The Burgers of Wisconsin
Back from a great trip up North to the WI/MN Lake Superior region that included some great grub. We were up bright and early on our trips 2nd day to head from Madison to Prairie Du Chien which is located along the Mighty Mississippi. So from there we were taking the Mighty Mississippi in Prairie Du Chien all the way to the start of it in Prescott, WI. As I mentioned to anyone that was willing to take the trip, it is here where the home to Pete's Hamburgers is, which is a place that's been on my radar for over a year now. Despite living in Madison during the start of the decade and getting around the region often I had never heard of this very old hamburger stand located in town that is only open Fri. Sat. & Sun. from early spring thru the end of October. How old is the place? well when they first opened the Chicago Cubs were defending World Series champions back in 1909. Pete's just had its 100 year anniversary, and so did we!
Prairie Du Chien, WI (along the Mississippi across the river from Iowa)
I had first read about Pete's when I was checking out this dudes cool burger blog located right HERE. Ever since I read about this burger stand that sounds just like my type of spot, I was all about visiting this legend of a burger spot in person. When you get within a block or even two of this stand you know your near there, the smell of onions floods the air. When you get within a view of it you'll see people lined up on both sides of the little stand and others around the area eating burgers on benches, in their cars, on their carhoods or just while standing up along the sidewalk. When we got there it was about 11:30a and there were a couple people in line and they were just starting a new batch. It was an experience. When you talk about a place that "hasn't changed a thing" Pete's is the perfect example. All they do are burgers which start off as fresh balls of beef from the local town butcher. You can order them with or without, which would be the onions that are making the area smell like the food section of the state fair, but this is just one stand. You also have the option for ketchup or regular old yellow mustard or brown mustard once they are made.
That's the entire menu, even in Wisconsin, cheese is not an option
Video of what I saw as I waited for the next batch of burgers to be made
Pete's is one of them places that you just know is good before you have had a bite. I watched as the two lovely burger ladies took a big bowl full of chopped onions and threw them on the cooking surface and let them saute away. She then went to the back and came out with a tray of fresh balls of beef and started to throw them onto the cooking surface and follow that with water. This is how Pete's has been making burgers since 1909, they start off getting thrown onto the left side and then smashed down and once they cook both sides on the outside they are thrown onto the right side where they cook in steaming water. The onions are what separate them in the middle. So the burgers are cooked using just water and onions. You can tell the people making these burgers are veterans because once they are ready they can get them topped with what you want, wrapped up and dished out fast. But they also go fast and the batch you saw in the video above was gone alot faster then they were cooked.
After the burgers are made (and ordered with or without onions) these are your topping options
I had been waiting to try these since I first read about them and I wasn't going to be ordering just one, so I ordered four, all "with" and chose just the regular yellow mustard on all four. We took the burgers over to my car which was near a bench and I took them out of the little plastic bag they come in and dove right into my first one. Holy Sh!t!!! sorry, but that's what I said. Amazing was what came to my mind. These are pretty well sized and arent sliders but they tasted like the best sliders I have ever had and it might be the best burger I ever had. The buns were so soft and come from a local baker and the onions were potently pleasing like none other reaching Maxwell Street Polish sausage stand status. I love my burgers with cheese, mustard, onions and pickles and nothing else on them but these burgers didn't need what they didn't have. The taste of the beef was fantastic and everyone with me agreed that it was one of the best burgers they ever had. By the time we were eating ours there were a ton of people showing up for their Pete's burger fix. The best one I had might of been the last which got to sit in the butcher paper and steam away for a good 20 minutes.
one "with" topped with yellow mustard
Pete's is the perfect example of sometimes simple is better
Pete's is the type of place I love so much from living in Wisconsin and taking journeys around the backroads of America. Wisconsin is a great burger state and they come in all sorts of styles and sizes and Pete's is a place I would suggest you stop at if your ever in the vicinity. It's a scenic ride so it might be worth it if your ever in Madison (2 hours away). I had made it a point to stop here just for the burgers and a quick look around town and a stop at some other spots and we were out. After an hour or so strolling around town we took the Mississippi River Road route all the way up north to Prescott, WI where we would continue on North from there so it all worked out. This burger was one of my favorite local treasures found on the roads of America. Get there! it's very, very good and a legendary place for hamburgers. One of the best yet!
Pete's Hamburgers: 101 years of quality and counting
Pete's Hamburger Stand (seasonal and wkds only)
118 W Blackhawk Ave
Prairie du Chien, WI 53821