Season’s eatings! The weather may be getting colder, but Dining Month on OnMilwaukee is just cooking up, dishing out your winning picks in this year’s Best of Dining poll. Dining Month is brought to you by Fein Brothers, your premier food service equipment and supply dealer in Wisconsin since 1929. Congratulations to all of the winners, and happy eating for all those who voted!
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.
111 N. Main St., West Bend
Over the past two decades dining has seen a major shift in the use of locally made products. It’s been a benefit to diners who can now enjoy fresh, seasonal produce and locally raised meats at a variety of area restaurants.
In the West Bend area, Chef Jodi Janisse-Kanzenbach was a trailblazer in the movement. When she opened her restaurant Cafe Soeurette in 2007, there were very few higher end eateries in the area, let alone farm-to-table restaurants. And Janisse-Kanzenbach’s initial efforts required a great deal of education. But by and by, diners began to catch on to the idea that local meant fresh, and they began coming back again and again for Janisse Kanzenbach's deliciously eclectic fare (read more here).
Today the restaurant is abuzz, particularly on Monday evenings when Cafe Soeurette hosts a weekly burger night. Using little ordering cards, diners can fill in their options, from burger to bun and toppings, creating their own masterpieces.
As tempting as it was to create my own burger, I opted for the restaurant’s signature creation: The Overstuffed Wisconsinite Burger which features one-half pound of house-ground ribeye stuffed with cheddar brandy jalapeno cheese and topped with ale onions, bacon and spicy mayo ($15). It’s served up with a generous helping of french fries.
The burger looks delicious right out of the gate. Mine came to the table hot and glistening with visibly crisp bacon and cheese cascading down the side of the burger. It was stabbed with a pickled-jalapeno-studded steak knife, contributing to the idea that this was one bad-ass burger.
The bun on the burger was plenty soft with a slight crust on the exterior. It was nicely toasted inside, offering nice texture and a bit of resistance against the juicy burger (which wasn’t nearly as messy to eat as I’d imagined it would be).
It’s hard to mistake the fresh meaty flavor of freshly ground beef, and this one was delicious. The hand-packed patty wasn’t packed too tight, so it stayed nice and juicy. It was also well-seasoned with a nice char on the exterior. Truly, this burger would have been delicious on its own, so stuffing it with cheese was really a bit like gilding the lily.
Top a great burger with great toppings and everything is right with the world. And such was true of the Wisconsinite. The bacon was deliciously crisp and smokey and nearly melted in my mouth. Meanwhile the caramelized ale onions were sweet and yeasty. The mayo on the bun added a touch of flavor, but was probably the most subtle element when all was told.
As I’ve expressed before, value doesn’t necessarily mean "cheap" (although I’ve had some great burgers on the trailthat blew me away with their affordability). What it does mean is that the quality of the burger and its ingredients are well-matched. In this case, you’re getting what you pay for -- fresh beef, great bacon, a quality bun. Would I pay $15 for this burger again? Yes, yes I would.
After eating this one at Cafe Soeurette, I might just have to drive to West Bend for burgers more often.
Cafe Soeurette is open Monday through Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m.
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.