In preparation for dining reviews, I usually endeavor to sample multiple items on the menu to get an idea for overall quality of a restaurant. But, in some special cases, as with Solly's Grille, 4629 N. Port Washington Rd., in Glendale, it seems nearly blasphemous to order anything other than one of the trademark burgers it has been serving since 1936.
Solly's is, as the name would perhaps indicate, unpretentious, to the point and casual. Diners here can gobble up their butter burgers at tiny two-tops or take a seat at the canary yellow, figure-eight shaped counter and rub elbows with other diners, carefully plucking tiny napkins from the metal boxes and wiping butter from their chins.
Recent visits yielded what I have come to expect from Solly's: no frills service and good, consistent comfort food.
A cup of split pea soup with ham ($2.65) or any of the other soups of the day, come piping hot with oyster crackers and no need for additional salt and pepper. French fries ($2.35) appear before the burgers, crinkle cut and crisp, piled high on a tiny plastic saucer with little room for ketchup.
Solly's has some of my favorite chocolate malts and shakes; throwbacks to what I imagine malt shops must have been like when my mother was a child: silky smooth, just sweet enough without being too sweet, and served in the ice cold metal blender cup in which it was mixed. At $4.29 apiece, they are one of the more expensive items on the menu, but well worth the cost. And who doesn't love the idea of a burger, fries and a milkshake?
Solly's cheeseburgers ($3.74) and burgers ($3.44) are tiny 1/6-pound burgers, but don't be too ambitious. Two of these with the healthy order of fries and a milkshake provide enough food for even the hungriest of eaters.
The burgers arrive sliced in two with just a smudge of the butter on the bun belying its presence, and are piled high with stewed onions so sweet that even those who claim they don't like onions on their burgers will still be in heaven.
For $5.49 a super cheeseburger bumps up to 1/3-pound size and includes lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, and other versions of the basic burger are offered for those who prefer a different cheese or other toppings.
The burgers are slender and cooked through "til they're done," never dry due to the large quantity of Wisconsin butter they use, and guaranteed to have you leaving fat and happy. But, if possible, do try to leave room for homemade pie, which sits tauntingly behind the counter in a crisp, buttery, lightly browned crust.
Solly's serves breakfast and other typical diner fare, such as grilled cheese, chicken sandwiches, pork chops and the like, and at lunchtime it is often standing room only.
Service here is attentive but not fast, so this is not usually a great stop if you're in a hurry, but if you have time to sit back and enjoy a chocolate malt, some fries, and the company of good friends and Solly's regulars, this restaurant definitely a excels.
A sign at the register announces that Solly's now discounts meals ordered after 5 p.m. by 10%, so after you're through with holiday ham, turkey and pot roast, perhaps a burger at Solly's is in order. You won't be disappointed.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.