The Marina gets a bad rap. Is it a place where you might get run over by a stampede of toddlers or berated by a drunk dude wearing Ferragamo loafers and Chubbies? Yes. But it’s also flat, picturesque, generally sunny, and full of good (if not wildly trendy) restaurants and bars.
So if you find yourself in the neighborhood, which you inevitably will, here are all the places to go that aren’t Tipsy Pig or Blackwood. Some Chubby Noodle pork tacos will have you looking at Chestnut Street real estate real quick.
The folks behind Asian Box are clearly straight shooters, because a box of Asian-inspired food is exactly what you can buy here. You can either pick from pre-designed combinations of rice, vegetables, sauce, and proteins, or make your own. We especially like the coconut tofu and lemongrass pork for a quick lunch or low-key weeknight dinner.
Weep not, former acolytes of Umami in Cow Hollow. Mamanoko has risen with the Umami menu, like a phoenix from the ashes, in the former Mamacita space on Chestnut Street. You’ll find tasty rolls, plus the amazing tuna tataki and vegetable tempura fritters we love dearly. Prepare to spend more than you might expect for dinner, but also prepare to be very happy with your food.
Sure, there’s an 80% chance Guy Fieri was involved in naming this restaurant, but the menu is less “tempura Cheeto roll” and more traditional Japanese. Play some bingo at Happy Hour (every day until 6:30pm, with very good deals like $4 beer and half-off sashimi), and be prepared for a party-time scene and potentially having to shout your order. For rolls, we like the crispy salmon and Rocket Man, and for appetizers, the brussels sprouts are strong.
The Marina might be known for having a heavy concentration of things like dogs, strollers, and yoga pants. But there is an oasis from the stereotypes, and that is Home Plate. This place recently moved from its old Lombard Street location to a bigger, slightly less homey space (also on Lombard Street), and is still holding its own at brunch-time with omelets, benedicts, free scones, and portions that seem to have been designed more for Milwaukee than the Marina. We love it.
One of the newer spots in the neighborhood, Roma Antica does Italian food that’s high-quality without being too fancy. They particularly excel at pastas, like the pappardelle with oxtail ragu and seasonal risotto - and make sure you save room for dessert, because there’s a pizza dough-Nutella situation here that’s phenomenal. The people who run the place are very nice, and the service is quick and friendly.
Le Marais churns out phenomenal croissants, granola, and Stumptown coffee starting at 7am, and serves the best French pastries in the city. The breakfast board mix and match option is pretty wonderful (since you can get a little granola, an egg, smoked salmon, and your pick of pastries). Just avoid the avocado “toast” - it’s an avocado on a croissant, which is silly - and brace yourself to be treated as an inconvenience at best. Tres French.
Toma is our favorite taco spot in the neighborhood - their meats, tortillas, and salsas are all excellent. We’re partial to the carne asada and Tuesday-only special chicken mole. It’s definitely a grab-and-go situation (or on a sunny day of fighting hangovers, a good place to scarf a breakfast burrito at a sidewalk table).
The best Indian food in the neighborhood. We like getting takeout here, but whether we’re bringing our food home or sitting down, we’re getting the Navratan korma (saucy vegetables), butter chicken, and tandoori fish. Also, all the naan.
Bonita falls between Toma and Tacolicious on the fanciness scale. The dressing on the campesina ensalada is ridiculously good (add the fresh rotisserie chicken), and the carnitas are spot on, too. The margaritas are also great for an order-at-the-counter spot. On a sunny, non-windy afternoon, the tables in the side alleyway are where you want to sit.
Another excellent, not-fancy place to eat some pasta. Don’t come for fresh ramps and sage-ricotta-truffle dust, but do come for lots of well-cooked carbs in delicious sauces, plus an ambience that feels like home. This is where we go when we need a pasta hug. The carbonara is never a bad move.
Right in the heart of it all, the outdoor tables at Delarosa are the ideal spot for Chestnut Street people-watching. Excellent burrata and small plates plus decent pizzas round out the food situation. But let’s be real, you’re here for live-action Tinder.
The kale salad is great, the chips and guacamole are great, the short rib tacos are phenomenal, and this spot is an overall good time. If you weren’t already convinced, free chips, delicious drinks, and a busy but not insane crowd of neighborhood people make Tacolicious a standby. Drink across the street at Campus while you wait for your table.
A 16 is a place we deeply, deeply love. From the perfect pizza out of the wood-fired oven to the stellar wine list to the twinkly lights of the back garden window to the ridiculously good ragu, this spot has Feel Good Factor(™) to the max. And best of all, you can usually pop in and sit down without a decades-long wait.
Best Chinese takeout around (but also good for a casual sit-down meal). Garlic eggplant, lemongrass chicken, and moo shu pork should all be in your order.
If you’ve ever been at Lombard + Steiner between 10am and 4pm on a weekend and wondered why there’s a crowd of people who look like they’re waiting to get on a bus to Coachella, it’s probably the line for the all-you-can-drink dim sum brunch at Chubby Noodle. Dinner here is still a party, but slightly less ragey, and the duck lettuce wraps and pork tacos are things you 1000% need to order.
While a little pricey, Chotto has some kick*ss skewers, solid ramen, and most importantly, delicious bacon-wrapped mochi. It’s also never too crowded, so it’s easy to pop in without a wait or reservation. It’s our favorite Japanese restaurant in the area.
Unless you’ve been living in the tunnels under Alcatraz, you’ve probably heard that the burger at Causwells is the sh*t. We readily confirm that and endorse this place for brunch, lunch, or afternoon cocktails. Dinner is pretty good, but the daytime is when Causwells really shines. The space has a bunch of good bar seats, plus a few more that look out over Chestnut, and on a nice day the tables outside are where it’s at.
From the outside, this looks like a tiny Italian market. From the inside, you can see that it is in fact that, as well as a sandwich temple. The porchetta and caprese (with prosciutto) sandwiches are the way to go. Order online so you won’t have to wait.
Izzy’s is a serious local, old-school operation throwing down generous portions of meat, creamed spinach, and more of the usual steakhouse standbys. It’s a family favorite, provided your family includes some hardcore carnivores. The friendly service will make you feel like a local no matter how long you’ve lived here.
This place thinks it’s in LA in 1999, and that putting things that aren’t beef & broccoli into Chinese takeout containers is a good idea. If you can get past that, the salads are delicious and full of toppings, and the sandwiches, especially the Kickin’ Chicken and Ragin’ Cajun, are awesome. The place is so popular that they have two locations less than a block apart. One, on Chestnut, is mainly to-go, does salads and grain bowls, and has a few indoor seats and outdoor tables. The larger Steiner location does all the sandwiches, plus salads and grain bowls, and has a boatload of seating in an airy back space.