In this series, we’ll be hiking the burger trail to find the latest, greatest and most delicious burgers in Milwaukee. Click here for an explanation of the criteria used to rate each burger. Where have we been? Check out the complete catalog of burger reviews here.
814 S. 2nd St.
If you’re looking for beautiful, well prepared food, you’ll find it at All Purpose. The seasonal menu is filled with delicious options, some paying homage to global flavors and many exhibiting the beauty of classic French technique.
The vibe in the restaurant is comfortable and welcoming. It’s a great spot to take a seat at the bar, chat with the bartender and nibble your way through a number of delicious plates while sipping on a glass or two of wine. The wine list, by the way, deserves particular mention. Not only is it well-curated (you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad bottle on the list), but personnel are able to point you toward selections that truly complement your meal. Know very little about wine, but love to learn? It’s a great spot to ask questions, or simply allow them to guide you toward a new favorite selection.
There’s little to no pretense at AP. In fact, it’s the sort of place where you can plop down after a long day and simply relax, knowing there’s good food on the way.
On my latest trip this week, I enjoyed the All Purpose Cheeseburger, which is served with Gruyere, caramelized onions, aioli and house-cut fries($15).
The plating at AP tends to be beautiful. Simple, well-executed dishes become a feast for the eyes with purposeful garnishes, daubs of color and a genuine sense of composition. The burger is a slight (but not complete) departure. There’s no fanfare. No fancy frills. Just a great looking burger with a glossy bun on a bamboo plate. Sometimes fries are served in a brown bag on the side; in this case, they came in a bowl alongside a cup of ketchup.
I’ve mentioned before that I think the sweetness of brioche is the perfect match for a great burger. And in the case of AP’s burger, that holds true. The bun was soft and flavorful, and it added exactly what a great bun should, without distracting from the real star of the show, the meat.
I ordered it medium rare, and it came out perfectly cooked. The exterior had a nice char. The meat was juicy and flavorful. And it was well-seasoned, both with salt and a notable dose of pepper. Interestingly, it’s the first burger I’ve tried where the flavor of pepper was both pronounced and balanced. It’s an element that took the patty to another level.
When adorning a great burger, simplicity is sometimes the best choice. And so it is at AP, where the toppings are basic, but effective. In this case, it’s a bit of Gruyere, some golden caramelized onions and a dollop of aioli. The sweet, tender onions were the perfect foil for the well seasoned burger. And the nuttiness of the Gruyere ties the two together. The aioli added a nice mouthfeel and a hint of flavor without being overwhelming.
As I’ve mentioned before, there’s value in well-made food. And that’s exactly what the AP burger offers. It’s thoughtful and well-appointed. And it’s served with a generous helping of crisp hand-cut fries that, if I’m honest, really deserve accolades of their very own.
The cheeseburger at All Purpose is just plain solid. And, while you can visit for any number of delicious reasons, there’s no shame in stopping by for nothing more than a burger and a glass of rose.
All Purpose is open Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.