Quaker Steak and Lube
4900 South Moorland Road, New Berlin WI 53151 (map); 262-754-9090; 50+ locations in the US and Canada; quakersteakandlube.com
The Schtick: Vintage car-themed family restaurant known for their wings and frenetic atmosphere
The Burger: Burgers are bland, mushy, and goopy. Stick with wings.
Want Fries With That? Skip the overpriced "loaded" upgrade and enjoy the crisp, thick fries alone
Price: Arizona El Camino burger, $9.59; Mac & Cheese burger, $8.99; Single order of wings, $9.79; fries, $2.49
I'm not really sure I get Quaker Steak and Lube's name. I mean, I know they have a retro car garage theme and the name's a play on Quaker State, a motor oil company. But even knowing that, the name still conjures up unsavory things. I'm not sure I want to eat in a place where I'm reminded of condoms and that one episode of Dirty Jobs with cows and elbow-length latex gloves.
However, those gloves could have come in handy as I tried to wade through the pile of mush they seemingly call a burger. There were so many confusing, disturbing things about the Arizona El Camino burger ($9.95)—get it, it's a car!—that I don't even know where to start. Why were the crispy tortilla strips in the sour cream under the patty, making them mushy? Why was the shredded cheese in some sort of sauce, and why was it not melted, or warm for that matter? And most importantly, why did I have to check whether the slice of cheese was actually cheese and not, in fact, the plastic it appeared to be?
I knew things weren't looking good when I went to cut the burger in half and felt the hard, sharp corner of the cheese poke my finger. The cheese must have sat in the fridge unwrapped for a pretty long time to dry out so much. Perhaps if it had traded places with the tortilla strips it could have plumped up a bit.
The beef itself was just as bad as the whole package: mushy and flavorless, like eating plain pudding or, well, lube. I think the gobs of sour cream, some sort of tasteless "Arizona ranch" sauce, and the wet corn and black bean relish were only there to lube this guy's ride down your throat.
Their mac-n-cheese topped burger ($8.99) was a little better, but only marginally. Again with the flavorless half-pound beef patty, which might as well have not been there at all. Supposedly the meat is never frozen, but you wouldn't guess that by the taste. The fact that it was a cement-like gray all around didn't help the matter. Of course, the macaroni on top was the same texture as everything else, but at least it wasn't covered in soupy things.
Let's give them a break though: the place is known for wings, and that's what you go here for. And they were actually pretty darn good. They arrived straight from the fryer and super crisp, even under the layer of slightly spicy sauce. Some were huge and quite meaty. Too bad the ranch that came with it had the consistency and flavor of water.
Fries weren't too shabby, and really the only part of the main dish I ate. Maybe I was just really glad they weren't terrible compared to the burgers. The measly order of "loaded" fries was laughable though—you got less than half the amount of fries plus a few token shreds of cheese and green onions for a buck more.
Even if you lube your appetite up with a few pints of beer, there's no way you're going to be able to choke down these burgers. Go for the wings if you must, but the quality of the rest of the meal has me wary of ordering anything there again.