It was a banner year for new restaurants.
Restaurants that let a diner eat like a world traveler, restaurants that put a personal stamp on their dishes, restaurants that showed just how good a steak or a pizza could be — they’re on the 2016 list of best new restaurants.
Since 2008, this annual list has included anywhere from six to 10 restaurants; in 2016, a dozen places have made the list, and I could have gone on.
I didn’t include some favorites that opened in new locations (such as Red Light Ramen, Kim’s Thai and Tochi).
And I didn’t count some potential heavy-hitters that opened at the end of 2016.
Because restaurants get a couple of months to work out any kinks before they’re given due consideration, and because this list is drawn from restaurants reviewed this year, I’ll consider spots that opened late in 2016 for 2017’s list.
That includes ambitious new places like tasting-menu restaurant EsterEv, inside Dandan in the Third Ward; the seafood restaurant Third Coast Provisions downtown; and Bodegón, the Spanish restaurant in Hotel Madrid in Walker’s Point that serves fire-cooked steaks among its dishes.
Still, that left plenty of restaurants to applaud at year’s end. Here are the best new restaurants of 2016, in alphabetical order:
Yes, superb ceviche is on the menu at C-viche in Bay View, along with other delicious dishes from Peru, Mexico and beyond, including churrasco, grilled sirloin with chimichurri; tlacoyos, corn cakes filled with chickpeas and topped with sauteed greens and red pepper-tomato sauce; and anticuchos, grilled skewers of beef heart under an herbal sauce. They’re served in a modern, sexy setting, with a soundtrack of salsa music and cocktail shakers.
2165 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. (414) 800-7329;c-viche.com
This restaurant with the polished look of a vintage French cafe is operated by Bartolotta Restaurants for Phoenix, the developer of the new shopping-living center where it stands. The menu is as classic as the decor, with dishes like pate, duck confit and steak frites. Rotisserie meats are a menu centerpiece, including citrus-herb chicken with roasted cauliflower and potatoes. The specialty at the bar is absinthe cocktails and a wine list that’s a good survey of moderately priced French and French-style wines.
11200 W. Burleigh St., Wauwatosa, at the Mayfair Collection. (414) 837-6310; cafegracemke.com
In an airy, contemporary renovation on Brady St., chef Evan Greenhalgh is crafting delicious small plates and snacks. The emphasis these days is flavors from Asian cuisines (though not exclusively). Pillowy steamed buns might be filled with char siu beef brisket or fried chicken, for instance. It’s just as easy to find a meaty dish, like beef short rib, as it is to find creative vegetarian plates, such as Korean pancake with kimchi made from apple and brussels sprouts.
1230 E. Brady St. (414) 226-6640; easytygermke.net
The Gypsy Taco truck on the patio of a Bay View bar is where chef Mitch Ciohon makes tacos he matter-of-factly says aren’t authentic — but they are incredibly delicious. Pork shoulder is braised in Dr Pepper and topped with cabbage and the truck’s own pickles; grilled chicken thigh gets pickled peppers and feta — the flavors pop. Seasonal tacos might feature seared tuna in winter, or fried catfish with corn in summer. Note that the truck is open year-round (construction of a four-season patio is in progress) and it offers delivery by bike courier.
2151 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., on the patio of Boone & Crockett bar. facebook.com/Gypsytaco
The former Andrew’s space in the Delafield Hotel got a new identity this year as I.d., going from fine dining amid antiques to snacks and shareable plates in an eclectic, funky space. Chef Jonna Froelich has come up with dishes that make use of the restaurant’s wood-fired grill and oven and take cues from world flavors, like flatbread with roasted mushrooms and Taleggio, fritters that taste like a Cuban sandwich, or plump scallops with the season’s vegetables.
415 Genesee St., in the Delafield Hotel. (262) 646-1620. iddelafield.com
Yollande Deacon, a native of Cameroon, first began selling a line of spices and a few prepared foods at farmers markets; by the time she opened her restaurant in Wauwatosa, customers were hungry for an entire menu of dishes from around Africa and from Jamaica, where her husband’s family is from. Here in a polished, charming setting are full, delicious flavors, like those in watchee, beef stew in tomato-herb sauce, and in the spicy-sweet Jamaican jerk sauce served with fish on Fridays.
7237 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa. (414) 509-6014; iriezulu.com
Snow or no, chef Aaron Patin is outdoors in the early morning to prepare meats for his Iron Grate BBQ Co. in the big smoker he calls Edna. Patin’s brisket is perfect, from its bark to its juicy, supple center. Iron Grate also smokes pulled pork, hot links and the Milwaukee rib — a rib with the belly meat attached. Meats come with a choice of three sides, including drippings- and milk-enhanced stone-ground grits and baked beans made from scratch.
4177 S. Howell Ave., inside Hawthorne Coffee Roasters. (414) 455-1776; facebook.com/GrateBbq
This steakhouse, from Madison’s Noble Chef Hospitality Group, goes classic to the max, from its wood-paneled, red-leather decor to the Caesar salad and bananas Foster made tableside. Steaks are top-notch; I’d get the crisp hash browns as one of the shareable side dishes. Expect sharp service at Rare, where the wine list runs to around 700 bottles and dinner is a splurge — this is among the city’s most expensive restaurants.
833 E. Michigan St. (enter through lobby of 833 East Michigan building). (414) 273-7273; milwaukee.raresteakandseafood.com
A lot of diners would like to sit at a chef’s own dinner table. The idea behind Tofte’s Table, chef Jason Tofte said, is to serve dishes like the ones he’d serve at home. The shareable plates in this modern but lush space can be downright homey, like a fried chicken drumstick at a mere $2.50. Others bear a chef’s touches — a disc of lump blue crabmeat with tarragon dressing, pickled onions and Meyer lemon oil, or chicken and duck thighs with kale risotto, grilled pear and pear reduction.
331 Riverfront Plaza, Waukesha. (262) 408-5633;toftestable.com
Chef James Durawa began making his pizzas, built on long-fermented dough, years ago in Portland, Ore. Now he makes what he calls a cross between Neapolitan and New York pizzas in a stylish little counter-service pizzeria on the west side. The 14-inch pies have appealing toppings, like sweet-hot peppers with pepperoni made from heritage-breed pigs, or mushrooms with garlic and rosemary on olive oil and a blend of cheeses.
5601 W. Vliet St. (414) 943-3278; wyeastpizza.com