With anything that gets populated dynamically in Dreamweaver, it will at least require a working database connection - whether it is menu writer or any other server behavior. You may be able to connect to your database remotely through dreamweaver... while I don't recommend doing it that way, it is possible if your host allows for it. I prefer to make a mirror of my database on my local machine and write all code locally before uploading to the production environment.
Without a database connection and the appropriate data, though, you will have to do what your saying where you will have a trial and error of adjusting, uploading, and testing. That can get cumbersome over time... I would look into something like XAMP if you're on PC or MAMP if you're on Mac. These all-in-one server installs are fairly easy to set up and then you can even define local URLs for your testing environment. For example, I have my MAMP Pro set up where when I create a site locally, it is the same domain just without the extension. So, I would have "http://mysite/" for the local and then all I need to do is add the extension to see it online like "http://mysite.com/".'