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.
Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern
234 E. Vine St.
If you’re looking for a lively spot for breakfast, brunch or lunch, Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern should be on your short list. After all, they serve up a relatively substantial menu of options from Johnny cakes to breakfast burritos and eggs Benedict, plus a short list of salads and sandwiches.
You can enjoy all those things (plus brunch drinks and coffee) between the walls of a refurbished Miller tied house that’s been renovated to include an upstairs residence, a restaurant and the cutest little homegoods store upon which you’ve laid eyes (you can get a bit of shopping in, if you end up having to wait for a table … which is somewhat likely, especially on the weekend).
… but let’s get back to the food. Among the menu options are two burgers. One comes topped with an egg (plus, cheese, bacon, raspberry balsamic pickled onions and mustard, $15); the other does not. On this trip, we went with the simpler version. The hamburger with cheese features a ⅓-pound beef patty, American cheese, balsamic caramelized onions and fancy sauce. It comes with a side of fries for $13.
That cheese! Feast your eyes on all that melty goodness. Yes, there’s a burger under there, but it’s cloaked in shiny orange deliciousness. It pretty much eclipses everything else about the burger. But closer examination reveals a nicely browned bun and strategically placed crown of balsamic vinegar infused onions. Not bad, Wolfie’s, not bad at all.
The bun at Uncle Wolfie’s is a solid bakery-style bun, simultaneously airy, yet sturdy with a nice yeasty flavor. Each half was nicely buttered and toasted to a beautiful golden brown. The bun was also sufficiently robust in holding up to the juices of the burger.
The biggest chink in this burger’s armor is inconsistency in terms of cooking. Both myself and my dining companion ordered our patties mid-rare. Mine came closer to rare, while hers was closer to medium on one side, and more rare on the other; it was enough variability to pull the rating down by a good point. Fortunately, there was redemption in the burger’s flavor. The exterior was nicely crisped and very well seasoned, and the meat offered up just the right amount of beefy character. The patty was also pleasantly juicy, easily soaking the bottom bun with flavorful juices.
There was a nice balance in the toppings. The onions were nicely browned and slightly sweet from the balsamic vinegar; and there were just enough of them to offer a bit of flavor in each bite. Meanwhile, Wolfie’s "fancy sauce" (comprised of a proprietary blend of spices mixed with mayo, sour cream, mustard and ketchup), was judiciously applied, offering up a complex tang. In the end, this burger has everything you’d want: sweet, salty and tangy with enough fat to make it flavorful and comforting.
This is one of those relatively simple burgers that checks all the necessary boxes. The bun is soft yet sturdy, the meat is flavorful and juicy and the toppings are both thoughtful and balanced in their flavors. There’s little doubt it’s a solid sandwich for the price.
The burger’s name might be boring, but the "hamburger with cheese" is decidedly not.
Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 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.