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.
Buckley’s Restaurant & Bar
801 N. Cass St.
Have you been to Buckley’s? If you have, you know that the hospitality at this family-owned restaurant, which opened on the lower East Side in 2007, is truly some of the best in the city. It's an element that has set the restaurant apart from the crowd, earning it a solid reputation and a healthy group of loyal regulars.
The restaurant's success, along with complementary development in the surrounding area, has also enabled the restaurant to embark on an impressive expansion which is expected to triple the restaurant's footprint.
If you’ve eaten there, you also know that their menu is simultaneously creative and approachable, seamlessly weaving seasonal ingredients, unique flavor profiles and global influences into classic, comforting dishes.
And that’s exactly what you’ll find on The Buckley’s Burger, which features a Kettle Range beef patty topped with sweet marrow onion jam, smoked jalapeño peanut butter and arugula on a toasted brioche bun. It’s served with french fries or salad ($16).
Give it a look. You can see the deeply caramelized burger patty, the richly colored onions, the green arugula leaves and the toasted bun. And if you were sitting at the table when this burger arrived, you would have also experienced the aroma, which was ultra meaty, a bit nutty and, ultimately, hunger-inducing.
In this particular case, brioche is the perfect choice. It was glossy and sweet (a nice counterpoint to the burger’s umami-rich flavors) with a sturdy softness that allowed the bun to do its job without getting in the way. My bun was also nicely toasted, giving it a bit of a crunch and providing a barrier for sogginess.
As I’ve said many times, the heart of a great burger nearly always begins with quality beef. In the case of Buckley’s, that means Kettle Range beef that’s been hand-pattied loosely enough that it remains tender and grilled to order. Mine was delivered ever so slightly beyond the point of mid-rare. But it was tender, juicy and impeccably seasoned, highlighting the beefiness of the meat. I’d have been happy to eat this burger sans toppings and bun.
There’s nothing traditional about this burger’s toppings, which combines both sweet and savory elements to create a keenly balanced flavor profile.
First, there’s the onions. If you’ve ever enjoyed an appetizer of roasted bone marrow, you know that this "meat butter" is velvety smooth and richly flavored. In this particular case, that texture and richness is juxtaposed and woven seamlessly with sweet caramelized onions. It’s sweet, filled with umami, and it offers up enough flavor that there’s no reason to mourn the absence of either cheese or other condiments.
The smoked jalapeno peanut butter, which is spread rather judiciously, adds the subtle smokiness you might otherwise get from bacon and a nuttiness that plays off the onion jam and somehow serves to highlight the meatiness of the beef. The arugula, which was super fresh upon delivery (though ultimately rendered wilty against the heat of the burger) added plenty of its sharp, vegetal pepperiness to the mix.
This might be the most pricey burger I’ve eaten so far on the burger trail (and trust me when I say that the price of a burger is not always aligned with the enjoyment attached). But it’s also one of the most interesting. The patty is skillfully prepared and the toppings showcase both technique and creativity. The value here lies not only in the quality of the ingredients, but the creativity and thought that’s put behind the combination of flavors. And, in the end, I’d gladly toss $16 toward this burger again.
If you are looking for something delicious – but distinctively different – you’ll find it in the Buckley’s Burger.
Buckley’s Restaurant & Bar is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 10 a.m. to midnight.
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.