Good | Worth a Return
Review by: Maggie Rosenberg & Trevor Hagstrom
The oldest restaurant in town (since 1902), Mader’s gives diners a peek into the German history that made Milwaukee Brew City. It is also one of the oldest and best preserved German restaurants anywhere in the New World. The kitchen offers a rare taste of classic Prussian-American cooking. The dining hall offers a glimpse of the vision of European settlers back when they were still forging their communities into the image of the old country.
Reuben spring rrolls are the famous appetizer, appropriately Wisconsonian: filled with cured meat, sauerkraut, and cheese, then deep fried. They come hot from the fryer and actually taste satisfyingly close to a Reuben sandwich.
French onion soup is a good indication of how the kitchen handles classics. It has a rich, beefy stock and loads of cheese, and is served piping hot. The crock is large enough to to be a meal.
For a crash course in German cookery, try the Sampler Plate: schnitzel, spaetzel, goulash, sauerbraten, and two kinds of cabbage. The schnitzel and goulash are sub-par, but the tasty spaetzel and sauerbraten are easy to eat. The sauerbraten is tasty in an eccentric way. It is half-marinated rump topped with almond slivers and sour cream to accentuate the tartness customarily provided by wine/vinegar marinade. It is a half-sauerbraten
The food is good; atmosphere is a ten. Make sure to spend some time walking through the old dining room. Its decor rivals museums supervised by historic society preservationists, and the staff is in full Old World costumes. There are photos in the hall of the bathroom celebrating the various luminaries who’ve dined here, from the Three Stooges to Justin Bieber and several Presidents in between. On the way to the restrooms there are signed photos from every famous person who has ever visited Milwaukee, from the days of vaudeville to the days of YouTube. If you don’t have time for a full meal of nostalgic German-Great Lakes cooking, you should at least stop by Mader’s for a quick peek, a slow beer, and a plate or two of Reuben rolls.
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