The Burgers of Wisconsin
I love the burgers of Wisconsin. In case you didnt know it I'll argue with anyone that when it comes to states, none take them as serious as Wisco. Some people may say you can find good burgers in every state and I'd agree but you wont find the high concentration of spots that Wisconsin has anywhere else. It just so happens that I have the proof to back these claims up. All you have to do is look as posts tagged 'Wisconsin' to see I've given over 50 places putting out top notch burgers a shout-out. Today we focus on ten that cater to the states abundance of bikers. I'm not talking 12 speeds here, I'm referring to one of the states great exports, the Harley Davidson Motorcycle. With Summer done and Fall colors in the air now is the time many people are getting their last rides of the season in. So with it I thought it would be a good time to share some recs from the bars and taverns that cater to these riders as well as others. Here's ten burgers worth biking for.
Captain's has an extensive burger list ft. house made creations. Similar to a place like Kuma's but I haven't been there in a decade. Aside from the beer and burgers, the mac and cheese seems to be very popular with locals too. Good luck getting a seat at the bar on a Saturday. They do have outdoor seating when its warm. Burger options are overwhelming. They feature fresh grassfed patty's in 5 or 10 oz options and have a variety of Juicy Lucy spin-offs with a Wisconsin flare as well as every other popular combinations you can think of and some deep fried options you dont want to think of. Feel free to build your own on the sheet you fill out your order on.
a Zombie eating a burger inside the Fish Tank
So the burgers? Keeping it simple with an option like the "Dirty Burger" isn't a bad idea. Char-grilled top quality beef dressed with cheddar, a housemade black and tan onion ring, and horseradish mayo. Lettuce, tomato etc served on the side as well your choice of a side, the fresh cut fries kicked up with black pepper aren't bad. The burgers here paired with some beer from Ale Asylum or elsewhere in-state is the best thick style burger in the immediate area.
Captain Mike's "Dirty Burger"_____________________________________________________________
Hanson's Bar and Grill
I've long chose to pass thru Beloit whenever heading to or from Madison. But a tip over on LTH put this stop on my radar. They've been at it since 1940. As far as looks and atmosphere goes this is a classic Wisconsin style drinking and dining establishment. A big house makes for plenty of room for families and large groups. Over in the middle of the house is the bar which like most longtime joints is filled with yocals. Their specialty on the appetizer portion of the menu are the house fried mushrooms which are fresh and came fried perfectly. As good a batch as I've had from anywhere.
House Fried Shrooms
Then there's the burgers. After looking at their website and reading a few reviews about them elsewhere I was intrigued to try one. I ordered the house cheeseburger (1/2 pound) with cheddar and was rewarded with a top notch bar burger. Cooked to my medium rare request this was a Juicy Lucy but not from the cheese, the bottom part of the bun tasted like it had been "dipped" ala an Italian Beef and almost disintegrated before my last bite. They come with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles on the side. When it comes to bang for your buck burgers, this state has alot and Hanson's is hard to top. The odds are always with you in Wisconsin.
Hanson's Original House Cheeseburger_____________________________________________________________
When one does some deep digging on where to find the best burger in the Milwaukee area, should you dig deep enough, this classic Sconnie style tavern will appear. Located in a suburb about15 minutes from MKE this old school tavern sits in a very scenic setting along an old creek and church built pre-1900's. The service was friendly and beer was cheap. The Skippy burger is a 1/3 lb of fresh beef cooked to order served with the famous Skippy Sauce on top. Pretty much similar to most thousand island based burger dressings this was a comforting one which hit the spot.
Three Guys and a Grill
Elkhart Lake, WI
I was out in Sheboygan County on a consulting trip a little while back and seeked out a couple good burger stops on my route. Elkhart Lake is a small village located on the beautiful Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive which is a bikers best friend.The town itself is probably best known for being the home of the Road America Racetrack, which is said to slang a good charcoal kissed burgers on raceday. There's always been a history with racing in these parts as residents used to illegally race along the county roads back in the 50's before the track was built. There's also a history of grilling over real charcoal in these parts (see previous posts) and that's what I read the boys over at Three Guy's & a Grill were doing so I made it a point to stop by.
Flaming Charcoal Grill
Upon entry you're greeted by the grill sending sweet whiffs of smoke into the outside air. This was an integrated Sconnie bar in that there were what seemed to be a couple regulars, a few families and couple guys enjoying a drink after some hunting with a middle 40's aged female bartender who seemed to know them all. Cheeseburger with fried onions wasn't bad. It was a bit overcooked however the kiss of charcoal is always a pleasant taste and the toasted Sheboygan style hard rolls commonly used around here are top notch. Located in the 13,000 acre Marsh Park Wildlife area, the view while eating the burger might of been the best part.
Platteville VFW Post 5274
I got to stop in and try the popular with locals and riders sliders they serve here while experiencing the atmosphere inside. I enjoyed my visit in doing so. The public is welcome but the average age inside on my visit had to be near 80 and this included me and the pretty young blonde bartender who the Vets obviously enjoyed shooting dice with. My first order placed was a coca cola and Spotted Cow from the tap, at $3 I felt like I could be a regular quickly if I lived near here like all the old timers inside do.
The view inside
It was around 5p and that's when slider night starts (it goes 'til 9p). It seemed that's the reason most of the guys at the bar were there. Actually I take that back, they were there for the cheap beer and some sliders to go along with it. There's a regular menu with burgers, brats etc but no one in the place was ordering anything but the special. Three for $2.50 isn't a bad deal and so I was told these have always been made here the same way and loved by the locals. You get what you pay for and then a little more as long as you like this style of burger. The patties were steamed and so they were lighter in color than your typical burger and loaded with onions served inside steamed buns with pickles and the option of cheese. Good stuff but getting to listen the old timers go back and forth while watching and analyzing the gameshow 'Baggage' with host Jerry Springer was really great. I thought it was a fun stop with a peak inside a different old school style of 'Midwest Living'.
Wednesday Night Sliders at the Platteville VFW_____________________________________________________________
Cross Plains, WI
Stopped into here on a classic roadtrip thru Southeastern Wisconsin a couple years back. It was a crisp Fall night and the Packers were on the air so the place was packed. Their burger might not look like much but it was a winner for those of us who like the classic variety. No frills,. just fresh meat, real Wisconsin Cheese, locally supplied bun and a good cooking job made this one a winner.
I'm happy to pass this rec on. Like me a twitter friend likes to explore the burgers of the area and when he tweeted to me that this spot was serving a good one. I made a mental note. It might not look like much from the outside but this is the reason I can legitimately argue why Wisconsin as a state makes the best burgers. They could just use some frozen puck patty but the beef is supplied ground to order by a local butcher. The $3 pricetag on Thursdays? made for one of the best valued burgers I can remember eating. Extra beefy.
Dick's Bar & Grill
Hudson is on the western border of the state just a couple miles away from Minnesota. It's about a 15 minute ride into the Twin Cities from here. Hudson sits on the beautiful St. Croix River which makes it a fun place in the summer months with all the outdoor activities going on. The old historic downtown district is right off the water. Dick's is pretty much a place for all. There's the main bar which has your typical Wisconsin tavern feel to it. Located in the room next door is the dining room where families can eat, the room next to that is an outdoor dining area.
A peak inside the main bar
The building and location on which it sits was once the center of all the action back when the St. Croix Landing and Toll Bridge sat right out in front where all passerby's came thru back in the 1850's. The bridge provided a steady flow of people and vehicles into Hudson with the original route connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin. In 1867 the building Dick's now sits on became known as The St. Croix Saloon. It became Dick's in 1955. Today they have their own beer "Lucky Dog Red" which was a nice drink as we waited for some fried banana peppers from the appetizer menu.
Fried Banana Peppers
Nothing special as far as creativity goes but the peppers had me wondering why more places don't do this. You know why? Because most places just serve stuff that goes from the freezer to the fryer. I don't know if these are available pre-breaded and frozen but these were fried to order. If you like banana peppers like I do, there's no reason you wouldn't enjoy these. The burgers are what they're known for here and they come served variety of ways. I opted to follow a lead and go with the 'Big Richard'.
The "Big Richard" w/ Shaved Ham, Mushrooms & Melted Swiss Cheese
The burger was a 1/3 pound of fresh hand formed beef served with their signature fresh cut fries. All in all, another great bar burger served better than it had to be. The beef may have been cooked a little too well done but the piece of sauteed shaved ham and the mushrooms and melted cheese added some fat/juice into the mix. The fries were great. We spent a couple nights in Hudson and enjoyed some fun outdoor daytime activities with trips into the Twin Cities for the evening. The Apple River Tubing experience in nearby Somerset is a great way to spend a summer day as is a trip to the beautiful Willow River State Park. I enjoy this part of the state and look forward to returning.
We went into the Northwoods type tavern/roadhouse one day en route to Bayfield. My first instinct was to just take an order to go so we could get where we were headed ASAP but as I placed my order I fell into the trap that is Ice Cold American micro brewed beers. So of course I ended up ordering a couple while we waited. Even as the clock was just switching to the pm hours there were a couple regulars drinking, one of which was from the Ravenswood area and moved to the Northwoods. Of course with NFL network on the TV and football season near the Bears and Packers were being discussed. It's owned by a husband and wife team and the wife who was bar-tending was as nice as could be.
View from the bar
As seen in the picture above they have sold over 85,000 "Itty Bittys" which are their very popular with the locals-mini burgers. I read these are the best bar burgers not just in Wisconsin but in the country and in the few reviews and mentions of the place online everyone sings to their praise. They come in orders of three with fries and I think it was $6.95. I don't know how many spots I've doc'd in this thread but these were some of the best. Maybe a top 5 definitely a top 10. Fresh little balls of ground beef are cooked with a heavy amount of minced onion and together with the pickles and melted cheese they sing a glorious greasy tune. This is how most places claiming to serve "sliders" need to make them. But these aren't sliders, they're itty bittys and they're delicious.
Itty Bitty Cheeseburgers_____________________________________________________________
New Diggings, WI
Last but not least is my most recent burger consumed while in-state. I've long had the unincorporated town of New Diggings on my radar. Reason being is that there's two classic Wisconsin style biker bars located across the street from each other and that's it, no other businesses. One is famous for their BBQ pork sandwich while the other boasts a Macho Burger. Bikers from all over stop in for beer and food, most will got to both.
a peak around the place
I'm happy to report that the macho half pound burger is as good as the bikers that love it say it is. They get the meat supplied fresh from Weber Meats in nearby Cuba City and as seen in the pic they have the classic Wisconsin tavern setup where the bartender grills the burgers in an open area behind the bar. This isn't going to be some crazy new concoction that makes you wonder "why didn't I think of that" but it is everything you want from a classic backyard burger. If I was satisfied there's no reason you wont be.
Captain Mike's Beer & Burger Bar
5118 6th Ave
Kenosha, WI 53140
Hanson's Bar & Grill
615 Cranston Rd
Beloit, WI 53511
Skippy's Sports Pub
113 Green Bay Rd
Thiensville, WI 53092
Three Guys & a Grill
W7039 County Road S R
Elkhart Lake, WI 53020
VFW Bar & Grill
110 W Mineral St.
Platteville, WI 53818
The Monk's Retreat
1118 Main St
Cross Plains, WI 53528
Holcomb Coulee Rd
Galesville, WI 54630
Dick's Bar & Grill
111 Walnut Street
Hudson, WI 54016
6935 County Highway North
Barnes, WI 54873
26320 County Hwy W
Shullsburg, WI 53586
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