Here’s where to find the Wisconsin 275 enjoying a meal

Harbor House's indoor bar and dining room. Photo courtesy of The Bartolotta Restaurants

You’ve heard what Wisconsin’s most influential business leaders have to say about the state’s political climate and what advice they’d give to young professionals, but now get ready to learn about their favorite local restaurants and what they order off the menu.

That was among the topics of the questionnaire BizTimes Milwaukee sent to the 275 individuals selected for the inaugural Wisconsin 275, a special publication profiling the most influential business leaders in the state. We posed a variety of questions, from the toughest business challenge they’ve faced to the first car they drove.

Due to space limitations, we could only include some their responses to the questionnaire in the print edition of Wisconsin 275. Extended profiles with all of their answers to the questionnaire will be added to the Wisconsin 275 website over time, and will be available for BizTimes Insiders. In addition, we are publishing a series of stories highlighting specific questions in the Wisconsin 275 survey.

Responses to the question, “What is your favorite Wisconsin restaurant and what do you order there?” ran the gamut of dining styles and cuisines, from Culver’s which was mentioned twice, to high-end spots like Carnevor Steakhouse Moderne in Milwaukee – the most popular answer with seven mentions.

At least one conclusion could be made from the following round up: Wisconsin has a plethora of great restaurants – and its business leaders have great taste.

Let’s start with the name that came up the most: Carnevor (you’ll find its owner, Omar Shaikh, profiled in the inaugural Wisconsin 275). The seven leaders who named the upscale steakhouse as their top pick are:

Debbie Allen, president and CEO of DNA Network LLC: “I usually order, a ribeye Steak, wedge salad, Brussels sprouts or mashed potatoes with corn, and of course, an order of the doughnuts.

Steve Richman, group president of Milwaukee Tool: “I’d share the bone in and the tuna with one of my associates at Milwaukee Tool.”

Joe Kirgues, co-founder of gener8tor, orders the twin lobster tails and “the amazing sides whose recipe Omar won’t share.”

Dr. Robert Davis, president and CEO of America’s Black Holocaust Museum, orders a bone-in ribeye. Michael Lovell, president of Marquette University, orders the New York strip steak. Rick Schlesinger, president of business operations for the Milwaukee Brewers, orders the filet mignon. Terry Strittmater, managing principal of southeastern Wisconsin at CliftonLarsonAllen, orders the barrel cut filet.

As cornerstones of Wisconsin culinary culture, it’s not surprising that steakhouses and supper clubs emerged as a common theme across the 100-plus responses we received for this question.

Five O’Clock Steakhouse, located on Milwaukee’s near west side, was mentioned by Kevin Anderson, market president of Old National Bank; Valerie Daniels-Carter, CEO and president of V & J Holding Companies Inc.; and Greg Uhen, chairman of Eppstein Uhen Architects, who recommended the joint for “a steak you will not forget.”

Tornado Club Steak House in Madison also came up twice. Jim Yehle, president and CEO of J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. enjoys the walleye, and Mike Hamerlik, president and CEO of WPS Health Solutions gets the ribeye steak.

Tommy Thompson, the longest-serving governor in Wisconsin state history and currently the CEO of Thompson Family Holdings, orders an old fashioned and filet steak or walleye when he visits the Ishnala Supper Club in Lake Delton.

Emily Gruenewald, chief development and communications officer at Overture Center for the Arts in Madison also upholds the Wisconsin supper club tradition: “I love a supper club and order a petite filet, French onion soup, baked potato and an old fashioned (of course!).” Similarly, Alan Kaplan, CEO of UW Health is not picky when it comes to supper clubs. He said that he and his wife enjoy trying new locations.

Meanwhile, the HOBNOB, located along Lake Michigan between Racine and Kenosha, is a favorite of Scott Lauber, president and CEO WEC Energy Group: “I always order the steak. It is a great, traditional supper club.”

Harbor House, located along the downtown Milwaukee lakefront, was another popular choice among the group, with a total of five mentions.

Jason Liu, CEO of Zywave, alternates between ordering the steak and fish dishes and argues that the Bartolotta Restaurant Group concept boasts the the best view in the city. Joshua Jeffers, founder and CEO of J. Jeffers & Co. agrees.

“Literally everything on the menu is excellent, and if you play your cards right, you can get one of the best views of the skyline in Milwaukee,” Jeffers said.

Joel Brennan, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, frequented the restaurant enough for it to add a dish to the menu in his honor: Caesar salad with crab cakes. “It is almost always my choice when I eat there,” he said.

The other two mentions for Harbor House were from Susan Lovern, president and CEO of von Briesen & Roper s.c., and Gale Klappa, executive chairman of WEC Energy Group, who orders the lobster pot pie.

A breathtaking view or a high-end, gourmet menu did not factor into a handful Wisconsin 275 honorees’ favorite-restaurant selections. When it comes to dining out, they prefer to keep it simple (and always delicious) with a classic Wisconsin staple: the burger.

Kevin Krentz, who is president and interim chief administrative officer at Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and president of Rural Mutual Insurance Co., loves Culver’s. His order is the bacon burger deluxe basket with Wisconsin cheese curds. Richard Leinenkugel, president and chief beer merchant at Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., also named the Sauk City-based chain as his favorite fast-casual spot, with the double butter burger deluxe as his go-to. He also mentioned Honey Bear in Eagle River as another top pick. There, he orders the baby walleye with none other than a Leinenkugel’s beer on draught.

Kopp’s Frozen Custard is another popular spot for burger lovers in southeastern Wisconsin. Wayne Oldenburg, CEO of Oldenburg Group, looks forward to when butter pecan is the flavor of the day.

But for some of our Wisconsin 275 honorees, selecting their favorite restaurant out of the bunch was simply too difficult:

Barry Mandel, chairman and CEO of Mandel Group Inc.: “Impossible to pick a favorite as my favorite chefs share part of themselves as they create, in many cases, a work of art. Whether it is a perfectly cooked egg or a multi-course meal, it is the love and passion of the chef that I most appreciate in a meal.”

Jeannie Cullen-Schultz, co-president of JP Cullen & Sons: “It is hard for me to pick just one as one of my favorite things to do is to dine out with friends or my husband.” (However, if she had to pick one, she said it would be The Del-Bar in the Wisconsin Dells.)

Jud Snyder, regional president of BMO Wealth Management: “This is a tough one. There are so many good restaurants in Wisconsin and in Milwaukee in particular. A few favorites include: Buckley’s Restaurant and Bar in Milwaukee (their Nashville Chicken sandwich is amazing!), Morel, Cloud Red and Ardent.”

Joel Quadracci, chairman, president and CEO of Quad/Graphics: “With my last name, you might guess that I do tilt a little toward Italian, but there are just so many good restaurants in Wisconsin. We go to a wide variety of places, and we eat a lot of different kinds of food – and I generally enjoy the meal and the warm hospitality wherever we are.”

Now that you know where the Wisconsin 275 love to dine, click here to see who they wish they could have dinner with.

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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