Michael Holloway
Urban Guide

21 Great Burger Places

The best in town? Maybe, maybe not, but all not to be missed.

By - Aug 29th, 2017 03:58 pm
Oscar’s on Pierce's “The Big O.” Photo from Facebook.

Oscar’s on Pierce’s “The Big O.” Photo from Facebook.

What does the fast-food franchise have in common with the gastropub down the street and the Michelin-starred restaurant on the travel channel? Odds are, all have a burger on the menu. Everyone seems to serve a burger, it’s the all-American answer to what’s for lunch or dinner. And yet it can be hard to find a great burger, a perfectly formed beef patty with a great bun and delicious fixings. That’s why we’re making it easier for you by providing a list of 21 of the best burgers in town. Some are steeped in tradition, others are contemporary and offbeat, but they’re all delicious. We don’t claim we’ve got every great burger listed here, but are certain these are all worth trying. Did we miss any? Add your nominee in the comments section and let the delicious debate begin.

1. Goodkind’s “The Goodkind Burger”: The Goodkind burger is only available every Tuesday, but it’s a small window you don’t want to miss. Every week offers a slew of new ingredients, the only consistency being the delicious locally sourced beef purchased from Justin Carlisle’s (of Ardent fame) family farm. The burgers tend to stray from the traditional, with toppings such as bacon and egg relish and Hawaiian BBQ pork. With the kitchen staying open until 1 a.m., you’ll have no excuse to not treat yourself. 2457 S. Wentworth Ave. in Bay View.

2. Kopp’s Frozen Custard’s “Cheeseburger”: If the Kopp’s name isn’t already familiar to you, a simple visit to the burger and custard joint to witness the mass of people waiting in the food line is a testament to how good these burgers are. Kopp’s patties are some of the widest in the city; an unsuspecting customer might make the mistake of ordering the double cheeseburger and finding themselves unable to finish it. The standard cheeseburger at Kopp’s is the perfect amount of buttery beef, and it’s still a large patty. The toppings are ordered on a build-your-own basis, with only a few costing extra. Just make sure to leave room for the custard flavor of the day. Three locations, in Glendale, Greenfield and Brookfield.

3. Mazo’s “Bacon Cheeseburger”: The Mazo family has been honing their craft since 1934, so it should be no surprise that Mazo’s is on this list. Boasting fresh ground beef prepared in house, Mazo’s bacon cheeseburgers keep it simple with a choice of American or Swiss cheese and fried or raw onions and topped with three slices of bacon. Pair it with one of Mazo’s house-made malts or shakes served the old-fashioned way: in a frosted Malt Can. 3146 S. 27th St.

4. Nite Owl’s “Jumbo Cheeseburger”: Another Milwaukee staple that’s been around for more than half a century, Nite Owl offers a trip back in time when drive-in diners were much more common. The burgers at Nite Owl are made fresh with beef ground in-house, and the restaurant only stays open until they run out of burgers (usually around 6:30 p.m.). Nite Owl typically closes down for the winter around the first week of December, so get your fill in before then or you’ll be forced to wait until they reopen in the spring. 830 E. Layton Ave.

5. Sobelman’s “The Sobelman”: Sobelman’s has most recently been in the spotlight for their abnormally large Bloody Marys garnished with whole fried chickens, but the Sobelman family made their name with burgers. Their signature burger, “The Sobelman”, comes with three different cheeses: Swiss, American, and cheddar, topped with bacon, fried onions, and diced jalapenos. The fresh Black Angus beef burger comes on a country butter roll baked exclusively for Sobelman’s. Great fries, too. If you’re curious as to what the Sobelman family thinks of their burgers, just know that the URL milwaukeesbestburgers.com redirects to the Sobelman’s website. Four locations, including the original at 1900 W. St. Paul Ave.

6. AJ Bomber’s “The Bomber Burger”: The Travel Channel’s “Food War’s” once pitted AJ Bombers against Sobeman’s in a burger-off, and AJ Bombers was determined the winner (Sobelman’s burger is now permanently on their menu as “The Loser” — what good sportsmanship). “The Bomber Burger” is a ¼ pound custom-blend burger patty topped with American cheese, lettuce, and Bomber sauce (a house take on thousand island). Stacked on top of that: a whole portabella mushroom stuffed with Muenster cheese and Wisconsin cheddar, with a choice between crispy fried or baked. That’s a lot of cheese. 1247 N. Water St.

7. Oscar’s on Pierce’s “The Big O”: Not to be confused with the Oscar’s chain that just so happens to also have a burger called “The Big O.” The homepage of Oscar’s website sports a blown up picture of their “Big O” burger—no introductions needed. “The Big O” is a half-pound Premium Black Angus beef burger that shouldn’t be taken lightly—it’s topped with Chipotle Jack, Chorizo, and Jalapenos, giving it a spicy kick. It’s also smothered in Smoked Gouda and fried onions with Hickory smoked bacon stacked on top. As if that wasn’t enough to sell you, “The Big O” is served with a side of guacamole and house-made parmesan French fries. Come hungry. 1712 W. Pierce St.

8. Solly’s “Solly’s Burger”: If you don’t like butter, then Solly’s is not for you. Solly’s has been on numerous national top burger lists, and for many is the epitome of Wisconsin culture. The Solly’s burger is made from fresh sirloin beef ground in-house, topped with their signature stewed onions and lots and lots of Wisconsin butter. Be warned: eating a Solly’s burger is a race against time, as eventually the bottom bun will disintegrate from all of the excess butter. 4629 N. Port Washington Rd.

9. Stack’d “The Hangover Stack”: Lots of choices here, so if you don’t like making decisions, maybe Stack’d isn’t the burger spot for you. Stack’d is the self-proclaimed “burger bar for foodies,” and with 13 different specialty burgers, six different bun options, and a build-your-own burger menu, there’s a little bit of something for even the most pretentious of burger connoisseurs. “The Hangover Stack” is the shameless hot seller at Stack’d; it’s smothered in fried onions and Wisconsin Cheddar, and topped with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and (of course) a fried egg. The next time that you are over-served at your favorite watering hole, stop into Stack’d and they’ll fix you right up. 170 S. 1st St.

10. Vanguard’s “Thee Dirty Burger”: When making your own sausages in-house leaves you with assorted ground meats from the occasional burst sausage tube, do you just throw them away? Chef Shay Linkus takes the resourceful route and makes a patty out of the leftover tasty bits. “Thee Dirty Burger” is a sausage and beer patty on a brioche bun, smothered in house-made Velveeta cheese and topped with bacon bits, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and ok sauce (a traditional condiment from the UK). Vanguard also gives you the option to style your Dirty Burger by city; ordering it Milwaukee style comes topped with cheese curds, cheddar cheese, and house-made cheese whiz. 2659 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Bay View.

11. Good City Brewing’s “The Aussie Burger”: There’s a famous scene in the 1984 film Crocodile Dundee where protagonist Crocodile Dundee, when threatened by a mugger with a knife, responds with “that’s not a knife”, then pulls out a much larger knife and says “that’s a knife.” The Aussie Burger towers over the average burger, and it’s easy to imagine this same exchange between Brewery Chef Guy Davies and another chef. The Aussie Burger is an 8-ounce patty smothered in Russian sauce, herb mayo, and aged white Cheddar cheese, topped with lettuce tomato, pickled beets, grilled pineapple, and a fried egg. The concept comes from Davie’s homeland Australia, where ordering a burger with “the lot” (the Australian version of “the works”) will get you a similar burger. Now that’s a burger! (Only available on Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) 2108 N. Farwell Ave.

12. Dawg’s “Char-grilled Gourmet Burger”: Dr. Dawg’s offers Chicago-style hot dogs and “comfort food with a natural twist,” including great burgers. Their USDA Prime certified Angus beef falls into a 1.5 percent demographic of certified beef, which is pretty good for a restaurant whose primary focus is hot dogs. Dr. Dawg’s offers a truly scrumptious build-your-own burger, with a choice between a 1/3 pound patty or two patties stacked on top of each other. Most of the basic toppings are free, but you can add Applewood smoked bacon for $1.50 or a choice between five cheeses for $1. Pair it with a side of hand cut, skin-on, garlic-rosemary French fries for a refreshing take on the usual fried potatoes. 6969 N Port Washington Rd.

13. Elsa’s On the Park’s “The Cheeseburger”: Elsa’s is tied to the Kopp’s family, so it should be no surprise that they know their way around a burger. All of Elsa’s burgers are at least a half-pound patty served on a toasted Italian roll and served with fries and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. “The Cheeseburger” gives you a choice between American, Swiss, Wisconsin aged white cheddar, or Colby. But why opt for one cheese when Elsa’s also offers the option of all four cheeses. Only in Wisconsin… 833 N. Jefferson St.

14. Merriment Social’s “The Merriment”: It’s not often that you’ll find cheeseburgers served in the same space as dim-sum, but Merriment Social’s contemporary American take on the Chinese cuisine feels right at home served alongside a menu of burgers that began as just a single option, but has expanded due to its popularity. Nestled on a house-made milk bun, “The Merriment” burger consists of two thin blended-beef patties smothered in American cheese, topped with Applewood bacon, house pickles, and “social sauce” (a mustard mixture). Merriment Social also takes their “happy hour” to the next level by offering a specialty burger each week for $5. 240 E. Pittsburgh Ave, in the Walker’s Point.

15. Jake’s Burger’s “Jake’s Burger”: When the owner of a burger establishment is also the owner of a steakhouse, you know you’re in good hands. The patties at Jake’s are made up of ground short rib, brisket, and sirloin. If beef isn’t your thing (and if so, you might be reading the wrong article), Jake’s offers an alternative: ground turkey patties. “Jake’s Burger” comes smothered in cheddar cheese and topped with oven-roasted tomatoes (a unique touch), butter lettuce, a house sauce, and given some serious added height with haystack onions. 18905 W. Capitol Dr #110, Brookfield.

16. Mason Street Grill’s “Mason Street Grill Burger”: When a burger stands out on a fine-dining menu with such fare as lobster bacon deviled eggs and 64-hour braised short ribs, you know it has to be good. The 10-ounce Black Angus Chuck and sirloin blend patty comes topped with Muenster cheese, sweet honey glazed onions and house-made burger relish. The restaurant has just recently reopened after a makeover, giving you all the more reason to check out the new space and enjoy a burger. 425 E. Mason St., at the Pfister Hotel.

17. Northpoint Custard’s “Old School”: Although only open during the fair-weather months of the year, Northpoint Custard offers the opportunity to enjoy a burger by the lake. The “Old School” is a quarter pound char-grilled patty on a butter toasted Sciortino roll, topped with tomatoes, lettuce, onion, ketchup, mustard, and cheese for an extra 55 cents. The “Old School” is plain-done-right, and a more beach-friendly option than Northpoint’s “Quad” burger: four quarter-pound patties stacked on a butter toasted Sciortino roll, each with a slice of American cheese. 2272 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., on the lakefront.

18. Honeypie’s “Burger”: James Beard award winning chef Tory Miller once claimed that Honeypie’s Lambwich was one of the best burgers in the Midwest. While the Lambwich is no longer on Honeypie’s menu, their simply- named “burger” is still worthy of praise. Honeypie’s burger is a messy, 1/3 pound patty of house-ground, grass-grazed brisket topped with American cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, tomatoes, a spicy mayo, and a sunny side up egg all on a brioche bun. Sub out French fries for a side of potato salad for an extra $3. 2643 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Bay View.

19. Crave Café’s “The Crave Burger”: Crave Café is a relatively new to this city (it opened its doors in October 2016), but already making a name in the burger game. The Crave Burger is a 1/3 pound Angus beef patty topped with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, arugula, and white truffle aioli all on a brioche bun. The French fries are served in Chinese takeout containers, as the owner David Wu also owns East Garden, the Chinese restaurant across the street. After trying “The Crave Burger,” be sure to come back and try one of the more unique Korean inspired burgers on the menu. 3592 N. Oakland Ave, Shorewood.

20. All Purpose’s “The All Purpose Cheeseburger”: If you’re looking to pair your burger with a glass of wine, then look no further. All Purpose boasts an extensive wine list that touches on many different origins. The “All Purpose Cheeseburger” keeps it simple but tasty: it’s topped with Gruyere (a creamy and nutty cheese that originated in Switzerland), caramelized onions and aioli and is served on a brioche bun. Just remember: pinkies out. 814 S. 2nd St., in Walker’s Point.

21. Café Calatrava’s “The Sconnie Burger”: Sure, the walls of the Milwaukee Art Museum are filled with beautiful pieces, but have you seen the works of art that are created in the museum’s restaurant? “The Sconnie Burger” is one such example. The patty is a blend of short rib, brisket, and sirloin, and is topped with American cheese, dijonaise, smoked bacon, melted onions, and a Miller pretzel bun. For an extra $4, you can double down on the patties. In the summer, you can enjoy your “Sconnie Burger” the way it was meant to be enjoyed: overlooking Lake Michigan on the café’s patio. 700 N. Art Museum Dr. on the lakefront.

7 thoughts on “Urban Guide: 21 Great Burger Places”

  1. Benny Nota says:

    Dr. Dawg is neither a chain (it has one location, in Glendale) nor “Chicago-based.” It does sell Chicago-style hot dogs…maybe that’s what you meant?

  2. If you live in the Downer Ave Area, you only have to walk down a short half block to Henry’s. Great Burger with a side salad. If you’re not interested in a burger their chicken sandwich will please you.

  3. Bruce Murphy says:

    Benny Nota, you are correct, thanks for pointing that out, we corrected the description of Dr. Dawg.

  4. Pete says:

    I heard Oscar’s is pretty good, but I can’t get over how sketchy it is to take the same restaurant name AND signature burger name as a competitor.

  5. Richard says:

    My fav is Lu Lu’s, in Bayview where Lincoln, Kinnickinnic, and Howell aves. come together.
    Though I have it done medium you have the choice of how you would like it done as well as the type of cheese for those who like a cheeseburger. It’s 1/2 lb but it seems smaller going down. I order it with bacon. It’s nice with a tap beer and their homemade chips.

  6. Mizmbp says:

    Cudahy Burger joint!

  7. Brad says:

    Just thinking about the Crave burger makes my mouth water.

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