I am a lover of food. Put anything edible in front of me and I will take great pleasure in consuming it while analyzing the elements of the dish, too. From the exotic and haute to the down home and rustic, I am a true food-a-holic.
But gun to my head, if I was rescued from a desert island, the first request I would have would be for a burger.
The best thing about a burger is its blank canvas quality. You can paint any kind of picture you want on it and create an entirely different experience. From the texture of the meat, the density of the bun and the combination of toppings; nothing could be simpler yet have more variables than a burger.
Having this craving and a little extra money from the holidays, my wife and I decided to go on a burger adventure. A burger-scursion if you will, to find the right combination that would satiate our hunger.
After countless late nights researching the best burgers in the Milwaukee area and meticulously evaluating their differences, I happened upon three restaurants that could satisfy our craving in all aspects of burger goodness: Oscar's Pub & Grill, Matty's Bar & Grille and Lagniappe Brasserie.
Now before I go on, I would like to assure you that this is not a review of the restaurants, a claim that these have the best burgers in Milwaukee, or a critique of the establishments against each other. This is simply a hunt for good burgers.
Our first day landed us on the doorstep of Lagniappe, 17001 W. Greenfield Ave., for lunch. Lagniappe is a nice, cozy French restaurant with an ever changing menu. What you wouldn't expect to find at a French restaurant is a burger. But you would be doing yourself a disservice if you passed it up for some of the more traditional French fare.
For lunch, Lagniappe features a very simple yet deceptively wonderful offering, the Kobe beef burger. Now you can get this with your choice of cheese, but I recommend getting the 10-year aged Wisconsin cheddar. Not only does it add a nice sharpness to the burger but it also compliments the patty itself quite well.
The burger comes with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion on the side. They also ask if you would like ketchup or Dijon. I recommend you avoid your instinct to load up this burger with toppings and just eat it in its pure form.
This is the kind of burger you want to eat if you are looking for quality texture and flavor from your meat. I am happy to report I ate the entire burger almost completely plain. For kicks I dabbed a little mustard on a corner and found that it took away from the experience. I also tried a little lettuce with a bite and was met with the same issue. The burger itself is juicy and has amazing flavor.
One of my first tests of a burger is to bite a little corner of the meat without any bun or condiments. This meat passed the test with flying colors. You could put this patty between two paper plates and it would come out a winner. The texture was spot on and the combination with the bun and cheese made it a perfect recipe to satisfy my need for a pure burger.
The next day we headed to Oscar's, 1712 W. Pierce St. Oscar's has recently come into being and has quickly established itself with high quality burgers. I wanted this visit to quash my craving for toppings and Oscar's did not disappoint in the slightest.
I ordered their signature "Bio-O" Burger to alleviate my topping fix and I was not met with regret. Double entendre aside, the burger may fit both billings. Topped with chipotle Jack, smoked Gouda, hickory bacon, chorizo, fried onions and jalapeños; this burger is like a flavor explosion.
My thoughts that the toppings would overpower the burger patty were quickly silenced when I bit into it for the first time. This was also certainly a messy burger. Two hands and plenty of napkins are a requirement of its consumption.
The toppings all melded extremely well together and the constant drippings only added to the experience. If you are a fan of the toppings, the "Big-O" will not leave you unsatisfied.
The final day of our burger excursion took us to New Berlin to Matty's, 14460 W. College Ave. In my opinion, Matty's had a very good burger to start with. But beginning this past November, it introduced what it calls a Smokehouse burger. For a while now, Matty's has been packing the patrons in whenever it has its special of the day as the smoked beef brisket sandwich.
They smoke their own meat and put together a great sandwich. Well eventually someone said, "why don't we combine this with our burgers?" and the Smokehouse was born.
Matty's has an ever changing rotation of burgers on their menu and our day included the New Berlin Smokehouse burger. This burger is topped with smoked beef brisket, sliced mushrooms, onions, provolone, aioli, shredded lettuce, and diced tomatoes.
The beauty of the Smokehouse, though, is that Matty's takes some of their smoked brisket, grinds it up, and adds it to their patty mix.
What this does is infuses the burger patty with an incredible smoky flavor that really can't be matched. Texturally, the burger is a little more firm thanks to the addition of the brisket. This in no way detracts from the experience and only serves to add to the uniqueness of the burger itself. I was so intrigued by the texture that we ordered another Smokehouse with just cheese and nothing else to adequately give the patty its due.
Three days, three restaurants and complete burger satisfaction. My need for burger texture, combination of toppings, unique points of view, and straight up burger goodness was all satisfied with the burger-scursion.
You would think that after three days of eating burgers I would be sick of them, but it only inspired me to make my own the very next day and see what I could come up with, using the blank canvas that is the burger.