If you add a dash of Las Vegas and bring with it a heaping dose of Wisconsin flair, the end result is Point Burger Bar, a restaurant concept that got its start in the Milwaukee area and has made an entry into the Madison market. The first eatery opened in late 2015 as the brainchild of restaurateur Brian Ward, a classically trained chef who has been operating Ward’s House of Prime, another restaurant concept, in downtown Milwaukee for more than a decade.
Fittingly, the idea behind the concept of Point Burger Bar was hatched during a trip to Las Vegas, which Brian describes as “the center of the food industry.” During the excursion, Brian visited establishments from such well-regarded culinary professionals as Gordon Ramsay and Hubert Keller.
Brian’s goal is to have an establishment that caters to everyone—children and adults alike—with a fun, friendly environment that emphasizes high-quality service and food. The layout of the restaurant is representative of the all-for-one mantra. There are different sections of the restaurant catering to the type of experience a patron desires.
In addition to traditional dining and patio space, Point Burger Bar offers up a game room, featuring nearly 20 consoles. Adorned by bright color schemes and abundant lighting, the game room gives users the opportunity to enjoy play by purchasing chips in different increments.
Point Burger Bar also puts meticulous attention on its menu offerings, accentuated with a four-step build-your-own-burger concept, which has been popular. The list of options in step one includes selecting the protein: Angus beef or chicken and some lesser common types that are not always on menus, such as bison, duck, lamb, salmon, and turkey.
Non-meat-eaters have their choices as well, including protein-rich burgers adorned with portabella mushrooms or vegetables. Vegan options are also offered: a soy-based veggie burger and Point Burger Bar’s take on an impossible burger that incorporates a plant-based patty closely resembling beef and featuring an ingredient known as heme, an iron-rich compound.
The second step entails selecting one of nine artisan breads, supplied from Peter Sciortino’s Bakery in Milwaukee. The bun options include brioche, ciabatta, and pretzel. Also in the mix of possibilities is a lettuce roll.
Step three includes selecting a range of sides, some available with the meal and others as options with an additional charge. And the fourth and final step includes the option of accenting any sandwich with cheeses; specialty condiments, like bloody Mary ketchup; items from the garden; and additional farm-raised meats, such as bacon and prime rib. In all, there are about 120 different toppings available.
Whenever possible, Brian says Point Burger Bar strives to bring in food that is locally sourced. “We make all of our products fresh daily. Nothing is processed. We use local purveyors whenever we can, and nothing is ever mass produced.”
The menu is rounded out with wraps, soups, salads, entrées, and other offerings. Also on the menu are appetizers and a range of specialty drinks, including alcoholic custard shakes.
While the burger concept was created from scratch, Brian also looked to a veteran establishment to provide most of the sudsy beverages on tap. Stevens Point Brewery, which has roots stretching back to 1857, supplies the majority of the 30 beers, ciders, and sodas.
In addition to its deep heritage, Stevens Point Brewery holds a number of other distinctions, including a status as the second longest continuously running brewery in the same location in the United States. “They have the history, and they make all of their own beers,” Brian says. “They fill an important need for us.”
The partnership with Stevens Point Brewery is a pivotal part of the business, evidenced by Point Burger Bar’s full name. But Brian also makes a distinction, as he emphasizes the driving force behind the restaurant’s concept. “We’re a restaurant that serves alcohol, rather than a bar that serves food. We’re not a bar.”
At present, Point Burger Bar operates five restaurants, including four in its home area of Milwaukee and suburban communities. The flagship eatery is on Milwaukee’s northwest side, and two suburban locations—New Berlin and Pewaukee—set up shop in the following years. An express location has also been established in downtown Milwaukee near the Fiserv Forum.
Their entry into the Madison area was a natural progression for the restaurant, although it was not seamless. Mother Nature threw a few curveballs into the mix and delayed last year’s opening of the Middleton location by two-and-a-half months. Severe flooding in late August damaged portions of the 14,000-square-foot Middleton restaurant—unfortunately, a few weeks shy of the initial opening. Despite the early mishap, Brian says the restaurant’s entry into the Madison market has been abundantly positive. “We had been looking at the Madison area a long time. Middleton seemed like a great location for us. It’s got a very family-oriented feel, which fits well for us. We’ve also got a really great location, and people have been enjoying the quality of the food.”
Additional locations are a part of Point Burger Bar’s short- and long-term vision, and there’s a desire to further the restaurant’s presence in the Madison area. While there is uniformity with menu items and much of the ambiance between one location and the next, each location has its own persona as well. This philosophy is reflected in the community-focused special events offered. This past summer, the Middleton location had a Bike Night live music showcase on Wednesday evenings and a summer car cruise on Thursday nights. “Middleton’s been a great experience for us,” Brian says. “The community has been very supportive.”
Dave Fidlin is a freelance writer who has a special affinity for Madison. Dave’s career spans nearly 20 years, and he’s grateful for the opportunity to learn something new each day through his professional pursuits.
Point Burger Bar
2259 Deming Way
Middleton, WI 53562