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.
3041 N Mayfair Rd., (414) 476-6900
The Alioto’s legacy dates back to the 1920s when Sicilian immigrant “Papa John” Alioto established Alioto’s Garden in the Historic Third Ward. Over the years, the restaurant survived both a fire and two moves, the latter to its current location in Wauwatosa where it’s now in its third generation of family ownership.
Best known for its Friday night fish fry, old school supper club atmosphere and mix of American steakhouse and Italian favorites, the restaurant also serves more casual fare including sandwiches, salads and… a burger.
The Alioto’s Cheeseburger features a half-pound beef patty with American cheese on a roll with a choice of soup, salad, pasta or fries ($11.50). Additional toppings (lettuce, tomatoes, onions) are available upon request. I ordered mine with fried onions, while my dining companion added both fried onions and tomato.
I was disappointed that both the burger (and crinkle-cut fries) were packaged in styrofoam. Fortunately, the burger’s container – which also contained a carrot, celery, pickle and piece of lettuce – was lined with aluminum foil, providing a protective layer between the hot food and the styrofoam. That said, it arrived hot and in good shape, unpacking easily and setting up quite nicely on the plate.
The bun was shapely, and while it wasn’t shiny, it showcased a beautiful golden brown color. The burger showcased a caramelized exterior that stood in prominent juxtaposition to the well melted cheese. Plentiful onions spilled from beneath.
The soft, bakery style bun was fresh and well sized for the burger. Its flavor was slightly sweet, and it had a light texture on the inside and a bit of toothiness on its exterior. Both cut sides of the bun showcased an impressively even toasting which offered a slight crispness. Grill marks across the top gave it a bit of a “signature” look.
The burgers at Alioto’s are cooked to order, and I’d ordered mine medium-rare, expecting that it was likely to be right around medium by the time I got it home. That turned out to be pretty much spot on. Its exterior had a nice crust, while the interior registered about medium by my gauge. The hand-pattied burger sported an irregular shape and moderately loose pack. It was nicely seasoned on the exterior, which was a boon to the beef, which – in and of itself – was somewhat bland and flat in flavor. Fortunately, it had good texture and was complemented by both the cheese and onions.
The cheese was nicely melted atop the burger, and this was a case where I think the umami of the American cheese contributed significantly to the overall flavor. The onions, which were soft, but not browed, had a mild sweet flavor that reminded me of some of my favorite old school burgers. Even better, the burger and toppings possessed enough flavor that condiments weren’t necessary, which is always a good thing.
It’s pretty tough to find a burger and fries for less than $10, so a half-pounder at $11.50 (with sides) is a reasonable ask. And while the Alioto’s burger isn’t as fancy as some, it offered up an old school home cooked flavor that’s unlike many of the others out there.
The old school half-pounder is still alive and well at Alioto's.
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.