By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Oct 14, 2019 at 11:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

It's time for Dining Month, presented by Deer District and its spooky Halloween-themed alter ego, Fear District. Throughout the month of October, we'll be serving up fun and fascinating content about all things food. The signature dish, however, is our 2019 Best of Dining poll, who's winners we will dish out all month long. Get hungry, Milwaukee!

With over 100 burgers under my belt, I thought it was high time to take a look at the top-scoring set. Originally, I intended to offer up a "top ten." But then I realized I had 15 contenders, all of which scored at least a 46 on my 50-point scale.

To achieve these top scores, burgers need to perform well in all categories (appearance, bun, burger, toppings and value). The best of the best showcase ingredients of exceptional quality, excellence in preparation, impressive flavor balance and (often) housemade ingredients that take them up a notch.

It’s important to note that all 15 of these burgers are listed by score, from highest to lowest; but burgers with the same score are sorted in alphabetical order (not necessarily indicating that one is "better" than another).

Did your favorite make the list? A few of mine didn't either. But more on that next week ...

 1. Birch + Butcher 

459 E. Pleasant St., (414) 323-7372

Overall score: 49/50
[Read the full review]

The Birch + Butcher burger is a prime example of how a combination of housemade ingredients and a bit of ingenuity come together to create something extraordinary. The burger (which is available during brunch and at select other magical moments) features a housemade brioche-style bun (made dark by the choice of flour), two beef patties, caramelized onions, housemade beet ketchup, thick cut house bacon and Widmer's cheese spread, The price is $15 during brunch when it’s also served with a side of pork fat fried smoked potatoes. 

2. Bavette

330 E. Menomonee St., (414) 273-3375

Overall score: 48/50
[Read the full review]

It’s entirely unsurprising that Bavette’s Burger Night, which takes place on Wednesday evenings during the late spring, summer and autumn, is a popular attraction for folks in the Historic Third Ward and beyond. The burgers, which feature house-ground grass-fed beef, are topped differently each week with inventive, seasonal ingredients. 

The featured Burger Trail burger consisted of a half-pound grassfed beef patty topped with blue cheese, blueberry barbecue sauce and a corn, poblano, radish and cabbage slaw. It was served with a generous side of cucumber melon salad ($16). 

It began with exceptional, well-flavored beef Overall, it was a burger that defied categorization, taking a humble American staple and elevating it to a new level.

3. Foxfire

Hawthorne Coffee Roasters, 4177 S. Howell Ave., (414) 331-1382

Overall score: 48/50
[Read the full review]

The best burgers don't need frills to make them shine. Such is the case with the double brisket burger from Foxfire, which is available on Thursdays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. The fact that it's only available for six hours once a week makes the mystique of this burger even more sweet.

The Foxfire burger features two brisket patties, pickles, onion, American cheese, fries and a side of ketchup ($10.75).

4. The Diplomat

815 E. Brady St., (414) 800-5816

Overall score: 48/50
[Read the full review]

If a Big Mac and a Whopper had a baby – and that baby inherited all the good genes and then some – you'd end up with the Diplomac, a burger of exceedingly high quality that simultaneously conjures your fondest classic burger memories while showcasing the magic of fresh, housemade ingredients.

The Diplomac features two prime beef patties with tomato, lettuce, American cheese, "1000 Island" dressing, pickles and red onion. You can get it on its own for $12 or with fries (steakhouse style wedges) for $16.

5. Bass Bay Brewhouse

S79W15851 Aud Mar Dr., Muskego, (414) 377-9449

Overall score: 47/50
[Read the full review]

Bass Bay Brewhouse has a menu filled with delicious burgers. Each one showcases an attention to detail, expertise in execution and a flavor profile that's both balanced and chock-full of the umami that makes a burger shine.

Among them is the mushroom Swiss burger that became the topic of my review. It features a third-pound patty topped with mushroom-bacon jam, Swiss cheese and black garlic mayo on a brioche bun ($13, with French fries).

6. Good City Brewing

2108 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 539-4173

Overall score: 47/50
[Read the full review]

The burgers at Good City Brewing are consistently cooked to order (a relative rarity on the Milwaukee burger landscape). The beef is well seasoned and the toppings are well appointed, offering balanced flavor profile.

The Brew Burger, a half pound of beef cooked to your liking, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onion, pickles, and your choice of cheese (I chose American) with Sriracha Russian sauce ($13). It comes with a choice of curry fries, kettle chips or slaw (I highly recommend the fries). 

7. Goodkind

2457 S. Wentworth Ave., (414) 763-4706

Overall score: 47/50
[Read the full review]

Tuesdays are burger night at Goodkind, and it’s an evening when their kitchen staff show off not only their creativity, but also their talents in producing a top notch burger. Toppings vary every week – and I've never seen a repeat – but you'll find combinations like Italian green peppers, lobster mushrooms, onions and five-cheese fondue or mulberry barbecue sauce, smoked farmer's cheese, braised greens and fried onions. And if you're not the dice-rolling type, you can always get a preview of the burger on Instagram before you visit.

My burger trail review featured a half-pound patty of Carlisle beef topped with heirloom tomato, sweet onion, quick pickle relish, yellow mustard, Pipparra peppers and celery seed ($12 or $15 with the featured craft brew, Untitled Art Pinot Gris IPA). 

8. Tre Rivali

200 N. Broadway, (414) 291-3971

Overall score: 47/50
[Read the full review]

This might well be the priciest burger I've eaten thus far on the burger trail. But it's tough to judge a burger that comes to the table with so much value in terms of fresh, well-flavored ingredients. The patty is skillfully prepared and the toppings are flavorful and balanced. But, in a world where shortcuts often compromise quality, this is a burger that showcases care in sourcing, preparation and flavor. In the end, it’s a worthy indulgence.

Their Beef Burger features a half-pound patty (cooked to order) topped with fontina, bacon jam, pesto aioli and a sunny-side-up egg ($17). It's served with a choice of french fries, soup or salad.

9. Precinct

W161 N11629 Church Ave., Germantown, (262) 415-5680

Overall score: 47/50
[Read the full review]

This burger is among the gems I've encountered on the trail. It makes good use of quality ingredients, exhibits an attention to detail, expertise in execution and a flavor profile that's both balanced and chock-full of the umami that makes a great burger such a pleasure to eat.

The Drive By features two beef patties, "fancy" sauce, grilled onion, American cheese, lettuce and pickles on a split top bun with a side of French fries ($13).

10. Boo Boo’s Sandwich Shop

405 S. 2nd St., (414) 885-1532

Overall score: 46/50
[Read the full review]

I have no idea if the Davido Burger at Boo Boo’s is named for the Nigerian singer, songwriter and record producer of the same name. But, if it is, it might be an apt moniker. After all, this is a burger which likely deserves just as unexpected a rise to fame as the musician.

The burger itself is $6.50, but there are options to fancy it up a bit. For instance, you can add pepper jack, Swiss, cheddar or American cheese for $0.75 or myriad vegetables, including lettuce, tomato or onions, for $0.50 each. I built mine with American cheese, fried onions, lettuce, tomato and pickles. I also added fries for an additional $3.50.

11. Fauntleroy

316 N. Milwaukee St., (414) 269-9908

Overall score: 46/50
[Read the full review]

There are many things to love about this burger, with its exceptionally juicy, meaty beef patties (made from ground brisket) and balanced, complementary toppings. There's a little sweetness (as well as vinegary tang) in the pickles. The royale sauce is both sweet and tangy and provides a nice balance to the char on the exterior of the burger and the saltiness of the butterkase … which is a star in and of itself.

The Grande Royale with Cheese features two brisket patties, butterkase, lettuce, onion, pickle and royale sauce on a sesame seed bun ($15).

12. Glass + Griddle

1130 N 9th St., (414) 988-1551

Overall score: 46/50
[Read the full review]

This burger is, in my opinion, the epitome of the smashed burger genre, and iit doesn't pull punches. It's simple, straightforward and (most importantly) delicious. So, yes – if you like a good smash-style burger, and you don't need a slew of toppings to make you happy – this is a burger for you.

The G+G Simple burger features two patties with American cheese on a Kaiser roll ($10). A side of hand-cut fries, which easily feeds two, is $6 and comes with ranch dressing for dipping.

13. Honeypie Cafe

2643 S Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 489-7437

Overall score: 46/50
[Read the full review]

Let's talk for a moment about flavor; not every burger possesses what this one brings on in spades. There was also joy in pressing ever so gently down on the top of the bun and watching the gorgeous orange-yellow yolk of the egg coat the toppings with a rich yellow gloss. But man, it was a mess to eat. A big, tasty, glorious mess.

The house burger features ground brisket patties, American cheese, tomato, bacon, caramelized onions, spicy mayo, sunny egg, brioche bun and a side of fries ($14).

14. Jake’s Burger

18905 W. Capitol Dr., (262) 781-1110

Overall score: 46/50
[Read the full review]

When a burger is good, it's good. And the Jake’s Burger was a pleasant surprise. Not only was one of the most perfectly cooked burgers I've experienced on the trail, but it possessed a nice balance of flavor, especially for a burger that was piled high with what I’d normally consider too many toppings.

The Jake's Burger comes with a half-pound custom blended beef patty, cheddar cheese, oven roasted tomato, butter lettuce, haystack onion rings and special sauce for $12.95. 

15. Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern

234 E. Vine St., (414) 763-3021

Overall score: 46/50
[Read the full review]

When I reviewed this burger, the hamburger with cheese featured a ⅓-pound beef patty, American cheese, balsamic caramelized onions and fancy sauce. It came with a side of fries for $13.

Of it, I wrote: "This is one of those relatively simple burgers that checks all the necessary boxes. The bun is soft yet sturdy, the meat is flavorful and juicy and the toppings are both thoughtful and balanced in their flavors."

In fact, the biggest chink in its armor was inconsistency in terms of cooking (mid-rare burgers came out either too done or not quite done enough), costing the burger at least one point in its overall score.

The burger has since been revised to include two three-ounce smash-style patties, changing its character somewhat … and making me think the burger might just deserve a second look. 

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

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.