Not many Milwaukee restaurants have as much history as Mader's. You’ll dine amid a stunning $3 million dollar collection of art, suits of medieval armour and antiques dating back to the 14th century.
Mader's has been voted the most famous German restaurant in North America. Some years ago, in 1902 to be exact, things weren't quite the same. An ambitious young German immigrant, Charles Mader, poured his life savings into a speculative venture: he purchased a small building on 233 W. Water Street (now Plankington Avenue) and hung out his sign. "The Comfort," it read, was comfortable, with it's "soft" wooden chairs and Oaken tables. Today's $3,000,000 collection of Medieval Germanic weaponry hadn't arrived, but you could find a few dozen wall pegs on which to hang coats.
Young Mader only served the best of food and drink in his Milwaukee restaurant, so he felt warranted in charging well for his fare. Dinner, including tip and beverage was 20 cents and big steins of "Cream City" beer were 3 cents each, two for a nickel. If you spent 5 cents on beer your lunch was free.
This was the era when "bucket boys," toting a board dangling a half dozen pails of frothy beer, made the rounds through office buildings. Their refreshing goods were passed around to all - the early beer capitals natural answer to today's coffee break. The "Comfort" restaurant fared well and soon moved to its present location, 1041 North Old World Third Street. Then, after 18 years, a crushing blow struck the establishment: Prohibition threatened! Charles Mader hung a large sign in his window: "Prohibition is near at hand. Prepare for the worst. Stock up now! Today and tomorrow there's beer. Soon there'll be only the lake."
When Prohibition struck in 1919, Mader turned full attention to his big kitchen which yielded his now famous rustic German dishes. The sauerbraten, wiener schnitzel and pork shank were called on to meet the challenge and hold the trade without the compliment of the traditional stein of beer. They held up well, all the way to that jubilant, cheering night of April 7, 1933. Mader's was there to serve that first legal stein of beer in Milwaukee and it was announced from Mader's on the city's only radio station on that historic midnight.
Times changed when the depressed early thirties passed. Mr. Mader's two sons, George and Gustave, began helping the aging Charles. The famous restaurateur passed away in 1938. His two sons took over and continued the work. World War II came and Mader's de-emphasized its German theme but otherwise fared well. People often lined up hungrily awaiting their chance to indulge in a crispy pork shank, tender wiener schnitzel or tangy platter of sauerbraten. Gus and George celebrated Mader's 50th anniversary by adding a new dining room, the"Jaeger Strube" In 1958, George Mader died, leaving brother Gus had to shoulder the entire burden. He proved to be a capable owner and succeeded in maintaining the Milwaukee restaurants tradition.
In 1961, Gus enrolled his son, Victor, In Michigan State University's restaurant college. After graduation, Victor spent many months working in Europe. In 1964, Victor joined Gus in the running of the family's Milwaukee restaurant.
The 1970's, were years of great change at Mader's: In 1975, after fifty-two years of controlling Mader's kitchens, Katherine Mader retired. Later years brought dozens of menu changes and additions, including Mader's now famous Sunday Viennese Brunch, which debuted to turn away crowds in November 1977.
In the early seventies Mader's foyer became, for a few short years, a miniature art gallery. In 1977, the operations were moved to the second floor of the Milwaukee restaurant, and in 1980, into the present Tower Galleries. By 2002, Mader's became the world's largest Hummel store.
In 1977, Mader's second floor private dining room, the Baron's Rhine Stube, was added. All other dining rooms were remodeled. Large panels of original art in stained glass depicting the famous legends of the Rhine were installed. Dozens of superb European woodcarvings and antiques were acquired.
In 1988, Mader's Milwaukee restaurant was completely remodeled and a new dining room, named Burg Halle opened.
During the 1980's and 90's Mader's received continued accolades. The readers of all the publications in our state that rank restaurants chose Mader's as Wisconsin's best ethnic restaurant: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wisconsin Trails, Shepherd Express, Milwaukee Magazine and Exclusively Yours. It was a clean sweep.
OnMilwaukee.com and CitySearch.com ranked Mader's the number one ethnic restaurant. Milwaukee Magazine ranked it as the Best Brunch value in town, readers of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ranked Mader's as "Best Desserts" in the city. Recently America Online ranked it as among the best brunches in the city; AOL city Guide members and diners rank Mader's five stars, the highest rating.
In 1996, Mader's Catering was formed. Daniel Hazard serves as Executive Manager for events which have served parties from twenty guests to ten thousand.
In 2002, Mader's Tower Gallery was awarded the status of the World's Largest Hummel Store. (Be sure to visit our second floor gallery).