The Capital Grille
310 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee WI 53203 (map); 414-223-0600; locations in 24 states, full list at thecapitalgrille.com
The Schtick: Upscale steakhouse with lots of dark wood and—at this location—giant paintings and taxidermied deer heads
The Burger: Ground sirloin, bacon, and sweet onion burgers sound good, but are pretty boring and bland. The crab and lobster cake burger is more interesting.
Want Fries With That? Regular fries are thin fast food-style; get the truffle fries if you prefer meatier fries (but with way too much "truffle" oil)
Price: Signature cheeseburger, $16; Lobster and crab burger, $19 (both with fries)
I've always assumed that steakhouses would have great burgers, figuring they grind premium, dry aged steak trimmings to make super flavorful patties. So I was excited to review The Capital Grille since they have a pretty good steakhouse rep here in Milwaukee and, from what I can tell, at their other locations as well.
Too bad their signature cheeseburger ($16) fell flat on its face. The half-pound patty mixture of sirloin, bacon, and sweet onion may sound great on paper, but the addition of coarse ground bacon—which didn't appear to be precooked in any way—to coarse ground beef resulted in an unappealing texture. Many bites were filled with tough, fatty bits that just wouldn't go away no matter how much I chewed.
I ordered the burger medium, but it came out over that even though our server double checked that I'd like a "warm, pink center." I guess I should be grateful it was overcooked or else I may have ended eating a ton of rare bacon. It had an ok crust, but nothing worth writing home about, and it was a bit under seasoned. It was really one of the most underwhelming burgers I've had for the price.
While I didn't get any hint of the sweet onion in the patty, I got a huge wallop of extremely strong yellow onion in the slice that came on top of it. The tomatoes were supermarket variety. The lettuce was thankfully Boston, which I feel is the ideal lettuce for a burger because of its sturdy texture that doesn't wilt easily. The melted havarti cheese was the burger's saving grace, but that can only help so much.
Also on the menu is a lobster and crab "burger" ($19), aka a crab cake with a bit of lobster claw and leg meat added in. It was better than the beef burger, but again, nothing spectacular by any stretch. It was a mostly solid mass of (non-lump) crab meat with very little filler. It was a little fishy tasting though, certainly not because it had gone bad, but maybe because it wasn't at its freshest. The citrus freak in me appreciated the accompanying grilled lemon half.
Both burgers came with fries, chips, or green beans. I got an order of regular fries and truffle fries, which came as two different cuts of fries. The regular fries were thin cut, perhaps on purpose to emulate fast food. The truffle fries were a much thicker, skin-on cut, doused in overwhelming, fake-tasting truffle oil. I wish I could have gotten the thick fries without the truffle oil. The one thing the plain fries were better for was dipping in the various sauces that came with both the burger and the crab/lobster cake. Standard ketchup, mustard with a real bite, and chive aioli came with the burger. The aioli was a good balance of creamy, garlic and onion. The seafood came with a homemade tartar sauce that was deliciously tangy with citrus and pickles.
Overall, Capital Grille's burgers were just not that good. They lacked anything that made them stand out in any way. Next time, I'd stick with the steaks.