are excellent.
Strange Town is a vegan small plates tapas-style restaurant.
Although the prices are on the high side, the vibe in the restaurant is airy and informal.
Don’t feel like you have to wear an uncomfortable dress or tight-fitting shoes, as the staff is all dressed very casually.
The slim menu includes about 10 items + desserts. They recommend ordering about 4 plates for a full dinner.
Keep in mind that their eclectic menu changes regularly. So what you see here may be different than what’s available in the future.
The air fried egg rolls are filled with lion’s mane mushrooms, kelp noodles, cabbage, and a ton of ginger, which is the dominant flavor.
It is served with a black vinegar & apricot sauce.
For $11, we got two egg rolls that were a little burnt, and had been cut in half.
The patatas bravas are around $15.
The boiled cubed potatoes are served on romesco sauce with a drizzle of cashew cream and a smattering of flower petals.
The flavor was okay. But it would have been nice if the potatoes were browned and crispy.
Unfortunately, the quality of the dishes didn’t line up with the cost. Especially for a small plates restaurant, where you’re paying for the experience as much as anything.
I wouldn’t hurry back.
Friday fish fry is a popular tradition in the Upper Midwest. Vegans can take part with a plant-based offering at Kegel’s Inn.
Kegel’s is a German restaurant that has been open since the 1920’s. They have an outdoor beer garden that shares the space with Public Table.
(Public Table also has vegan options if you want to mix and match. Although, on the tables they have rules about where people can sit depending on where you’re buying alcohol.)
Kegel’s vegan fish fry basket includes three Gardein fishless filets, french fries, and tartar sauce.
Gardein fishless filets are a staple in my freezer. (Perfect for vegan fish tacos!)
Kegel’s Inn did an especially good job of frying them. They were piping hot & delicious, and finished with a squeeze of lemon.
The purple coleslaw on the side had a tangy sweet & sour flavor that wasn’t my favorite.
At $19 for the basket, the price was a little steep in comparison to other area restaurants we visited, especially for pre-made frozen items.
They have a second vegan option on the menu – a Beyond burger with slaw.
It’s nice that they have a couple of options for vegans. And the outdoor beer garden feels historic & fun.
More restaurant options
Here are more veg-friendly and vegan Milwaukee restaurants I’ve heard good things about:
- Twisted Plants – a fully-vegan casual dining joint with burgers, sandwiches, shakes, and ice cream (They have two locations!)
- BelAir Cantina – fresh-style Mexican deliciousness with a few vegan options like jackfruit and soy chorizo
- Blackwood Brothers – restaurant & social club with vegan options like a killer tofu sandwich and sticky tofu
Milwaukee tourism ideas
Need something to do between dining at the best vegan restaurants in Milwaukee?
Bring your Aaaaaaaay game
If you’re a fan of classic television, make your way up the Milwaukee RiverWalk to see the Bronze Fonz.
(Open every day of the week – Sunday, Monday, Happy Days…)
It’s a nice walk in its own right. And then you get to grab a pic with the coolest motorcycle riding, diner-loving guy of the 1950’s from the 1970’s.
Get away from it all
Don’t leave the Milwaukee area without visiting one of their beautiful beaches.
The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is located on 185 acres of undeveloped green space along the Lake Michigan shoreline. They have a 6-mile system of trails.
Hike down to Lake Michigan and walk along the stone-lined beach.
The water is endless & blue. It feels more like an ocean than a lake.
Afterwards, climb back up to the observation tower to take in the expansive view of the nature preserve and lake.
More beach options: Atwater Beach comes highly recommended. Bradford Beach is a favorite but can get crowded.
(See more options on this beaches & parks list from Visit Milwaukee.)
Want to get on the water instead?
There are several sightseeing cruises that go down the river and into Lake Michigan.
The sunset cruises are especially lovely for watching the lights come up all over the city.
Mitchell Park Domes
If you’re a plant lover, head to Mitchell Park Domes.
This indoor botanical garden features plants from the desert and tropics, as well as a dome focused on flowers.
Botanical gardens are so lovely in the winter months when the outdoors are covered in snow and ice.
Plus, during the holidays, they have a light show that sounds fun.
Be aware that in the summer, it can get pretty hot & muggy inside. Especially in face masks, which are currently still required at Mitchell Park Domes.
When reading other reviews online, most people said to allow for an hour or two to visit all three domes.
We were comfortably done in 20 minutes. So your attention may vary.
Content updated August 31, 2022. Originally posted October 16, 2021.
Thank you as well to Visit Milwaukee for advice on things to do & see in the city, and gift cards for Milwaukee Public Market & Beerline Cafe.