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Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009

Stack’d Lets You Build Your Own Burger

But how does the burger bar stack up?

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Stack’d aims for an interesting concept in billing itself as a burger bar. Located in the renovated foundry that once housed The Social, the interior of Stack’d has exposed brick and rafters. The bar remains with its bowling alley wood surface, but the new colors are mellower and the front dining room now sports a pool table. The outdoor patio, which has been renamed the Stack’d Deck, is a haven for smokers and patrons who bring their dogs.

Stack’d is the brainchild of Tim Dixon, noted for the Iron Horse Hotel. The hotel’s eateries, Branded and Smyth, bring upscale settings and prices. Stack’d, sticking to appetizers, salads and sandwiches, has only a few items that cost more than $10.

Burgers of all types are the core of the menu. The build-your-own Stack’d burger ($8) requires four steps. First, choose a bun—classic, pretzel or gluten-free—or opt for the burger on top of field greens with your choice of dressing. Next choose a patty of beef, bison, turkey or black bean veggie. Then, for $1 extra, choose from eight cheeses, one vegan. Finally, choose extras like lettuce, tomato, onion and jalapeno pepper.

There are specialty burgers and stacks as well. The German stack ($10) seems tailor-made for Milwaukee, with its thick bratwurst patty souped up with beer and jalapeno blue cheese. It is topped with sauerkraut and stone-ground mustard. But the lettuce leaf is unnecessary and there is simply too much red onion. Meatless options include the portabella stack ($10), a large marinated mushroom topped with fresh mozzarella, a slice of fried balsamic tomato and red onion. There also is a topping of watercress that contributes nicely to this diverse combination.

The kitchen shows its creativity with the starters and salads. The buttermilk onion rings ($6) arrive in a foot-high stack. The crisp batter makes these thick rings far better than the norm. Stuffed jalapeno peppers ($4.75) include three huge peppers filled with goat cheese and chorizo and served over a lake of triple sec glaze. There is too much glaze and the chorizo seems nearly absent, but the citric sweetness is playful with the hot peppers.

The loaded potatoes ($6.75) could be titled the “Ultimate Stack,” as slices of potatoes are arranged into a tower as tall as the onion rings. Like an edible version of the game of Jenga, this item is definitely made for sharing. The potatoes are coated with cream sauce, sour cream and a sprinkling of chives. Just make sure that the tower does not come tumbling down.

The seven-layer stack ($7.50) is a novel update of a potluck salad. The plate has a bed of chopped romaine lettuce with optional crumbles of Nueske’s bacon. In the center of the plate is an inverted glass tumbler filled with layers of peas, grated cheddar, chopped tomato and onion. The dressing is a honey aioli at the right level of sweetness. It’s salad as an art form.

Sandwiches include Harry’s potent pickle, which is pleasantly pungent. The deepfried pickle appetizer ($3.75) has a nice tempura coating, but the spiciness disappears in the cooking process. A side item is also included with burgers and stacks. Twisted mac’n cheese stands out, thanks to a blend of blue cheese, cheddar and smoked Gouda. It’s also available as an entree ($9). The oil and vinegar coleslaw is simple and obviously homemade. The other options are seasonal fruit, potato wedges or three of those great onion rings.

Beverages occupy half of the menu. Forget martinis and think beer, wine and shakes. Beer is represented by a sound list of domestics and imports. The 20 wines have a simple pricing scheme: All options are $7 per glass and $30 per bottle. The milkshakes, with intriguing names like golden Cadillac and chocolate truffle, are sold alcohol-free ($4) or spiked ($8).

Stack’d isn’t the best place for a quick lunch, as the kitchen can sometimes be slow (on the other hand, sometimes everything arrives at once). But the servers are courteous and helpful, making every visit a pleasant experience. Stack’d pulls off an interesting concept, one that manages to put fun, flavor and design into a plate of food.

Stack’d170 S. First St. (414) 273-7800 $-$$ Credit Cards: MC, VS, AX Smoking: Deck only Handicap Access: Yes

Photo by Amelia Coffaro

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