Milwaukee’s Global Cuisine

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Photo by Nathan Lampres

International food products can be purchased at some local grocery stores.

Milwaukee has long been a haven for immigrants from a wide range of nationalities. In the mid-1800s, there were so many German immigrants that the city became known as “the German Athens.” Even today, 30% of Milwaukee’s population has either German or Polish ancestry.

The influence from these communities can be found in many different areas, including the great international cuisine featured locally. Some notable restaurants in the area include Three Brothers, Alem Ethiopian Village and Bombay Sweets.  

Three Brothers is a Serbian-style restaurant located in South Milwaukee. The owner, Milunka Radicevic, says the restaurant was founded in 1956 by her grandfather who was from Yugoslavia.

“Our family was separated in WWII,” Radicevic says. “My grandfather was in a concentration camp. My father was also in a concentration camp and later in a Gestapo jail.”

The restaurant initially served bar food, like nachos and wings, until Radicevic’s grandmother arrived. 

The beauty of her recipes during a time when you didn’t have the availability of imported products is a testament to her skills and ingenuity,” Radicevic says.  

She says she believes the restaurant acted as a way for her family to hold on to their culture.

Caressing a dish into life each night alleviated homesickness and brought people together,” Radicevic says. Three Brothers’ Mediterranean influence is evident throughout their menu. 

“Our signature dish is called burek,” Radicevic says. “It is layers of paper-thin dough, called Yufka, that is filled with either beef, cheese or spinach and cheese filling.”

For Radicevic’s family, it is clear that Three Brothers means more than just a restaurant.

The restaurant is our home. We grew up above. Our restaurant kitchen and dining room is our family’s as well,” Radicevic says.

Another local restaurant serving international cuisine is Alem Ethiopian Village, located downtown at 307 E. Wisconsin Ave. The restaurant opened in 2008, and its owner Sol Bekele is originally from Ethiopia. The restaurant is all about sticking to its Ethiopian roots. 

We try to use original spices and prepare the entrees as close to their authentic taste as possible. We also have furniture and art imported from Ethiopia,” Bekele says.  

The food and furniture are not the only things that the restaurant keeps authentic. It also stays true to how food is traditionally served and consumed in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian food is unique and is not found anywhere else. You will typically eat out of a common plate (pre-pandemic) using your bare hands, and no utensils are provided, except for the non-initiated and the non-adventurous, and upon request,” Bekele says.

Alem Ethiopian Village’s menu features mostly vegan, lamb and beef items, and has been limited due to the pandemic. Their most popular dish is the Veggie Combo, a combination of their four signature stews: split lentils, split peas, collard greens and steamed cabbage with potatoes and carrots. 

The restaurant has been slightly limited due to the pandemic. “At the moment we are not open for dine in and provide curbside or takeout Monday to Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” Bekele says.  

For a taste of authentic Indian cuisine, you may want to check out Bombay Sweets. Founded in 1998, the restaurant is owned and operated by Narinder Kumar.

“We offer an all-vegetarian menu, serving no meat and no eggs, which is unique to the southern region of India,” Kumar says. “We also serve candy and sweets from the region.”

The restaurant has many popular dishes, yet there is one that stands out.

“Our most popular item is the Samosa Chat, which is comprised of samosa and chickpea curry,” Kumar says.

For anyone looking to enjoy authentic cuisine from all over the globe, Milwaukee has a variety of options.

This story was written by Mason Stebnitz. He can be reached at mason.stebnitz@marquette.edu.