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.
It seemed appropriate to begin our hike down the burger trail with one of Milwaukee’s classic cheeseburgers. Mazo’s has been cooking up their delicious burgers in Milwaukee since 1934. Initially located on 14th Street and Lincoln Avenue, the family moved its burger business to South 27th Street in 1948. And now, three generations later, it’s still a popular spot to grab breakfast, lunch or an early dinner.
In some ways, taking a seat at Mazo’s is a bit like taking a step back in time. The cozy restaurant maintains the spirit of an old school diner. Depictions of legends including Dean Martin and Nat King Cole grace the walls alongside vintage advertisements for automobile companies including Desoto and Studebaker.
We made our visit in the early afternoon after things had settled down from the bustling lunch hour; however, if you arrive between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., you'll find a restaurant filled with a mix of regulars chatting it up with waitstaff and newbies eagerly devouring their delicious lunches.
On our visit, I kept it classic by ordering a cheeseburger with fried onions and American cheese, a side of French fries and a raspberry malt (because when you’re at an old-school burger joint, it pays to gild the lily). I also ordered a cup of chicken noodle soup, which (sadly) was never delivered to our table ... no matter. After all, I came to try the burger.
The presentation at Mazo’s is basic. Basket, liner, fries and burger with a fan of pickles served alongside. Despite its lack of flair, it’s the sort of presentation that says: "I am what I am. Now eat me." And that’s exactly what I wanted to do.
On the other hand, that burger bun Mazo’s uses is a looker. Glossy and slightly sweet, the cut sides are toasted, and the top is pleasantly spongey. It also holds up well to the burger and toppings, gently absorbing the malingering grease from the burger without growing soggy.
The perfectly formed patty was thick and moist. The surface belied the shine of butter, along with a hint of salt. In fact, the one place where I might fault the burger is that it seemed ever so slightly under-seasoned. That said, it tasted fresh (a good thing since Mazo’s boasts freshly ground beef), and it had a nice texture which held together well, even as I sliced into it with a knife.
I ordered my burger with American cheese and fried onions. Classic. There were just enough sweet, browned onions to offer up a bit in every bite. Similarly, the perfectly melted cheese coated the burger, offering up that brilliantly salty umami flavor that only processed cheese can.
Mazo’s is the sort of burger that won’t leave you hungry. It’s well sized and satisfying. And when the cost is a mere $6.70 (including sides), there’s no doubt about the value. It’s a price I’d gladly pay even if it was for the burger itself. Mazo’s burger is a great deal for the price.
There's something to be said for a burger that stands solid, even without reliance on frills. In fact, it's likely the utter simplicity of the Mazo's burger that makes it a true Milwaukee classic.
Mazo's is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 6:45 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.