338 S. 1st Street, Milwaukee WI 53204 (map); 414-271-7546; olydias.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Solid, if overcooked, burgers with lots of butter, plus great homemade apps and sides
Want Fries With That? Fries are fresh cut and deliciously crunchy, as are the chips. Both are a great bet
Price: Hangover burger, $8.95; Make-your-own burger, $7.50+; Lydia's nachos, $6.95; four combo rolls, $7.50
I've reviewed many Irish pub burgers because there are countless Irish pubs in Milwaukee. For the most part, they're all pretty good restaurants, even if the burgers aren't the best in the city. O'Lydia's, in the former McGinn's space in the 3rd Ward, is no exception. Their burgers are solid, but what really stands out are the apps, specials, and service.
Let's get the bad out of the way: The burgers were overcooked. Why am I not surprised? Our server did ask what temp I'd like, and I ordered both burgers medium. Both were well done. That said, they were some of the better well done burgers I've had. There was enough fat in the meat to keep it relatively moist, and the fact that the buns were positively soaked in butter certainly didn't hurt.
The half-pound patty sported a nice char from the grill and was seasoned well with standard salt and pepper.
There are only two burgers on the menu: the Hangover with the typical egg and bacon, and a make-your-own option. The bacon on the Hangover was great—really smoky and crisp, and it didn't get lost among the other ingredients. Less successful was the egg, which came out over hard when I wanted a runny yolk to give the meat a little more oomph—but I'd still never turn down an egg.
If you love cheese, you'll love these cheeseburgers. There was so much cheese on both the Hangover and a make-your-own burger with cheddar, Swiss, and fried onions that the cheese melted over the side of the burgers and into the fries. I didn't even notice until I found a stray fry attached and bound by cheese. Between the abundant cheese and butter on the toasted bun, this is like Wisconsinite heaven.
Don't skip the homemade fries. They were crispy, though a little more greasy that I would like (or maybe that was grease from the crazy amount of cheese). Chips are also homemade if you're more into the crunchy sides. I tried them nacho-style as an appetizer, with cheese sauce, shredded corned beef, bacon, sour cream, and a few token veggies. Ultimate drunk food.
Also worth ordering are the various eggroll-style apps. To my surprise, each roll I ordered—Rueben, ham and cheese, spinach, and regular mozzarella—came with a full little cup of various homemade sauces. My favorite was the ham and cheese with the sweet honey mustard sauce. I figured the spinach roll would have a filling similar to spinach and artichoke dip, but it was more like spanikopita filling, complete with a lemony bite.
Our server was very attentive without being overbearing, and all staff we encountered seemed genuinely welcoming. The secluded patio is a nice addition in summer; just beware that it's a couple yards from train tracks. There's a dearth of nightly dinner and happy hour specials, including $2.95 burgers on Thursday nights. While there could be some improvements made to the burger, all things considered, O'Lydia's is a happy little pub.