The Burgers of Wisconsin
Wisconsin has almost as big of a Drive-In culture as they do burgers and beer. Whether we're talking theaters or food the state has a high concentration of them. Oh and don't forget about the booze thru's too. There's previous posts dedicated to the Drive-Ins of Kenosha. Today I have five more to add to the statewide round-up. We'll start south and move north as we check out the scene.
Nite Owl Drive-In
This place near the airport has been on my radar since the start of this thread but I've never been able to squeeze them in until this past Spring. A locals favorite approaching their 70th year in business past patrons range from Elvis Presley to Bud Selig and more. Because of the name I decided to include them in this report but they also fit the bill of an upcoming one which will document the spots around Milwaukee famous for both their custard and jumbo burgers.
This is a seasonal operation and most folks ordering from the window (they no longer offer car hop service) will eat their burgers right there in the car. I must say that for $4 this is quite the bang for your buck burger. I don't know who eats doubles of these things ($7) but I've seen some of the folks walking around town in their Packers gear and have little doubt that they couldnt finish a triple if they tried. Seriously a single here is bigger than some spots doubles. You're asked if you want grilled or raw onions and I recommend going grilled as they give a little bit of juiciness to the overall consumption. The larger than normal bun was just average at best which is a rarity in these parts and I think there were three pieces of cheese on the thing. In all honesty I couldn't even finish it as I was coming from a fish fry elsewhere. Not a bad burger by any means but I wouldn't list it in the Top 10 in-state. I'd guess it'd finish middle of the road if they all got ranked.
About 30 minutes north of Nite Owl this place is currently open for their 16th summer of business. Made to be a 50's style drive-in they don't have hop service here but they do get quite a large amount of antique car rocking folks and also bikers that stop by for a burger at the counter. Size-wise these are a little bit bigger than most though not quite a jumbo as the ones at Nite Owl are known. Wayne's uses locally made Sheboygan hard rolls as their buns and that's a good thing because the large burger patty can become pretty juicy with the big smear of butter that goes on top mixed in. I very much enjoyed this offering.
For Butter Lovers___________________________________________________________________
Continuing North we head about 45 miles up the highway into Plymouth where Chester's Drive-In has been locally owned for more than 40 years. This is the first deal deal Drive-In of the day as they have carhop service and make an excellent batch of old fashioned draft root beer that comes served in a chilled glass mug. The way it's supposed to be done. Burger wise we're only about 20 minutes inland from Sheboygan so it should be no surprise thats the style being slung. Classic toasted hard roll with a heaping amount of butter? Check. Freshly supplied patty from nearby butcher cooked over real charcoal? Check. Wisconsin Cheddar, Sliced Raw Onion, Slices of Pickles and Stone Ground Mustard? Check, Check, Check and Check. Great tasting burger? Check. Still one of the best I've had all summer. Well worth the stop.
Cheeseburger and Fresh Root Beer___________________________________________________________________
Ardy & Ed's Drive In
Here folks is one of a few full fledged drive-in's still up and running in the states. As you can see in the picture up above, the high school aged car hops are still on skates and as you'll see in the next pic down, the cooks are in the paper hats and the owner who's name appears on the sign is still spending summers there.
a peak inside
"A blast from the Past" is the motto here and it fits it perfectly. I pulled up and hopped out because I wanted to check the inside which as expected feels like a time warp. So the story goes it "began in 1948, shortly after World War II had ended. It was originally known as the Southside A & W Drive In, serving little more than A & W Root Beer, Hot Dogs and chips. In the late 40's it was one of only two or three Drive In Restaurants in Oshkosh. One of the early owners was Mr. Nate Rohr, who eventually owned a number of Root Beer Stands in the Fox Valley.
In 1953 the business was purchased by Robert and Elizabeth "Ollie" Albrecht of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The Albrechts operated the drive in for 7 1/2 years. On July 1, 1960 the business was sold to Mrs. Albrecht's son, Edward Timm, and his wife Ardythe.
The Timms operated the business as the Southside A & W Drive In until 1972. At that time the decision was made to operate as an independent drive in, and the business was renamed "Ardy & Ed's Drive In". They continued serving the same "Famous" draft root beer and great food as they had in the past.
After the death of Ed in 1979, Ardy continued to operate the business. Today, she runs the business with her partner and husband, Steve Davis, who began working at the restaurant in 1977. Steve was honored by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association as "Restaurateur of the Year" in 2008 for his service to the WRA and the foodservice industry. In 2010 the WRA Education Foundation honored Steve with their "Salute to Excellence" restaurateur award for his dedication to hospitality education in Wisconsin."
Ardy & Ed Burger
The namesake burger is the Drive-In's signature offering and like the Charcoal Inn of Sheboygan it features both a brat and a burger patty. The brat dominates but you can still get a taste of the burger every other bite inside your mouth. The soft locally baked bun gets toasted on both sides and the standard Sheboygan style toppings are included except they use diced raw onion instead of sliced and they add a piece of cheese on top of each meat. Excellent.
Also in the Fox Cities region, JD's was a bit of a letdown upon arriving. It's independently owned but has much of the same characteristics as your local Burger King. It's got a drive thru but no carhops and I believe they are the only spot amongst these five open year-round. There were alot of local HS kids hanging out here eating burgers and ice cream and I followed suit with a bacon cheeseburger and small cherry dipped cone. The burger tasted like the Burger King you'd rather it not resemble while the ice cream cone hit the spot. Having spent just over $3 on the total I had little complaints.
Bacon Cheeseburger and a Cherry Dipped Cone___________________________________________________________________
Nite Owl Drive-In
830 E Layton Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207
1331 Covered Bridge Rd
Cedarburg, WI 53012
1504 Eastern Ave
Plymouth, WI 53073
Ardy & Ed's Drive In
2413 S Main St
Oshkosh, WI 54902
1939 E John St
Appleton, WI 54915