In this series, Lori Fredrich is 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 has she been? Check out the complete catalog of her burger reviews here.
Once again, it's been a hot minute since I last reviewed a burger for the On the Burger Trail series. Truth be told, after eating over 180 burgers, the series had begun to feel a bit stale. No longer inspired to find the next great burger, I decided it was time to take a pause.
But thanks to the rise of a few new burger joints, along with a renewed sense of excitement for indulging in beefy bliss, I decided to bring the series back for Dining Month.
Archie's Flat Top is new to the local burger game. But since opening in August of 2023, they've already carved out a niche for themselves.
Sporting a nostalgic diner-esque aesthetic, the counter service restaurant offers a simple menu that focuses on smash burgers, along with crinkle-cut fries and onion rings. Inside the space, there's also a satellite location for Scratch Ice Cream where you can get ice cream, ice cream cones, shakes, malts, pints and ice cream sandwiches.
Burger options include the No. 1 (single patty, PBR onions, American cheese, pickles on the side, $8); the No. 2 (two patties, PBR onions, American cheese, pickles on the side, $9.50); The Archie (their version of a deluxe double, $12); and The Linda (house black bean and corn patty, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, PBR onions, chipotle aioli, pickles on the side, $9).
In this case, I opted for The Archie, which features two smash patties, PBR onions, American cheese, tomato, lettuce and special sauce on a toasted potato roll ($12). It comes with pickles on the side. I also added an order of onion rings ($5).
The Archie is definitely a sight to behold. American cheese flows like lava over the top of the exposed caramelized patty followed by a deluge of minced onions. There's a glimpse of lettuce poking out from beneath; but the tomato has been utterly swallowed. It's big. It's meaty, and it's not ashamed to let it all hang out.
I definitely gave it a good examination before determining exactly how I was going to pick it up without getting my hands dirty. Despite my best attempt at doing so, I failed miserably. Fortunately, there are extra napkins on all the tables because I went through at least two on my journey to finish it.
The potato bun was exceedingly soft. Was it too soft? I did wonder about that as I picked up that monster of a burger with it patties hanging out on all sides. But, in the end, that bun survived. It got a bit squashed; but it served its purpose, adding a light sweet flavor that complemented the burger overall.
But the bun did have a flaw: In the case of my burger, the top bun was toasted somewhat lightly, but the bottom was barely toasted. My dining companion's bun was barely toasted (if at all) on both of its cut sides.
It's not the first time I've had a burger at Archie's (since they were so new, I gave them a couple of tries before going back for a full review). Past burgers have showcased buns that were definitely more skillfully toasted. So, this is likely a matter of consistency that needs to be worked out.
The patties on The Archie definitely passed the meat-to-bread ratio test. In fact, those two thin patties – which overlapped the bun impressively – quite nearly overwhelmed it entirely.
As for the burger's status as a smash burger, just look at all those crispy craggy edges. They're the tell-tale sign that someone in the kitchen is cooking hard and fast, giving that meat a good pressing as soon as it hits the grill.
And the meat? There's definitely a difference when folks begin with fresh beef. In this case, it's freshly ground custom-blended beef sourced from Becher Meats next door.
When I pulled off a piece of the burger to taste it, I got great crispy edges that were seasoned, but not exceedingly salty. The remainder of the burger was tender and flavorful – but truly not as greasy as I might have expected – with a nice bit of caramelization on the exterior. I wouldn't describe it as "juicy" per se; but it wasn't dry either.
The toppings on the Archie are pretty standard with the exception of those PBR onions. So let's talk about those first.
First, they definitely give me a nostalgic feeling. I remember the days when McDonald's made their burgers with minced rehydrated onions that spread themselves over the top of the burger, providing just the right amount of onion flavor with every bite. Now, these onions are fresh, so they're already 100 times better; but their sweetness is also enhanced by the light, yeasty flavor of the beer. It's a very nice, Wisconsin-y touch.
As for the remainder of ingredients, there were three small, bright, lively tomato slices hiding under all of that meat; they were applied in good balance and had a good tomato flavor. The shredded lettuce was crisp, fresh and plentiful. Maybe that was good, since so much of it fell out each time I manipulated the burger to take a bite. Had I still been hungry in the end, I could have enjoyed a small salad out of the bottom of my burger boat (haha).
The cheese was beautifully melted and there was plenty of it. Even though it didn't cover the burger, its flavor was pronounced. The same was true of the classically flavored "special sauce", which brought balance to the table with its sweet, slightly tangy flavor.
These days, I don't bat an eyelash when I see a $12 price tag on a burger. In this case, you're looking at the cost of fresh, custom-blended meat that's prepared well, tastes great and is accompanied by toppings that do it justice. Fair is fair.
If you're looking for a hefty two-napkin smash burger, Archie's Flat Top is definitely the place to go.
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.