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Food Wars: AJ Bombers Vs. Sobelman’s

Who offers Milwaukee’s best burger?

May. 4, 2010
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This weekend, the Travel Channel will be in Milwaukee filming an episode of “Food Wars,” a weekly cable television program that focuses on the country’s most renowned restaurant rivalries and the iconic dishes that make them famous.

In each episode, “Food Wars” travels to an American city, finds two local eateries that serve one of the area’s signature dishes, and hosts a blind taste test to determine which restaurant’s version is better. Previous shows have featured Buffalo, N.Y., where Anchor Bar and Duff’s battled over chicken wings, and Chicago, where Al’s Beef and Mr. Beef went head-to-head over who sells the best Italian beef sandwich. Here in Milwaukee, “Food Wars” is pitting AJ Bombers versus Sobelman’s Pub & Grill to decide once and for all who serves the best burger.

While Milwaukee’s burger rivalry doesn’t have roots as deep as, say, the fish fry debate or the frozen custard question, the city will certainly benefit from the notoriety generated by the Travel Channel. “Food Wars” will help Milwaukee gain a star on the culinary tour map and generate business for restaurants that claim burger greatness.

As far as what ingredients are used to make a quintessential Milwaukee burger, AJ Bombers co-owner Joe Sorge and Sobelman’s Pub & Grill co-owner Dave Sobelman are collaborating with the show’s producers to decide. As we go to press, Nueske’s bacon and Colby cheese look like ingredient front-runners.

“Food Wars” host Camille Ford will visit both restaurants, sample a burger from each joint, and chat with the owners and customers. The show is edited to include a short history of each restaurant and the origins of Milwaukee’s fledgling but heated burger rivalry.

The end of each episode is punctuated by a lively showdown. Loyal fans of each restaurant gather while a panel of blindfolded judges, usually consisting of impartial local personalities, taste a sample of each dish and vote for his or her favorite. The restaurant with the most votes is declared the winner of Milwaukee’s food war.

Here’s a breakdown of the two competitors in Milwaukee’s burger battle:

AJ Bombers

1247 N. Water St.



AJ Bombers is new school in both age and approach. Open only a year, the burger place has already been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, among other periodicals, for owners Joe and Angie Sorge’s effective employment of new social networks like Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook to grow their customer base exponentially. From its corner on Water and Knapp streets, AJ Bombers attracts steady Downtown lunch business and a young dinner crowd with its juicy quarter-pound blended burgers served on fresh potato rolls.

When asked what makes a burger good, Joe says, “It’s all about the science of the burger, the ratios. It’s about having the right amount of meat, the right amount of cheese, the right amount of bread and the right amount of sauce. That is why I believe we will severely dominate Sobelman’s, because that burger is all about the bun.”

Sobelman’s Pub & Grill

1900 W. St. Paul Ave.



Dave and Melanie Sobelman have deemed their renowned Sobelman Burger “Milwaukee’s Best Burger” since they first opened their pub and grill in a renovated Schlitz tavern more than a decade ago. Sobelman’s boasts an enormous contingent of loyal Marquette students and Downtown workers willing to journey to the Menomonee Valley for Sobelman’s fresh Black Angus beef patties served on egg-washed country butter rolls. Dave Sobelman is so confident in his burger, in fact, that he offered Joe Sorge “Terms of Surrender” on the Sobelman’s website.


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