The late Dennis Getto loved the Belly Burger served at Beer Belly’s on Layton so much that he named it the best burger in Milwaukee ahead of places like Mazo’s, Solly’s, and Sobelman’s. Getto even said “I don’t remember the first time I put my hands around the soft egg bun that cradles this magnificent creation.” Well I remember the first time I did, it was last week Friday at lunch and had I not wiped off the bun with my napkin my hands would have been drenched with melted butter. You see, Beer Belly’s uses an egg bun that they inexplicably brush with butter on the outside. That is like putting mayo on the outside of a sandwich. Why they would want their customers to get butter all over their hands? What purpose does this even serve? Put the butter on the inside.
But I am getting ahead of myself here. I should start with the soup, which I opted for in lieu of French fries. It was Friday so they had the obligatory Clam Chowder and a Shrimp Bisque. I was leaning towards the bisque but the waitress told me the chowder was outstanding. I should have trusted my gut because I was presented with the most bland, thick, flavorless clam chowder I have eaten in a long long time, maybe ever. Seriously they would be better off with Campbell’s Chunky Clam Chowder from a can than this steaming bowl of disappointment. There were maybe 2 bits of clam in the cup, it was overloaded with potatoes, and the way-too-thick (almost paste like) cream base had absolutely no flavor whatsoever. Even hot sauce and pepper couldn’t rescue this soup.
But I wasn’t here for soup, I was here for a burger. I figured all of the bad vibes from the soup could easily be erased with one bite of a juicy succulent burger. When I got the burger the first thing I noticed was how huge it was. It was a half pound topped with Cheddar, Swiss, bacon, sautéed mushrooms, onion, lettuce, tomato & 1000 island dressing on the side. The second thing I noticed was that disgusting slathering of butter on the outside of the bun. As I took my first bite almost all I could taste was bread. The bun was way too large for the burger (they also use the same size bun for their 1/3 pound burger. The only thing more disappointing than a too-large-bun is an overcooked burger and my burger ordered medium rare looked more like the well done side of medium well. Since I only had a short time to eat I didn’t send it back to the kitchen. The cheese, bacon, and dressing were nice but couldn’t completely save this somewhat bland burger. No disrespect to the deceased Mr. Getto, but I think I could rattle off 10 restaurants that serve burgers that are heads and shoulders above the Belly Burger. They are: Sobelman’s, Elsa’s on the Park, Solly’s, Kopp’s, Wicked Hop (my favorite), Houlihan’s (yes, the Chain) Mazos, The Chancery, The Nite Owl, and Harry’s in Shorewood. Wow, I could go even further: The burgers served at Larry’s market in Brown Deer on Fridays, Red Robin, Major Goolsby’s, Culver’s, Georgie Porgie’s, Charcoal Grill, Chili’s, For Pete’s Sake, Hooligan’s, Water Street Brewery, Champps Americana, and the Delafield Brewhaus. So you get the point, there are a ton of places serving a better burger than the mediocre Belly Buster.
I am intrigued by their Friday Fish Fry which has cod, perch and some other selections. Once I get over my disappointment with the burger I may give them another chance. As much as I didn’t care for the burger, they should be commended for transforming their old, dated building into a nice, attractive, modern looking restaurant.