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.
Bass Bay Brewhouse
S79W15851 Aud Mar Dr., Muskego
There’s plenty to love about Bass Bay Brewhouse, the restaurant located in the former Aud Mar Supper Club. The atmosphere inside the restaurant is cozy, rustic and convivial. Meanwhile, the patio comes complete with gorgeous lakefront views, and it’s a beautiful spot to spend an hour or two on a particularly clement day. Best of all, the food, whether it’s a simple sandwich, fish fry or a well-executed prime rib dinner, is worth the half-hour drive to Muskego.
While I love a good, classic American cheese-topped burger, I’m also a big fan of the mushroom Swiss burger (I love the earthiness of the mushrooms against the nutty sweetness of the Swiss cheese). So, when I saw that Bass Bay had added one to its menu, I was eager to give it a try.
Fans be forewarned: This is not your typical mushroom Swiss burger. 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).
Pro tip: If you like onion rings, spend a couple of extra bucks and get them instead of the fries (which are admittedly good in their own right). They’re ultra crisp and super tasty and they come with a delicious horsey sauce for dipping.
This burger isn’t really about pomp and circumstance. It’s got no beautifully frilly lettuce or ruby red tomato, and it isn’t served up on a trendy board, or even a plate. It’s served in a basket alongside a reasonable portion of seasoned fries (or onion rings). But it’s got a glossy bun, a nicely caramelized burger and seriously nicely melted cheese.
The bun is a well-appointed choice. It was glossy and sweet (a nice counterpoint to the umami of this particular burger) with the sort of sturdy softness that’s perfect for this type of burger. My bun was also nicely toasted, giving it a bit of a crunch and providing a barrier for sogginess.
Quality beef that’s been treated and cooked well is the heart of any stellar burger. So I’m understandably elated when I happen upon restaurants that take their burger patties seriously. This is definitely the case at Bass Bay, which uses a combination of brisket and chuck, which is cubed, seasoned, ground and hand pattied. There’s a tell-tale irregularity about the burger’s shape, which tells you it’s been handled by a human being. It’s loosely packed enough that it retains both a healthy amount of fat and a tender texture. And, in this burger’s case, its well seasoned from the inside out.
Waitstaff won’t ask how you’d like your burger done, and in this case it’s OK. The third-pounder was flavorful, juicy and riddled with tasty crispy edges that made eating it a pleasure.
The toppings on this burger stand out because, although they’re non-traditional, they pull in all the prerequisite flavors you’d expect from a mushroom Swiss burger. The Swiss was nicely melted and added the nutty, slightly sweet flavor you’d expect.
Meanwhile, the mushroom bacon jam was as much about form as function. Unlike sauteed mushrooms, which often fall out of the bun as you’re eating, the jam stayed in place. Even more importantly, it was delicious. The mushrooms were toothy and earthy with a slight meatiness from the bacon and just a touch of sweetness. In combination with the black garlic mayo, which was prudently spread atop the toasted bun, there was a ton of umami flavor -- something you absolutely want on a burger.
The price on this burger ($13) is more than fair when you consider its overall flavor and quality. It shows 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.
Bass Bay Brewhouse has a menu filled with delicious burgers. Among them, the mushroom Swiss is a standout.
Bass Bay Brewhouse is open Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.