Elegant bar area is a popular destination
Elsa’s on the Park
833 N. Jefferson St.
Credit Cards: Yes
Handicap Accessible elsas.com
It’s always fun to debate which restaurant serves the best burger in town. Some places that come to mind are Solly’s, AJ Bombers and Sobelman’s. Another contender, quite unlike the others, is Elsa’s—or, more formally, Elsa’s on the Park.
The park in question is Cathedral Square. For decades Elsa’s has been housed in a late-19th-century brownstone building, unusual in that period of Milwaukee architecture. The elegant interior incorporates obelisks into the décor. Tables feature marble tops and a vase with a fresh rose. If nothing else, Elsa’s definitely qualifies as Milwaukee’s classiest burger joint.
The basic burger ($9.50) is a half-pound of ground sirloin served with onions. You will find other options as well, with names like Las Brisas, Daisy Mae and Greek Maiden. The basic cheeseburger ($11) offers a choice of four cheeses or a combination of all of them. The priciest version is the APV Burger II ($15), an au poivre burger with black peppercorns and a burgundy sauce, made even more decadent with the addition of bacon and blue cheese. When last sampled, the burgers
were right on target, cooked a perfect medium.
Burgers and sandwiches include waffle fries and a garnish of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Another specialty at Elsa’s is its variety of pork chop sandwiches, each of which offers a halfpound of meat. The one to try is the pork chop Calabrese ($12), which adds mushroom, onion, bell pepper and a dash of hot pepper to the mix. Sandwiches here are large; they can be split and served with additional fries and garnishes for a charge of $2.50.
The menu also includes salads and appetizers.
The Greek salad ($10.50), with fresh spinach, onion, sweet red pepper, California black olives, feta cheese and plenty of bacon, is worth a try. Balsamic vinaigrette is served on the side.
One of the true bargains on this menu is the galettes ’n greens ($7.50-$11). This is more of a flatbread than a galette, with pieces of bread topped by Parmesan, bacon, onion and olives—a very savory combination. In the center of the plate is a salad of field greens with balsamic vinaigrette. The smaller size is more than enough for a light meal.
A newer item is the shrimp ceviche ($10), a large serving of shelled shrimp with lime juice marinade, chopped onion and tomato served over thin slices of cucumber. Tomatoes with this type of full, ripe flavor are such a rarity in restaurants. When the shrimp are gone, the remaining vegetables are like a delicious Mexican version of gazpacho.
Chicken wings ($11.50- $30) are available after 3 p.m. Elsa’s was one of the first places in Milwaukee to serve Buffalo wings. Though the novelty is gone, these wings are still worth ordering.
At lunch, Elsa’s is very much a restaurant. At night, the bar that dominates the main room becomes a popular destination. Martinis have a long history here.
Elsa’s remains a unique Milwaukee experience, an urbane, New York type of setting that also happens to serve very good burgers.