Rollicking, boisterous, and full of lederhosen, Mader’s (1037 N. Old World 3rd St., 414/271-3377, 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, till 10 p.m. Fri.–Sat., from 10:30 a.m. Sun., $18–24 ) has held its position as the German restaurant for the hoi polloi since 1902. Purists sometimes cringe at the over-the-top atmosphere (it’s packed to the rafters with German knickknacks, not to mention tour buses idling outside), but the cheeriness is unvanquishable.
Try the knudel (which doesn’t taste as if it came out of a box), Rheinischer sauerbraten, oxtail soup, or Bavarian-style pork shank. Mader’s also serves a Viennese brunch on Sunday.
However, Karl Ratzsch’s Old World Restaurant (320 E. Mason St., 414/276-2720, 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and 4:30–9 p.m. weekdays, 4:30–10 p.m. Sun., entrées $8–30) is superbly realized and this author’s fave Milwaukee  experience. This decidedly more upscale multiple- award winner is split into two levels. The lower level features a bar with an extensive stein collection and impressive dark interior woodwork.
The menu is copious and decidedly carnivorous—sauerbraten, braised pork shank, rouladen, käse spätzle, special strudels, and even some vegetarian offerings. Not Teutonic- centered? Even the fish fry is among Milwaukee’s best! A pianist tickles the keys nightly.