Burke's Irish Castle
5328 W Bluemound Rd Milwaukee, WI 53214 (map); (414) 453-6088; burkesirishcastle.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Irish bar tops their bland burgers with other meats for flavor, but they just turn into a big mess
Want Fries With That? Waffle fries upgrade not worth it considering the homemade chips are crunchy and hot
Price: Sconnie burger with fries, $11; Smoke House burger with chips, $10; Chips and dip app, $6
When Derry Hegarty passed away in 2011, whoever took over his namesake restaurant and bar would have big shoes to fill. Derry moved to Milwaukee from Ireland in 1965 and started his bar in 1972. He's now buried in the cemetery across the street, and you can even see his gravestone from the front door—he's always watching over the place.
Unfortunately, I'm not too sure he'd be happy with what he sees anymore, judging by the burgers I had at Burke's Irish Castle, the name of the renovated restaurant that's taken over the spot. I had never eaten at Hegarty's, so I can't compare the food, but all I know is that these burgers were not good.
I had two burgers: one topped with pulled pork, one topped with a bratwurst patty. If you had fed me either of them blindfolded, I wouldn't have guessed there was a burger in there anywhere. The Smoke House burger ($10) tasted like a pulled pork sandwich, and the Sconnie ($11) tasted like a brat.
The problem seemed to be that the thin, well done (we were given no option) patties had no seasoning at all. They were bland and dry as could be and offered nothing to the sandwich. I found it odd that only one of the burgers on their menu doesn't add another meat to the party, but now I understand that you need another meat topping for flavor.
Other toppings weren't very good either. In fact, the bacon on the Smoke House was the worst bacon I've ever tasted. It's like they marinated the pork belly in paint thinner first. It was so acrid and metallic tasting that I removed it from the burger.
Fried cheese curds on the Sconnie seemed to magically contain no cheese. The pulled barbecue pork, while flavorful, had lots of jiggly chunks of fat throughout. All the cheese and sauces got lost and were pretty much indiscernible.
The two saving graces of the burgers were the buns and the cole slaw. Braided challah was slightly sweet and soft with a nice toasted edge. The slaw was finely chopped with a fresh tasting, slightly sweet dressing that went well with the smoky pulled pork.
Also a bright spot were the homemade sliced bread and butter pickles. I'm usually not a fan of sweet pickles, but they weren't overly sweet. Homemade chips that came with the burgers were also good and crunchy, but the dips that came with the chip and dips appetizer were a bit boring. The smoked salmon dip barely tasted like salmon at all, and it had a weird sweetness. Stick to the plain chips, or opt for the crunchy, seasoned waffle fries for a buck more.
The new owners are keeping the Irish bar theme intact, but if you plan on heading over for St. Paddy's Day, plan on eating elsewhere first.