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.
Third Street Tavern
1110 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 897-8137
Third Street Tavern is a relative newcomer to the block, opening its doors this past June. Located in the former home of Cantina Tequila and Taco Bar, in ultra-convenient range of the currently dark Fiserv Forum, the concept combines the feel of a tavern (think multiple shelves of Jameson for shots lining the bar) paired with an old school comfort food menu and classic arcade games (currently not operational due to the pandemic) in a visually refreshed space.
On the menu, folks will find wings, appetizers, salads and a good number of sandwiches (think loaded grilled cheese, cheesesteaks and fried chicken) and wraps (chicken Caesar, club and Buffalo chicken), along with four burger options, one featuring the Beyond Burger. There's also a stunt burger, a 24-ounce six-patty cheeseburger served with an onion ring and a side of tots for $29.99. It's free if you can down it in eight minutes or less (you also get a t-shirt, an entry on the Champions board and some serious bragging rights).
Challenge burgers aside, there's also the Third Street Cheeseburger, a promising old school burger which I've been looking forward to trying since I previewed the new bar this summer. It comes with two beef patties, American cheese, grilled onion and pickles ($12.95). It’s served with crinkle-cut fries; but you can sub out onion rings, tater tots or side salad for an upcharge. I opted for the o-rings (+$1), which were large and crisp. They transported nicely, unlike the crinkle-cut fries, which lost the bulk of their crunch from transport in a styrofoam container (I should’ve poked some holes in it for sure).
Note: If you’re looking for something different to share with folks in your pod, splurge on the Grandma’s Dip, a classic onion dip served with thick kettle chips for dipping ($9.95).
The burger was packed on paper in a styrofoam container (I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed in that choice) alongside its onion rings. It unpacked relatively well, only a few bits of cheese clinging to the paper, and it looked quite appetizing with nicely melted cheese drooping over well caramelized smash patties and a glimpse of onion beneath its glossy bun.
The classic burger bun was soft and supple and visibly toasted. Both burgers I tried showcased deeply dark interior edges. One of them was charred enough on its top half that a burnt flavor distracted fairly heavily from the overall flavor of the burger. It was a case where kitchen staff probably should have toasted a brand new bun before the order went out.
The two thin smash-style patties were beautifully griddled and bore a deeply browned crust (more on one side than the other) and slightly crisped edges. It was notably seasoned (pleasant on its own, but a bit salty when combined with the cheese) and delightfully greasy, with a good beef flavor. Delicious.
As for the toppings, they were a mixed bag. There was plenty of cheese, and it was beautifully melted, cloaking each of the patties so there was plenty of flavor in each bite. The lightly browned onions were soft and sweet, more caramelized than “grilled” as the menu promised. Despite the unexpected preparation, I quite liked them, though their flavor was largely overpowered by both the other salty ingredients and the very vinegar-forward pickles.
What? You're probably shaking your head as you read this. And I understand. After all, anyone who has followed me on my Burger Trail journey knows that I’m big proponant of pickles for their profound ability contribute to a balanced burger flavor profile. But, in this case, I was torn. Their salty vinegary flavor was so prominent – even distracting – that it entirely disrupted the balance of sweetness, salt and acid that makes a great burger shine.
This was the type of burger that seems to have been designed to provoke thirst. And yes, if I’d have been sitting in the bar after a beer or two (or was at least drinking a beer alongside), its saltiness probably wouldn’t have hit me as hard. But, as much as I wanted it to shine on its own as a delicious carry-out lunch, it was slightly too salty and unbalanced to provoke the gustatory satisfaction I wanted it to have.
At $12.95, this burger isn’t off the charts expensive. But, for the price, I’d expect greater attention to have been paid to it all around (a nicely toasted bun and more balanced flavor profile would have gotten it there). I would also have been happier to have paid the price if the burger had come in a more eco-friendly container.
The idea behind the Third Street Burger is super solid; and it has the potential to be a solid pick. But, before that happens, its execution needs a bit of work.
The Third Street Tavern kitchen is open for dine-in, carry-out and curbside pick-up Monday and Tuesday from 4 to 10:45 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10:45 p.m. Delivery is available through Grubhub and DoorDash.
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.