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.
2675 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
More than two years ago, I took a trek out to Oconomowoc to Crafty Cow to review The Lucy, its homage to the original Jucy Lucy burger. By then, the restaurant had already made a name for itself with its over-the-top burgers and creative sides, not to mention its craft beer list.
Since then, a great deal has changed. Bay View gained its own Crafty Cow location in April 2017, and the Crafty Cow brand made a number of upgrades to their ingredients, including making a commitment to purchasing cheese produced in the Midwest. And, while the restaurants always used hormone and antiobiotic-free beef, they’re now sourcing 21-day aged beef from the Midwest that's processed in humane facility designed by animal activist Temple Grandin.
So I decided to pay Crafty Cow another visit. This time, I ventured over to the Bay View location.
I opted for the True Grit, a Jucy Lucy burger stuffed with white cheddar and topped with (more) white cheddar, bacon, battered onions, jalapenos and barbecue sauce ($12).
Pro tip: Fries are a la carte, but they’re available in generous shareable portions for $4. You can also get Crafty Cow’s beautifully crispy tater tots (also shareable) for just $4.50
This is a beautiful burger, namely due to its layers of color and textures. If you begin at the top, you’ve got a nice shiny browned bun. There are onion rings fried until golden, two impressive slices of well-browned bacon, the bright green pop of fresh jalapeno peppers and a few telltale hints of barbecue sauce. Beneath it all is a fat beef patty thoroughly coated with melted white cheddar. And yeah, there’s a steak knife running right through the center of everything.
Sure the bun is pretty, but it’s also tasty and functional. It’s plenty soft, but sturdy enough to hold up to the juicy burger and toppings. It’s also nicely buttered and toasted on the cut side, giving it extra flavor and a bit of that something extra.
As for the burger, it’s thick. And it's filled with cheese. Cut it open and melted white cheddar oozes from its middle, which is still ever-so-slightly pink and visibly juicy. Don’t cut it open and the cheddar is likely to sneakily make its way out of the burger through any available nook or cranny.
The hand-pattied beef is flavorful and tender; it’s definitely seasoned. For me, its flavor was reminiscent of the (delicious) meatloaf my mother made when I was a child.
We’ve already established the nicely melted status of the cheese – both inside the burger and on its exterior. In my estimation, the burger is cheesy, but not excessively so. Cheddar doesn’t melt as smoothly as other cheeses, so its texture tends to be grainy. But its slightly sharp flavor was a nice contrast to the other ingredients.
The onion rings were light and crisp with good flavor. The jalapenos were fresh and crisp, and there were enough of them that you could (ostensibly) get a bit of one in every bite, though they had a tendency to jump out of the sandwich at every given opportunity. They were a bit spicy, but also offered that fresh peppery flavor that’s unique to a jalapeno.
The bacon was ultra crisp – almost to a fault, as it was a bit tough to bite cleanly – but its flavor was slightly sweet and smokey. The pickled red onions were bright and crisp and I was immensely happy to find that the BBQ sauce was applied judiciously. (I’m not always a fan, as the pungent sweet, smoky flavor has a tendency to take over even the most well-meaning burger).
All in all, there were a number of good decisions made with this burger. The fresh (not pickled) jalapenos were a good choice, since they brought a fresh flavor into the equation; meanwhile the pickled onions added the pop of acid you want somewhere in a good burger. None of the flavors overpowered the others, instead working in harmony with a nice balance between sweet, salty and sour.
Twelve dollars is about what you’ll pay for any burger around town, and it’s a fair price for this one, which took a bit of doing to pull together. It’s also a good size – more than enough for lunch and satisfying in terms of flavor.
The burgers at Crafty Cow are, indeed, crafty. Tasty, too.
Crafty Cow Bay View is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, as well as all day on Mondays.
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.