Zim's Bar and Grill
814 S 2nd St., Milwaukee WI 53204 (map); 414-383-3211; zimsbar.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Grilled burgers are hand-pattied and well seasoned, but temperature and topping issues spoil some burgers
Want Fries With That? Fries are frozen but skin-on and well cooked, but the parmesan doesn't add much. Don't bother with the limp, lifeless onion rings
Price: Milwaukee burger, $8.95; Chef Jovan burger, $9.95; Caribbean burger, $8.95; Ooey gooey sticks, $7.95
Zim's Bar and Grill recently relocated from Milwaukee Street to a more low-key location in Walker's Point. The closing of the original location on Super Bowl Sunday was a surprise to everyone, as it appeared to be doing a good amount of business. I'm sure a lot of people are happy to see Zim's reopened, but it's now got a different vibe: more casual and true to their sports bar foundation.
The menu is smaller, with an emphasis on appetizers and burgers. In fact, the only other section of the menu is salads, and there's only two of those to choose from. The kitchen opened in August, and with experience and a focused menu on their side, I was hoping for some really good burgers. In reality, they weren't anything special.
The three burgers I tried were to overcooked to varying degrees. They were all ordered medium, and all were well done, with one or two having a stray spot of pink somewhere. All three had charring from the grill that ranged from nicely formed grill marks to slightly burnt around the edges. Consistency is definitely an issue.
It's too bad, too, because the burgers are hand pattied, and you can tell. They've got that backyard burger irregularity (though perhaps a bit too irregular in one instance) that usually makes for a very tender burger. Unfortunately, being overcooked, they weren't that tender, but at least they weren't anywhere near a hockey puck. The beef's flavor was quite good, with a fair amount of smoke from the grill and just enough seasoning.
The best burger of the bunch was the Milwaukee burger, essentially a mushroom Swiss burger with fried onions and bacon added. It had the juiciest six-ounce patty of the three burgers and the best toppings. The mushrooms were fresh and buttery, though they were chopped a little too finely to notice them if you weren't looking. They got a little lost with the dark caramelized onions. The bacon, though gnarly on every burger, had a great substantial crunch. Overall, the smokey grilled patty complimented the rich, deep flavors of the mushrooms and bacon, making for a respectable burger.
An "award winning burger" according to the menu, the Chef Jovan burger came in second. Because of the thickness and irregularity of the patty, the toppings on this burger were a mess. The fried egg was slightly overcooked; a runny yolk would have helped save the overcooked beef. The pepperjack, while generous and having a bit of a kick, had a weird plastic texture, almost like a processed cheese. The menu states it's topped with "corned beef slaw," which apparently just means a few small cubes of corned beef in a too-sharp vinegar-based cabbage slaw.
The final burger, a Caribbean burger, was topped with Jamaican relish and grilled pineapple. The relish ended up being some soggy onions and peppers suspended in a thick, gooey, cold sauce, and was really unpleasant with its corn syrup-like consistency. The grilled pineapple was fresh and not canned, but it was unripe and not grilled long enough to bring out the sweetness.
All the burgers came on an onion and poppyseed bun that was lightly grilled and pretty good, though a little dry. On the side was a piece of leaf lettuce and some quartered cherry tomatoes in a light dressing with some herbs. A nice touch, but eating cherry tomatoes on a burger is a bit of a challenge.
Fries were just ok, even with their parmesan topping. They started off frozen, and you really didn't get many with your burger. I subbed onion rings for fries on one burger and had high hopes because they're homemade. I should have stuck with the mediocre fries, as the rings were soggy, greasy, and the coating flaked off if you looked at them wrong.
An appetizer called Ooey Gooey Sticks was also not bad, but nothing to go out of your way for. They were a blend of four cheeses and bacon in a wonton skin with marinara. Think homemade cheesesticks with bacon. But the barely half-piece of bacon in each didn't lend much flavor and there were plenty of cheese-less pockets.
I have faith that Zim's will flourish at this new location—at least for a while. What remains to be seen is if their product and consistency improves over time. They've got the bar stuff down: tons of local beers on tap, a dozen well-positioned TVs, and even live team trivia. That will bring people in, but I don't know if people will return based on the food.