By Titus Ruscitti
Everyone knows about the cheese, brats, beer, bakeries and so on of Wisconsin, but did you know when it comes to burgers, Wisconsin just might be the heavyweight state champ? In fact, the hamburger is said to have originated in Seymour, which holds an annual Hamburger Festival to celebrate.
Here are seven 'locals type' eateries to seek out while on the roads this summer.
The Kenosha/Racine area along Lake Michigan is a hot bed for good 'road food' eats. Part of the allure is that many of its most popular places haven't changed. The Big Star, a family owned business, has been going strong since the 60's. It plays a huge role in Kenosha summers when the place is continually in full swing. Their double cheezeburger has to be one of the best burgers you’re going to get anywhere for under $3. You might be wondering why it’s called a cheezeburger? Well, they use real Cheez Whiz for the cheese.
Also located along Lake Michigan, Manitowoc is a great Wisconsin weekend destination, featuring Bud Willman's Hamburgers. In operation since 1954, Bud Willman's opens for the day at 5 a.m. They take fresh balls of beef and smash them down onto the griddle, just like burger places used to; no preformed frozen patties here. The fresh beef paired with the perfect cooking technique makes this one of the best 'simple' burgers you'll ever have. Go for the double with cheese and you'll be oh so pleased.
Located just across the border from Upper Michigan, Marinette is home to one of the best burger experiences in the country. Mickey Lu's BBQ is an institution with a loyal following; generations of families have eaten there. Approaching their 70th year in business, Mickey Lu’s BBQ takes you back to another time with a big 'EAT' and neon Bar-B-Q sign inviting customers in. When you step inside it gets even more authentic with a big, flaming charcoal grill. It's an experience you have to see and taste for yourself. The burgers, served on hard rolls with plenty of butter, take on a great charcoal flavor, making it one of the most unique tasting burgers in the world. When you need a Mickey Lu, nothing else will do.
Way up north, you will find a destination to spend some of your most peaceful days this summer. In the Lake Superior region of Wisconsin, the Anchor Bar and Grill is well known for its burgers and good times. They've been serving the locals of the Twin Ports area since 1977 and it's all about their massive burgers. Seen on TV and featured in many publications, this is one of the best taverns in the state.
Located along the Mighty Mississippi River, Pete’s Hamburgers just might be Wisconsin's best burger shack. Since 1909 it's been a summertime tradition to eat Pete's signature somewhat-steamed burgers on the weekends. Pete's is a precious shack (literally) open each weekend from early spring through the end of October. It sits right off The Great River Road which is one of America's most scenic routes. Pete's is the perfect example of how simple is sometimes better.
Summertime takes us to another age-old seasonal sidewalk burger shack in the state. Wedl's has been serving locals with their awesome double cheeseburgers and old fashioned ice cream during the warmer months for over 90 years. It was originally named Peterson's until it was sold to longtime customers who changed it to Wedl’s. However, the burgers, and how they’re made, haven’t changed. This classic 30's style burger features fresh butchered meat smashed into thin patties, perfectly grilled onions, mustard, and pickles to top it off.
The Lake Mills VFW Post #67 is yet another seasonal shack selling burgers along the sidewalk on Fridays from May-October. They open at 10 a.m. and close when the patties run out. You know they are open when the American flags are hoisted outside the shack. You order your burger either "with" or “without,” referring to onions. It’s been this way since 1926 when burgers were sold out of a cart in a park across the street. Vets and volunteers serve these deep fried (yep!) burgers to a legion of followers every Friday while it’s warm.
For more food adventures by Titus, please visit his blog.