Wisconsin April 25, 2019
The Best Burger We’ve Ever Tried Is Hiding Inside This Unassuming Restaurant In Wisconsin
What happens when a James Beard award-winning chef decides to create a secret menu item at one of his acclaimed restaurants? You get the best burger you’ve ever tasted made with the freshest, highest quality ingredients. And it comes out of the open kitchen of a Spanish tapas bar.
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If you don't know about the "secret burger" at Estrellon that's served up only by request on Wednesdays, you're missing on out on burger nirvana. This massively delicious, fresh and wonderful burger is probably the worst kept secret in Madison. There's usually a line waiting to get into Estrellon on Wednesdays and the burger usually sells out - that's because it's made with amazing, local, fresh ingredients and the folks here accept no substitute. So when the ingredients are gone for the night, so is your chance to sample burger perfection.
Estrellon is a stellar Spanish tapas restaurant serving up some of the best Iberian cuisine anywhere stateside. It's a unique, delicious and award-winning restaurant. Don't let the burger be the only reason you go here. But also, go here for the burger.
With a resume a mile long that includes some of the very best food in Madison, Tory Miller is one of the most influential chefs on the Wisconsin food scene. His approach to food mixes his local roots with time spent in some of the biggest name restaurants in the country. When he came back to Wisconsin, he learned about the importance of knowing your suppliers and knowing exactly where your ingredients are coming from.
That, above all else, is what makes this secret burger so amazing. Where else are you going to find a burger made of 100% brisket? A good burger can be ruined by an insufficient bun, but the secret burger gets it totally right. The fresh challah roll stands up to the rest of the fillings. It's hearty enough to hold it all together, but not so bready as to take over the meal. It's a buttery bit of perfection with the tiniest bit of sweetness.
Pickles and a house-made Thai chili "thousand island" sauce bring it all together, and it's topped with fresh, crispy shreds of lettuce that bring some freshness and texture. Red onions and melty American cheese complete this burger behemoth. If it sounds like a really fancy version of that two all-beef patties fast-food burger, don't be surprised. Just know that this is like the absolute best version of that burger that could ever possibly exist. It's the burger all other burgers aspire to be.
In addition to the secret burger, you get a basket of fresh-cut fries who's toppings may vary, but will always be amazing. They're drowned in things like melty, gooey cotija cheese and a green chile sauce. Or really, whatever the chefs in the kitchen feel like for the day. The basket of fries could be a meal themselves and the sheer amount of toppings take them at least halfway to poutine territory.
Speaking of the kitchen, at Estrellon, it's wide open and there are seats along a counter right next to it. From pretty much anywhere inside, you get an up-close and personal view of all the cooking that is done here. It's easy to find yourself ignoring your dining partner as you watch the chefs go through their motions. It's a rare and awesome first-hand look at how one of the top kitchens in the country works, and it means dining here is really getting dinner and a show.
This is a gorgeous place that may leave you wondering if you've come to the right spot when I tell you to head here and have the secret burger, but I promise I wouldn't steer you wrong. Chef Tory Miller, despite having a resumé many aspire to, first fell in love with food at his grandpa's diner, eating burgers and drinking milkshakes. Sure, he can beat Bobby Flay and lay out a multi-course meal of your dreams, but he also hasn't forgotten his roots. Combining that knowledge brings us the secret burger and that's why it's so great.
Choosing a favorite burger is subjective and can be highly controversial, especially when there are so many different kinds of burgers out there. On the one hand are the places that have been grilling up patties the same way for years. These simple and no-nonsense spots are hard to categorize when put up against the over-the-top, creative burgers coming out of some top-end restaurants these days. Both are good for different reasons, but the reason Estrellon's burger is the best is it's a combination of both those things.
Estrellon's burger is the perfect marriage of straightforward bar burger and fancy restaurant "chopped steak patty." The challah bun. The Thai chili dressing. The brisket patty. They're all things you expect to find at a James Beard winners restaurant. But in the end, this is just a juicy, flavorful, slightly sloppy burger that hits all the right notes and is taken to another level by high-quality ingredients that come together to create the perfect burger.
Estrellon is located at 313 W Johnson St., Madison, WI 53703. The secret burger is available on Wednesday nights – the restaurant opens at 4:30 p.m. Find out more about this award-winning, delicious restaurant on
their website or by heading to their Facebook page.
In Wisconsin, we love a butter burger.
Here’s a list of places to find that melty, buttery goodness.