The Ruckus – 4144 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood, Wisconsin

Weekdays 4pm – 9pm, Sat. 11am – 9pm, Sun. 11am – 8pm.

The Ruckus is a place I could have passed by for years without ever even thinking of entering, just because it's next to Benji's, in Shorewood, and if I'm that close to Benji's, and hungry, why not go to Benji's, as it's one of those places you could make your home away from home. The Ruckus has a lot more not going for it, like the dumb name (which is not that bad for a hamburger place—I've heard worse—on the bottom of my list is “5 Napkin Burger.”) The cartoon font on the sign doesn't help, either. What got me to enter, finally, was hearing they had gluten-free buns. Which isn't that unusual for hamburger places, anymore, but still, that's essential. A hamburger on a bun, is—well, if it's not your thing, then it's garbage—but if it is your thing, you recognize it as one of the world's great food inventions, like pizza, tacos, and haggis. A hamburger alone on a plate, however, is dog-food. You'd be better off eating it on the floor.

Once inside, however, I was reminded again how a place that can seem so foreboding and alienating from the outside, upon entering can feel friendly and inviting—and it's often because of the warmth and attitude of the human beings working there. It's almost comical to realize how much money restaurant owners will pay a design firm to create a space that feels like a dystopian nightmare, and how little they pay the most important piece of the puzzle, the day to day employees. On this day it was young guys working there—maybe high school age, or college students—but anyway, they seemed to take everything seriously and also seemed to be having somewhat of a good time—so you didn't feel like they were just suffering through the experience. Even if that's just an act, it makes the customer feel good. I hope they get paid decently.

I have eaten so few hamburgers overs the years, I somehow missed the transition from them being called “hamburgers” to being called “burgers.” I cannot tolerate many food abbreviations—among them: “Slice, app, fries, and burger.” Just so you know. The menu here has a large variety of hamburger variations, including chicken ones—which, wouldn't that be a chicken sandwich? I don't know—I just got a “classic” one, purportedly “Angus”—which—I don't know Black Angus from Spotted Dick. Though it's interesting that a lot of beef varieties share names with guys in bands. The décor here is a bit confusing—it's kind of an uncomfortable jumble between that 1990s industrial thing, and the Fifties thing, and the Starbucks thing, and the job break-room, high school cafeteria, or camp commissary. I mean, it's like none of those things but I thought of them all. Maybe my synapses were popping because of the nitrogen infused coffee, which I liked, as it tasted like a non-sweet coffee soda, and was a keen caffeine delivery device. By the way, I don't see it on their online menu now, so they maybe have discontinued it for health reasons, or because (as I found myself, after drinking it, telling my life story to all who would listen) it makes old guys too talkative.

Richard Skiller 2.1.18