In doing some background research for the Boulder Tap House in St. Cloud, MN a couple years ago (click here to see the entry on the Boulder Tap House), I found out that the family who owned that establishment also had three places in Wisconsin that went by the name of Milwaukee Burger Company. The only thing was that all three locations weren't anywhere near Milwaukee. I'd always had those places in the back of my mind since then and on a trip up to the Fox Valley area I sought out the Appleton location of Milwaukee Burger Company.
North Dakota natives Steve and Curt Letnes started the Letnes Restaurant Group in the mid-90's when they opened their first Grizzly's restaurant in St. Cloud, MN. There are now 14 Grizzly's in North Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The brothers started to branch out with the Boulder Tap House concept, opening the first one in St. Cloud in 2010.
In 2008, Curt Letnes' sons Kent and Matt ventured out on their own - well, with help from their father - to come up with the Milwaukee Burger Company concept. They opened their first restaurant in Eau Claire, WI in November of 2008. The idea behind the restaurant was a burger joint for "real men" who enjoyed big burgers and an eclectic selection of cold beers. They use fresh blended Black Angus hand-pattied ground beef at Milwaukee Burger Company, they bake their own buns daily and hand-cut their French fries.
In 2014, the Letnes brothers opened the Appleton location and then later in the year they opened a place in Wausau. And around a year ago, they finally opened a Milwaukee Burger Company in the Milwaukee area. In a city where there are a number of great burger options, skeptics wondered if a Milwaukee Burger Company could actually survive. But the brothers must have done some extensive market research and found that there was a void of good burger places in suburban Franklin and that's where they put their fourth location.
The Appleton location of Milwaukee Burger Company is located along N. Casaloma Dr. on the end of a strip mall across the street from the Fox River Mall. (see map) Going into the place, there's a large bar area up front. When I walked in the bar was nearly full, but it had cleared out while I was there. Interestingly, there was a faint smell of garlic in the air.
I ended up taking a seat in a booth toward the back of the place. Milwaukee Burger Company is sports-centric with a number of flat screen televisions and some projection televisions in the back of the long narrow space. My server, Brittany, came over with a menu and I ordered up a Lagunitas IPA, one of the 40 beers they had on tap at the Appleton Milwaukee Burger Company.
They feature a dozen specialty burgers on the menu at Milwaukee Burger Company. Some of them sounded yummy - the Hangover burger with cheesy hash browns and a fried egg, and the Steakhouse burger topped with Swiss cheese and sauteed mushrooms sounded pretty good. A couple - the Peanut Butter and Jalapeno burger, and the Defibrillator with two patties, chicken-fried bacon and cheese curds - uh, not so much. They also have a big burger challenge at Milwaukee Burger Company - eight 1/3 lb. burger patties, then add two buns, then they top it off with the kitchen sink - cheese, veggies, a fried egg and I believe each patty is topped with a slice of cheese. Then they finish it off with cheese curds. If you can eat it within 30 minutes, you get a t-shirt and your name on a plaque in the restaurant. Better get a double extra-large t-shirt...
They also allow you to make your own burger at Milwaukee Burger Company. You choose whether you would like a burger, a grilled chicken breast, or a grilled marinated portobello mushroom. From there, you have a choice of 10 different type of cheese toppings, then a choice of veggies including raw or sauteed onions, onion straws, jalapenos, sliced tomatoes and sauteed banana peppers. You can add a fried egg, three different types of bacon, and even another burger patty.
The make-your-own burger was the route I went. I ordered up a burger with smoked cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and sauteed mushrooms. Brittany asked if I wanted to add a side to go along with the burger. I looked over my choices and decided that some poutine - fries and cheese curds topped with gravy - was about as unhealthy a choice that I could get. I ordered those, of course. Brittany said, "Great choice!" It was the exact same response that the waitress at Burger Bar Crescent in Montreal gave me the last time I ordered poutine. (Click here to see the entry on Burger Bar Crescent.)
The burger with the side of poutine came out in about 15 minutes. It was a nice presentation with a couple of dill pickles stick to the top bun. The burger was flat-grilled, thick and juicy. From the first bite, I went, "Ummmmm...." It was a delicious burger. While I couldn't really taste the smoked cheddar cheese, the sauteed mushrooms and the applewood smoked bacon were great compliments to the taste of the burger. It was very juicy and I used a plethora of napkins during the course of the meal. The bun was light, yet held together very well with all that was going on with the burger. This was an excellent burger.
The poutine, well, I only took a couple three bites of that. And it, too, was very good. But the burger was so filling and the poutine so rich that I knew I couldn't finish everything. When Brittany came back to check on me after I finished my burger, I begged her to take away my plate to keep me from eating anything else.
For my first experience at a Milwaukee Burger Company location, I have to say that I was extremely pleased with what I had to eat. The burger was superb, the poutine was sinfully wonderful and Brittany's service was outstanding. I understand that they're planning on opening more Milwaukee Burger Company's in 2016. if the one in Appleton is any indication of how good the other ones are, then I'll say that the one in suburban Milwaukee can more than hold their own against some pretty stiff burger competition in that city. Or anywhere else, as a matter of fact.