"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee is back! For the entire month of March, we're serving up fun articles on bars, clubs and beverages – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Follow along with the #DrinkOnMke hashtag too. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
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. And, if you enjoyed the addition of veggie burgers to the mix, you can look forward to more of those. I'll be adding at least one veggie burger review to the mix every month.
Steny’s Tavern & Grill
800 S. 2nd St.
Among a few beloved bars in Walker’s Point, Steny’s is a bit of a marvel. I’ve been there during the middle of the day when guests are sparse, and I’ve popped by at busier times, including during games and Friday nights for fish frys. But although service slows slightly during high volume hours, things always seem to run smoothly.
By and large, if you're looking for a quiet spot to enjoy a conversational dinner with friends, Steny's is probably not your spot. But if you like a lively environment with a fun, friendly vibe, step right up. Because Steny’s not only delivers an energetic environment, but a nicely prepared bar menu – with some unexpected frills and housemade items – that’s worth your while.
On the burger side, Steny’s offers myriad options, from six signature burgers to a build-your-own option, turkey burger and housemade black bean burger. On my last visit, I opted for the Steny’s Mack.
The Steny’s Mack features a half pound grass-fed angus patty topped with cheddar cheese, red onion, lettuce and housemade thousand island sauce with guest’s choice of fries, kettle chips, Jamaican jerk sweet potato salad, street corn, veggie medley or cottage cheese ($10.95). You can also sub in tater tots or a cup of soup for $1.25 (or chili for $2.25). Gluten free buns are available for $2.50 more.
On the appearance side, this was an attractive bar burger. It arrived with its glossy bun cocked to the side, revealing a substantial burger patty almost entirely coated with a layer of beautifully melted cheddar cheese. A peep of green lettuce was apparent underneath, pulling the whole look together.
The bun was comprised of soft sweet brioche, a nice choice for just about any burger, in my opinion. The bun was well sized for the burger and held up to the very juicy patty. The one chink in its armor was in the toasting. The edges were nicely browned, but the remainder of the bun’s interior was seemingly untouched by the griddle, leaving it susceptible to sogginess. Ultimately, the top bun soaked up most of the housemade dressing, minimizing its flavor.
The burger was definitely the star of the show. The patty was perfectly uniform (and yet loose enough in its packing that it allowed for juiciness) and shaped so that it fit the size of the bun perfectly. As I peeled back the cheese, I noted that it was nicely caramelized on the exterior (not quite crisp, but definitely beautifully browned) with a mid-rare interior that was in keeping with my order. As for flavor, it was moderately seasoned, beefy and fresh … pretty delicious on its own, but complemented by the toppings. It was also big and juicy (think: drip down your arm juicy), making it a delicious mess to tackle (especially as it slid around the bun significantly due to the placement of the lettuce; see more on that below).
As for the additions, the housemade thousand island dressing was tangy and it offered a slight pop of acid, along with a boost in flavor. Unfortunately, since so much of the sauce soaked into the top bun, its flavor was slightly muted. Next time I might ask for a bit more on the side. I also appreciated that the burger came with a fair number of pickles on the side. I added a few to the burger about halfway through and appreciated the extra pop of acid to balance out the overall richness.
Both the lettuce and onion were fresh. The red onion, which came in a thick slab, offered a nice crunch, though I would have preferred a thinner slice. The onion flavor was fairly prominent and slightly out of balance, even against the substantial burger patty.
Meanwhile, the cheddar cheese was nicely melted, covering the bulk of the burger. I’m not always a fan of cheddar, as its flavor often gets lost in the shuffle unless it’s a particularly sharp variety. But, in this case, the cheese was applied generously enough that its flavor cut through the noise.
I did take slight issue with the overall build of the burger. The lettuce and onion were placed below the burger patty, so it captured a good amount of the burger’s juices and grease, causing the burger to slide right out of the bun on more than one occasion. I’d be likely to flip the toppings around to facilitate easier eating.
At $11 for a half-pound of grassfed beef, the Steny’s Mack is well-priced. Add little details like housemade dressing and a patty that’s cooked to order and this burger becomes a pretty good value. It’s pretty good food coming out of a high volume bar.
The Steny’s Mack has its flaws, but in the end it’s a delicious mess of a burger.
Steny’s Tavern & Grill is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.