On the Burger Trail: The Bacon Pepper Jack Burger at Foltz Family Market
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Foltz Family Market/Wurst Bar
Milwaukee Public Market
400 N. Water St., (414) 277-5070
Among the many worthwhile vendors at the Milwaukee Public Market is the Foltz Family Market, a grocer specializing in fresh meats, housemade sausages and prepared food items. But those in the know also look to the charming little Wurst Bar, located astride the market, for items like freshly made wood-fired pizza, housemade sausages and panini.
Guests can also choose from a selection of half-pound pub style burgers which are ground fresh daily from a blend of 85 percent lean meat gleaned from trimmings of steaks and prime chuck roasts sold in the shop.
Among them, the Bacon Pepper Jack Burger features seasoned ground sirloin with sauteed mushrooms and crispy bacon served under two slices of melted pepper jack cheese, topped with fresh tomato and arugula. Burgers are served with a half-order of seasoned French fries, cooked to order in lard ($13).
From its height and girth to the visibly fresh toppings, this burger was a head turner. Both the lilting cheese and meat glistened with fat. The arugula was fresh and crisp, and the bacon – applied liberally – was visible from underneath the top of the bun.
This pretzel bun surprised me in a couple of ways. First, it was a nice choice. I've stated on numerous occasions that I don't really think a pretzel bun is a good fit for every burger. But here it was. Its flavor complemented the seasonings in the meat, and the texture was a good heft to stand up to the toppings.
Secondly, the bun was warm (nice touch) with an exterior that was crisped almost like the exterior of a good hard roll. Even more surprisingly, that seemed to take the place of the usual buttering and toasting of the interior side of the bun, which was left soft and pliable and – unsurprisingly – amiable to soaking up all the surrounding juices from the burger patty and sauteed mushrooms.
Now, toasting a bun is definitely best practice in my book. But, I ate the burger with an open mind, trying to determine if the burger end up worse for wear as a result. But it really didn't; the bun soaked up the burger's juices without completely sogging out; and there was enough texture from the bun's crust (along with flavor from the burger) that I really couldn't judge it as harshly as I may have expected.
As you might expect, the half-pound burgers are cooked to order here. Both myself and my dining partner ordered ours mid-rare, and both visually missed the mark by just a touch.
Another surprise: for as juicy as they were, the burger was also more densely packed than I would have expected. Its texture was firm, almost sausage-like in consistency with a boldly seasoned flavor (these were definitely hit with more than salt and pepper) that erred on the saltier side. It was tasty; but it definitely wouldn't appeal to someone who was sensitive to salt.
The one aspect of the burger that gave me pause is that – to great extent – the beefy flavor of the meat was lost to the seasonings. Tasty? Yes, it was. Beefy? I would have been hard-pressed to give it that particular moniker.
It was tough to argue with the quality of the toppings, which were thoughtfully applied. The earthy mushrooms were cooked well and secured beneath the melted cheese (which carried just a hint of peppery spice), keeping them nicely in place. The bacon was just short of being perfectly crisp; but it possessed a beautiful sweet, smokey flavor. And there was enough of it that you didn't miss its flavor, despite the long list of additional toppings.
As for the fresh ingredients, the arugula was crisp and beautifully green with a pleasantly peppery bite; and the tomato was a beautiful red hue, and thinly sliced. Both offered a fresh flavor that countered the fattiness of the burger patty, bacon and cheese quite well.
The burger was served alongside a cadre of sauces (ketchup, garlic mayo and spicy mayo); I chose to eat them with my fries, as the burger didn't need them one bit.
There's little to argue with in terms of price; for $13, you get a substantial burger with well-appointed toppings and a generous portion of fries.
The Foltz Family Market is one of a kind. As it turns out, so are their burgers.
The Foltz Family Market is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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