Off the Clock Bar and Grill
4301 S Howell Ave, Milwaukee WI 53207 (map); 414-744-0052; offtheclockbar.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Burgers—including a grilled-cheese-bun monster—are serviceable, but suffer from overcooking and sloppy kitchen work
Want Fries With That? Get the sweet potato tots which were caramelized and crunchy
Price:Clock Stopper, $12.95; BBQ cheddar burger, $8.95; chicken wings, $4.95; jalapeño cheese ravioli, $6.95
Off the Clock on Milwaukee's south side plays to the adage that it's always 5 o'clock somewhere, with different drink specials each hour every night. But why not all day? If you're going to have a schtick, go all out with it. I found myself in similar quandaries about the food as well: Why is the cheese rubbery? Why are the fried ravioli undercooked? Why bother asking how someone wants their burger cooked when they're just going to be well done anyway?
I didn't really come up with any answers to my questions except to say that, at least on this visit, the kitchen was sloppy. Everything I ate was either over or undercooked. That doesn't ruin a meal; it just makes you yearn for something better. And in this case, I could tell the components were good, but the execution put a damper on things. It was truly a bummer, because everything actually tasted pretty good.
The only complaint I have about the beef was that it was overcooked. Medium was requested; well came out. Not surprising, but frustrating. Why do restaurants even ask if they're not going to cook it correctly? Of course, the beef was dry. What it did have, however, was just the right amount of lightly charred flavor from the grill.
Without that char, the BBQ cheddar burger's barbecue sauce would have overpowered the sandwich with sweetness. Luckily, only a small squirt was used and it balanced well. It was also topped with a neat little pile of delicious, crunchy fried onion strings and an abundant amount of rather smokey bacon. There was a ton of cheddar, but as it cooled slightly, it became rubbery, like it had been melted and cooled one too many times.
That cheese became more of a problem in the Clock Stopper burger. It's one of those grilled-cheese-as-buns concoction, but this one was less over the top than others I've seen. With just one third-pound patty, people can actually finish this burger. I kind of wish it were more outrageous.
The rubbery cheese was used in the grilled cheese and on the patty, making for a somewhat unpleasant experience once it wasn't piping hot anymore. A better quality cheese would easily improve this burger—as would not overcooking the beef. At first, the grilled cheese looked grilled nice and dark, the way I like them...until I turned the sandwich over and saw an anemic, barely toasted side. That's just laziness. The bacon in the grilled cheese sandwiches was a nice addition and made the sandwich less unwieldy than if it had been on the beef patty.
Fries served with the burgers were typical frozen waffle cut. Far from amazing, but serviceable. I preferred the upgrade to sweet potato tots, which seem to be becoming the latest potato fad. I just love how the outside of the sugary potatoes caramelize in the fryer.
The few apps I tried suffered from over and undercooking as well. I'm a sucker for toasted ravioli and jalapeño poppers, so the fried cheddar jalapeño ravioli seemed right up my alley. The flavor was there (though it could have used more jalapeño), but they were pretty undercooked and barely crunchy around the edges. The wings had the opposite problem: the meat was the driest I've ever had on a chicken wing. It was a shame considering the spicy garlic sauce was delicious.
Off the Clock's old building is charming and the bar was doing a hopping business, a good sign on a stretch with myriad corner taverns. I think they have the right idea—well, minus that crappy cheese—and simply need to work on execution and consistency.
About the author: Lacey Muszynski is an editor, freelance writer and restaurant reviewer from Milwaukee, WI. When she's not burgerblogging on AHT, she might be updating her food blog, making fun of the Food Network, or wondering what her art degree has to do with all of this. Her idols growing up included Martin Yan, Chairman Kaga, and whoever was on Great Chefs, Great Cities that day.