No matter what type of burger you prefer -- crispy, smashed patties or juicy, half-pound monsters -- you'll find a burger you love in Milwaukee. From diners to steakhouses, most restaurants in this city serve up solidly good burgers, so figuring out which one to try next can be a challenge... not to mention determining which among the city's many options are honestly epic. Fortunately, we're selfless enough to have gone and tasted all of Milwaukee's best burgers, just to bring you the best of the best (yeah, it was a huge sacrifice).
This diner-style burger joint has been going strong since 1934, evidence that it does burgers right. It grinds its own beef every single day, plus every burger comes with two sides; the correct choices being golden-brown American fries topped with a pat of butter and a cup of homemade soup. This is the matriarch of all burgers in MKE… so go for the classic cheeseburger.
Big half-pound burgers get a deep crust on the griddle at this modern diner in 'Tosa. You can get it topped your way, but we suggest the Peppercorn Horsey burger, which comes topped with thick-cut bacon, cheddar jack cheese, and a mound of onion strings, plus creamy, spicy horseradish sauce. The sound of the bright, crispy crunch as you smash this burger down is immensely satisfying in a destructive kind of way. Plus a recent expansion and complete remodel of the space means that you and your four friends won't have to squish into a tiny booth anymore.
Though Merriment Social has only been open for about a year, its burgers can already be considered among the best in MKE. The hefty little thing is made with two thin, well-seared patties, held together with American cheese, and topped with thick bacon, homemade pickles, and a creamy, mustard-heavy sauce. This thing is so juicy, it literally drips when you bite into it. They also run a burger special during happy hour each week, with versions inspired by local chefs... for only five bucks a pop.
Kopp’s serves up the ultimate local fast food burger, butter included. The patties are thin, but so is the bun, giving just the right meat-to-bun ratio. Add some thick slices of deli American cheese to hold everything together, and you have the double cheeseburger locals grew up on. Oh, and it’s the size of your face, so, you know, come hungry.
Among Milwaukee's essential restaurants, Solly's is known for the thick smear of butter that pools on the plate, like a reflecting pool for your bold dietary choices. The Cheesehead burger is beyond belief, with two-thirds of a pound of beef, mushrooms, and stewed onions, all topped by a glorious crown of cheddar, Swiss, and American. You’ll need about five napkins for this one.
Every Wednesday that the weather cooperates, Bavette rolls the grill out for a little burger party right on the sidewalk. The beef is grass-fed and fresh -- this being a butcher shop and all -- and formed into half-pound patties. Toppings change weekly, but you can expect seasonal flavors from local purveyors. Bonus: if you love the burger, you can pick up the same ground beef at the counter for a DIY burger night, any day of the week.
AJ Bombers mixes burgers with deep-fried foods because that's simply an excellent idea. In the case of the bomber burger, you can expect a breaded, whole portobello mushroom cap stuffed with cheese, cemented onto the burger... with more cheese, naturally. Just be careful of the hidden molten lava (aka cheese) when you bite into this one.
Nite Owl is only open spring through fall, and only sells burgers until it runs out each day, generally around 6:30pm. Make it a priority to get one, though, because these old-fashioned burgers are practically a religious experience. They’re hand-formed, so there are bits that fall apart and brown deeply on the griddle, and crevices that cheese can ooze into. If you want to really amp up the gluttony, pair this with a Superman shake.
This upscale restaurant tops its amazing, eponymous burger with honey-glazed onions and tangy homemade relish, plus the most underrated burger cheese ever: Muenster. And since MSG’s specialty is steaks, you know they’ll cook your burger to the requested temperature perfectly.
The Big O is named for the pub’s owner, Oscar, and not the euphoria you will experience taking your first bite of this juicy behemoth. Chorizo, bacon, onions, jalapeños, chipotle jack, smoked Gouda, and a side of chunky guacamole… all these toppings would make this bad boy impossible to eat, if it wasn't for the pillowy, locally made bun keeping everything in check.
Sobelman’s is a Milwaukee institution, thanks in part to the Marquette students and alumni who fill both locations to capacity... and propel this joint's newest creations to viral status on Twitter. The namesake burger is a classic, topped with three cheeses, bacon, fried onions, and diced jalapeños. Add the spicy ketchup that's available on every table, and you'll be in pig (and beef) heaven.
Even though this is a Chicago-style dog and Italian beef joint, you’d actually be remiss if you didn’t order the burger. It’s a fistful, cooked to whatever temperature you request, which is pretty uncommon for fast-food joints. Besides your standard rabbit-food toppings, try the Dawg Sauce, a creamy, buffalo-like concoction with a little bit of heat. Plus, this place offers free beer on Wednesdays. FREE BEER.
Tuesdays at Goodkind are glorious, and for our favorite reason: it's burger night. One burger is available each week, with beef sourced from local farms. Topping combinations range from unique -- like bacon and fava bean relish -- to classic-with-a-twist, like homemade cheese sauce and ramp mayonnaise. So as long as you're not devoted exclusively to ultra-classic burgers, the weekly variations will knock your socks clean off.
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1. Mazos3146 S 27th St, Milwaukee
2. North Avenue Grill7225 W North Ave, Milwaukee
3. Merriment Social240 E Pittsburgh Ave, Milwaukee
4. Kopp's Frozen Custard5373 N Port Washington Rd, Glendale
5. Solly's Grille4629 N Port Washington Rd, Milwaukee
6. Bavette La Boucherie330 E. Menomonee St., Milwaukee
7. AJ Bombers1247 N Water St, Milwaukee
8. Nite Owl830 E Layton Ave, Milwaukee
9. Mason Street Grill425 E Mason St, Milwaukee
10. Oscar's Pub & Grill1712 W Pierce St, Milwaukee
11. Sobelman's Pub & Grill1900 W Saint Paul Ave, Milwaukee
12. Dr. Dawg6969 N Port Washington Rd, Glendale
13. Goodkind2457 S Wentworth Ave, Milwaukee
That this old-school diner has been a Milwaukee staple since 1934 should come as no surprise: the fresh, house-ground burgers here are some of the city's finest. Guests can select two different sides to pair with their patties, ranging from French fries, cottage cheese, coleslaw, or apple sauce, all of which are made from heirloom family recipes. There's a lovingly divey vibe to the place, one that attracts locals and passersby time and time again.
Sporting all the accouterments of a quintessential American diner (think checkered bistro tile, linoleum counters, circular bar stools, banquette booths), this Inglewood Heights joint is beloved by locals and passersby alike. It’s diner food done right, leaving regulars gushing over popular items like the baked French onion soup and Peppercorn Horsey burger.
If you ever find yourself torn between dim sum and burgers, there is a restaurant for that. Modern fusion small plates are delivered on dim sum carts at this Harbor View spot, while there's also a section of menu dedicated to heartier plates. It's reminiscent of a Chinatown brunch, but the plates all utilize seasonal Wisconsin ingredients that come together and err on the side of American. Merriment Social also features craft cocktails and signature punches for two, which arrive at the table in small bottles. Just like the drinks, sharing plates is encouraged as well.
Known for its butter-burgers and frozen custard, Kopp's is so Midwestern it hurts. The Milwaukee chain serves wide, jumbo burgers that range from a single-patty hamburger to a double cheeseburger -- and it goes without saying that the double cheeseburger is the way to go. Two thin patties are covered with thick layers of Wisco-made American cheese, topped with relish in lieu of pickles, and sandwiched between a well-toasted bun. The custard is as creamy as the burgers are juicy, doled out fountain-style in flavors like banana, hot fudge, marshmallow, and butterscotch.
From afar it might just seem like you're getting a classic diner-style griddled burger with 1/3lb worth of sirloin, some melty American cheese, and stewed onions. But what's that pooling on the plate? Oh, it's melted butter. Because Solly's, a Wisconsin institution opened in 1936, slathers it on at the end.
Blending old school butchery with present day sustainability, Bavette offers high-quality meat with a conscious: everything here is sourced from nearby Wisconsin farms and butchered onsite to ensure freshness. It’s become a community mainstay for the Third Ward, one where guests can enjoy a glass of wine and charcuterie plate while watching butchers work against a backdrop of immaculate white tile. In the main dining area, deer horns are mounted on a wall papered with teal and gold embellishment, striking the ideal balance of contemporary industrialism and European class.
From the hanging, jumbo renderings of the bomber airplane toy you had as a child to the peanut-strewn floor and the Sharpie-scribbled walls, there’s a whimsical breed of anarchy to AJ Bombers. Regulars frequent this casual Juneau Town spot to watch televised sports with groups of friends or if they’re craving an infamous Barrie burger (a ¼lb patty topped with thick-cut bacon, American cheese, and chunky peanut butter). Just make sure you don’t forget the cheddar cheese curds -- fried fresh to order and accompanied by a side of chipotle mayo, they’re some of Wisconsin’s finest.
This retro drive-thru joint is classic Americana: a counter-service burger and ice cream spot with black and white checkered floors, a few snug booths, and a mid-century neon sign overhead. From spring to fall, this seasonal spot serves old school burgers with hand-made patties that are griddled to perfection. Everything is prepared fresh on a daily basis, which means the kitchen sometimes runs out of popular items; we recommend hitting up an ATM (it’s cash-only) and swinging through earlier in the day to get your fill.
Situated in the historic Pfister Hotel, this sophisticated steakhouse serves elevated New American fare. Providing they don’t forget their suit coat, meat lovers can savor signature favorites like the eponymous Mason Street Grill Burger: Black Angus Chuck impeccably cooked to your preferred temperature, topped with honey-glazed onions, tangy house relish, and melted muenster. Whatever you order, we suggest you pair your steak with a bold glass of red wine, and relax in the warm glow of this leather-upholstered, sleek dinner spot.
Slightly off the beaten path, Oscar’s rocks an outdoor patio, new draught lines, and a summertime food truck. Oh, and it has one of the city's best burgers in Milwaukee.
The sit-down Wisconsin chain Sobelman's came to international fame following the creation of its gargantuan slider-topped Bloody Mary. But the burgers here are in and of themselves worthy of renown: each prepared with cushiony, butter buns, a third pound of Angus beef, your choice of high-quality cheese (this is Wisconsin, after all), pickles, and other accouterments, these all-American courses are destination meals worthy a drive. Besides their signature breakfast cocktail, liquors and beers also stand at the ready to wash down all your cheese curds.
The digs at this fast-casual are sterile and nothing memorable, but the pub-style burger is what makes this spot so renown. Burgers here are prepared with loosely packed beef patties cooked to your requested temperature, in regular juicy and succulent fashion, then topped with sliced tomatoes, dill pickle spears, and red onions. The restaurant's signature Dawg sauce -- a slightly spicy Buffalo-esque sauce -- is recommended, as is a side of garlic-rosemary fries.
Goodkind has all the warmth and friendliness of your neighborhood bar and grill -- but also lots of stuff that place doesn't have. This Bay View farm-to-table restaurant and bar specializes in rotisserie meats, local produce, and house-made cocktails. You'll find as many seasonal ingredients on your plate as you will in your glass, and the full kitchen menu is served until 1am to ensure that the space maintains as much of a bar status as it does of a restaurant one.