On the Burger Trail: The Cheeseburger at Hotel Madrid
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600 S. 6th St.
The bar at Hotel Madrid is among my favorite places in the city. The service is friendly and welcoming and the space itself is comfortable and modern without being cold. Right now (and through Dec. 24), it's gussied up with holiday lights, mogwai and gremlins. But come the new year, and it will be back to its former stately self again.
Atmosphere aside, Hotel Madrid is also one of those places where I can sit down and order anything off the menu (be it a cocktail or an entree) and it will be well executed. It's also a flexible menu, which can be enjoyed in both the bar and dining room. Plates are rustic and globally inspired, much like those you'd find at an urban venue in Spain, so it's a good fit whether I'm feeling fancy or simply wanting to grab a casual bite after work. Among the more casual options, there are myriad shareable plates, along with options like fried chicken, Thai-style street noodles and a cheeseburger.
The Cheeseburger is comprised of a brisket patty topped with Hook's cheddar and onions and served with umami sauce on a brioche bun. It's served with pickled vegetables, Hotel Madrid frites and roasted garlic aioli ($17).
On the presentation side, the burger isn't really a show-off. But it's nicely presented with its tipped bun and visible layers of glossy, well-melted cheddar and cooked onions. It's fancied up a bit by the handsome etched cup of frites, a steak knife and a ceramic cup of aioli.
And that brioche bun was impressive in itself. On the exterior, it was so evenly browned and glossy I could nearly see myself in the top of it. As for its character, it was soft, but had a decent enough heft to hold up to a larger burger; that strength was bolstered by a nice sear on the grill, which gave the cut edges a bit of crispness. Overall, it was a nice choice as it brought a balanced sweetness to this umami-heavy burger.
When I bit into the burger, I expected it to be beefy. After all, that's the hallmark of the brisket burger, and the reason so many restaurants gravitate toward the cut for their burgers, especially if they have access to the freshly ground variety.
This burger was not only beefy, it was amply seasoned and juicy, with a nice char on the exterior. It also came with a good amount of pink in the center, so it was well cooked to my liking without my even having asked.
As for the toppings, they were also on par. The onions were soft and sweet and there was a nice burst of salt and savory flavor from the umami sauce, an element I'm not even going to question because it won't get any tastier if I know what's in it. Meanwhile, the Hook's cheddar (which was well melted over the top of the patty) exhibited more than enough flavor to cut through the noise here, offering a pleasant tang. The pickled vegetables offered a pop of acid, which cut through the burger's richness, even when enjoyed on the side.
In the end, it was a beautifully balanced burger that I'd happily eat again.
This one's a bit pricey. But it's made with a solid (and considerably pricer) cut of meat, an appropriate and well-chosen bun and higher end locally made cheese. It's also thoughtfully constructed, with balance in mind. All of those things are things that matter, if you're looking for a high-quality burger. And this was certainly that. The included fries and aioli kept this burger from falling completely into the overpriced category.
If a high quality tasty burger (and a well-made cocktail) are your idea of a good time, there's a seat for you at the bar at Hotel Madrid.
Hotel Madrid is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday from 5 to midnight (food until 11 p.m.) Saturday and Sunday they are open for brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5 to midnight (food until 11 p.m.).
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