The Best Burgers in Milwaukee, Ranked by Our National Burger Critic

Milwaukee is a fantastic city. It’s small, approachable, and filled with neighborhoods that have parks with beer gardens in them. I would consider moving there if I wasn’t so scared of Midwestern winters. Despite loving the city, my trip to Milwaukee was brief — I only had 24 hours or less to try burgers, but I did manage to hit eight of the best spots, as recommended by local food writers, chefs, and Thrillist’s bastion of all Midwestern food knowledge: Chicago-based Executive Editor Matt Lynch, who accompanied me on my burger trip alongside the great local photographer David Szymanski.

In case you’re new to my rankings, here are some guidelines: if the restaurant had multiple burgers, I tried to order its signature burger, or if that was too outlandish, the closest to a classic cheeseburger. If it came with options, I always picked American cheese and grilled onions.

On the wall in Nite Owl is a sign advocating “Hoover for President.” There’s also one offering “Zeidler for Mayor.” Rickety wooden booths sit on either side of the room. Up on the board, a clown sundae will cost you $2.75. There are signs for three different brands of ice cream (Oak Brand, Borden’s, and Session’s) all next to each other. Bananas hang behind the counter. These may all seem like random details, but these small things are the type of things that make me fall in love with a burger place. And I’m in love with Nite Owl. 

The restaurant sits very close to the airport, next to a gas station. The burger is large — a thin patty, but nonetheless pretty large thanks to a wide diameter. Usually I’m not into the large burgers, but this is a special burger, friends. Great griddle and seasoning on the meat, and a stack of cheese that would normally make me wince in pain, but somehow worked well with the griddled onions and meat. A soft bun that stays out of the way. It reminded me a lot of the burger I’ve named No. 1, and that’s the highest compliment I can pay it. I want to eat here every day. 

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