Cari Taylor-Carlson

Oscar’s Is Hamburger Heaven

Delicious and low-priced, griddled not grilled burgers, with great fries. Yummy.

By - Sep 22nd, 2016 02:01 pm
Oscar's Pub & Grill. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Oscar’s Pub & Grill. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Because I’m incapable of making a decent burger at home, yet occasionally crave something fat, juicy, perfectly seared, and medium rare served on a bun, I’m drawn to joints that deliver only the best. Over the last four decades I’ve frequented Sobelman’s, Bomber’s, Elsa’s, and with the family, Solly’s, where butter drools off the meat and soaks the bun. All good.

Now there’s Oscar’s, not exactly a newcomer to the “Best Milwaukee Burger” but one that’s memorable. Oscar Castaneda flipped burgers at Sobelman’s before striking out on his own in a former bar on Pierce Street in 2011. I could have been one of his first fans as I’ve been singing the praises of The Big Gringo burger ($6.50) for years. My taste buds tingle as I describe my favorite toppings: two cheeses, white cheddar and American, plus thick-sliced hickory smoked bacon. Put those on a burger, on a bun, that’s soft, but not Wonder Bread mushy, and you have a hell of a good burger.

The Big Gringo. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

The Big Gringo. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

It’s worth a mention that Oscar builds these burgers with multiple toppings, yet somehow keeps them to a manageable size. Customers don’t need a hinged mandible, ie a lower jaw that drops down to accommodate huge portions, in order to get their mouths around the burger and all its extra toppings.

Only The Big Foot ($6.75), however delicious, presented a problem the first time I ordered it. Because it was layered with crumbled blue, boursin cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion, it required a knife and fork. The cheeses were not enhanced by the lettuce and the tomato; I would keep the onion.

The burgers, griddled not grilled, have a nice crust that retains the juices. They are eight fat ounces of delicious beef that can stand alone in the classic, the plain burger (a mere $5.00) that comes (as all the burgers do) with a heap of hand cut fries sprinkled with parmesan. The most expensive burger, The Big O (Chipotle jack, smoked gouda, hickory bacon, chorizo, fried onions, jalapenos and a side of house guacamole) is just 7.25.

Since I planned to review Oscar’s, I sidetracked to the Other Favorites and sampled a Cuban Frankie ($6.50. A classic Cuban with pulled pork, ham, pickle, swiss, and Dijon mustard on ciabatta, it was a fine sandwich, but nothing special that I would order again. Those delicious fries livened the plate.

On my last visit, I got a puzzled glance from the server when I ordered Oscar’s Big Basket ($6.50) for my lunch. It’s a fine appetizer for four, not an appropriate lunch for one. Everything in the basket — and there was plenty — was deep-fried: the pickle slices, green beans, cheese curds and the single chicken tender. At the bottom I excavated some fries, a soggy pile as they were buried. Ranch and BBQ dipping sauces added potential flavor to the mess of fried but not greasy basket’s medley.

All my meals at Oscar’s have taken place on the back deck where, if I looked carefully, I saw the southern end of Milwaukee’s downtown in the distance. Inside is a classic bar; I prefer the deck.

An overflowing parking lot at noon on a weekday spoke volumes about this burger joint. It may be out of the way on the near South Side, a block from National Ave, but if someone named Oscar griddles burgers this good, the locals will come.

Oscar’s Pub & Grill

On the Menu

The Rundown

3 thoughts on “Dining: Oscar’s Is Hamburger Heaven”

  1. Hereiam says:

    Oscar’s > Sobelman’s > the rest of Milwaukee’s burger joints.

  2. P L C Nakamura says:

    What about the OTHER Oscar’s, with 3 locations: West Allis/ Highway 100; Franklin/ 27th Street, and Brookfield on Highway 18?

    Great burgers and my favorite, Sloppy Joes; yummy frozen custard.

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @P L C Nakamura Not the same business.

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