Guided and photographed by Christin Cilento
When my parents moved to Cedarburg nearly 20 years ago, I never imagined I’d leave Milwaukee and follow suit. I’m not sure if I thought I’d be putting myself out to pasture or offering our children a utopian upbringing of a bygone era. But one thing is certain … I found “home.”
While it’s true that Americana is alive and well in Cedarburg, with tourist-favored street festivals and Depression-era antiques, I’ve discovered that the quaint German settlement town on Cedar Creek has as much to offer from the eclectic individuals that take up residence here as the historic preservation of its buildings, or Wisconsin’s only remaining covered bridge.
Nestled among the community at large are award-winning, internationally renowned artists coveting the private haven Cedarburg provides. David Welky of Design Velke is a master coachbuilder restoring European exotic sports cars. Charles Radtke is known as the finest studio furniture maker in the world. Children’s book author and lyricist Barbara Joosse, and husband C.T. Whitehouse, sculptor and metalsmith specializing in vessels of bronze, are also among the gifted creatives calling Cedarburg home.
Creativity abounds for all those blessed to imbibe here. You’re invited to soak in the simple among the sophisticated. Welcome to Cedarburg.
Anvil Pub & Grille
Rustic charm is poured on thick in this restored 19th century blacksmith’s shop adjacent to Cedar Creek Winery in the Shops of Cedar Creek Settlement. Guests are met with a full bar proudly protecting the stone hearth oven where forge sandwiches (Anvil’s version of panini) and other casual-fare specialties are skillfully prepared. A small, second-floor lofted space with additional seating overlooks the cozy interior of creamy brick and exposed, floor-to-ceiling stone walls. The best view, however, is the seasonal patio nestled creekside overlooking the Cedar Creek Waterfall. Dining al fresco to the sound of lapping water is vacation enough from the daily grind. Shop. Eat. Drink. Repeat.
N70 W6340 Bridge Rd.
Ernie’s Wine Bar
Ernie’s reputation preceded my move to Cedarburg. The moniker may be misleading as “Ernie” was the owner’s beloved dog, and “Wine Bar” is affixed to a backlit, standard-issue Pabst sign on this roadside, repurposed home. Indeed, this joint is its own brand of charm with one of the finest wine selections in Cedarburg, including 20 varieties of red and white by the glass, 100 by the bottle. Ben owns and operates this unassuming gem with great attention to detail. Pistachios and chocolate grace the counter of a beautifully restored mahogany bar. Intentionally intimate, this venue is the best kept secret in town. Period.
N49 W5471 Portland Rd.
This 150-year old fieldstone farmhouse is Cedarburg at its finest. While signage is apparent on the main drag just south of town, diners must traverse some pavement before reaching a patch of tall trees guarding the Farmstead’s unassuming, unidentified facade. Walking up to the door feels like you could be visiting an old friend. Super cozy and warmly lit, plan on coming early and staying a while. Boasting “the best steaks in Cedarburg,” you can bet there will be a wait. Saddle up to the bar for libations and relax—there are plenty of antiques among the farm motif to take in. Besides, once you’ve tried their coveted garlic-glazed steak with the garlic mashed potatoes, you’ll know why even the locals line up to dine here. Not a carnivore? The menu runs the gamut with something for everyone, from seafood to sandwiches. If only life on the farm was this easy or tasted this good.
W62 N238 Washington Ave.
The Java House
There are a few locally-owned cafes here, but nothing feels more like “home” than Cedarburg’s original coffee house. Founded in 1992 and currently owned and operated by Cedarburg native Scott Sidney, the Java House has become my satellite office. The appeal resides in its laid-back atmosphere, family of staff and regulars, and the best cortado north of Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co. And it gets better. The Java House serves beer and wine most days of the week til 9 p.m.! “The best days begin with coffee and end with wine at the Java House.”
W63 N653 Washington Ave.
Known for Live Music Wednesdays, Fish Fry Fridays and Bloody Mary Brunch on Sundays, Morton’s is a no-brainer any night of the week. Steeped in Wisconsin tradition with true tavern dining and wall-to-wall memorabilia, Chris Morton and Tim Ryan have created a favored home away from home. Just down the one-way street from the Rivoli Theatre, Morton’s is the perfect place to grab dinner before a show and drinks afterward. The staff is as down-to-earth and genuine as the homemade, comfort food they serve. Try a brandy old-fashioned muddled just right, shredded haystack onion rings piled high and a jalapeno blue cheese brat! Cheers, Wisconsin!
N56 W6339 Center Street
When the kiddos are antsy and in need of a fun family outing, there is no better way to spend your day than at Neiman’s Orchard. Grab a wagon and wind your way through the farm picking your own raspberries, pumpkins, pears and apples. Neiman’s offers more than 40 varieties of apples! We never go home empty-handed—but always smiling. This haven is also replete with photo ops. Not only is the landscape simply lovely, but there are animals on hand to feed and the quintessential “big red barn.” Be sure and check out the homegrown goodies at the orchard salesroom, too. Caramel apples, fresh-pressed cider, jams and butters. All fresh. All local. All delicious.
9932 Pioneer Rd. • 262-377-4284
Stilt House Gastro Bar
Gordon Goggin resurrected great Cedarburg lore when choosing a name for his gastro bar. Story has it that tavern owner Nick Schuh was denied permission from the city to add a second floor to the existing structure. Schuh’s work-around was to raise the building on “stilts” and build a first floor underneath. A century later, Stilt House proudly stands in historic downtown, specializing in small plate dining offering wine and high-end American Craft beers, 30 of which are on draught. It’s big city feel meets come-as-you-are casual, seven days a week.
W62 N630 Washington Ave.
Christin Cilento is co-owner of Milwaukee cult favorite, CityTins. This full-scale, food-centric retail product created with business partner, Tara Laatsch, promotes locally-owned and operated restaurants and nonprofits. Prior to founding CityTins in 2009, Cilento owned marketing communications agency, Flow Marketing, functioning as in-house support to Fortune 500 companies among other retail, corporate, government and nonprofit clients. To date, CityTins has given away nearly $300,000 in fundraising and in-kind donations to Wisconsin schools, churches and nonprofit organization while encouraging communities to live local and explore the unique dining scene our neighbors afford.