I stopped by one of my dealers in Milwaukee, Ultra Fidelis, in the early afternoon on a recent trip to the area and they were getting ready to have lunch. They asked me if I'd like to get something with them and I said, "Sure!", joking that I knew they waited for me to show up so I could pay. One of the guys suggested getting burgers at a place called Cosmos Cafe. When I asked where it was, he said it was just up the street. I said, "Is that the little place back off the street up at the corner?" He said it was. I have walked past that place a number of times walking to Ono Kine Grindz, a Hawaiian market/cafe that I like to go to when I stop at Ultra Fidelis (click here to see my entry on Ono Kine Grindz) and the aromas from the grill emanating from the little place has always been excruciatingly enticing. They told me they have great burgers at Cosmos Cafe, so they called an order in for us for me to go pick up and bring back.
The owners, Theo and Helen Tselentis, got their start in the business by running the Friday night fish fry's at a local Greek Orthodox Church. People told them all the time that the fish was so good that they needed to open their own place. Finally in 2009, the couple opened Cosmos Cafe specializing in Greek food, burgers, and kept the tradition of their own Friday night fish fries. Initially, they had breakfast on weekends, but they discontinued it after awhile after sales began to decline. However, people kept asking about their breakfasts and the Tselentis' decided to start up serving weekend breakfasts again a couple years ago.
Cosmos Cafe is technically located in Wauwatosa along North Ave. (see map) It's set back from the street with a parking lot out front and shares the building with a tax service company. About 15 minutes after we placed the order by phone, I walked up the street from the store to get our lunch.
The dining area isn't all that large and all orders are placed at the front counter. The menu is located on a board above the counter. In addition to Greek specialties (gyros, Mediterranean salad, saganaki), they also feature sandwiches such as a Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich, a shrimp po' boy pita, and a beef tenderloin sandwich. They also have platters with your choice of chicken or gyro meat along with rice, chopped tomatoes, black olives, feta cheese and pepperoncini with pita bread.
Behind the counter was Tina, a family member with an outgoing personality and a great sense of humor. She knew the guys from Ultra Fidelis well and when I told her I was there to pick up the order she said, "Oh, they have YOU doing their work for them!" When I explained that I was picking up the tab for lunch, she said, "Well, of course! That figures..." Theo Tselentis was finishing up our burgers and a couple orders of Cosmos Cafe's Greek fries - French fries topped with Greek herbs, lemon juice and feta cheese.
Now, I was just going to have water to drink with my burger, but the guys at the store told me to pick up a couple bottles of Dang root beer at Cosmos Cafe. (They also sell regular beer there, too.) I wasn't familiar with Dang and one of the guys told me that it was made locally in Milwaukee and was the best root beer they've ever had. To me, that was saying a lot because I've always liked the root beer from the Sprecher Brewery in Milwaukee. When I told them that I didn't drink pop any longer, one of the guys said, "I don't either. But the only time I do drink pop is when I have a Dang root beer."
Butterscotch was his favorite. "Butterscotch," I asked incredulously. "I love butterscotch!"
He was talking it up so much that I damned near got one for myself. I haven't had a pop in over five years, but I came very close that day. In addition to the butterscotch root beer, Dang (as in "Dang, that's good root beer!") also features a regular root beer, a red creme soda and an Italian cherry soda that mimics the taste of maraschino cherries. For the fun-haters, there's also a diet regular and a diet butterscotch root beer from Dang.
Getting the burgers and the fries back to the store, the smell of the flat grilled burger was making my stomach do jumping-jacks. Opening the styrofoam container, I found a 1/2 pound hand-pattied burger with the melted cheese still bubbling on the top. Fresh onions (Greek restaurants always have the freshest raw white onions), dill pickles, tomato slices and lettuce came with the burger. The taste was, well, outstanding. It was one of those burgers where you first bite into it and go, "Mmmmm...." The bun was soft and airy, the cheese just dripped off the top of the burger and coagulated with the juices from the beef in the bottom of the container. When asked how I liked it, I said, "This burger is unbelievable." Even though it was less than five minutes after it was taken off the grill, I couldn't help but think how much better it would taste if you bit into it seconds after it was served in the cafe.
The fries were plentiful in the container, topped with the feta cheese, the herbs and lemon juice. They, too, were excellent fries. The potato taste inside the crunchy shell came through fine and mixed favorably with the cheese, herbs and lemon juice. I ended up eating more of the fries than I originally thought I would. They were very good.
There are a number of very good burger joints in the greater Milwaukee area. I think that you have to put Cosmos Cafe in the mix when you discuss the best burgers in Milwaukee. The burger was simply outstanding and the Greek fries were very good on their own. This is a family business - the kind I like to support when I can. However, the next time I get a burger at Cosmos Cafe I'm going to eat it there. I can almost imagine how good that will given how good it was with take out.