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.
1848 W Fond Du Lac Ave.
If you’ve not taken the time to dine at The Tandem, consider this your invitation. This hidden gem, located just outside of Downtown across from Johnsons Park, serves up a menu of Southern and internationally-inspired dishes including fried chicken, oxtails and Thai-style curries, along with sides like deviled eggs, fried okra, hushpuppies and greens. During lunch, there are also sandwiches, soup and salads.
You can take a seat inside the historic dining room, once home to the popular Wally Schmidt Tavern, or grab a table on the adorable bicycle-themed courtyard patio just behind the building. Either way, you’ll be greeted by a staff of hard-working, enthusiastic employees, many of whom live in the surrounding neighborhood.
On our latest trip, I decided it was time to check out The Tandem’s burger, an offering that’s gotten quite a bit of praise lately on social media. Turns out that was a very good idea.
The Tandem Burger features a half-pound beef patty, lettuce, tomato and onion on a bakery-style bun with a side of french fries ($11).
This is a basic burger, so there’s not a lot going on in terms of presentation. However, the burger looks appetizing, cradled neatly on its bun amid a sea of fries. Even better, there’s a bit of color from the bright green lettuce, ruby red tomato and bright white onion alongside.
The bun is well appointed. Its exterior is glossy with a crisp crust and a sturdy interior softness that offers the perfect amount of bread to soak up the beef patty’s juices (of which there were plenty). It wasn’t notably toasted; however it did its job admirably well, supporting the burger without getting unmentionably soggy.
The patty is hefty, sporting a half-pound of beef that’s been hand-pattied and seasoned well before being cooked to order. My burger came out solidly more medium than medium-rare, so there’s some room for improvement there (the same was true of my dining companion’s burger). However, the meat was still exceedingly juicy with a nice texture that hadn’t been overworked or packed too tightly. It was well-seasoned, giving it enough flavor that I would have been happy to eat it on its own.
If you’re not in the mood for a hefty half-pounder, it’s worth noting that at lunch or Saturday brunch, you can also opt for a 4-ounce/quarter-pound burger (it’s just $5).
It’s not every burger that could stand alone as well as this one. Nor are there many which can get by with such a basic accompaniment of toppings – a crisp piece of leaf lettuce and slices of juicy tomato and crisp onion. But this burger did just fine. The toppings were fresh and bright and the burger savory (and juicy) enough to pull it off. I almost never order my burger without cheese, and was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The addition of a slathering of ketchup was pleasant, but the burger was remarkably fine without.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for a burger with a bit more oomph, it’s worthwhile to note that The Tandem also offers regular burger specials. The day we dined, they were serving up "The Alizabeth with an A" burger featuring a mild peach jalapeño jam, Colby jack cheese, pickles, mayo, red onions and bacon ($12), and it offered up a symphony of flavors – sweet, briny, savory and smoky – all of which complemented the beefy umami of the burger quite nicely.
The price on this burger ($11) is more than fair when you consider its overall flavor and quality. A burger that can stand on its own, without the addition of cheese or condiments is a pretty remarkable thing. And this is that burger.
Want a hefty, great tasting burger that relies very little on its toppings for flavor? That’s exactly what you get at The Tandem.
The Tandem is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (lunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and last dinner seating at 9 p.m.) and Saturday brunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.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.