It seems that the culinary scene is undergoing a burger revolution of sorts, with media outlets pumping out articles on the hunt for the perfect burger, sliders cropping up on menus of restaurants large and small and a trend forming towards "gourmet" grass-fed beef.
Perhaps it's this revolution that caused Tim Dixon, owner of the Iron Horse Hotel to open a burger bar in the location previously occupied by The Social, 170 South 1st St. Or, perhaps Dixon just truly has a love for short menus, good food and a nice cold beer. Either way, the proof at Stack'd doesn't lie in the gourmet Wisconsin grass-fed burger, it lies in the pickle chips, the ingenuity of the featured burgers and the bacon.
In fact, while I'd call a regular Stack'd grass-fed burger option (topped with bacon and cheddar at my request, $10) a bit lacking in flavor and somewhat boring, other items and the featured burger selections here are downright delicious. The small, simple menu makes for great delivery of basics like the hot mess BLT ($11) -- three gooey cheese flowing over thick slices of Texas toast and topped with Nueske's bacon, crisp lettuce, and tomato slices.
Starters offer lovely, unhealthy options like Harry's fried potent pickle coins ($5), medium cut pickle chips breaded and fried with a spicy ranch dipping sauce. I wasn't enamored with the sauce, but the pickles were a wonderful meld of juicy and crunchy.
Even better was a hot plate of pulled pork nachos ($8) which were piled high with not only some of the more tender, juicy pulled pork you'll find in town, but another batch of Nueske's bacon, this time crumbled over the nachos and drizzled with crème fraiche. The nachos are made with wontons for a light, airy feel, and other toppings of tomatoes, cheese, and jalapenos are generous, for a big plate of satisfying dietary sin.
A gobbler ($10) stacks an all-white meat grilled turkey burger with sage, celery, gravy and fried shoestring sweet potatoes on your choice of bun from Miller's bakery (pretzel roll, classic, gluten-free, Texas toast, or sans bun on a bed of greens). For this Thanksgiving-style burger, I elected the pretzel roll with great results, although the gravy makes this more of a knife-and-fork option than a grab-and-eat burger.
Diners at Stack'd must be aware that the bun can make or break the burger. For some items, the classic roll is just too heavy to bear the burger and can make it dry, as in the case of the Fahgettaboudit ($13), which is created à la meatball-with ground lamb, veal and bison -- the meat proved phenomenal, but we decided the next time we ordered this it would be on Texas toast with a side of marinara. Standing alone on the roll, it was simply too dry (the burger comes standard with tomato, basil and parmesan, but no additional sauce).
As someone who suffers from gluten intolerance, I was elated to see the gluten-free roll option, which was the highlight of my aforementioned plain Stack'd burger. This gives me the option of going out for a burger without needing a couple days to sleep off the effects. For me, this is reason enough to go back to Stack'd.
Add in the cleverness of the burger options and the fact that the pulled pork -- a dish that so often falls flat in restaurants -- was so excellent on the nachos, and I think I've found one of the more inviting menus in town, even though it's also likely one of the smallest.
Vegetarians, too, will find multiple options at Stack'd. You don't have to worry about a boring garden burger here; Stack'd offers a black bean burger, a portabella stack, an HLT (with hummus) and a salmon burger if you eat fish.
In short, there's something for everyone here, and if you're looking for a guilty burger splurge, you may just find exactly what you're looking for on 1st Street.
Oh, and did I mention they have spiked milkshakes?
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.