Mr. & Mrs. M. get BOMBED!
The building situated on the corner of North Water Street and East Knapp has seen a number of booze joints come and go over the years. After McGillycuddy’s moved down the street, the space briefly housed a unique, British-style pub called London Bridge ( on a personal note: we are patiently waiting for somebody else to bring British pub food as authentic as that back to the area).
There were a laundry list of other short-lived taverns before AJ Bombers moved in, which is (thankfully) not just another place on Water Street to get bombed, as we found out after putting their now- famous hamburger to the test.
The giant banner in its window brags about how AJ Bombers won the Travel Channel’s Food Wars contest for best burger in Milwaukee, beating out long-time local favorite Sobelman’s Pub & Grill. They did this with a hamburger patty made from their “signature” blend of a 100% organic, grass-fed ground beef brisket, sirloin and chuck topped with Wisconsin Colby cheese, crispy Nueske’s bacon and sweet onions sautéed in Schlitz beer, between two buns from local Miller Bakery. This is a decadent burger that screams “Milwaukee.”
Owned by the same folks who operate Swig and Water Buffalo, AJ Bombers is as fun as the burgers are delicious. The interior is crudely inviting, with hand-written graffiti on every wall and peanut shells strewn all over the floor. Overhead, elevated tracks for small, hand-propelled “bombs” shoot out periodically to bull’s-eye targets strategically located throughout the place. The mini-missiles crash with a bang over tables, and pour out a load of fresh peanuts for customers to snack on while they wait.
Mrs. M. opted for a plain burger for $4.50, and Mr. M. had to try the now-famous ¼-pound“Milwaukee Burger” for $7.50 with a small order of the nicely seasoned “Gi-Normous” fries for $2 and a “Bloody Bomber” Bloody Mary, garnished with a mini bacon-cheese-burger patty on a stick for $7.50. A-W-E-S-O-M-E!
The menu also offers a turkey burger served on a foccacia bun and a vegetarian black-bean burger (which can be made suitable for vegans), both for $6. The Veggie Burger is less than 350 calories and costs only $5. For $6.50, you can order a peanut butter burger (that’s right – they put peanut butter on it!), and $4.50 will get you either a kosher, all-beef hot dog with cheese and grilled onions or a grilled cheese with bacon on Panini bread.
The side dish selections present some interesting options. The Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls ($5) are made of chopped buffalo chicken and Cheddar cheese, and come with a side of ranch or blue cheese dressing. An order of three warm pretzels with AJ Bombers’ Wisconsin “mustardy cheese” sauce (or plain cheese sauce) costs $4.50.
For dessert, how about a Sprecher root beer float for $5 or an ice-cream cookie sandwich ($2 for the small, $5 for a large)?
The menu is simple, but quality takes precedence over quantity here. The kitschy interior, combined with a fresh take on classic American fare, makes AJ Bombers a welcome change from the standard Water Street repertoire.
1247 N. Water St.,
Major credit cards accepted.
1½ pounds ground chuck
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces gorgonzola or other blue cheese — crumbled
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
3 tablespoons *Dijonnaise dressing (see second recipe below)
1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
4 toasted buns
Preheat a grill on medium-high heat. While your grill heats up, make the Dijonnaise dressing and set it aside.
Combine the ground beef (see notes below), onion salt and pepper. Mix in the crumbled gorgonzola and distribute evenly through the meat. Form into four burgers. Refrigerate until ready to grill.
Combine the mustard, Dijonnaise dressing and tarragon. Set aside.
Grease the rack of the grill with oil or non-stick spray and grill the burgers over a hot fire to the desired temperature (see notes below). You want your burgers to quickly sizzle, firm up, and release from the grill. Despite the fact that the AJ Bombers cook in the video pressed their winning burger down on the grill hard with a spatula, we wouldn’t recommend this at home — the juice that seeps out holds most of the flavor and moisture. We’re not quite sure how AJ Bombers managed to produce such juicy burgers with all that spatula-pressing; it must be a closely-held secret!
When the burgers are done, let them rest a few minutes before eating. This allows them to finish cooking and allows their juices, which have collected on the surface during grilling, to redistribute throughout patty. Top each one with 1 tablespoon of the sauce. Serve on toasted buns.
This recipe serves 4. Enjoy!
*Dijonnaise dressing recipe
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon cider or white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil*
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium-sized bowl, blend mustard and vinegar, then add oil and seasonings. Mix well. This dressing will keep sealed 15 days in the refrigerator. Shake well before using.
Make sure you use the right kind of beef! For juicy burgers, buy ground chuck with a fat content of no less than 18%. Lean and extra-lean meat make tough, dry burgers. Freshly ground meat makes for a more tender and flavorful burger. Also, the more you handle the meat, the tougher your burger will be. Use wet hands to form the patties; this keeps your hands from getting sticky and it allows the meat to come together faster and prevents over-handling. Be sure to use a clean, well-oiled, preheated grill. Bits of debris encourage sticking, as does an un-oiled surface and too low a temperature.