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.
Mason Street Grill
424 E. Wisconsin Ave.
For me, taking a walk in Downtown Milwaukee offers countless little joys. Among them is catching a whiff of the wood smoke wafting from the kitchen at Mason Street Grill. For me, it’s a smell that brings back fond memories of my inaugural travels to Seattle nearly a decade ago.
We stayed with some regularity at Hotel Andra, a well appointed spot with a modern rustic lobby where the sweet woodsy smells of wood-fired flatbreads, kebabs and harissa glazed pork wafted over from Tom Douglas’ adjacent Lola restaurant. These days wood-fired grills, ovens and hearths have become more common in Milwaukee area restaurants; but the smell still reminds me of a happy time in my life when I made more regular trips to the Pacific Northwest.
Of course the delicious smells that emanate from Mason Street Grill are just a tease for what awaits inside restaurant, which serves a dinner menu of well appointed steaks and seafood and a lunch menu that branches out to include substantial salads, flatbreads and a variety of sandwiches.
Among the offerings for both lunch and dinner is the Mason Street Grill Burger featuring a 10-ounce Black Angus chuck and sirloin patty topped with muenster cheese and honey glazed onions and accompanied by house burger relish ($16).
The burger’s presentation isn’t over the top. But it showcases the goods that await you, from the fresh tomato and lettuce to the real star: the substantially caramelized beef patty, glistening with residual fat and cloaked by a gorgeous cloak of melted muenster.
The bun was lovely. It was soft, yet substantial, appropriately sized and substantial enough to hold up to the 10 ounces of beef to which it had been entrusted. Its texture was tender and its flavor was slightly sweet. Best of all, it was beautifully buttered and lightly toasted, giving it even more flavor, texture and resiliance.
The best burgers are those in which the beef is the star. Such is the case here, and it’s not due merely to the sheer volume of the patty. The beef is beautifully seasoned with an exceptional meaty flavor that’s enhanced by a caramelized exterior and crisp edges that make eating it (even on its own) a delight. It was also expertly prepared. Mine was the most perfect medium-rare I’ve encountered on the trail -- beautifully pink inside without leaning too rare -- warmed throughout and augmented with that lovely exterior crust. It was perfect.
The toppings on this burger are simple, and they serve one purpose: to complement the beef. The cheese was applied with a keen sense of balance; it was beautifully melted and its mild flavor allowed the beef’s meatiness to shine. Honey glazed onions were beautifully dark and sweet, but applied with a delicate touch so their flavor wasn’t overwhelming. Meanwhile the lettuce and tomato added a freshness that kept the sandwich from becoming too rich.
The burger relish (which featured fresh onion and tomato) was flavorful enough and would have offered a bit more pungent onion flavor; but after taking a few bites of the sandwich without, I didn’t find it to be a necessary addition.
The average pub burger in Milwaukee ranges between $12-16; and the best of them justify their cost with good quality beef that’s expertly prepared and toppings that enhance its flavor. Such is the case with this exceedingly well executed burger, which showcases its value in every bite.
If you are a fan of substantial pub-style burgers and a kitchen that cooks them precisely to order, the Mason Street Grill Burger is where it’s at.
Mason Street Grill is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 10 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.