6 Diners, Drive-ins and Dairy Bars in Wisconsin

Amy Wallace

Amy Wallace is the producer of Discover Wisconsin’s America’s Dairyland series. 

Wisconsinites have a close connection to the past and enjoy preserving the integrity and history of our cultural heritage. That’s why we still have so many diners, drive-ins and dairy bars that keep us tied to the bygone days while enjoying the food of today.

Take some time this summer to revel in the past at these six historic stops.

Hubbard Avenue Diner – Middleton

While there are a slew of diners across the state, few are as retro and appealing as The Hubbard Street Diner. This Middleton hot spot offers delicious comfort food, spectacular pie and retro décor—think chrome-lined counters and stools, neon lighting and colorful booths.

You’ll find breakfast staples on the menu like eggs benedict, omelettes and pancakes but there’s also comfort fare such as chicken pot pie, an oven-roasted turkey dinner, scalloped potato and ham casserole, and "Meatloaf of the Gods."

And lest we forget, pie! Known for its pies, Hubbard Street Diner has more than 100 in their recipe repertoire! And no diner is complete without floats, cones, sundaes, shakes and malts served in real glass complete with a wafer cookie.

The Drive-In Restaurant – Grantsburg

Up North in Burnett County, The Drive-In Restaurant is retro times two! Offering a drive-up menu as well as dine-in seating, this throwback to the '50s and '60s era features checkerboard tile, leaded glass tiles, vintage signs and 45 records that line the walls.

Take a step back in time as you nosh on classics like burgers, fries and root beer floats!

Wayne’s Drive-In – Cedarburg

If vintage cars and carhops are more your thing, then Wayne’s Drive-In in Cedarburg is where you want to land.

Wayne’s hosts cruise nights every Thursday during the summer, when carhops on roller skates deliver cheeseburgers and ice cream to customers who aren’t busy participating in the hula-hoop contest!

Albatross Drive-In – Washington Island

It may take a ferry ride to get here, but it’s well worth it. Using premium ingredients to make their mouth-watering shakes and malts and real Wisconsin cheese on their “yet-to-be-famous” Alby Burger, Albatross is a total gem.

Their motto states: “We are not fast. We are good. We are cheerful. We are courteous—but we are not fast. For fast go to Chicago. North of the tension line you are. So relax. Take time to smell the flowers. And give us time to prepare your order with TLC.” Amen to that, Albatross!

The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor – La Crosse

No summer is complete without a trip to the ice cream parlor. Here in Wisconsin we have our fair share, but the Pearl in La Crosse boasts quite a stamp on its history. Terry Peterslie opened the parlor in 1993 the same year his late father, Oscar, retired.

Intent on making sure the sign that said they make homemade ice cream was true, Oscar applied for his ice cream maker’s license at the age of 71 and started making the shop’s very own ice cream and confections. Recognized as “one of the nation’s authentic, old-time soda jerks” and named Wisconsin’s Outstanding Older Worker, the late Oscar Peterslie's legacy lives on today: his grandchildren now continue to make ice cream and confections that taste like good old-fashioned nostalgia!

Ferch’s Malt Shoppe – Greendale

Ferch’s Malt Shoppe in Greendale offers the same kind of historic appeal by hand-mixing custard with multiple flavors and toppings on a cold marble slab and serving it in authentic glass dishes. They also cook food and provide an ambience that’s reminiscent of the '50s and '60s—burgers, fries, a jukebox and the like!

Kids will love the full soda fountain, with enough flavored syrups to make any variety of soda or shake you can imagine. That’s why they’ve dubbed themselves the “home of over one million flavors.”


Amy Wallace is the producer of Discover Wisconsin’s America’s Dairyland series. Watch Discover Wisconsin every Saturday morning at 10 on FSN Wisconsin. (Twitter: @DiscoverWI)

This entry was posted in Fast Food Restaurants