Welcome to the Milwaukee Burger Quest. This is a list 24 of the best burgers in the Milwaukee area. It is meant for the lover of the simple hamburger and its many forms.
Thank you for visiting the Best Burgers in Milwaukee, a list of 24 of the best burgers in the Milwaukee area. If you are like me, you want to find who makes the best burgers and not waste the time or money on mediocre burgers.
There is no order or ranking as that would be far too subjective and is different from person to person. However each restaurant, bar or pub was personally visited by me for the purpose of review of their burgers.
I personally have eaten over 75 burgers in the Milwaukee and surrounding area to bring you this list. Since I am comparing all of them to one another, these are the burgers I judged to be the best in the Milwaukee area.
This results in a comprehensive comparison from one source vs. multiple sources in a popularity poll like most internet websites provide with user content.
I visited each restaurant or bar to review the burger myself. I not only reviewed the burger but took photos for you to see what each burger looks like. This makes it easier to determine which burgers you may want to check out for yourself since burgers can be made so many ways and people have their own preferences in the style of burger. Some like a lot of toppings and some purists like a bare bones approach.
I tried to include a diverse selection of burger styles as well as the establishments themselves. I did not review chain restaurants like George Webbs, TGI Fridays, Culvers, Fuddruckers or Chili’s although I love Fuddruckers burgers and even Chili’s, yes Chili’s, has got a great cheeseburger.
There are burgers at high end restaurants with white tablecloths and waiters in white coats and ties like Lagniappe, Eddie Martini’s and Mason Street Grill and there is a biker bar, Hogg Alley and bars that are new to the market like AJ Bombers and places that have been around since the 30’s like Solly’s. There is a good mix of burger styles too like the thin patty on a Kopp’s burger to the fat burger patty at Mason St. Grill. There are burgers for the purists who want a bare bones burger like one of my favorite burgers on the list, the Kobe beef burger at Lagniappe with only a slice of nine year old cheddar cheese on it to the burgers with the whole works like the burgers at Hi Hat, Honey Pie or Hogg Alley which are huge. There is also everything else in between
Karl Kopp, veteran Milwaukee Burgermiester has a great quote, “A perfect hamburger is a culinary masterpiece”. Each restaurant has their own approach to food but it is the attention to detail and the desire to create a burger that is better than others which helps you end up on this list.
My personal bias is the overall taste of a burger. I do like a burger with all of the trimmings and even the more unusual toppings like crab cake on the Caliburger at the Hi Hat, the sliced apple on the Whiskey Roadhouse at Harry’s Bar & Grill or the fried egg at Carlton Grange Pub and Honeypie. I think these additions can add dimension and depth of flavor to a burger and make it great. I also like a burger at its simplest essence like the Kobe burger at Lagniappe which consisted of just the burger patty, cheese and bun and was one of my top personal picks, a true culinary masterpiece.
When choosing the best burgers in Milwaukee over the very good burgers of Milwaukee I looked at several things. I look at the three components to see how they were handled, the bun, meat and toppings. Each has its role and helps to determine the overall quality and taste in the burger. One of the biggest factors though is attention to detail and the freshness and quality of the ingredients. The bun has to be as fresh as possible and adequately sized, the meat has to be fresh, not frozen and the toppings have to be fresh and of the highest quality.
The bun is so important because it provides structure to the burger. It has to be big enough to support the meat and toppings without falling apart half way through. There are a number of varieties of buns: simple white burger bun Kaiser rolls, Chiabatta rolls, and many are sourced locally at the better bakeries like Sciortino, Gonella, Miller and Breadsmith. Toasting the bun adds flavor as well as a little more structure to the burger. This can go a long way in separating a good burger from a great burger. Try the pretzel bun at Stack’d by the way.
The meat is the backbone and base for the entire burger. The quality and freshness of the meat is one of the biggest determining factors. It should always be fresh, never frozen. Though beef is the preferred meat, lamb, bison, turkey and even ostrich and other exotic meats are available. A meat that lacks flavor like turkey can be transformed into a very flavorful burger with the addition of great condiments like the Sriracha mayo and curry ketchup at Café Hollander.
The grade of meat, mixture ratio of fat to meat, cut of meat used can all greatly affect the overall flavor of the burger as well. Lagniappe uses Kobe beef as well as some slider trios popping up on late night menus. USDA Prime beef is used at Smyth and Branded restaurants. USDA Prime is almost only sold to restaurants and only accounts for 2% of the meat sold and graded in the US. The way it is cooked can greatly affect the taste whether it is broiled, fried or grilled.
I try to make note of as much of this in the reviews so you know ahead of time before going to a restaurant to see whether the burger appeals to you. No other review website does all of this for you.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to toppings. Some people are purists and like a very basic burger with condiments held to a minimum. Others like the works and then some. I tried to give people some of both. The thing I look for first and foremost is taste, they just have to taste great. Lagniappe is bare bones as you can get but remains one of my personal favorites and the Hi Hat and Stack’d burgers are piled high with toppings but are favorites too.
Toppings can be anything from the traditional ketchup, mustard, onions, pickles, lettuce and tomato to just about anything you can imagine. My only criteria is it has to taste good, it has to work. The avocado at the Hi Hat works well, the mesclun mix instead of the very boring iceberg lettuce also works as does the fried shoestring onions at Trinity. Fried eggs are a good topping at Carlton Grange as well as Honeypie make a really good topping and the sautéed mushrooms and onions at Mulligans are especially good. The giant cheese filled deep fried Portobello mushroom on the Bomber burger at AJ bomber’s is one of the more unusual burger toppings but has quickly caught on in Milwaukee judging from their Twitter followers.
Bacon is also one of my favorite burger toppings. The quality of the bacon will however make or break the burger and a high quality bacon must be used such as Nueske’s smoked bacon. It should be smoked, thickly cut and meaty. The smoke adds a great depth of flavor the whole burger. I’ve had burgers that might of made it to the best list but had that cheap thin bacon found on cheap buffets and tastes terrible and can ruin an otherwise great burger.
Cheese is another natural burger topper and there are good burgers with Bleu cheese like the Blue Pig at Palomino, the Feta cheese on the Greek Maiden at Elsa’s, the unusual Velveeta at Eddie Martini’s and the nine year old cheddar at Lagniappe. It was made when Clinton was still in office!
One underused item is a really good sauce. Purists might say the burger should hold it’s own and I see the point but some burgers can really be transformed with a good sauce. The Turkey Burger at Café Hollander would normally be a very boring burger since there isn’t much inherent flavor ground turkey but with the addition of Sriracha mayo and Curry Ketchup, it becomes and awesome burger. The Trinity sauce on the Other burger at Trinity is really good too being made in house and is a mixture of mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard, horseradish, Worchestershire sauce, demi-glace and black pepper. Although the remoulade is not normally included with the burger at Triskele’s, ask Chef Klopp to include it with your burger. It also makes a fantastic dipping sauce for the fries. You’ll pitch the ketchup, trust me.
A good sauce can really take a burger to the next level and I’d like to see more places experiment with new sauce and topping combinations.