Editor's Note: Please welcome Lacey Muszynski to the AHT team! Milwaukee native Lacey is a magazine editor by day and a food writer by night. She's excited to garner support for local restaurants with reviews on AHT—but only if a burger is deserving. To find out what she's been cooking lately, visit her blog, WorthHerSalt.com.
3146 S 27th St., Milwaukee WI 53215 (map); 414-671-2118; mazoshamburgers.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Juicy no-frills burgers, average shakes, and ample sides. Tiny restaurant often crosses the line from cozy to cramped, so consider doing what many people do and order take-out
Want Fries With That? Thin fries are crispy and fresh. Homemade soups and baked beans are a standout
Price: Burgers, $5.20-$8.35 including 2 sides; shakes, $3.25; take-out bags of 5 or more burgers, $2.95 each
I probably should have already known about Mazos, but even having lived on the south side of Milwaukee for most of my life, it somehow escaped under my radar. That's no small feat, considering Mazos has been in business since 1934, and at its current location—directly across from another old-timer, Leon's Frozen Custard—for over 50 years.
The restaurant is really everything you'd expect from a relic. The windowless tavern-like building emanates nostalgia and blue-collar ambiance with a lunch counter and worn wooden booths. It's the kind of place that you know you're going to get a ton of value for your money, even before you see the prices.
The menu is small: basic burgers and cheeseburgers, homemade soups, shakes and a number of sides. Each burger comes with a generous choice of two sides. I opted for the fries and homemade baked beans, but other choices include a cup of soup, home fries, applesauce, cole slaw and cottage cheese. Burgers come with no toppings, unless you ask for fried or raw onions, both free of charge. If you're someone who likes lettuce, tomato and thousand island on your burger, then be sure to order #8, the Burger Supreme, in order to get those toppings. Each table has bottles of ketchup and yellow and brown mustards for DIY condiments.
I stuck with tradition and ordered a cheeseburger with American and fried onions. (Swiss, the only other cheese choice according to the menu, might have been a little too highfalutin around these parts.) The patty was a beefy 6 ounces and highly seasoned with a "house seasoning" that tasted similar to a pre-mixed seasoning salt. The patties are ground in-house and griddled, so along with the ample onions and cheese, there was a decent amount of grease. The waitress didn't ask how we'd like our burgers cooked, but it wasn't a problem—the meat was juicy with a slight charring even though it was well done.
I was worried the toasted bun might not hold up to the hefty burger, but it was sturdy and provided a great bun-to-meat ratio. My dining companion ordered a bacon cheeseburger, and they were also generous with the bacon: three full, crisp slices. No limp bacon around here.
The fries were crisp, not greasy and seasoned with more than just salt, though they would have been better if they were a thicker cut.
Shakes come in the metal cups they were mixed in, along with a glass (or two) for pouring, a spoon and a straw. The raspberry shake was full of raspberry seeds, so at least you know they used real fruit. That much fruit gave it a sweet-tart flavor, but it wasn't thick enough to warrant using the spoon.
The only hiccup we encountered was our server. It was obvious that she was a member of the Mazos family, because there's no other way she would still have her job if she wasn't. Think Valley-Girl-meets-uninterested-teenager. Luckily for us, though, the other server working knew to cover her tracks, and finally bought our check with a knowing, exasperated look when we finally rose from our table to find someone to pay after our table had been cleared for over 10 minutes. Somehow, it really only added to the ambiance though, as we were left laughing about the situation with the table next to us.