Some promotions take a while to catch on, while others take off immediately. Milwaukee’s Downtown Dining Week was in the latter camp. Organizers had hoped to sign on 15 participating restaurants for the inaugural Dining Week, recalls Elizabeth Nicols, executive director of Milwaukee Downtown, the business improvement district that puts on the promotion. They ended up with twice that number, and many of those 30 restaurants were packed for that week. The annual promotion now draws so many out-of-town diners that next year Milwaukee Downtown is considering putting together hotel packages for visitors planning vacations around the event.
“We started Dining Week after we did some research that showed that people really loved Downtown but felt like they lacked information about things to do down there,” Nicols explains. “We knew we had an explosive dining scene, but we really wanted to elevate the visibility of all these great, local restaurants.
The event gives these restaurants exposure they’ve never had, and it’s also a great way for them to reward their loyal customers.”
This year Downtown Dining Week runs from Thursday, June 7, to Thursday, June 14, with 41 participating restaurants. The promotion is simple: The restaurants will offer three-course lunches for $10 (if they are open during lunch) and threecourse dinners for $20 or $30.
Among the new participants this year are Catch 22 (770 N. Milwaukee St.), the Smoke Shack (332 N. Milwaukee St.) and Rumpus Room (1030 N. Water St.). Rumpus will be offering Strauss veal meatloaf and a Cuban sandwich among its dinner entrée choices. Perhaps the most novel addition is Riverwalk Boat Tours, which will host two nightly dinner cruises. The $30 meal includes the boat ride and entrée choices including baked rum chicken with banana salsa and boneless barbecue short ribs.
For a complete list of participating restaurants and menus, visit milwaukeedowntown.com. Reservations are recommended at most restaurants.