In Which I Equate the Weather To, Well, Poop (and also reference Animorphs!)

There’s no point in re-discussing how long it has been since I previously posted.  I don’t think the five of you (hi mom!) who will read this actually care that much.  So, onward, upward, and…um…forward?  

Horrible way to start a pretend restaurant review, but any start is better than the starting speech that Chipper Jones gave at this year’s all-star game.  Ouch, just dreadful.

Faithful reader (hi, again, mom!) you may ask yourself, “where does he find such delicious (and sometimes not so delicious) burger joints in the greater Milwaukee area?”  I wish I could produce some great list of insider blogs and conversations that elicit the names of these restaurants, but that isn’t how things work.  Most of my suggestions come from the Serious Eats blog’s A Hamburger Today section.  The rest of the suggestions come from friends who have a much greater knowledge of Milwaukee than I do.  I realize how…sketchy…it sounds to get restaurant review suggestions from a blog that, well, mostly does restaurant reviews, but, I promise I don’t read the articles!  Seriously, I don’t.  I usually sneak a peak at the headline, put a star beside the milwaukee posts in my trusty Google Reader, and forget about the articles until the time comes for a new burger.  So, that means that the 8 of you who read this should probably post suggestions in the comments…or on twitter.  

Also, some congratulations is in order for me not mentioning the weather yet.  I think most of my previous posts began in some weather-related way, but not this one.  I am pretty tired about talking about the weather.  Seriously.  Sometime’s it is hot, other times it is cold.  It’s frustrating.  But, we all experience the weather.  Weather is one of the few things that we all do…well, experience.  We all eat, we all sleep, we all go to the bathroom, and we all have weather.  Weather is sort of like a poop joke.  Poop is funny in any language like the weather is experienced in any language.   

I’m not sure how I got on the subject of poop.  Uh…moving on. 

Henry’s Pub and Grille is a small pub on Belleview Place, just west of the Downer Theatre.  Henry’s is literally just around the corner from the Downer.  Luckily, Henry’s is a delicious place to grab a bite right before seeing a flick (that’s right, I said flick) at The Downer.  

The interior of Henry’s is pretty nondescript.  The main bar area is relatively small, so you might have to sit at the bar.  There are some cool old signs hanging on the wall, but honestly none of them stood out.  What did stand out was the Nader Burger.  

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That’s right, Nader burger.  I’m not sure how this burger got it’s name, but I’m going to assume that it has nothing to do with famous Green Party Presidential Candidate (and 2002 Democratic presidential saboteur) (and seatbelt aficionado) Ralph Nader.  Though, if it is named after Ralph Nader then I applaud Henry’s commitment to either irony or…um…all things green.  

To be honest, I really don’t remember much about the bun.  That’s not a bad thing.  Unless a bun is so fantastic that it implants itself into my brain like a Yeerk, it’s a good thing to be unmemorable.  This bun is exactly that.  As my single, blurry, Zapruder-esque photo shows, the bun was very well grilled.  My burger was pretty juicy and I didn’t have to make excessive use of my napkin, so the bun did a great job of both containing my ample burger and protecting my hands from being grease-machines. 

The burger came out looking a big like a swollen hockey puck.  It was very dense, and bizarrely fat.  I ordered my burger cooked to medium, and, while a little too grey in the middle, it was appropriately juicy.  My biggest complaint about this beef was that it was a little cold.  It seemed like our server may have accidentally left my burger waiting to be served too long or maybe it was cooked before the others.  It wasn’t cold to the point of being bad, it was just…cold.  The seasoning of the Nader burger is undisclosed (the menu says that it is a “secret”) but it added a wonderful smokiness to the meat.  The delicious seasoning worked in random with the wonderfully charred exterior to provide a nice, grilled, summery flavor.  

I particularly liked the cheese on the Nader burger.  It oozed (good ooze, not bad ooze) off the side of the burger and onto the top of the bottom bun (apparently called the heel of the bun…the more you know).  The flavor was the delicious Wisconsin Cheddar that we all love, not too sharp with just the smallest hit of sweetness.  Lovely cheese here.   

Nueske’s bacon.  Do I need to say anything else?  You just can’t do Nueske’s bacon poorly. It’s always great.  This bacon was wonderfully cooked and all around spectacular. I like bacon. It’s neat.  

Bacon aside.  Ok, America, we get it. Bacon is good, it’s delicious, all that stuff.  Can we please stop with all of the bacon hipster nonsense? It’s obnoxious.  Seriously.  If the bacon backlash hasn’t started yet then it will.  Like (almost) everyone else in the country I love bacon.  Let’s agree to stop shoving bacon imagery down everyone’s throats and stick to shoving slices of bacon down our throats (GROSS).   

I ordered tater tots with my (not Ralph) Nader burger, but the burgers also come with fries.  I visited with a group of people, so I luckily had the opportunity to try some fries.  First, though, the tots.  They were alright.  Tots aren’t too hard to do correctly.  Most tots are just frozen tots that are thawed and fried. That’s not a bad thing.  Unless you have a spectacular sweet potato tot (I’m looking at you Palomino) or some amazing tot made in house, then you’re getting about the standard tot.  These were definitely your standard tater tot, not special but not bad.  The fries, however, were delicious.  Get the fries when you go to Henry’s.  They’re perfectly fried and deliciously seasoned with some lovely green spices. Not sure what they were seasoned with, but they were seasoned.  The fries may very well have been pre-frozen but they tasted like they were fresh cut.  Good on you, Henry.  

One warning about Henry’s, the kitchen closes at 9:00 pm on weeknights (and maybe weekends too?) so get there at a reasonable dinner time.  On to the ratings.

Beef (1-5): 4

– Despite it’s bursting hockey puck appearance, this beef is quite tasty.  The seasoning added a delicious smoky flavor, and the char on the outside was near perfect.  My only complaint is the coldness of the burger.  I would also recommend getting the burger a little less cooked than you normally would 

Bun (1-5): 3

– The bun did it’s job, was well toasted, and didn’t make me too full.  Good on you, bun!  Way to go!  

Bacon (1-5): 5 

– Uh, it’s bacon.  Unless it’s turkey bacon, it’s probably a 5.  Turkey bacon is garbage.  Turkey bacon is blasphemous. Take your turkey bacon and get the rip out of here! 

Cheese (1-5): 4

– I really liked this cheese.  It was perfectly cooked and a nice mixture of stringy and solid.  Henry’s gives you a choice between a number of cheeses, but I’d recommend going with the cheddar.  

Tots (1-5): 3

– These tots were…tots.  Nothing special about them, just tots.   

Fries (1-5): 4 

– The fries were really good. Get the fries.  They were perfectly cooked and deliciously seasoned.  I’m not sure how they were seasoned, but it was greenish in color and delicious in taste. 

Recommendation:

– Henry’s is the perfect place to grab some delicious pub food before a lovely night at The Downer.  Go for it. 

– The Nader Burger is a tasty piece of beef.  I say 3 out of 5.  Not bad. 

Post Script:

– I understand that my individual number rankings don’t really average out to the final burger ranking.  Sorry.  The purpose of that individual burger ranking is to give an overall ranking and a recommendation for you.

Let me make this a little more clear.  The following is an explanation of what the rankings actually mean.  

0 out of 5: This is bad, don’t even try this because this place didn’t really try to make a decent burger.

– An example of this would be a disgusting fast food burger. 

1 out of 5:  A 1 burger attempts to be good, but just isn’t.  There really isn’t any point in eating a 1 burger. 

– Sorry, but Kopp’s burgers are a 1. 

2 out of 5:  These burgers aren’t really good, but it’s not their fault.  A 2 burger tries really hard but just can’t quite make it into the realm of deliciousness.  These burgers aren’t bad, and you might like them.  But, eater beware. 

– An example of this is the Comet Big Luck Burger that tries a little to hard to be something that it isn’t.

3 out of 5:  A 3 burger is a good, solid burger that you can feel comfortable with eating.  A 3 doesn’t blow you away, but a 3 satisfies your hunger and leaves you feeling happy.  A 3 is perfectly fine.

– This burger, from Henry’s is a 3.

4 out of 5:  A 4 is a great burger that you should seek out as soon as possible.  4s are delicious and leave you wanting more.  That’s what she said.

– An example of this would be the Bunratty Burger at County Clare 

5 out of 5:  5 is reserved for the best of the best.  For a burger to be a 5 it has to be one of the best burgers in your life.  A 5 burger has no burgers that are better than it and only a small number of equals.  

– The best example of this burger is the Juicy Lucy from the 5-8 Club.  In my 24 years of life, this is the best burger that I have ever eaten.

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This is the Dawning of the Age of the Brat House

Before I begin my review of the Brat House, I should make clear my allegiances to that glorious establishment.  The Brat House is at least (if not more often) a weekly destination for my law school friends and me.  We like this place. It’s something close to a problem but less than an obsession.  Simply, I love the Brat House and am probably going to overrate it’s burger…BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT!

On second thought, perhaps I should underrate the Brat House in hopes of deterring others from encroaching on our Old World Sanctuary. Right? Maybe?  That might work if more than 9 people read this (8 of those people probably make frequent Brat House pilgrimages and the other is my mom).  So, I won’t hold back in my completely egregious edification of Milwaukee’s Brat House.

Side note: At some point, I realized that I’m really inconsistent with my tense usage. I’ll often switch between past and present tense in the same paragraph.  That’s Bush League and I apologize, but I don’t have the energy to proof-read enough to weed out my inconsistent tenses, so…um…deal.

The Brat House (over/under 39 times I say “Brat House” in this post?) is a lot like a favorite movie.  I can tell you how great it is, and I can force you to watch it, but until you actually experience it you won’t really know.  Take Love Actually, for example.  Love Actually has been scientifically proven to be the perfect movie.  Fact.  Don’t question it.  Similarly, the Brat House is the best…whatever it is…in Milwaukee.  Seriously, but don’t take my word for it.

My burger arrived in the traditional cardboard tray with…um…paper as a lining. The burger isn’t imposing, but is a solid 8 oz piece of beef.  I should confess that this is my first burger from the Brat House.  Despite my multiple visits and my love of burgers, I had yet to try the burger.  Why, you (no one) ask? Because every time I go I get the hot dog. It’s delicious. The House Dog is a 1/4 lb, all beef dog on an AMAZING pretzel bun.  But, this isn’t the Milwaukee Hot Dog Blog…it’s the Milwaukee Burger Blog, so I’ll stop opining about The Brat House’s excellent hot dog that you should definitely try multiple times.

This burger has A LOT of bacon. By a lot, I mean 3 slices.  That is a great idea.  More bacon has never made anything bad.  Never.  The bacon was very well cooked.  I prefer my bacon a little crunchy, and on the chewier side of crunchy (there is nothing worse that taking a bite of a delicious burger and pulling out an entire slab of bacon because it isn’t crunchy enough).  Luckily, this bacon is the appropriate mix of crunch and chewy. Excellent.

The bun was pretty good. I like the flakiness (not a word) and it did a good job of absorbing the burger juices (terrible phrase but delicious), but aside from that it wasn’t anything spectacular.  It was good. Good is the best word for it. Redundancy.

Aside from being a little overcooked, the burger was really solid.  It had/has a delicious smoky flavor, and a really great level of juiciness.  My complaint is only on how the burger was cooked.  It was pretty grey on the inside, and didn’t really have any red anywhere to be found.  To the Brat House’s credit I didn’t ask for my burger to be cooked in any specific manner, and it was an appropriate level of medium-well.

The real star of the Brat House (aside from the GIGANTIC pretzel…I’m serious, this thing is gigantic.  It’s the size of a pizza) is…are…the cheese curds.  They are delicious. I love you, Wisconsin. You and your delicious curds are a thing of beauty. Thank you for accepting me into your cheese-curd-loving state.

On to the review.

Beef (1-5): 3

– This 1/2 lb patty was juicy, smoky, and a little overcooked.  If you like your burger medium or medium rare, make sure to ask.  Nonetheless, this is a really solid, medium-well patty.

Bun (1-5): 3

– A relatively unforgettable bun, but I really like it’s flakiness.  Buns are the only time that “flaky” is a compliment.

Cheese (1-5): 3

– All cheddar cheese is good. Unquestionable fact.

Bacon (1-5): 5

– Combine 3 slices of bacon with perfectly cooked bacon, and you’ve got some seriously delicious bacon. Bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon.

Cheese Curds (1-5): 1000

– I love these cheese curds.  They aren’t quite on the level of Palomino, but they’re still fantastic.  A ratings system cannot contain these cheese curds.

Recommendation

– The Brat House is a glorious place. I want to be a hipster and prevent you from going, but I won’t do that. Go, enjoy, and thank me later.

– The Brat House’s burger gets a 3 out of 5. Solid.

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The Weather Might Not Be Cold, But County Clare’s Irish Curry Will Still Warm Your Frigid Heart

Boom. 2 posts in…2, 3 weeks? That’s like lightning (don’t question it, just let it happen).   

As I move further and further from trying the typical 1/4 lb burger, I have begun to fear for my health.  I’m a pretty small, relatively active guy.  How many burgers can I eat before my arteries turn into straws full of grease? That’s a legitimate fear, but I have a problem. I really like burgers.  I could seriously eat one a day. I’m not kidding.  

Luckily, an addiction to hamburgers is PROBABLY better than an addiction to heroin. We’re all in agreement that heroin is pretty horrible for you. Just ask Janis Joplin.  This is so morbid.  Too morbid. 

Enough morbidity (spell-check says that is a word).  As a new Milwaukee resident I’m still miffed by this ridiculous winter. It’s been relatively mild and somewhat snow free (minus that 2 week period after the mini-blizzard of early January).  I’m not really sure why I expected some hellish, tundra-like winter.  I spent the last 5 years in Chicago, which is like 70 miles south. Chicagoans typically treat Milwaukee like it’s part of Canada, and we all know that’s not true…just ask Scott Walker. A little more snow would have been nice and romantic and stuff, but I’m not complaining. 

If you’ve never been to County Clare, it’s a beautiful little Irish pub attached to the County Clare Bed and Breakfast on Astor Street.  If you have been there then these facts still hold true…duh…horrible joke.  I imagine that County Clare has various Irish imports on tap and in the bottle if that’s what you’re looking for.  The menu is full of delicious Irish foods, and some American fare with an Irish twist.  What I’m getting at, is that County Clare is a really traditional Irish pub…like, Irish guy running the bar traditional.  

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County Clare’s burger is called the Bunratty Burger.  For those of you not from Ireland (ALL OF YOU)  Bunratty is a village in the actual County Clare, Ireland. I know this not because I’ve been to Ireland, but because I am good at Wikipedia. The Bunratty Burger is a hefty 1/2 lb beef patty, covered in both provolone and cheddar cheeses, a garlic parsley sauce, 2 large onion rings, and Irish bacon.  All of this is on a delicious Sciortino’s hard roll.  Irish bacon is called “rashers.”  Rashers ranges from the typical strips of bacon as we’re used to in America, to the traditional, round patty from Ireland.  It’s not a thick piece of bacon like Canadian Bacon (also a hilarious movie that, ironically, was directed by Michael Moore…yes that Michael Moore) but it does taste a little more like ham than American Bacon.  I really hate ham, but I love rashers…so there’s that.  I’ve had Irish bacon before (in Ireland), but I’ve never had it on a burger…until now. It was brilliant. The round patty provided much more flavor for the burger (solving the only problem with bacon strips), and it brought a subtlety delicious flavor to the burger. 

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When the Bunratty Burger comes to the table it is an intimidating sight to behold. It’s really big, and the two onion rings on top make it look even more intimidating.  I like onion rings on my burger, but these are really big onion rings.  If I left them on the burger then I couldn’t fit the whole thing in my mouth (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!) so I ate them first.  They were really tasty.  Nothing transcendent, but solid nonetheless.   

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The Sciortino’s hard roll was fresh, delicious, airy, and flakey.  Sciortino’s is an Italian bakery on Brady (Cake Boss is the greatest show in the history of shows about cakes) and apparently it makes delicious hard rolls.  The Sciortino’s roll was the perfect compliment to the immense and juicy burger.  The roll absorbed all of the juices and provided some great flavor for the whole thing.  

The beef was really great also.  It was delightfully juicy (who says that?) and perfectly grilled.  Both cheeses mixed well to form a delicious and stringy (good stringy) team.  The garlic parsley sauce was really subtle. REALLY SUBTLE. Like, so subtle I didn’t really taste it subtle. I’m totally ok with that. Too much more flavor would be overpowering.   

Burger aside, the best item on the menu at County Clare is the Irish Chips.  These are your typical pub fries (thick fries somewhere between thin fries and overwhelming steak fries) with a deliciously irish twist.  CURRY. They are covered in Irish Curry. Irish curry.  Amazing.  I love Irish Curry. It’s great. Seriously. Irish Curry is really different from curry as you’re used to in Indian dishes.  While it’s flavored with the same curry spices, Irish Curry is much more saucy and sweet. It’s not at all spicy. I’m not doing the flavor justice, but it reminds me of a really sweet, not meaty, gravy.  It’s also a beautiful pea green color. The Bunratty Burger is delicious, but County Clare is worth the trip for the curry fries alone.  

Onto the review:

Beef (1-5): 4

– High quality beef, here.  It is well cooked (though I recommend going down 1/2 temperature, medium down to medium rare) and full of flavor.  I’m not entirely sure on the cooking method of this burger but it was evenly cooked, solid, and HEFTY. It’s a lot of burger, but to accomplish everything that County Clare wants, it’s an appropriate size. 

Bun (1-5): 5

– The Sciortino’s hard roll ties for first as my favorite bun in Milwaukee (with anyone who has a delicious pretzel roll).  It is fluffy, fresh, flaky, and perfectly sweet. It’s a little sweet than your traditional Italian bread, and the extra sweetness is a great addition. 

Cheese (1-5): 3 

– The cheddar/provolone combo was really good, but nothing too special.  I assume this was Wisconsin cheddar, but I could be wrong. Good cheese. 

Onion Rings (1-5): 4 

– These rings were large and terrifying.  They fit on the burger if smashed down, but that’s a personal choice that I won’t make for you.  In terms of an onion ring, this is a really solid option. It was well battered, evenly fried (is it possible to unevenly fry something?) and sufficiently…oniony.

Bacon (1-5): 5 

– Amazing. This bacon is really great.  Milwaukee has some great bacon, and I don’t want to take anything away from that bacon, but this bacon is just something different. It’s a more hammy flavor (only slightly), a little smoky, and full of flavor. It subtly adds a lot to this great burger.

Garlic Parsley Sauce (1-5): N/A

– I just didn’t taste it, so I don’t think it gets rated. Maybe I should rate it 5 for not overpowering the burger? 

Fries (1-5): 5 

– Amazing. Some of the best fries in Milwaukee.  Get the Irish chips with curry and cheddar. Then write me a blank check as thanks for recommending these delicious fries to you. You’re welcome. 

Recommendation:

– County Clare is a fantastic Irish restaurant with some great traditional fare and some awesome American inspired dishes.  Go for the burger and come back for the fries. Seriously.

– The Bunratty Burger gets a 4 out of 5. The fries are so delicious they’re unrankable. Boom. 

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Kopp’s Burgers =…Iron Man 2; or Can you put an elipsis after an =?

(Sorry I don’t have photos for this burger, something happened to them…pirates.)

Once again, it takes me about 100 years to write a follow-up blog post. I’d still like to do one a week, but who knows at this point?

This also may be the post where the 3 readers that I have from Milwaukee might start to hate me. I’m sorry!  At least you can take solace in the fact that we’re in the midst of a heatwave here in Milwaukee.  Sadly, if living in the Chicago area for the last 5 years has taught me anything it’s that the weather in this are is a cruel mistress.  She’ll lure you in with her warmth and then, just when you get comfortable, slam the door with a -10˚ day. Typical woman…shameful (this is a joke).

If you’re a long-time Milwauker (don’t question it) you’re going to be unhappy because I’m about to criticize one of the bastions of Milwaukee burgers. Yes, friends, this is where I liken the bland burgers at Kopp’s Custard to Iron Man 2.

First off, and to Kopp’s credit, Kopp’s is not primarily known for it’s burgers. Kopp’s is a custard…joint.  Sadly, this isn’t a custard blog.  To do my burgerly duty, I bit the bullet and grabbed a Kopp’s burger.

I went into this burger with very high expectations.  All of us in the Midwest grew up with some form of Dairy Bar burger in the summertime, and per Kopp’s reputation, I was hoping to find a sort of heroic take on that summertime classic.  Similarly, all of us saw the great Iron Man.  Iron Man was a great take on the superhero genre.  A few years earlier Christopher Nolan gave us the surprisingly great Batman Begins, but there had yet to be another superhero movie to capture that real aspect of life that Batman and Robin lacked (BE COOL!).  Iron Man seemed like an unlikely hero to have such a movie made about him, but the combination of Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. provided us with a fantastic take on a hero that is very far from reality.

I’m not trying to say that the summertime Dairy Bar burgers were ever really good (in reality they were dry slabs of over-cooked, freezer-burned beef) but they meant something to us (that it was summer) and they still mean something to us today.  Those burgers are Iron Man 1.

When I received my cheeseburger at Kopp’s I was immediately taken back to that place (the summertime Dairy Bar).  The bag was familiar, the smell was familiar, and the wrapped up burger looked like a familiar, if much larger version of the original.  Like the Kopp’s burger, Iron Man 2 begins as a much larger version of the original.  The second Iron Man is a huge film with a beautifully rendered World’s Fair-esque Stark Expo that dominates a good part of the movie.  Add all of that CGI to an overly tanned (and probably juiced) Mickey Rourke wielding laser-whips and Sam Rockwell being Sam Rockwell, and we’ve got a mess on our hands.  Iron Man 2 launched from where Iron Man 1 ended and expanded on EVERYTHING. It was like Ryan Braun having a great season and then deciding he needed to take steroids to have an even better season the next year, and then disappointing everyone (OK, it’s not at all like that but I’m a Reds fan and wanted to bother you Brewers people).

The Kopp’s burger is a 1/4 lb burger that is STREEEEETTTTTCHED onto an oversize bun.  Because of this stretching, the burger looks MASSIVE and, sadly, is incredibly dry.  I realize that Kopp’s doesn’t freeze their beef, but these burgers are so thin that it gets much too cold in the refrigerator and doesn’t taste well after being cooked.  A further complication from the 1/4 lb Stretch Armstrong burger is the lack of the juiciness one would expect from a top quality 1/4 lb burger (see AJ Bombers for a great example of how to do a really good 1/4 lb burger).  This stretched out beef patty is the death blow to the Kopp’s burger.

Iron Man 2 and the Kopp’s burgers try to be so much more than what we’re used to and fail at that. Sometimes bigger isn’t always better.  That’s not what she said. I’m a child.

On to the ratings:

Beef (1-5): 1

– The beef on this 1/4 lb patty might have tasted good had it not been stretched out over the length of the MASSIVE bun.  It was over-cooked and dry, not appetizing. It was tough for me to eat the entire burger.  Please don’t hate me.

Bun (1-5): 4

– The bun was the only good part of this burger.  While the bun was much to large (and the root of all of the evil of this burger) it was delicious. It has a really sweet flavor almost reminiscent of a Hawaiian roll.  If Kopp’s took this bun and made it smaller then they might have a much better burger on their hands

Cheese (1-5): 3

– The cheese was pretty good. It was a little bit too runny, but it helped add to the burger (if that is even possible here)

Fries (1-5): 3

– There really isn’t anything special about the Kopp’s fries.  I should have gotten custard.

Recommendation:

– Kopp’s is a Milwaukee legend. Please go there and get custard, but don’t grab a burger.  If you’re looking for a good butter burger then go to Culver’s.  If you’re looking for a 1/4 lb burger then go to AJ Bombers.

– The Kopp’s burger gets a 1 out of 5. Sorry, Milwaukee; I can’t make you love me.

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A Burger with an Identity Crisis…AND CANDY CORN

It’s been awhile since my last burger blog post. I really should try to do one of these a week. Maybe.

In the time between this review and my previous one many things have changed.  That’s a lie. 1 thing has changed…the weather. It’s cold now. When I reviewed AJ Bombers, the weather was sunny and warm.  Now it’s cold.  Exceedingly cold. It’s so cold that my water came out of the shower in ice cubes. ZING! I’m lying. It’s not that cold. It’s actually very pleasant. Hooray Autumn! (But curse you stupid silent N)

Law School has been occupying most of my time, preventing me from writing a new post (well, that and the fear that my arteries will spontaneously fill with candle wax).  It’s going relatively well so far, but I’m sure it gets worse. It always gets worse.  On the positive side, I’m working on a theory with which I can sue everyone who doesn’t read this blog. I’m serious. Totally serious.

Aside from law school I’ve been spending most of my time eating candy corn. As everyone knows, Candy Pumpkins are far superior to regular candy corn, but pumpkin is a much longer word than corn so I’ll just refer to them collectively as candy corn.  My dad likes to say that Candy Corn is “God’s perfect food,” but I’ll take that a step further.  If you’ve ever seen True Blood then I’m sure your aware that, to humans, vampire blood is like a combination of a fast-acting steroid, cocaine, and heroin. Candy Corn is the real life version of vampire blood.

Fact: Candy Corn has only one ingredient. That ingredient is awesome.  Fact: Candy Corn has one other ingredient.  That ingredient is crushed up unicorn horns.  I don’t care how many unicorns it takes to make a bag of candy corn; I’ll sacrifice every last one of them.  Middle East Peace Solution: give everyone some Candy Corn. Problem solved. World hunger? Candy Corn. Cancer? Candy Corn. Diabetes? Well, probably not Candy Corn.  In all seriousness, I took a bag of Candy Corn to law school today to share it with the world.  Only one thing in this paragraph is true.

OK, this isn’t a Candy Corn blog, it’s a burger blog (though a candy corn blog would be a brilliant idea).

The perfect food.

I’ll move on.

Before I get too far, I should preface that Comet Cafe is not a burger shop.  Comet is mostly known for its breakfast/brunch options and kitschy, hipster, diner vibe, complete with many vegetarian options.  Nonetheless, Comet does offer an extensive menu (complete with a burger), so it definitely merits a burger review.

The interior of Comet looks a lot like a typical diner. There is a bar, booths around the perimeter, and hipply-ironic art on the walls.  Comet is obviously geared toward breakfast and brunch fare.  I mean, they’ve got a class display case with baked goods. That’s like a classy, hip version of Friendly’s.  The desserts and pies definitely looked tasty (I admit it, I suck at taking/posting pictures. I’ll eventually get better…maybe).  It took me a few minutes to find the lone burger on the menu, but I finally stumbled across the Big Luck Burger.

The Big Luck Burger

The Big Luck Burger is a 6oz burger made with grass fed beef and topped with American cheese and 1000 Island dressing on an egg-glazed bun.  Sorry, but I did without the 1000 Island. I’m not a fan of dressings or gooey toppings on my burger…I’ll admit that is a problem.  I ordered the burger, without nasty-Island dressing, and went to reading contracts…for law school…because that is all I do…every day.

The Big Luck Burger arrived about 10 minutes later.  Very quickly, I noticed the resemblance to the griddled type burger made popular by Steak n Shake.  When you think of a griddled burger, you think of a greasy, crispy burger that is a little charred and deliciously blends melted cheese into greasy, almost fried beef.  Most of these burgers are around 4oz and may be even smaller.  For reference, for all you Chicagoans and Evanstonians, Edzo’s 4oz Griddled burger is, well, a griddled burger.

A little bit closer now.

This discover was an exciting one. I imagined myself biting into a delicious, fried burger that was even more better (that’s a thing right…more better?) than the 4oz variety.  Sadly, I was mistaken.  The burger did have the nice fried qualities of a griddled burger, but the extra 2oz added too much to the middle of the burger.  It was awkwardly juicy (no one likes awkward juice…that’s what she said).  This burger has an identity crisis.  The Big Luck Burger doesn’t know if it wants to be a delicious and crispy griddled burger or a thicker, juicy burger.  I though it would work but on second though, you’ve got to make a decision.

It’s a lot like the movie Mean Girls.  In Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan eventually has to decide if she wants to be a “Plastic” or continue to hang out with her other friends.  Lindsay joins the Plastics in order to hatch a revenge plan for one of her friends but eventually gets sucked in.  Through most of this movie, the Lohan is trying to walk the line between being a Plastic and, well, a geek.  She fails.  You can’t do both.  (OK, obviously this isn’t true. You can be nerdy and popular but that’s neither here nor there. Just accept my analogy, or if you’ve got a better one then put it in the comments).  The Big Luck Burger is a griddled burger that really wants to fit in with the bigger burgers, but when it tries it loses its identity and just becomes something worse than either of the two.  Comet would be better suited to go all out and do a greasy griddled burger or to plump things up with a traditional pub burger.

I DON'T KNOW WHO I AM!

If you take nothing away from this post, you should understand that you can’t be cool and nerdy. You’ve got to pick one or the other. OK, that’s a joke. You can totally do both.  You can’t, however, be both a griddled burger and a juicy pub burger.

On to the review:

Beef (1-5): 2

– This burger is crispy but not crispy enough, juicy but not juicy enough. It needs to make a decision.  I’d err on the side of either going with cheaper beef and doing everything griddled or keeping the grass-fed beef and adding 2 more ounces to make a juicy 1/2 lb pub burger.  The fried nature of the griddled burger really hid the potentially delicious grass fed flavor of the beef.

Bun (1-5): 3 

– The bun was good. That’s most I can remember about it. It wasn’t anything special, and it would be a great compliment to a better burger. On this faux-griddled burger, it’s a pretty average bun.

Cheese (1-5): 2

– It was normal American cheese. That’s about it. Seriously. I’ve got nothing else.

Fries (1-5): 5

– The fries were really good! They were easily the best part of the mean.  They were fresh, delicious, and had the perfect level of grease.  If you go to Comet, order fries with whatever you get.  If you get a salad, get fries with it.

Recommendation:

– Overall, Comet seems like a perfect place to grab breakfast or brunch, and THE perfect place to have a late-night breakfast or brunch.  It is not, however, the place for a burger.  Go to Comet but avoid the Big Luck Burger.

– The Big Luck Burger gets a 2 out of 5 and Comet is a 4 out of 5.

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AJ Bombers or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Eat the Milwaukee Burger

OK.  I realize I started last week’s entry with a declaration that I was now, officially, a Milwaukeean…or a Milwaukee-ite…a Milwaulker…whatever, but that was sort of a lie. I did move into my apartment and all that jazz but I wrote that review in Ohio and had yet to spend a night alone in the Caravel of Cow (ok, linguists, Caravel means ship…but Caravel of Cow is a sweet name and it’s sticking).  Now, without reserve, I can say that I’m an official Milwaukee resident.

This week also happened to be my first week of law school at Marquette University (check out the snazzy new website. oh so snazzy). Law school is hard. That’s all I’ll say for the time on that subject. No one wants to hear me complain about having to read crap so that I can eventually force other people to pay me to help them do things that they probably could figure out on their own, so I won’t.

The first two days of the week were orientation. We participated in the requisite getting to know you activities, sat in on a few mock classes, and were presented with a leather-bound flash drive.  Seriously, this thing is leather (well, maybe pleather) bound. THIS IS A JESUIT SCHOOL! Couldn’t the Jesuits have found something better to spend those extra dollars on? Maybe poor people?  A new statue of Marquette to replace the Musketeer-esque one already on campus?  They should have used those extra dollars to buy us all a burger from AJ Bombers…but more on them later.

I don’t know a lot about the Jesuits, but they seem like pretty cool people focused on awesome things such as social justice, this Ignatius guy (at the University of Paris they called him Iggy), and having the best uniforms in all of college basketball.  They probably like Jesus (I presume that Jesuit isn’t Latin for one who enjoys water polo), they have a ton of colleges so there is an obvious focus on education, and they have perfected the art of levitation passed down from generations of Tibetan Jesuit teachings. One of those things is true.

(What the f?! There is this dog in my neighborhood that has a weird moaning bark. It sounds like an old person with emphysema is moaning. It’s either a dog or that goat that sounds like Usher.)

Another side note: Did you ever play that get-to-know-you-game two truths and a lie? I like to play that game in actual life. Whenever I have a conversation with someone I like to throw a nice lie in there to spice things up. Usually the lie is something completely outlandish. For example, did you know that Milwaukee is a Portuguese word that means to sit on top of a post while composing music? That’s pretty obviously not true. Other times I like to throw in a subtle lie to make sure the person I’m talking to is worthy of being a friend.  Another example:

Me: Ah, man you’ve got to see Midnight in Paris. It’s a great movie, maybe the best of 2011.

Friend: Oh, really? I haven’t heard of it.

Me: Really? It’s about Owen Wilson and Ryan Gossling’s Alzheimery wife eat off of a magic cannoli and switch bodies until midnight…in Paris.

Friend: Really? That sounds weird.

Me: Oh, yeah? We’re not friends anymore

OK, that’s a lie. I’m not that douchey. But the part about the two truths and a lie is completely true.  Also, I’m sorry for saying Alzheimery, especially after the Pat Summitt news. Read this article on her. My late great grandma had Alzheimer’s. It sucked.

Wow, that got dark fast.  I’m uncomfortable…let’s move on to the important part…AJ Bombers.

Orientation ended on Tuesday, and I was hungry and didn’t feel like cooking, so I decided to grab a burger at AJ Bombers.  In all honesty I had planned on burgering at the Eatery on Farwell that day, but AJ Bombers added me on Twitter and I remembered the name from my trip to Sobleman’s.  AJ Bombers it was.

I left Orientation around 2, headed to a Target on the south side, and got to AJ Bombers at 4 for a perfectly-timed dinner. Wait, you don’t eat dinner at 4? It’s the hip thing to do…it’s called early dinner.

If the name AJ Bombers seems odd, you’ll understand when you enter the restaurant. From the floor to ceiling, AJ Bombers is covered in, well, bombers. Literal bombs run on tracks along the ceiling, paintings of bombs adorn the walls, and the remnants of bombed peanut shells litter the floor (it’s totally not litter…I’m a big fan of peanuts on the floor).  AJ Bombers immediately brought to mind Dr. Strangelove.  Well, it is more of a post Dr. Strangelove world. Imagine after Slim Pickens’ character rode the bomb and more or less ended the world. We’d be stuck in this post-apocalyptic world where bombs would be flying everywhere. To be concise (and totally understandable unless you’re a NERD) AJ Bombers looks like Slim Pickens’ post-apocalyptic Lord of the Flies where everything is built by Australian Mel Gibson in Mad Max (I’ve never seen Mad Max…does he build stuff…and isn’t Mad Max the sequel to another movie?).  Anyway, it’s really cool. The servers fill the bombs with peanuts and push them toward tables where they explode down a chute for the awaiting customers.  If this is what the post-apocolyptic world is like then sign me up.

AJ Bombers entered my brain after my trip to Sobleman’s where I tried the Loser burger that lost out to what became AJ’s Milwaukee Burger (the winner!).  I’d already tried the Loser (it was aight) so I had to have a Milwaukee Burger.  The Milwaukee burger consists of a 1/4 lb. burger (for specifics on the meet watch the Food Wars video), double WIsconsin Colby Cheese, double Nueske’s bacon, and Schlitz onions.  I also had to have some cheese curds and some sweet potato chips. Wisconsin is awesome. I love cheese curds. Thank you, Wisconsin!

The curds and sweet potato chips arrived first.  These were my third experience with cheese curds (Palomino which was awesome and Culvers’ which was meh) and they did not disappoint. The cheese curds were delicious, lightly fried, and stringy (in a really good way). They were significantly lighter than the Palomino curds.  I’m not a big guy, so the lightness of the curds was more than welcome. It allowed me to comfortably finish the rest of the meal.

Cheese Curds are Yummytown.

After devouring the curds (more like eating most of than devouring) I moved on to the sweet potato chips.  There seem to be a lot of sweet potatoes in Milwaukee.  Is that a Wisconsin thing? Like the curds, the chips were also light a delicious. They provided the delicate sweetness of, well, sweet potatoes combined with the salty-crunchiness of regular chips. Another fantastic appetizer on the way to my Milwaukee burger.

Here, chippy, chippy, chippy.

Finally, it was time for the main course (or the Cor du Manuddturr as the French say).  The first thing I noticed about the Milwaukee Burger was the size. It is not, by any means, an imposing burger. It was, like Sobleman’s Loser, just a 1/4 pounder. I know that sounds massive to most of you (THAT’S WHAT SHE…must resist…SAID) but after eating quite a few 1/2 lb pub burgers it was nice to have a smaller burger…especially with all of the other fried stuff I ate that day.  The bun was a bit smaller than Sobleman’s, which was also welcome because that bun really overpowered the loser.  Also, the onions on the MIlwaukee Burger were sliced rather than diced like Sobleman’s Loser.  OK, that’s the last comparison I’ll make between the two. The Loser was an OK burger and was in a TV competition with the Milwaukee Burger but the Milwaukee Burger is in an entirely different class. It should not be compared with the Loser because it is that much better.

The Milwaukee Burger

Despite being 1/4 lb, the Milwaukee Burger was deliciously juicy.  The juice dribbled onto my plate and chin and it was awesome.  AJ’s bun was light and just flaky enough to give you a good handle on the burger.  The double Nueske’s bacon was really well smoked and flavorful. Bacon cannot be done wrong! And the cheese. OH THE CHEESE. The double cheese was a brilliant idea. I can imagine AJ (ok the owner’s name is Joe and he looks cool and all but I imagine AJ as an eccentric vietnam vet who lives under a bridge and works on burger recipes seasoned with Agent Orange) trying the burger with only one slice of cheese and exclaiming “NEEDS MORE CHEESE, CHEEESE, CHEEEEEEEEEESE.” He would then put another slice of cheese on the burger and say, “Ah, excellent, it merely needed one more slice of cheese.”  The cheese added a ton of great flavor to the burger and was probably my favorite part. Probably. Finally, the onions were thankfully sliced and cocked in Schlitz. They were fantastic. Best onions I have had in Milwaukee. There is nothing more I can say about the onions.

The wait-staff poked a little fun at me for attempting to eat as much as I did, but I think I made them proud.  When I got ready to leave, I talked to the Chief Tweeter (man, chief tweeter sounds incredibly dirty) and he let me sign the twitter wall. SCORE! Now I can up my readership to 3! Thanks to my other reader, mom.

The burger was fantastic. I loved it. It’s a different burger than the 1/3 and 1/2 lbers at Stack’d and Palomino, and it is wonderful because of that. AJ Bombers Milwaukee Burger is my favorite 1/4 lb burger (is it a griddled burger? I need to get my burger classifications down).

Here’s the nitty gritty:

Cheese Curds (1-5): 5

– I love Wisconsin if only for the fact that every restaurant serves cheese curds. AJ’s do not disappoint. The curds where were lightly fried and golden-delicious in a completely different way than the apple. The half order was plenty for me but you should get a full order and not feel guilty when you gain 4 pounds.

Sweet Potato Chips (1-5): 4

– I think I prefer Sweet Potato Tots a little more but these chips were really delicious. They were also light and provided a perfect pre meal snack…or appetizer as fancy people say. The orange color was fun (ugh that sounds like something someone with a fanny pack would ironically say as they twirled their new Bon Iver vinyl on their finger) and set these apart from sweetened potato chips.

Bun (1-5): 5

– This bun was perfect for the burger. It was light and flaky and provided a container for the burger rather than overpowering it. The bun was slightly sweet, but not noticeably or imposingly so.

Bacon (1-5): 5

– Bacon is bacon…what more can I say?

Cheese (1-5): 5

– I loved the cheese so much. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about colby on a burger but I was in love. The double helping added a great amount of flavor to the beef without overpowering the 1/4 lb patty.

Beef (1-5): 4

– I loved the 1/4 lb patty but am maybe partial to the 1/3 lb variety.  However, this patty was way more juicy than was conceivable…in a great way. The grease was delicious and the meet was flavorful.  The bacon really added to this flavor.

Recommendation: 

– AJ Bombers is great. It’s fun, you get bombed by peanuts, you can pretend you are Piggy or Slim Pickens or Peter Sellers, and you can get a great burger with some great sides and appetizers. Take your friends with you so you can grab a corner booth.  Say hi to the Tweetmeister.  Have a good time. AJ’s is a good time.

– The Milwaukee burger gets a 5 out of 5. I know that’s like the 10th perfect rating I’ve given, but trust me on this one. It’s really great. Take your family. Take your child. Take your friend’s child. Take your friend’s child’s friend from soccer.  Eat too much.

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The Palomino?! They’re beautiful! They’re gorgeous! Beautiful, golden fur!

Finally.  It’s official. I am a resident of Milwaukee. I’m living in a quaint (that’s right, I said quaint) apartment in Cold Spring Park. If you’re ever in the area then you should stop and visit. I’ve got a sweet balcony and and entire bathroom. It’s pretty fancy.

My new Milwaukee digs led to two trips for the next restaurant on my review list.  On my official move-in day I was lucky enough to convince 4 of my friends (2 of whom had cars!) to make the trip up to The Wauk (can I call it that now?) and help me move in.  The only catch was that I had to buy lunch.  Well, I didn’t have to buy lunch, but being the nice Appalachian boy that I am I decided that lunch was a fair price for the savings of a great many hours work on my part.

My caravan left Evanston earlyish on a rainy Sunday morning and arrived at Chateau Burger (I’m trying out new names for my apartment…that one doesn’t look like a keeper so leave suggestions in the comments!) an hour and a half later and were surprised to find sunny skies.  An hour later we had unloaded the car and begun to assemble my assortment of Ikea furniture.

Secretly, I had planned on letting my compatriots in on my burger blog experience while hitting up another spot on my list of places to visit, but I had to pretend that they actually had a say in where we went.  When I asked for suggestions Cracker Barrel became the early favorite.  I’ll confess, I love the crap out of Cracker Barrel. From a young age I’ve enjoyed going to Cracker Barrel and basking in their sweet (though homosexual and minority intolerant) family atmosphere followed by a purchase of an entire loaf of their delicious sourdough bread (of which I would typically eat in a day or so).  But, I wanted to take this opportunity to have a big group contribute to my review.

“How about a place that has been referred to as ‘fried food heaven’?” I suggested.

“YES” was the unanimous response.

We quickly finished our deciphering of Ikea’s Swedish hieroglyphics and made our way to the south side and Palomino Bar.

On the way to Palomino I couldn’t get that Will Ferrel skit out of my head. You know, the one where he is a terrible doctor who answers the phone in the middle of trying to give a family some horrible news.  At one point in this hilarious sketch Ferrel  says “Chester, the Palomino?!” so I continually made reference to this throughout the afternoon.  No one knew what I was talking about. Fools. FOOLS!

Anyway, the first thing I noticed about Palomino was it’s proximity to the lake.  Nice locale!  We were lucky to visit on a beautiful Sunday afternoon (around 2) and we joined a number of people who were already spending their Sunday afternoon at Palomino.

Cory was the first one to refer to Palomino as a “hipster bar,” a term that I don’t necessarily think Palomino deserves.  Palomino’s walls are adorned with typical hipster-grit-chic art like a mounted deer head, cowboy art, and a beautiful painting of Burt Reynolds that looks like it was painted by the mom from “Bridesmaids.”  I should point out that Cory thinks almost everyone/everything is a hipster. We once walked by a guy playing a ukulele and Cory swore that he was a hipster when in actuality he was a Hawaiian. OK, that might not be a true story.   Nonetheless, though the waitstaff and decor of Palomino might fit that of the hipster motif, Palomino Bar presented a friendly, welcome environment that does not typically fit into the hipster ethos.

Oh, deer.

I was especially excited to visit Palomino because I wanted to eat a ridiculous amount of fried food.  So did my compadres, but sadly we were too early for the dinner menu.  Instead we were met with the vegan/vegetarian friendly brunch menu.  The brunch menu, though, was quite good.  Two of my friends ordered the BLT, and the remaining three of us ordered the Brunch Burger.

This would be my first fried egg on top of burger experience.  I’ve always had trepidations about the fried egg on the burger because though I love my eggs fried sunny side up, I enjoy them that way because of the delicious gooey yellow center and merely deal with the more or less flavorless rubbery white nonsense.  The Brunch Burger is a 1/3 lb grass-fed burger topped with a fried egg, sausage gravy, and cheese or bacon for $1 extra each (actually bacon is $1.25 extra).  I opted for the bacon, chess and egg version without the gravy while the other two burger orderers kept the gravy.  All 5 of us ordered different sides so that we could try each.

My Brunch Burger with hush puppies.

I was pleasantly surprised with the egg on my burger.  Like I thought, the white was rubbery and flavorless, but the deliciously smoky burger and bacon helped overcome this.  When I made it to the gooey yellow I was met with deliciousity.  The runny yellow really complimented the burger’s flavor and created a really good brunch sandwich.  The sausage gravy was deemed to be “meh” by the other two burger-eaters in my group.  They both like the texture of it but felt that there was not enough gravy to actually be tasted.  In case you were wondering, the BLT was deemed quite delicious by my official BLT reviewers….maybe they’ll start a Milwaukee BLT blog. Probably not.

All in all, we really enjoyed our first trip to Palomino.  But, I was not fulfilled. I wanted to try the famous sweet potato tots and fried cheese curds, so I decided to head back to Palomino on my return trip to MKE a few days later.

On my return trip I ordered the legendary deep-fried cheese curds as an appetizer. That was a really good idea. The curds are delicious. They taste like Thomas Edison time-traveled into the future with a new invention that would take sunshine and magic and transform them into a delicious, deep-fried, edible form. Brilliant decision.  For dinner I grabbed the 1/3 lb Palomino burger with cheddar and bacon and a side of sweet potato tots.

HEAVEN Curds

It was a total burger experience.  Once again the burger itself was deliciously smoky and was well complimented by delicious bacon, cheddar, and a wonderfully proportioned bun.  The sweet potato tots were just fantastic. I wish I could eat sweet potato tots every day, or have them fed to me like Dionysus eating a bunch of grapes.

Palomino Burger

Palomino is a really good bar with a cool, dare I say hip vibe.

On to the review:

Bun (1-5): 4
– Do you know what I remember most about this bun? Nothing in particular! If a bun isn’t deliciously memorable then it should be a compliment or afterthought to the burger. This bun was just that. It was light, fluffy, well sized, and it absorbed the completely appropriate amount of juice. It was a great holster for a great burger.

Bacon (1-5): 4
– As with most bacon in Wisconsin, this bacon was deliciously smoky and added to the delicious, grilled flavor of the burger.

Cheese (1-5): 4
– Much like the bacon it is very hard to do Wisconsin cheddar wrong.  Nothing in particular stands out about this cheddar but it was a great addition to a great burger.

Egg (1-5): 3
– This is more of a rating for eggs on burgers in general. If it were possible to only have the egg yolk on a burger I might do this every time.  Alas, we all have to deal with the rubber egg-white nonsense.

Beef (1-5): 5
– This 1/3 lb grass-fed burger was a delicious, smoky, grilled creation. It was the perfect size and incredibly flavorful.  My burger was cooked to medium perfection and the grilled exterior locked in some really great juices.

Onion Rings (1-5): 4
– I’m a big fan of flaky onion rings. These were light, buttery and good.

Hush Puppy (1-5): 3
– The Hush Puppy was tasty, but it had a weird sort of mustardy-ness in the inside. I’m not a big fan of mustard. It was subtle mustardy-ness though.

Fries (1-5): 3.5
– The fries were really, really solid but were nothing spectacular.  When compared to the sweet potato tots they are left in the dust. As a baseline fry to start with something else these fries were perfect.  With some sort of seasoning or sauce these fries are an easy 5. 

Sweet Potato Tots (1-5): 5
– These tots were fantastic. They combine (seemingly) healthy sweet potatoes with typically over-processed tater tots to create a delicious and fresh side. The tots were golden fried with a delicious flavor. Stop what you are doing and go get these tots. NOW.

Deep-Fried Cheese Curds (1-5): 5
– These are a fantastic appetizer. The cheese was golden fried and was the perfect size devour. It was impossible for me to stop eating them. I had to put the curds on the other side of the table so I would stop eating them and could start on my burger.

Recommendation:
– Palomino is one of the best burger spots I have visited in Milwaukee. It is the perfect place to grab a dinner burger or to visit with your equally hip friends for a late-night fried-food-a-thon.  The waitstaff was friendly (though a little busy) and the decor is kitschy enough to start a conversation on even the worst date.  On a nice Sunday you can head over and have a vegetarian/vegan friendly meal…or a delicious burger.

– The Palomino burger/dining experience get’s a 5 out of 5.  The burger, sides, appetizers, and atmosphere were all great and a worthwhile visit in South Milwaukee.

PS: I promise not every review will be glowing! I’ve mostly been reviewing Milwaukee’s more famous burger spots, and will be critical when the time comes!  Go check out my Sobleman’s review if you want a less than glowing burger review. 

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