Now a monthly feature in the On the Burger Trail series, the veggie burger installment seeks out the latest, greatest and most delicious veggie burgers in Milwaukee. The criteria for presentation, bun, toppings and value remains consistent with those established for the Burger Trail; but the veggie burgers themselves will be rated on the basis of overall quality, flavor, texture and preparation.
The Wicked Hop
345 N. Broadway
I still remember when The Wicked Hop opened in 2004. I was intrigued by its former warehouse location (at the time, there weren’t nearly as many cool spots in the entire city, let alone the Third Ward), its rustic Wisconsin film star themed decor and beautifully unexpected metal art. It quickly became a top spot to head with friends for a platter of nachos and a few beers. In the summer, it became a go-to for brunching on the patio.
These days, the bar and restaurant is still a famed spot for burgers, nachos bloody marys and brunch; and thanks to the growth of the Third Ward, it draws crowds of both regulars and tourists, luring them in with burger specials, a great happy hour and (of course) its night life sister spot the Jackalope Lounj. But I didn’t go for any of that on my last visit. Instead, I headed in to try something I’ve never sought out before: the popular veggie burger.
The Veggie Black Bean burger is described on the menu as "Made-from-scratch black bean and yellow corn veggie burger planted on a freshly toasted roll and arranged with a patch of lettuce, tomato and red onion," $11. The burger comes with a choice of thin-cut fries, fresh fruit or cottage cheese.
Fun fact: The Wicked Hop name actually originated from a baseball term which refers to a sharp ground hit that initially seems like it will result in an easy out, but then unexpectedly bounces in an alternate direction.
The burger is a looker thanks to its glossy bun and layers of color from not only its fresh vegetable toppings, but also the patty itself which is flecked with pops of black, yellow and red. It’s situated next to a generous pile of nicely appointed thin cut fries that taste as good as they look.
Glossy brioche is a popular choice for burgers, but not always those of the veggie persuasion (most brioche contains a liberal amount of milk and butter, so they’re definitely not vegan-friendly). In this case, the sweet flavor paired nicely with the burger. The bun was also toasted, with a dark, crispness concentrated primarily on the edges of the bun.
The substantial housemade black bean patty was beautifully flavored with a mix of Southwestern spices along with pieces of black bean, corn and flecks of red pepper. It wasn’t at all bland, and was just firm enough to hold its shape and not spread unmanageably beyond the bun.
All three of the basic toppings (lettuce, tomato and sliced red onion) were fresh and crisp, and they added a nice vegetal component to the burger, along with a bit of moisture. It was enough that I didn’t feel the need for additional condiments.
Although you can add any number of toppings to the burger, I went spare on mine to get a better feel for the flavor of the burger. I did add a slice of Monterey Jack cheese, which frankly didn’t add much to the compilation beyond a bit of its cheesy texture.
After enjoying it as-is, I doubt the burger would benefit much from more traditional toppings. But it would be lovely with the addition of guacamole and jalapeños if you wanted to embrace the burger’s Southwestern feel and give it a bit more pop.
A housemade veggie burger that’s packed with flavor is always a good thing. And this one is plenty worth your ten-spot and some change.
The Black Bean Veggie Burger at The Wicked Hop is a solid Southwestern take in the veggie burger canon.
The Wicked Hop is open Monday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 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.