Social Hour

The evolving menu served at this old warehouse venue is the antidote for ennui.

The server doesn’t underestimate this burger: “Top 5 in the city, no question,” he says.

And there is foundation for his assertion. A patty formed from four kinds of ground meat (brisket, short ribs, chuck, beef cheeks), and topped with American cheese, bacon, mayo-based “social” sauce, pickles and a milk bun – all made in-house.

When the burger appears on the table at the Fifth Ward’s Merriment Social, it’s a ticking time bomb of sloppy, juicy meat eloquence. There’s no question this is a very good burger – so good it spawned a popular and ongoing burger series at the restaurant (inspired by everything from local chefs to college basketball’s March Madness).

Merriment’s dining room (pre-merry time). Photo by Chris Kessler.
Merriment’s dining room (pre-merry time). Photo by Chris Kessler

Merriment’s onetime warehouse digs are better known for a nine-year stint as Moct nightclub. Merriment co-owner Andrew Miller was in charge of the large, bustling kitchen at Zarletti Mequon (then called Salotto Zarletti) when this attractive piece of real estate went up for lease. He and his business partner Sam Emery and Cameron Whyte jumped on it.

Since opening in August 2015, Merriment has tried to find its niche in a market that keeps rolling out small- and large-plate format menus featuring pork belly, roasted bone marrow and beef short ribs. Over time, Miller has studied what’s working, what’s not. The aforementioned burgers, grass-fed beef patties on house-made milk buns, are in the working camp. They’re so essential that they show up on the brunch menu as well. Striving for plates that could create an addiction is a lofty goal, but Miller has taken it on.

One of them is the fried Brussels sprouts topped with pie crust crumbs, pecans, honey and crème fraiche. It’s savory-sweet, though not pegged as a dessert. It’s a rich appetizer choice b ut a worthy segue into the larger-format items, like crispy braised duck leg with gnocchi and chanterelle mushrooms, and (original or red-hot) fried chicken with cheddar-chive biscuits and jalapeño ranch dressing.



Sunday brunching the Merriment way means a playful mix of treats for the table (breakfast sausage potstickers, chocolate-bacon custard-filled donuts) and big, savory, messy-delicious large plates that will fill you up all day – things like the kielbasa delight (smoked Polish sausage with beer cheese, fried eggs and hash browns) and duck confit hash with cheese curds, fried Brussels sprouts and fried eggs.

Whimsical plates keep the menu from becoming stagnant. Not long into Merriment’s first several months, Miller hinted about future restaurant endeavors. And lo and behold, the three partners met the close of 2016 by opening the elegant seafood emporium Third Coast Provisions on Milwaukee Street.

Merriment Social 
240 E. Pittsburgh Ave., 414-645-0240. 
Hours: Dinner Tues-Sat; Brunch Sun. 
Prices: $12-$26.

This dining review appears in the Dine Out Pocket Guide in the April 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the April issue on newsstands beginning April 3.

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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.