Milwaukee is historically known as a meat and potatoes city, but that doesn't mean that this young midwestern city lacks vegan options – the reality is exactly the opposite. Located just north of Chicago, this Midwestern city that overlooks Lake Michigan is home to a young, bustling plant-based food scene. Surrounded by land dedicated to cows, cheese, brats, and other animal products, it seems unlikely that one would easily find plant-based foods in the city. Milwaukee is home to several innovative vegan restaurants as well as a massive amount of restaurants with vegetarian-friendly options.

When arriving in Milwaukee whether it’s for college or to tour the Harley-Davidson Museum, plant-based eating will be surprisingly easy. To make sure that you find the best vegan spots, here is a quick list of seven of Milwaukee’s finest. From late-night bar eats to innovative cafes, the city holds a plant-based meal for any occasion and any time of day. For summer travelers, there’s plenty to see and do with vegan eats at the very center. Seeing the rapid rise of vegan establishments in recent years, Milwaukee’s food renaissance is surely to keep growing.

1. Dead Bird Brewing 

Calling All: Dead Bird Brewing is Milwaukee’s first all-vegan brewery and it is here to stay. Bringing the people of Milwaukee a delicious menu full of vegan eats, the local brewery upholds strict values regarding the sustainability within its beer production and kitchen. The brewery features an extensive menu of plant-based eats from small and large plates all the way to dessert. This is the perfect spot for anyone visiting Milwaukee to visit. For locals, this is the perfect spot to enjoy a beer and try some innovative spins on conventional bar foods.

Plant Yourself: When out on the weekends, this community brewery hosts live music on the deck every Saturday from 4 to 7 pm. The lively atmosphere provides one of the best spots to gather in the city, and you won’t want to miss out on the food. The vegan menu features a housemade specialty vegan cheese that the kitchen uses to top several of its dishes. This includes the Loaded Nachos topped with Cuban-style black beans, red onions, fresh jalapenos, salsa, smoked paprika aioli, and the vegan fire-roasted queso. The kitchen also offers two vegan meat alternatives that can be ordered in the brewery’s specialty tacos. The vegan beef or Chick’Un can also be added to several other menu items.

Don’t Miss: From the savory eats to the delicious and diverse selection of beers, Dead Bird Brewing has it all. Make sure that when you visit that you take home some vegan cheeses and plant-based meats from its in-house deli. Some fan-favorites include the dairy-free smoked paprika gouda and the vegan Caprese Havarti. Don’t forget to check out the vegan dessert menu as well, complete with an Ice Cream Float using the brewery’s signature vegan ice cream.

Location: 1726 North 5th St.

2. On The Bus 

Plant Yourself: Anyone looking for vegan eats in Milwaukee should find themselves parked by the VW van that’s home to On The Bus. The all-vegan, quick-service restaurant is located inside of the Milwaukee Public Market in the Third Ward neighborhood. On The Bus offers some of the most experimental and delicious vegan food in the city, all from the counter window of a  converted 1971 Volkswagen Van. From burgers to milkshakes, the plant-based counter-service restaurant is preparing exciting takes on burgers, innovative twists on conventionally meat-heavy sandwiches, and refreshing drinks to serve any customer.

Take Note: The burger menu is the star of the show. The plant-based restaurant offers a classic burger featuring the Beyond Meat patty alongside several inventive iterations. Some top choices include the Mushroom Burger complete with marinated portabellas, vegan cheddar, arugula, and housemade garlic aioli as well as the Smokehouse Burger featuring smoky bbq sauce, horse marinated tempeh bacon, crispy onions, jalapenos, bbq soy curls, and creamy slaw.

Don’t Miss: Even though the immediate draw is the plant-based burgers, the vegan smoothies and milkshakes will make any customer addicted to this menu. The delicious smoothie bowls contain fresh fruits and vegetables to offer a sweet, nutritious treat perfect for the summer. If you feel more need for dessert, then the milkshake is a must-buy. Every Wednesday the foodservice spot creates Milkshake Special that has featured iterations like Red Velvet Cake and Candy Corn.

Location: 400 N Water St.

3. Royally Vegan 

Calling All: Founded by local couple Jaleel and Tylesha King in 2020, Royally Vegan is a rising plant-based staple in Milwaukee. The couple decided to open this plant-based kitchen to provide people with delicious and nutritious plant-based meals, especially directed towards people who haven’t tried plant-based foods in the past. The kitchen specializes in created vegan comfort foods and desserts, giving something tasty for any customer’s palette.

Take Note: The kitchen currently operates as a pick-up-only, limited-menu establishment. The ever-changing menu provides appetizing dishes such as a BBQ Jackfruit Meal or the Vegan Soul Food Plate complete with Beyond Meatballs, housemade gravy, baked macaroni and cheese, greens, and cornbread. Even though this vegan option doesn’t have a storefront, the food is mouthwatering and its limited menu is worth tracking down on its social media pages.

Location: 2923 N 57th St.

4. Strange Town 

Plant Yourself: Strange Town entered the Milwaukee food scene as one of the first plant-based restaurants in the city. With sustainability at the forefront of the company model, the vegan kitchen remains one of the best spots in the city. This hip and inventive plant-based restaurant offer an exciting and innovative menu meant to share. The inventive, shareable menu and comfortable atmosphere mix together to make it a prime location for a date night pick.

Don’t Miss: The small menu may seem limited at first, but the plant-based food brings a flavorful twist that many restaurants fail to accomplish. The restaurant claims on its website that its dishes are “meant to be shared with loved ones” in a relaxed atmosphere. Some delicious options include the roasted sunchoke caesar salad feating sunchokes, pepperoncini, cashew caper dressing, and romaine as well as the Bombay potatoes with Yukon golds topped with tomato chutney and cilantro.

Take Note: The vegan restaurant comes complete with a full and exciting bar menu with experimental cocktails, a diverse natural wine selection, and plenty of spirits (and even more amaros). The small business boasts its support of local farmers and natural winemakers to bring an organic menu directly to Milwaukee residents and visitors. The wine list and vegan menu are always changing so make sure to sign up for the newsletter.

Location: 2101 N Prospect Ave.

5. Vanguard Bar

Don’t Miss: The Vanguard is the ideal spot for a late-night drink and snack. The bar opened in 2014 to reinvent Milwaukee’s traditional Beer and Brat meal, providing vegan brats and sausage for plant-based customers. The vegan selection is anything but sparse, and currently, it is one of the only places in Milwaukee to provide delicious plant-based brats: a signature dish in Wisconsin.

Plant Yourself: The vegan sausage menu will take substantial time to work your way through, but that will not be a problem because Vanguard is one of the nicest cocktail bars in town. If you’re a local, it's the perfect spot to sit out back, meet some friends, and grab a bite to eat. Some of the best and tastiest brat options include the Chicago complete with tomato, pickle, celery salt, relish, and sport peppers or the Diablo Verde with chili pepita butter, red onion, and grilled salsa verde. Any of the chef styles can be served on the three vegan sausage options that include the Vegan Italian, the Vegan Chorizo, and the Classic Vegan Brat.

Calling All: The vegan brat options may be Vanguard’s spotlight menu item, but the kitchen holds so much more for plant-based customers. The menu offers a Classic Poutine that can easily be made vegan by asking the server to accommodate your dietary preferences. The vegan sides are also extensive, featuring delicious options like crispy fried cauliflower, buffalo tofu, and signature Vanguard Fried Rice made with a tofu scramble. At Vanguard there is something for everyone at a fun bar complete with a lovely patio.

Location: 2659 S Kinnickinnic Ave

6. Beerline Cafe 

Calling All: The Beerline Cafe provides Milwaukee with an affordable, delicious, and completely vegetarian menu that deserves applause. The acclaimed "fresh-casual" cafe brings an extremely extensive selection of plant-based cuisines, propelling itself to the forefront of the plant-based food scene in not just Milwaukee, but all of Wisconsin. The cafe has been awarded the Best of Milwaukee Best Vegan Restaurant and Best Green Business. The menu does include some animal products including cheese and butter, but the restaurant makes sure to provide plenty of alternatives for its vegan customers.

Plant Yourself: When you find yourself at the Beerline Cafe, there's almost no way to avoid the temptation of the BLAT Panini containing tempeh bacon, carrot bacon, avocado, romaine, tomato, and a signature vegan tabasco mayo. For breakfast, on the other hand, the restaurant's crepe selection is its crown jewel. From savory to sweet crepes, there are enough vegan options to keep coming back for more every weekend. If you miss breakfast, there is no reason to be upset, because the sandwich list is extensive and inventive. The Portobella Cheesesteak uses a housemade vegan smoked gouda covering marinated portobello strips and bell peppers. The classic sandwich is covered in a vegan savory onion sauce to complete the full Philly cheesesteak experience.

Take Notes: The plant-based cafe is known for its specials. The smoothies, salads, breakfast plates, and local bakery items provide the foundation for this restaurant's experimental and exciting specialty dishes. From vegan deviled potatoes to a vegan Bahn Mi, the chefs and owners of Beerline Cafe relentlessly develop vegan options that can be otherwise difficult to find in Milwaukee. Whether you live there and haven't been or you're visiting Milwaukee for the first time, it's high time to check out this bustling veg-forward cafe.

Location: 2076 N Commerce St.

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