Fresh Meat

Point Burger Bar’s build-your-own concept leaves seemingly no topping stone unturned.

The skillet sizzles. Juice oozes out of the hand-formed beef patty lying on scorching aluminum. Saturday was Burger Night when I was growing up. The bun/patty union was the stabilizer in a cacophonous household.

Bourbon Street shake. Photo by Chris Kessler.
Bourbon Street shake. Photo by Chris Kessler.

When a burger place opens, people don’t question the arrival of more two-fisters. That would be like questioning the spread of French fries. The new Point Burger Bar – whose closest competition at its West Side location is a Ruby Tuesday – keeps the definition of a burger loose and lax. If it can be formed into a shape that accommodates a bun (or a lettuce roll, or just a fork), that’s burger enough.

The build-a-burger theme is no novelty, nor is having more choices for your tower of meat and starch than you know what to do with. This place offers a staggering range of choices in a setting best described as modern sports bar. The flat-screens are part of the design aesthetic, carried through the bar/dining room, eyesight arrested by the wall of beer kegs, the royal blue tables glowing under pendant lights, and the crowd dressed in team apparel. If your “meat” isn’t Prime Angus, it could be turkey, bison, duck, lamb, salmon or a patty of vegetable origin. Point offers 14 specialty burgers, but should you choose to build your own, chef Tom Peschong – who earned accolades at Mequon’s departed The Riversite – can set you up with bourbon bacon jam, arugula, roasted garlic and ghost pepper cheese on brioche. That’s if you choose radical toppings. You could also go basic cheddar on a kaiser bun.

Chicken pot pie. Photo by Chris Kessler.
Chicken pot pie. Photo by Chris Kessler.

Anticipation accompanied this diner on a couple of visits. And though everything was edible – classic deviled eggs? natch ($6.95) – the level of execution varied. That ranged from dry tater tots ($7.95) to a bison burger served close to rare (and not ordered that way). I appreciated the idea of mixing quinoa with turkey to make a more juicy patty, but with avocado and balsamic onion jam, it was too mushy ($9.95). Frankly, an American cheeseburger ($9.45) surpassed the more embellished offerings.

I lingered in parts of the menu that don’t have anything to do with burgers at all. For instance: the pot pie served for one and baked in a full-size pie shell ($13.45). Golden puff pastry covers the filling – a classic white sauce thick with chicken, peas, carrots, potatoes and celery. A dining mate finished it in one sitting, but the absence of a bottom crust made the overthrow a less formidable task.

Point seduces with – stand aside, craft beer – boozy shakes, which will set you back as much as a basic burger ($10.95). But an argument could be made for the meal-making skills of a macadamia nut mocha shake with Kahlúa and crème de cocoa. A burger bar should have other tricks up its sleeve.

‘Fresh Meat’ appears in the February 2016 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the February issue on newsstands beginning Feb. 1.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.