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.
839 S 2nd St.
Since 2002, Crazy Water chef and owner Peggy Magister and her crew have been serving up great big flavors from their tiny little bar-side kitchen. And the longevity of the restaurant alone is a sure sign that they’re doing things right.
The eclectic spot sports a cozy, eclectic interior decorated in a deep, rich palate that gives it a beautifully intimate feel. Meanwhile, you’ll find a menu filled with classic, well-executed dishes including entrees like lemongrass glazed salmon, steak and the restaurant’s signature "Crazy Shrimp" featuring chorizo, tomatoes, cilantro and Asian barbecue sauce served up with a side of jalapeno cornbread muffins and jasmine rice.
But you’d be remiss if you overlooked the venue’s burger, which combines quality ingredients with the kitchen expertise that’s kept Crazy Water on the map for the past 16 years.
The Grassfed Kettle Range Hamburger features a half-pound patty topped with caramelized onions, Gruyere, aioli and a toasted brioche bun. It’s served with hand-cut french fries ($14).
Keep in mind, the burgers are served Monday through Thursday only, so save your craving for a weekday.
Even the dim lighting can’t mask the beauty of this burger with its visibly toasted brioche bun and glistening patty topped with caramelized onions and draped with beautifully melted Gruyere. It’s pretty sexy. Combine that with a side of beautiful housemade fries and the pop of color from the accompanying cornichons and you’ve got one hunger-inducing burger.
The brioche bun was an apt choice here as the sweetness lent a nice balance to the burger and its toppings. Its one downfall is that, despite being sufficiently toasted, the bottom bun did get a bit soggy as time wore on, much thanks to the overall juiciness of the burger itself.
I ordered my burger medium-rare as usual. Admittedly, it was difficult to get a perfect gauge on its doneness thanks to the dim lighting. However, from what I could see and sense from its texture, it appeared to be closer to medium than medium-rare. Fortunately, that detail wasn’t a deal-breaker. This was one tasty hand-pattied burger.
That shouldn't really be a surprise; after all, the grassfed beef from Kettle Range Meat Co. is some of the best in the area in terms of flavor. Even so, it takes some kitchen dexterity to suss out the best assets of a burger. And so it was here. The texture was firm but loose enough to trap plenty of juices. It was also well seasoned with a nice, rich beefy flavor.
This burger is by no means loaded down with toppings, but part of its beauty is the way the minimalistic toppings work together in harmony to create a flavor profile – featuring sweet, salty, nutty and tangy elements – that’s balanced and pleasing to the palate.
The caramelized onions might just be the star of the burger; after all, they’re perfectly executed, darkly colored and sweet with the telltale umami that comes with a long, slow caramelization. It's balanced by the nuttiness of the Gruyere, which is also strategically melted over the top, keeping the onions from slipping out of the bun. Meanwhile, you get a nice acidic pop from the rich lemony aioli, which is applied in sufficient quantity to supply flavor but not so much that it drowns out everything else.
Pro tip: The burger comes with a side of aioli – and while you could add more to the burger, in my estimation, it’s best eaten with the ultra crisp hand-cut fries in between bites of cornichon.
The price on this burger ($14) 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.
If you’re looking for a sexy, grown up pub burger, look no further than Crazy Water.
Crazy Water is open Monday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 8 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.