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.
Restaurant y Taqueria La Esperanza
2028 W Mitchell St., (414) 212-8535
Located in a building which housed a George Webb Restaurant for years, Restaurant y Taqueria La Esperanza offers up a diner style environment, along with a menu that checks off a variety of boxes.
Looking for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Restaurant y Taqueria La Esperanza provides all three, plus a diverse menu that offers Mexican staples (think tacos, enchiladas and tortas), along with a smattering of other items including gyros and burgers.
And when I say burgers, I don’t just mean one or two. In fact it was their laundry list of burgers – with choices ranging from a California burger and mushroom swiss to the Habanero with habanero sauce, bacon and cheese to the Esperanza with onion rings, fried jalapenos, bacon and cheese – which made them an obvious contender for the Burger Trail series.
On my most recent trip, I ordered the Paiza Burger featuring a burger patty, avocado, fried onions, chipotle, jalapenos, cheese, lettuce and tomato; it’s served with a side of battered fries ($9.95).
The carry-out burger was packaged in styrofoam (something I wish would change, as there are so many other affordable and more eco-friendly options these days; but I digress). But it was packed with care, as noted by the paper insert which sat between the food and the styrofoam, absorbing extra grease aand preventing direct contact with the food. Aside from a bit of condensation, the burger transported fairly well.
Pulled from its packaging, the burger showcased a fresh shapely bun, beautiful layers of frilly green lettuce, light red tomato, orange chipotle crema and even a peek of bright green avocado underneath. Cheese (less visible in this shot) was nicely melted over the fried onions, which were plentifully applied, drooping over the patty here and there.
The bun was large and soft (obviously fresh) with a very light toasting that was evident mainly on the bun’s edges. It was nicely flavored and well-sized for the hefty burger patty. It was also a nice heft which functioned to efficiently absorb moisture from both the burger and toppings without getting soggy.
The thick patty was loosely packed with the round, but irregular shape that belies hand-pattying. Its exterior was mottled with brown, though it didn’t have a notable crust. As for texture, it was loosely packed and cooked right around medium; you could tell it had a balanced fat content, as the meat was juicy and not at all dry. It wasn’t overly seasoned; and while it didn't have any of the tell-tale flavors associated with fancy blending, it was reasonably beefy with no off flavors.
As for the toppings, they were all quite solid. The lettuce was a bit limp, with a few imperfections and the tomato was a bit lackluster (as “winter” tomatoes tend to be). But the avocado was fresh and unblemished with a nice creamy texture, the (American) cheese beautifully melted and equipped with that signature salty umami that says “classic burger;” and the onions offered evidence of a quick, hard saute; they were browned in some areas and sweet in their flavor, but still offered some toothy texture.
In combination, the pickled jalapenos and chipotle sauce offered a pleasant heat that wasn’t overpowering. Individually, the jalapenos brought brightness and a bit of acid to the table, while the chipotle offered a deep picante smokiness that complemented the other flavors, boosting the freshness of the avocado and deepening the meatiness of the beef. Overall, this burger pulled together a number of key Mexican ingredients to create a balanced, tasty burger that was a welcome departure from the usual.
You don’t see many burgers of this ilk for $10 these days, let alone with fries; so this burger immediately falls into a solid value category. But it was designed with well-conceived, complementary toppings that not only gave it a sense of place, but offered up a uniquely tasty dining experience.
If you love the fresh bold flavors of Mexican fare and the smokey heat of chipotle peppers, this burger is definitely worth a try.
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.