May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which means it’s the perfect time for all of us to listen, learn about and celebrate the contributions, achievements and influence of individuals from the AAPI community.
It’s also a great time to explore the varied culinary traditions found throughout the Asian Diaspora. It’s delicious work that’s become even easier thanks to Asian Restaurant Week, which takes place for its third year during the week of May 14 - 20.
What you should know
Behind the event is ElevAsian, a group of AAPI individuals and allies from around the State of Wisconsin dedicated to amplifying, celebrating and giving voice to people, businesses and initiatives that uplift and support the community.
“Food is a great entry point for learning more about a culture, and it’s also the way members of the AAPI share their care for others as well as a piece of their cultural heritage,” notes Shary Tran of ElevAsian.
And both care and learning are key in a world where hate crimes and violence toward our AAPI communities is still very real, and the need to stand in solidarity with our communities of color is more important than ever. Asian Restaurant Week provides the perfect opportunity to learn, grow and show our support.
That means making a conserted effort to dedicate a percentage of your spending to support AAPI-owned restaurants, as well as taking the time to learn, grow and appreciate their contributions to our community.
Amplify your efforts by sharing your favorite dishes from Asian Restaurant Week on social media using #AsianRestaurantWeekMKE
AAPI Heritage Month events
Check out the ElevAsian website for special events taking place throughout AAPI Heritage Month, including the very first MKE Dumpling Fest on June 4.
You can also follow ElevAsian on Facebook for more facts, features and events during AAPI Heritage Month and beyond.
There are countless restaurants throughout the city (and beyond) that you can choose to support during Asian Restaurant Week and AAPI Heritage Month. You can choose to support any of them.
However, if you need a place to start, I've comprised a list of some of my favorite spots, along with recommendations for something special to try.
You can also head to the ElevAsian website for an even larger list of local favorites identified by members of ElevAsian. It’s a veritable feast of options for cultural and culinary exploration.
2945 S. 108th St., (414) 328-9890
Suggestions: Order items like braised eggplant in plum sauce and spare ribs with red bean sauce from their Chinese menu or try out their dim sum offerings.
1427 S. 108th St., West Allis, (414) 257-1199
Suggestions: Try lesser-known dishes from the Northeastern region of China including handmade dumplings (stuffed with pickled cabbage and pork or egg and chives), mala tofu, crispy sweet and sour pork (guobaorou) and garlicky smoked Harbin red sausage.
207 E. Buffalo St., (414) 271-7788
Suggestions: Xiao long bao (soup dumplings; ask to see if they are offering them when you dine in), spicy Shanghai chicken and Shanghai-style duck, a dish redolent with ginger and star anise.
J.J. Chen's Eatery
10722 W. Oklahoma Ave., West Allis, (414) 329-8333
Suggestions: Order items like ha gao (shrimp dumplings), stuffed tofu skin with pork and shrimp or Phoenix crown dumplings off of their special dim sum menu.
Lucky Bakery & BBQ
11078 W. National Ave., West Allis, (414) 329-2688
Suggestions: Try a sampling of their sweet and savory baked goods; their crispy pork and roast duck are also phenomenal.
Sze Chuan Restaurant
11102 W. National Ave., West Allis, (414) 885-085
Suggestions: Feast on classics from the Sichuan region in China including cold pork belly with garlic sauce, Szechuan pork dumplings, mapo tofu, twice-cooked pork, cumin-scented grilled lamb and their special spare ribs (order them spicy if you like heat).
Ono Kine Grindz
7215 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa (414) 778-0727
Suggestions: Don't miss their ahi poke, Spam musubi and kalua pig. If you're dining with more than one person, order a platter to try a bit of everything!
Hmong, Lao & Thai
An Ox Cafe
7411 W. Hampton Ave., (414) 336-0064
Suggestions: An Ox Cafe offers a mix of Hmong, Lao and Thai food; try the nam kow (fried rice salad), housemade Lao sausage, pho or marinated roasted pork.
3933 S. 76th St., (414) 509-5839
Suggestions: Try their tasty scrambled paneer bhurji, saag Punjabi (seasoned mustard greens), dal makhani or fish pakora; if you appreciate spicier fare, go for the shrimp vindaloo.
2930 N. 117th St., Wauwatosa, (414) 235-9220
Suggestions: Try their vegetable offerings including mushroom masala, aloo chole (chickpeas, potatoes and tomato in a fragrant, spiced sauce) and beans porial, a great example of a dry southern curry featuring green beans cooked with mustard seeds, curry leaves, coconut, chiles and black lentils.
Saffron Modern Indian Dining
223 N. Water St., (414) 539-4980
Suggestions: Tandoori grilled prawns; goat stew; dal makhani; fig na'an; or just point randomly to anything on the menu (it's all pretty fab)
Indian and Pakistani
7510 W. Layton Ave, Greenfield, (414) 800-4226
Suggestions: Go for the classic beef nihari or the chapli kebab flecked with tomato, onion and pomegranate seeds
Indonesian and Chinese
8673 N. Port Washington Road, Fox Point, (414) 228-8222
Suggestions: Definitely try a dish off of their Indonesian menu like the nasi goreng (fried rice) or the curry (with choice of protein).
Kawa Ramen & Sushi
2321 N. Murray Ave., (414)-800-7979
3rd Street Market Hall, 725 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Suggestions: On the East Side, try their traditional sushi or tonkotsu ramen; at the 3rd Street Market Hall, go for their yuzu ramen or fresh tuna rice bowl.
4823 W National Ave., (414) 671-4823
Suggestions: Order their creative maki, which come complete with a side of art (see cover photo for an example).
5191 S. 108th St., Hales Corners, (414) 525-2266
Suggestions: You can't go wrong with their ramen, but don't miss their spicy mazeman noodles. So good.
Japanese and Thai
Hungry Sumo Sushi Bar + Asian Bistro
2663 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 595-9656
Suggestions: Delve into a bowl of their ramen (the specials are always fun); Or order a selection of sashimi and nigiri with a sake flight alongside.
Kin by Rice N Roll
7484 W. State St., (414) 524-9056
Suggestions: Thai curries here are delicious. But don't be hesitant to try some of their beautiful sushi like the Tosa Fab roll (fresh yellowtail, cilantro, avocado, black rice, super white tuna).
222 E. Erie St., (414) 885-2611
Suggestions: Try their leeky chicken, Korean fried chicken wings and tender grilled pork belly. Be sure to order dessert (seriously).
Maru Korean Bistro
2150 N. Prospect Ave., (414) 210-4139
Suggestions: Try the kimchee dumplings, budae jigae or short rib galbi.
Lao and Thai
3900 W. Brown Deer Rd., Brown Deer, (414) 362-4264
Suggestions: Try their tom kha gai; plump, crisp fried squid and slightly fiery waterfall beef salad; or nua toon (braised brisket with dipping sauce).
5930 W. North Ave., (414) 257-2228
Suggestions: Try their phenomenal khao jee patê, a Lao sandwich similar to the Vietnamese banh mi (I highly recommend the Bang Bang). You also can't go wrong with their house made sai-oua (sausage), red curry or salapao pork buns.
6509B S 27th St., Franklin, (414) 301-4126
Suggestions: Try the Lao sausage, skewers with a jeow flight and sticky rice. If you're eating with friends, go for the bbq platter. Don't sleep on their fun monthly specials!
Vientiane Noodle Shop
3422 W. National Ave., (414) 672-8440
Suggestions: Try the fried Lao sausage; Lao beef jerky and pad burapa
707 E. Brady St., (414) 488-8668
Suggestions: Try the Lao pork ribs, larb and khaopoon
Nepalese / Himalayan
Curry and Momo House
6969 N. Port Washington Rd., (414) 446-5499
Suggestions: Try their kalo dal, Nepali chicken curry and momos (of course!)
Inside Royal Garden Restaurant|
206 W. Silver Spring Dr., (414) 906-0998
Suggestions: Try out their momo, along with a combination plate, which allows you to try a number of their Nepalese dishes
110 E. Greenfield Ave., (414) 316-9003
Suggestions: Try their xiao long bao (soup dumplings), Sichuan dan dan noodles or jjamppong.
Taste Amir’s Roti
Malaysian food truck, often parked at 3353 S. 13th St.
Suggestions: Try their nasi goreng (fried rice wrapped in egg) or roti murtabak (flatbread filled with chicken or beef).
Eleven25 at the Pabst, 1125 N. 9th St., (414) 935-2823
Suggestions: Their bento box meals are a great choice for lunch; also don't miss their gua bao and five spice chicken.
Hue Vietnamese Restaurant
(new location) 2699 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 294-0483
Suggestions: Get their spicy crab rangoon, star-anise scented pho or mi xao.
1923 W. National Ave., (414) 384-4522
Suggestions: Their pho is top notch
10534 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis, (414) 828-9698
Suggestions: Get the house special banh mi
3rd Street Market Hall, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Suggestions: Get the house pho or special banh mi
5475 S. 27th St., Greenfield, (414) 282-8852
Suggestions: Their pho is worth the trip
**temporarily closed (remodeling)**
222 W. Wells St., (414) 817-0241
Suggestions: You can't go wrong with their banh mi.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.