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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.
On the Clock
4301 S. Howell Ave.
Since 1903, the building on the corner of Howell and Bolivar Avenues has been a gathering place for folks from the area. And despite numerous owners and identities over the years, the building still retains many of the details of its rich past.
In fact, a step into On the Clock offers up as much a taste of history as it does modern convenience. Leaded glass windows are original to the building, along with carved gum-wood paneling and arches. And you can’t miss the focal point: an impressive carved wood bar. The hospitality is rich as well, and a trip to On the Clock – whether for lunch, dinner or drinks – is likely to leave you satiated in a variety of ways.
On our latest visit, we stopped by for lunch. And I ordered up the Big Guy, a half-pound Angus beef burger topped with bacon, American cheese, lettuce, onion and Thousand Island dressing ($8.50).
Although I pulled the burger together for its OnMilwaukee photographic debut, it comes to the table splayed open, proudly displaying its embarrassment of riches. Toppings lay on one side, while the burger patty topped with melted cheese and crisp bacon lay on the other. All of that is next to a generous portion of skin-on fries and a triad of thick-cut pickles.
The bun isn’t the real charmer of this burger. In fact, in this case, the standard bakery bun stays out of the way and simply does its job. It’s appropriately sized, quite soft and nicely toasted, offering an appropriate cradle for the half-pound burger and plentiful toppings. My one potential complaint is that the bun was soft enough that it flattened easily when grasped, making it a bit doughy by the end of the burger eating experience.
It seems cooked-to-order burgers are a rare delight in Milwaukee, as I find more and more that when I order mine mid-rare, they always seem to arrive medium-well. Such was the case at On the Clock, where the thick burger was uniformly shaped with visible grill marks on both sides. It wasn’t notably seasoned, so it relied fairly solidly on the toppings to bolster its meaty flavor. Neither dry nor particularly juicy, the burger wasn’t the star of the show either.
The cheese was well melted, the lettuce was crisp and the bacon was well cooked, all things immediately noticeable and appreciated. Although not mentioned in the menu description, the burger also came with a slice of tomato, though it was a typical, pale flavorless variety, so I simply set it aside. The onion slice was laid across the burger intact, so I found it needed separation into rings before eating. It was a thick slice of onion, so its flavor was relatively assertive. And, although it’s something I appreciated (along with the texture it added), I’m quite sure I walked away with a good dose of onion breath. I also appreciated the zippy flavor of the Thousand Island dressing, which gave a nice tang to the burger; however, its placement next to the lettuce made the toppings very slippery, and I found I had to recombobulate the burger and toppings multiple times during my meal.
The On the Clock burger turned out to be a classic example of getting pretty much what you pay for. At $8.50, it was a decent bar burger at a price I’d expect to pay.
While On the Clock’s burgers aren’t exactly "off the hook," they’re satisfying bar burgers at a fair price.
On the Clock is open daily from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.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.