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’s National Pretzel Day, so there’s no better time to pay tribute to the pretzel bun.
While pretzel buns aren’t a great fit for every burger – largely due to their pronounced, sometimes aggressive flavor and dense texture – there are times when they play a role enhancing an already delicious burger’s assets. In the case of these six burgers (two of which are plant-based), that’s exactly the case.
1. Bibinger’s signature burger
The pretzel bun was a good choice for Bibinger’s signature burger, in part due to its inherent sweetness. That complemented the caramelized onions and offset the multitude of other savory elements in the compilation, while adding a nice sturdy foundation for the gigantic half-pound burger.
2. The Brew Burger at The Explorium Brewpub
In the case of the Brew Burger, the pretzel bun showcased its assets. The dense bun was paired with a large patty that remained ultra juicy, so it didn’t entirely overwhelm the sandwich. The bun itself was soft and fresh, with the typical density of a pretzel roll. It was slightly grilled, judging from the horizontal marks on the cut sides, but not toasted to the point of crispness. The bottom bun suffered a bit in transit, growing soggy from burger juices that collected in the bottom of the container; but I gave that a pass because a) juicy burgers are lovely and b) it did not, by any means impact the way the bun held up while I was eating it.
3. The Bacon Pepper Jack at Foltz Family Market
In the case of the The Bacon Pepper Jack Burger, the pretzel bun complemented the seasonings in the meat, and the texture was a good heft to stand up to the toppings. The bun was also warm (nice touch) with an exterior that was crisped almost like the exterior of a good hard roll. Even more surprisingly, that seemed to take the place of the usual buttering and toasting of the interior side of the bun, which was left soft and pliable and – unsurprisingly – amiable to soaking up all the surrounding juices from the burger patty and sauteed mushrooms.
4. The Wisco Burger at Oak Barrel Public House
When you’re paying homage to Wisconsin, the home of cheese, sausages, beer and beer garden treats like Bavarian pretzels, a pretzel bun fits the bill. The soft, dense bun on The Wisco Burger was nicely crisped, and it did well in soaking up a decent portion of the fatty drippings from all the cheese and bacon.
5. The Still Smokin' at Twisted Plants
The pretzel bun on the Still Smokin’ was dense (as they tend to be), sufficiently soft. And Twisted Plants gave each cut side a nice crisp toast, so there was plenty of texture. Even better, the burger’s umami-rich flavor profile brought out the bun’s sweetness, contributing to the overall balance of the burger.
6. The Classic at Urban Beets
I was surprised by the role the pretzel bun played on the Classic Burger at Urban Beets. It was flavorful, but not overpowering; and it was soft enough that it didn’t make eating the burger a chore. I was surprised to find that it hadn’t been toasted (a practice I’d consider to be a foundation for any burger), so its cut edges were still soft and supple, leaving it to readily soak up any sauces in its path.
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.