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.
South Shore Terrace
2900 S. Shore Dr.
Summer is quickly approaching, and as the weather becomes consistently warmer, spending time at one of the area’s increasing number of beer gardens becomes more and more attractive.
Among them is South Shore Terrace, a gem of a destination featuring both indoor and outdoor seating and scenic views of the Lake Michigan shoreline. It’s also one of the few beer gardens with a full kitchen and a menu featuring appetizers like cheese curds, charcuterie and chicken wings, along with sandwiches, salads and simple desserts (like Purple Door Ice Cream sandwiches).
Even if you’re not in the mood for a full meal, it’s pretty tough to beat the quintessential Milwaukee experience of sitting at one of the beer garden’s picnic tables, enjoying the view of the sailboats on the lake with a cold beer and a warm, soft Milwaukee Pretzel Company pretzel. Even on a somewhat dreary, cooler day, the beer garden is a great spot to linger with friends or grab a bite to eat, thanks to two amply sized fire pits.
On my latest trip, I decided to check out one of the beer garden’s burgers (of which there are three, plus an Impossible Burger for those who’d prefer to forego the meat). I opted for The Rocky, featuring a beef patty topped with blue cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and red onion on a pretzel bun ($12 with sidewinder fries).
The Rocky was pretty good looking with its frilly green lettuce, thinly sliced tomato and peeks of crisp bacon and blue cheese … definitely attractive enough to make me want to take a taste.
The pretzel bun was sturdy and soft, and it definitely did its due diligence keeping the burger and toppings in line. But, while I understand the affinity between pretzels and beer (and the inclination to assume that pretzel rolls are the best choice for a beer garden burger); I’m not sure the stronger flavor of the roll was the best possible choice here. In fact, in this case, the sweetness of a brioche roll would have been a welcome contrast for the sharpness of the blue cheese.
(On the other hand – and not unexpectedly – I found the pretzel roll to be a great match for the Clock Tower Burger, which featured cheddar, sautéed onions, a split grilled bratwurst, lettuce and mustard aioli).
Let’s talk about this burger. It was a relatively substantial patty; that’s to say it was thick enough to be cooked to order. In fact, its texture would have benefited from a lighter hand on the grill. Fortunately, the beef blend had enough fat content to save it from being irreparably dry, despite being cooked well done. It was sufficiently meaty, but slightly under-seasoned, at least by my gauge. The exterior had nice grill marks, crisp edges and a good amount of charred flavor. In fact, it reminded me of burgers I’ve eaten at countless backyard barbecues over the years, with similarities both in flavor and doneness.
Let’s start with the vegetable components. The lettuce was nice and crisp and the red onion thinly sliced (there was just enough to provide flavor, but not so much onion that it was overpowering). It’s tough to love tomatoes out of season, and this was no exception; but the tomato was also thinly sliced and offered up a bit of juicy tang.
There was also plenty of crisp bacon. It was nicely cooked – not flabby, but also not over-cooked – and it added a bit of texture and salt to the mix. The same was true of the blue cheese, which had a notable presence; I loved that there was enough of it that its flavor shone through, despite the other ingredients.
The burger didn’t need additional flavor; but it could have used the boost of a condiment. In my opinion, a swath of mayo would have done wonders to amp up both the flavor and moisture content of the sandwich.
In terms of value, this burger has a couple of things going for it. It’s substantial and relatively tasty. It also comes with a great convivial atmosphere and a lake view. That alone would probably be enough to justify its $12 price tag. But it’s also nice to know that eating and drinking at the Terrace brings money directly back to the County Parks system. Without getting too far into politics, I think it’s sufficient to say that we are blessed to have some seriously beautiful parks, and I’m happy to support a revenue stream that has the potential to keep them around.
You can get your burger with a brew and a view at the South Shore Terrace.
South Shore Terrace is open seasonally with hours Wednesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The beer garden’s holiday hours are 11 a.m. 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.