burgerdogboy's Recent Reviews
If you tool around the Upper Midwest, you’ll undoubtedly run into a regional burger and custard chain named “Culvers.” Their motto is roughly “home of the butter burger.”
Believing that depends on who you ask. Culver’s version is to fry the burgers on a flattop and nestle it on a toasted, buttered, bun.
But on the East Coast of the state, in Milwaukee, one will come across Solly’s Grille, which opened in 1936 and purports to be the inventor of the actual “Butter Burger.” Or “Butterburger.”
What the term means at Solly’s is completely different than Culvers. At Solly’s, their patty also starts out on a flattop, and the buns are also toasted, but…wait for it……when the burger gets placed on bun, atop it comes an ice cream scoop size dollop of pure Wisconsin butter, which quickly melts, flavoring the patty, soaking the bun and pooling on the plate.
They say they use 150 pounds + of butter weekly, and I’ve no reason to doubt them.
There are different toppings on tap for burgers, various cheese, bacon, and such, but according to the server, there’s never been a pickle or mayo in house and there never will be.
The full menu includes breakfast. (Yes, you can get a burger during breakfast hours). Sides can be crinkle cut fries, rings, or potato pancakes. (After all, Wisconsin at its heart is very German).
The standard Butterburger is also topped with Solly’s own stewed onions.
There’s a guy in America named George Motz, who is considered by many, far and near, to be America’s Hamburger Expert. Here’s a little video about Solly’s from one of his programs, and introducing the main man at Solly’s these days. (George has a book and a documentary that share the title “Hamburger America.”
You’ll see a million “WOW” reviews of Solly’s online. And I always try to find something cool about every place, every experience, but you know what? This place was a lot better in my imagination that in reality. To me.
The factory produced, frozen patty is nothing special, and the onions were rather overpowering for me. Of course I loved the butter and how it flavored both the bun and meat, but the downside is as it pools on the plate, it soaks the bottom half of the bun and your sandwich can quickly become unmanageable.
Seating is limited to a long counter, and a very few tables, if that influences your decision. Service is hit and miss. And you can expect your multi-layered meal (burger, fries, shake) to not come out in any particular order or proximity to each other. You may have consumed your fries prior to even catching a glimpse of your burger.
The rings I liked. Crispy, a little beer in the batter I suspect, and the waitress “upsold me” on the dipping sauce, which was more than the usual restaurant fare. I’m gonna take a guess it is mayo and Tabasco. Not unpleasant. But I didn’t expect to be charged for it. Oh well. Fries are top-notch as well.
This is a great place to hit for a nostalgic thing if you’re going to Milwaukee. Kind of like hitting the Billy Goat in Chicago. In either case, you’re not going because the food is gonna make you say “WOW OH MAN.”
But it’s fun nevertheless. Two burgers, fries, rings, dipping sauce, one soda, $21.
Butterburger with cheese
Perfect crinkle cut fries
Crispy flavorful rings
There’s a burg on the Wisconsin/Illinois border, on US 14, about halfway between Chicago and Janesville, WI (home of JerkInChief Paul Ryan), or halfway between Rockford, IL and Milwaukee.
Name of the town is Bigfoot. No relation to the legendary monster whom we never see, because Noah didn’t let him on the ark. Along with the dinosaurs.
Blink and you’ll miss Bigfoot. There’s a cemetery. A used car dealer. A closed manufacturing facility of some sort, and a “Welcome to Illinois” highway sign. The Bigfoot High School is in Walworth, WI, a few miles north.
Bigfoot is also home (since the mid 1940s) to the Bigfoot Inn, a survivor of a dying breed of restaurants in the Upper Midwest we call “Supper Clubs,” which wikipedia defines as “a dining establishment generally found in the Upper Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa. These establishments typically are located on the edge of town in rural areas.”
Supper clubs became popular during the 1930s and 1940s, and generally feature “simple” menus with somewhat limited offerings featuring “American” cuisine. Menus include dishes such as prime rib, steaks, chicken, and fish. An all-you-can-eat Friday night fish fry is particularly common at Wisconsin supper clubs.
Full meals are quite inclusive, starting with a relish tray, cracker basket or rolls and butters, and entrees generally include soup, salad, starch and vegetable. Some establishments even include dessert.
The Bigfoot Inn is no exception to the aforementioned generalities, but their menu is quite extensive, features daily and nightly specials, and offers an AYCE champagne brunch on Sundays. The establishment is open seven days, has a large, full bar, and video gambling machines.
Spoiler alert. Was I ever impressed! Our server “the guy from Elkhorn,” was informed and attentive without being intrusive. He knew the menu and the area well. He boasted that everything was made from scratch, and after eating (btw, servings are HUGE), I had no reason to doubt his claim. I over ordered, because there were so many good things on the menu.
Started with appetizers of saganaki (flambed cheese, a Chicago thing) and perfect onion rings, large cut, nice breading, mildly seasoned, fried perfectly.
Along with the appetizers came complimentary crackers, rolls, butter, and cheese spread (another geographical thing). Soup? Yes please, and a tale from the server of when he met the actual “Soup Nazi.” Salad, with a wide choice of dressings, and then the entree; they come with vegetables and a choice of many different starches. With my Wienerschnitzel Holstein style, I went with steak fries. Couldn’t finish the steak or the even start on the fries, was too full with the prelims.
Also at the table, perfectly grilled, inch thick pork chops, a huge spud with all the fixins’ brought without asking.
$70 for two dinners, two appetizers, an adult beverage, and worth every nickle. Actually, I think the place is under priced, but don’t tell them.
Will I return? You bet. The bottomless champagne brunch (Sundays only) is around $13! Egad! The Washington Times did an interesting bit on Wisconsin supper clubs. I was recently at another, “Donny’s Girl,” which apparently I didn’t write about. It was out in the sticks, kinda hard to find, but worth the trek.
What’s better than getting a restaurant meal with quality ingredients, cooked precisely to your order, at a great value?
Not much I can think of. I have found my new “home away from home” for breakfast out, the Village Inn Family Restaurant, in Huntley, IL, a distant Chicago exurb. “Chicago area diners” lean towards large portions, and the Village Inn is no exception.
Throwing three eggs on a plate, next to (at least) a half pound of potatoes, along with your choice of meat and toast (rye, for me, always), their breakfast will satisfy any sized appetite.
Two things stuck out for me. First, I love ham. But I especially love GREAT ham. And by “great,” I mean “real,” not some pressed, chopped, and formed, ham-like meat.
No, I crave real muscle meat, full of texture and flavor. Village Inn more than satisfies.
Second? I crave my ham to have a little “char” on it, adds to texture experience, and I like my breakfast potatoes extra crispy.
Scored on both accounts, in fact the waitress brought the eggs and toast first, said the ham would be up in a minute, she didn’t think the cook charred it enough. And when she delivered? Spot on.
I like going to Huntley. It’s a peaceful little town, away from the hubbub of the big city, but with all the requisite access to commerce and great little mom and pop places, like the Village Inn and Sal’s Pizza, down the street. Oh, and the most excellent Diary Mart. I also try to get out there to support local charity feeds, like the Boy Scout Pancake breakfast and such.
Village Inn? I shall return. Often. My compliments to the kitchen.
I love this place. Been in regular attendance for the past two decades. They’ve had their share of troubles, flooded twice cause of storms, but they keep coming back, stronger and better than ever.
Caveat one: this is a New Orleans AREA restaurant, not in the city, it’s about a 30 minute drive north on I-55. It sits perched on the edge of Lake Maurepas, which in turn empties into Lake Ponchartrain. There’s a nice outdoor deck when the weather is nice, which it usually is.
Middendorfs, like a lot of area restaurants, serves tons of local seafood, prepared in all manners and styles, but deep fried is the New Orleans way; you can get giant combo platters of shrimp, oysters, fish, and crab. But most people go for a dish unique to the restaurant, deep fried catfish filets, but they’re cut lengthwise into paper thin slivers. Unique. Crispy. Tasty. Dinners come with fries, slaw and hush puppies. Never had any use for the latter, personally.
You can get a piece of beef or chicken if you insist, and there is an adequate ankle biter menu. You can get raw or BBQ oysters or delicious gumbos as a side or starter.
I only get here once every few years, and I hope they keep on and on. It’s my place for ‘cat’ in the New Orleans area. (Oh and they also serve them whole, bone-in, if you like it that way). I like to bring out of town company here. If I haven’t taken you, it’s because I hate you.
I’ve written a lot about what I (and apparently others) call “gas station chicken.”
Across the deep south, you’ll run into these fairly often. Some call them “fry delis,” and the independent ones often have a melange of offerings, fried chicken, tenders, egg rolls, corn dogs, catfish nuggets, potatoes.
I’ve done kind of an overview in the past, traveling across the south.
I’ve driven by another operation with multiple locations, Dodge’s Southern Style, but my attempt at research to find their origins or number of locations came up dry. (Other than they are old, and possibly based in Tupelo, MS). But I bumped into one recently in Dyersville, AR, near the Tennessee border. For many people, Dodge’s is a gas only operation, they pull in, fill up without every experiencing the wonderment which lies just inside the glass doors.
In a word, I like Dodge’s a LOT. Their batter has more cornmeal than competitors, so it comes out crispier. They also feature “Jo Jo” potatoes, and while different places offer a product with the same name, most often they are deep fried potato wedges, quarters. Why no one ever trademarked/patented it/them, I’ll never know. First time I ever recall seeing them was on a Shakey’s pizza buffet. Various places attribute the name originally to a joint in Waconia, MN, and the name spread across the Upper Midwest. Who knew?
“Dinners” or “plates” also come with a dinner roll, which is fine, nothing to write home about. In any case, lacking a national director of Chesters, Krispy, and Dodge’s, and having to rely on highway information signs to locate them, usually, I know now I can be satisfied at any of these three operations!
Dodges published monthly specials on their spartan website.