It’s not too often to be wowed by a burger. After having more than 100 burgers to find the best in Milwaukee, many are just another burger that fails to make any kind of impression. See that is what I am looking for, something that is above and beyond all the other burgers out there. There has to be something that sets the burger apart from all others. That is why I after going back to some places and reviewing places that were suggested to me by readers, I found the burger at Distil.
As part of the SURG group, Distil like their other restaurants like Carnivor, Mi-Keys, Umami Moto, Graffito, Charro and others offers more upscale (and expensive) dining in the Downtown area of Milwaukee. Their food tends to be done at a higher level and it should come as no surprise that when they offered a burger on the menu, it would be great although I did have the burger at Mi-Keys, it was good but that’s all. This isn’t GoodBurgersInMilwaukee.com this is BESTBurgersInMilwaukee.com.
Distil is foremost a place for cocktails that also serves a very small menu but very refined menu. In fact, everything Distil does is focused on the more refined from the ingredients used in their food to the many liquors, wines and cheeses. Just in whiskey they have a selection of more than 100 varieties. They have plates of cheese or charcuterie (variety of meats) and other food offerings that go well with fine wines or upscale cocktails. As I sat at the bar, it was fascinating watching the bartenders as they crafted each cocktail with a lot of care and skill. These are far from whiskey sours and brandy old fashions, they are all made from craft liquors and top ingredients and are on the pricier side but are part of the experience of an upscale night out.
There is only one burger offered at Distil, the Hidden Creek Farm Burger named for the SURG Group’s farm in New London WI where they raise their own vegetables & cows where they get their beef for their restaurants. The meat is actually butchered right across the street at Charro by the chef at Distil so the meat is fresh and locally sourced and lately I’m on a high grade quality meat kick as in that is what helps make a great burger.
The Hidden Creek Burger is $11 and it’s description says: “Aged cheddar, boubon onion jam and roasted garlic mayo” which is simple enough but doesn’t even hint at what you are in store for. The first thing you notice on your first bite into the burger is the incredible amount of flavor in the onions. Onion jam just doesn’t sound like anything you want on a burger BUT these are the best ‘grilled’ onions you will ever have. In fact it will kind of ruin it for any other grilled onions you will ever have on a burger again. That is because most places don’t grill their onions for four days! In fact, I’m pretty sure no one else does. They typically start off with 75-100 pounds of onions and slowly let them simmer in butter and Jim Beam bourbon whiskey so they become a deep dark caramelized brown elixir that is insanely sweet and flavorful. The roasted garlic mayo just adds to the depth of flavor and make this one of my favorite burgers in Milwaukee. Lagniappe is still my favorite but this has to be a close second.
The fact that that the meat is so full of juice and flavor too that it becomes a little difficult to eat but will be a burger you remember 9and even fantasize about if you are on a burger quest as I have been. As awesome as the onions are, I don’t want to short change the beef. As I’ve said, I’m paying more attention to the beef recently and looking for those burgers that you really can taste the higher quality in the choice of beef they use. Here the simple four elements combine for a truly outstanding burger. If you are in Milwaukee from out of town and don’t have much time to make it to some of the suburban locations to try a burger in Milwaukee, try the Hidden Farms burger. You won’t be disappointed .
Dr. Dawg, are you serious?
Yes I am. Dr Dawg despite the name has a seriously great burger. Dr. Dawg is a Chicago style hot dog-Italian beef-burgers shop like you find on just about every street in Chicago, there are very few in the Milwaukee area. Despite the fact that it is Chicago inspired in the middle of Packerland and Cheesehead Central, the food is very good.
As a matter of fact , I used to live in Chicago when I got out of high school and despite having to get used to living on your own in a very fast paced city, I got a job at Dogs ‘R’ Us near Belmont & Broadway near where I lived and I’m very familiar with the menu that is pretty standard for these types of places. I also learned how a REAL hot dog is supposed to taste (not an Oscar Meyer pork byproduct dog) with a Vienna frank made with beef on a steamed bun and raw onions, mustard, hot peppers, pickle spear, celery salt, tomatoes and that special neon green relish but never ketchup. NEVER ketchup! This was new to me since I always put ketchup and mustard on a hot dog but trust me, they are militant about not putting ketchup on a hot dog down there. There are hot dog shops that will throw you out for asking for ketchup on your hot dog. I’m serious.
The burgers at these places are usually good but not great by any means, just a frozen patty thrown on the grill, mashed with a spatula, slid off onto a cheap bun and had the usual fixings thrown on top and that was it. I had to get creative in ways to try to make them for myself when I ate them every day but there was only so much you could do with thin frozen patties and cheap buns. This however is how most of the Chicago hot dog joints treat their burgers on the menu. But not Dr. Dawg.
Dr. Dawg is owned by a transplanted couple from Chicago who know food. Although they patterned the sore after the style in Chicago they really focused on improving the quality and taste of the food to be better than what is typical. The burgers start out from high quality beef from Niman Ranch that is fed from a strict vegetarian diet with raised in humane standards. This part is so key in making a great burger. From there, the meat is mixed in a special blend that the owner perfected based on a blend used by his mom and created by his dad who was a butcher in Chicago that supplied beef to high end restaurants. The patties are loosely formed by hand and then seared on a griddle to lock the juices in and then char grilled.
Note- they grill the burgers to a medium well doneness unless you ask first. They will grill it to however you like it but make sure you specify or it will more well done.
There are numerous toppings you can get but you know that when you see Nueske’s bacon as an option that it is not a typical fast food place. The Dawg’s hot sauce and mayo makes a really good sauce by the way with great flavor and just enough heat.
Don’t pass on the fries by the way. I have cut back on fries to the point I no longer order them or substitute something else in place of them because after having so many burgers and fries, it started taking it’s toll in added weight I gained but I didn’t pass up the free small order of fries I received during the one year anniversary of Dr. Dawg’s opening. These reminded me of the fries at Dogs ‘R’ Us that I made myself. They are fried to a dark brown with coarse salt on top and really full of flavor. They have a creamy consistency on the inside of the fry and a great dark brown exterior that is far and above the typical blanched white potato French fry you see everywhere. These are really worth trying.
Here is my burger from my second visit:
Dr. Dawg even serves beer with a surprisingly good beer list:
Oscar’s Pub & Grill
Oscar’s The Grouch
Ok, ok, I know that I haven’t added any reviews to BBIM for a while but I wanted to get some reader feedback and make sure there weren’t any places that I missed. Well I did here feedback from some people about Oscar’s burgers. At first I thought they were talking about Oscar’s Custard & Burgers but then I found out about Oscar’s Bar & Grill. Oscar’s Burgers & Custard is good, any time you can get a decent burger and real Milwaukee custard is a good thing but Oscar’s Pub burgers are on a whole different level.
First of all, Oscar’s is located in an unlikely spot on 17 & Pierce on the near south side of Milwaukee. It is primarily an area that used to be industrial but could be the next up & coming area of urban renewal (for any of you budding Donald Trump tycoons). The neighborhood is pretty quite and like many other areas in Milwaukee is in transition as many post industrial cities are. That is why Oscar’s seems out of place at first since it has a very warm and welcoming vibe to it once you are inside.
The overall feel of the relatively small bar is warm and relaxed. There is a patio which is always nice in the warmer months that overlooks the Menomonee Valley and a nice spot to enjoy a burger and a beer. There is even a ping pong table in the back of the bar which is always fun after having several beers with friends. The staff is friendly and welcoming many times with Oscar himself behind the bar. No, Oscar is not a Grouch but very friendly & welcoming, I just couldn’t think of another famous Oscar to use in the headline other than Oscar The Grouch.
Oscar’s heritage is Mexican but he managed to take something as American as the hamburger and do it right. There are 4 burgers on the menu: the Big O, Big Gringo, Big Foot and the Big Aloha and are all made from premium Black Angus ground beef.. The Big O ($7.25) has chipotle jack cheese, smoked Gouda cheese, thick hickory smoked bacon, fried onions, jalapenos and chorizo Mexican sausage. The Big Gringo ($6.75) has white cheddar cheese, American cheese and thick sliced Hickory smoked bacon. The Big Foot ($6.75) has crumbled bleu and Boursin cheese, lettuce & tomato. The Aloha burger ($6.75) has Havarti cheese, pineapple, avocado and ham. These prices are very reasonable for ANY burger these days but are a real bargain for an AWESOME burger!
I had the Big O which properly starts off with a nice sturdy roll which is slightly grilled. Once you cut into the burger you can’t help notice one of the stars of the burger and that is the chorizo sausage. Chorizo is the Mexican pork sausage that is made with Spanish paprika which gives the sausage its characteristic red color which is apparent immediately once you cut the burger or bite into it as the bun and plate turn bright red with the juice from the beef and the color from the chorizo. I love new flavors on burgers BUT they must work well and not be different to be different. The chorizo works because the spices and flavor from the pork sausage complement the excellent beef flavor of the ground Black Angus beef.
The smoked Hickory bacon is also front and center in taste as you first bite in. In addition to the flavor from the meats, the flavored cheeses, fried onions and jalapenos work together to make the Big O a very enjoyable burger. Don’t be afraid of the jalapenos since they are full of the jalapenos unique pepper flavor but not it’s characteristic heat. In fact for those of you that are looking for more heat on your burger will be a little disappointed and may want to ask for peppers with a lot more kick.
I’ve had many orders of fries with the burgers I’ve reviewed (way too many) and most of them are the go-through-the-motions type fries where they are like any other standard bar fries. These are not your average bar fries hanging around the bar (like bar flies, get it?). These fries are freshly cut with the skin on which makes them brown up because the starch hasn’t been washed out of them which lets them get the deeper flavor after browning. They are then sprinkled with a parmesan cheese and served with side of Oscar’s home made guacamole. The guac is good enough to come down to Oscar’s to have by itself. It is chunky and full of flavor and finally someone adds enough cilantro to guacamole. Spot on! Try dipping the fries in the guac and screw the ketchup!
I have yet to try any of the other Oscar’s burgers, butI will update this as I try the others which I will for sure be doing as Oscar’s may be a new bar, only opening in March of 2011 but they have already made their mark as one of the best burgers in Milwaukee.
One thing that is great about doing this website is that everyone I talk to has an opinion about who has the best burgers in Milwaukee and for the most part of tried most of them at least the ones that are on most people’s list but every once in a while I’ll bump into someone who is a raving fan about a burger that somehow escaped my list of places to visit. I was at a function downtown and met these guys who worked in Thiensville and swore their favorite bar had the best burgers in the area. All right, I put them on the list although I was a little skeptical since I never saw their name on a list. Well, I was wrong to be skeptical; Skippy’s has a fantastic burger!
Even after months and months of trying different burgers and AFTER I already tried the Skippy burger, a very good friend said “Hey, you should go to Thiensville, just behind the old fire station is a place called Skippy’s that has THE BEST burgers”. I thanked him for the late tip but I already decided to put them on the site.
Skippy’s is located across the street from the Milwaukee River and it has a small creek in the back of it. It is a Wisconsin landmark that was built in 1853 and was originally a hotel. Today it is just a corner bar that has great bar specials ($2.50 drinks Mon-Thurs 3-6), great food and a great burger.
The burgers (there are 11 options) but the Skippy Burger is the one that is most popular. There isn’t even that much special in it’s appearance, it looks like a lot of others but it’s a different story when you bite into the burger. It has so much great flavor much do to the “secret sauce” which is a little like Thousand Island but not as thick and more flavorful.
113 Green Bay Rd.
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