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.
939 S. 2nd St.
If you haven’t been to Meraki in a while (or ever), now is a great time to go. Not only is Chef Chad Meier’s seasonal menu filled with a really delicious selection of globally inspired dishes, but thanks to a few recent changes to the menu, it’s an incredibly flexible place to eat.
Entrees are available in both whole or half-portions, so there’s no need to commit to a huge meal. And if you’re dining with folks who like to share, it makes it easier to sample a good portion of the menu without breaking the bank. It’s also the sort of place where you can plop down after a long day and simply relax, knowing there's good food (and service) on the way.
Among the things you probably don’t know about Meraki is that they serve up a darn good cheeseburger. And maybe part of its charm is that you won’t find it on the menu. It’s only available upon request, and only at the bar.
It’s a one-third pound smash burger topped with five-year sharp cheddar and thinly sliced onions. It’s served on a housemade bun with housemade pickles, smoked tomato ketchup and a side of french fries ($10).
Don’t let the fancy plate fool you. This burger doesn’t harbor a stitch of pretense. But it’s mighty pretty with its glossy bun, cascade of melted cheese and pretty little frills of onion poking out from beneath the smashed patty.
I feel as if I should have saved all of my No. 10 scores for this bun. It’s made in house, and it’s a great burger bun.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Quality beef that’s been treated and cooked well is the heart of any stellar burger. And this burger is no exception. It’s made with grassfed beef sourced from Kettle Range Meats. The patty itself was well seasoned with a nice exterior crust. And it was packed loosely enough that – even though it was smashed – it retained a nice amount of fat during the cooking process.
Waitstaff won’t ask how you’d like your burger done, and in this case it’s OK. The third-pounder was cooked to right around medium. It was tender, flavorful and juicy enough to soak up the bottom portion of the bun.
When adorning a great burger, simplicity is often the best choice. And so it is at Meraki, where the toppings are basic, but effective. In this case, it's a healthy swath of beautifully melted 5-year aged cheddar, just the right amount of thinly sliced raw onions, housemade pickles and smoked tomato ketchup. Both the pickles and ketchup are served on the side, so you can use them at your discretion.
The burger was good enough on its own that it didn’t need condiments, but the ketchup was sweet and rich with a bit of smoke and a nice balance of spices. It was great on the burger, and the perfect accompaniment for the French fries.
Pro tip: If you like the zip of mustard on your burger, ask for the housemade mustard, which is delicious.
The value of this burger comes in its execution. It's thoughtful and well-appointed. And it has a house-made bun (and ketchup) that pretty much kicks ass.
So now that the cat’s out of the bag about Meraki’s delicious secret cheeseburger, you really have no choice but to get there and try it out for yourself. If you want to try a burger with a bit more flair, stop over between 9 p.m. and midnight on Thursday evenings when they feature a special themed late-night burger with toppings that jive with the vinyl they’ve chosen for that particular evening.
The bar at Meraki is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4:30 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4:30 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.