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.
340 W. Kilbourn Ave.
We’re in the throes of Summerfest. So, it only seemed right to take swift left on the Burger Trail to visit at least one of the vendors at the Big Gig. And it seemed right to focus on one who’s been part of the Fest for more years than we can count.
If you live in Milwaukee, you’ve likely been to Major Goolsby’s. After all, thanks to their location near the UW Milwaukee Panther Arena, the Milwaukee Theater, the Wisconsin Center and the Bradley Center, the sports bar has become a regular gathering place for folks before and after sporting events and concerts. In fact, Major Goolsby’s has been a fixture at its location on Kilbourn Avenue for over 45 years.
Over those four decades, they’ve built a reputation for quick, efficient service, a friendly atmosphere and yes, for the flame-broiled burgers.
So, we paid them a visit at their booth on the Summerfest grounds to see, perhaps, if that burger-based reputation carried over onto the Henry Maier Festival Grounds. Our order: a Major Cheeseburger, which comes with two flame-broiled patties and two slices of American cheese ($10.50).
It’s Summerfest, so we’re not talking high-end dining, so it’s hard to dock anyone too much. When I score presentation, I tend to start at "5," adding points for particularly nice presentation, and subtracting points if things seem carelessly slapped together or are unwieldy. In this case, the Major Cheeseburger comes wrapped in paper. Not exactly beautiful, but it was served up hot and intact. And, once removed, it still looked pretty appetizing; so, no harm, no foul. Plus, if you’re craving a burger (as I was) there’s a bit of joy in opening the wrapper and experiencing the aroma of the flame-broiled burger wafting up from its package.
At first glance, I didn’t think much of the bun. Sure, it was beautiful. It’s top was browned and glossy (and not from burger grease). And its texture was soft and supple. But, it really proved to be one of the stars of the show. It added great flavor, without being overwhelming. And it stood up to the burger from the first to last bite.
The Major is a double burger, with the patties weighing in at about ½-pound all told, so there’s plenty of meat. The grind itself is a bit troublesome. I found quite a bit of gristle as I was navigating through the burger. However, the patties have a nice grilled flavor and the edges were crisp, giving the burger itself a bit of texture. As my dining companion put it: "This is one cheap, sleazy burger." And maybe that’s one way of looking at it, though the "cheap" part might be debatable.
When it comes to toppings, there is cheese. And on that front, there was just enough to give the burger that dose of umami flavor it needed. I did reach for the condiments, adding ketchup and brown mustard, which was a good choice. The burger needed a bit of a vinegar kick to cut through the richness of the cheese and the smoky flavor of the burger.
I could dock this burger for being spendy. $10.50 gets you a burger, and that’s it. You’ll pay extra for fries (I didn’t) and anything else you’d like to add. Not exactly a great deal, but Summerfest food is known for being spendy. And this burger was hefty and filling enough that it didn’t need much supplementation. So, we’ll just call it even.
Craving a burger? Love a thin patty with a bit of that signature char-grilled flavor? Then Major Goolsby’s is a good bet, even at Summerfest. Pair it with a nice craft brew for the full experience.
Major Goolsby’s is open throughout Summerfest at its booth near the Harley Davidson Roadhouse. The brick and mortar location is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to close.
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.