Sunday, November 30, 2008
A week before Thanksgiving I get a email from George Motz asking if I was up for some burger research. It would be the Friday after Thanksgiving. Well of course I said yes. We were to meet in Watertown WI at a place called Zwieg's. I have been to Watertown a couple times for car shows to show off the Corvette but never to eat. It was a 40 minute drive for me but it seemed short. We were to meet at noon but I got a call from George on the way there that he was running late. So I took a little detour down to Jefferson to see if Wendl's was open. You will know it as Peterson's in Hamburger America book. Now I don't know if the shack was closed for the season but the sign said "Closed Nov. 27 & 28." Well there goes that idea of going there after Zwieg's. Wendl's is just south of Watertown in Jefferson, a short drive.
Well I get at Zwieg's about quarter after 12. I walk in and take a seat in front of the griddle. I like to see the action. I have to wait a few minutes for George so I just sit back and observe what takes place at the griddle and the people inside. For one thing I could not believe the amount of "To Go" orders. I swear every 5 minutes a person came to pick an order up. The one thing I did notice was the waitress/cook knew everyone by name. You be walking in the door and she would be putting your order on the bar and say hi then tell you the total.
George walks in with an arm full of cameras, equipment and the book. He takes and seat to my left. We say hi and he puts his stuff on the bar. He tells me he followed a truck with a deer on the back. I laugh, "It is deer season here." I say. By this time Glen and Mary Zwieg have come over to say hi. After the introduction George goes right to work. Asking questions about this, about that. He look liked a seasoned journalist asking questions and writing down notes. Mary answered most of the questions, Glen felt comfortable at the griddle. I learn a lot about the place but I won't get into it ....Top Secret stuff you know. It may be in revised edition of George's book.
Well he gets his information he needs. Now it is time to order. I order a double cheeseburger with fried onions. George does the same. George is still writing his notes but still observing what is going on. I point out the our sliced onion is put on the patty as it is on the griddle. Then it is flipped to finish the burger and onions. Sort of like El Reno in Oklahoma, which I have never been to but I read it in Hamburger America and remember that!!
Our burgers arrive and George takes out his cameras. He gets a white piece of paper, in this case wax paper for lighting, and holds it to the side of the burger. So I sit there waiting. He takes picture after picture, telling me "Just a few more Todd." Then he says "OK done." I reach forward, grab my burger and take a bite. You will notice the onions right away but the flavor of the beef really comes through. We have our burger down in no time flat. While listening to the questions that George had ask I learn that the beef had arrived fresh no more then 20 minutes. Talk about fresh beef. After finishing we start to pack up but George tells me this is where you can get some good nuggets of info. The last 5 minutes of research for him is where some of the good stuff happens. Like I said I will leave that to his book!!
We go outside and take some pictures of the place (pictured above.) I don't know how many pictures he took that visit but it was a lot. Next we are off to Lake Mills. A quick 15 minute drive. I follow him down a two lane highway. We get behind a car doing lets say 45 in a 55. Well that slows us down. It was a hilly, curvy highway, so passing was going to be hard. Well when George got his opening to pass he did, legally of course. Must have been the NASCAR fan in him haha.
We get to American Legion Post 67 in Lake Mills. He points there it is. This place is small I thought he was pointing next to the diner next door. Post 67 is only open on Fridays during the summer months. George takes some photos and points out that this is Hamburger America and that two of the smallest places in his book are just miles apart. Wendl's in Jefferson the other.
Had a really fun day and learn a lot watching George. Now if I can learn more about photography all will be good!!
To read George's Blog of the day click here Wisconsin Burger Research
This event happen Nov. 18th 08'
Well I said I go back to Five Guys and I did. I was in Madison for my Corvette Club meeting. I was early so to kill some time I went to Five Guys. This time I ordered a Double Bacon Cheeseburger with fried onions. I got there about 5 pm. There were about 5 people already seated with about 4 others waiting for there order. I joined the people waiting off to the side and snacked on some peanuts while I waited, which can be addictive. Once I got my burger there must have been additional 3 in line and more coming in. I took my seat at a side bar and read some of the articles on the wall. I happen to look across the street. There was a KFC/Taco Bell. Combine I don't think there were 6 people eating. At Five Guys it was getting busy. Once again another hot, good burger. If you have one near you, you know. If you have never been to one, get to one.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
This event happen Nov. 8th 2008
Blue Moon Bar & Grill
2535 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53705
I have gone on a Burger Trip before but that was over a couple days. Well that cloudy day I was on a mission to put down three of the Best Burgers in Madison.
The first stop was Blue Moon Bar and Grill. I have ate burgers a couple of times at The Blue Moon. I don't know how many burgers they serve in a week but it has to be a good number. I have learn from doing this blog, I have to work on my reporting skills to ask more questions to the owners/cooks!!! I should have taken a picture of the grill area. Two fryers only and a small griddle. With such a small grill area you may be surprised that Blue Moon is always up there with the other Best Burger in Madison (Dotty's, Plaza for example)
I order a "Best in Town Burger," with name like that I can't go wrong correct!! I add cheese and get a beer. I order it medium. I always feel sorry for people who order their burger well done. I would guess the burger is about 7-8 oz. I sit and make small talk with people around me at the bar. The Badger football game is on, so that is most of the talk.
I get my burger in a basket with dill pickle spears (pictured.) I don't add anything, no Ketchup or Mustard. I am trying to wean myself off Ketchup. Don't want to cover the flavor of my burger. Learn that from Louis Lunch spot in Hamburger America. Ketchup is such a strong flavor. Mustard I will do now and then. I take a couple bites. Nicely cooked, crispy on the outside, juicy with some pink in the middle. Tip my hat off to the cook!! Ordered it medium, got it medium. The bun is big and is like a kaiser bun but not hard. I have my burger done in minutes. Want to order another but doing other burgers later in the day.
Now Dotty's gets all the praise in Madison but The Blue Moon is not far behind. If you do make it there, Blue Moon makes good Chili also.
After eating a burger at Blue Moon, my plan was to go do a Plaza Burger and then go to Dotty's. I have had both burgers before and have talked about them here on my blog. It is just after 2 pm when I get to the Plaza. The Plaza Tavern is doing good business. I order a Plaza Burger and a glass of Point Beer. I think I got an extra helping of Plaza sauce on this order. It was extra messy!!! I won't go into detail about the burger I have done that before, Plaza Burger. All I will say it hit the spot.
I walk past Five Guys on my way to Dotty's. I want to go in but I am sticking to my plan. I get to Dotty's in no time, about a five minute walk. It is packed at Dotty's. I even had a hard time finding a seat at the bar. I do find a seat and order a "Classic Burger" with cheese. Jeff Stanely the owner is at the end of the bar. He is watching the Badger game. I have not talked or seen Jeff since George Motz was at Dotty's for the book tour. Before I know it he is gone... His daughter is there also, working. Rachael is busy but she makes time to talk to me. She knows I am a burger nut from other chats. Like I wrote before... Dotty's.... Rachael makes a trip to Dotty's enjoyable. I always like chatting with her, when she is not busy!!!
My burger arrives quicker then I thought it would with the size of the crowd. I am still wondering after my first bite if I can finish this burger after having two others. Well after a few other bites I realize I can. It is good and there is a reason it is a top burger in Madison. That was the KO punch though. When I got home later I did fall asleep for a couple hours.
So there you go, I did the three Burger spots that get the most word of mouth in Madison.....in one day!!! So which one is best????? Well here is my answer, opinion
Each one is best in its own way. Oh I am dodging the question, no wait. The Plaza Burger to me is a Specialty Burger, special sauce. The burger at Dotty's is on a open flame, which is not that common. Blue Moon is the traditional flat griddle. Also each experience is different each time I visit. For one you get a different cook sometimes at these places, which makes a difference. If you do need a true answer I would say Blue Moon was the best that day...maybe because it was my first one of the day!!!!
Back in Oct. I went to Cheeseburger in Paradise. I had set up a get together with some guys from my Corvette Club, Mad City Vettes. The beer was good, cold and it was fun to talk to the guys. The Cheeseburger on the other hand was a let down. I think I liked the fries better. I just did not like it. It was one of those burgers where the bun is better then the burger, which is not good. I go there to socialize and down some beers but not order a burger. The other guys liked their meal, nobody else had a burger though. The Cuban Sandwich looked really good. Go to Cheeseburger in Paradise as a group and have fun but stay away from the burger. You think if you had a name like "Cheeseburger" you make a good one.... wrong!!
Sunday, November 2, 2008
The Village Bar 3801 Mineral Point Rd. Madison WI 608-233-9956
Once again I am going off Doug Moe's list of places to get a good Burger in Madison WI. My first stop is The Village Bar. It is a small place, probably seat a dozen at the bar and about a half dozen tables. This bar was made famous when a cabbie took Jerry Seinfeld here when he asked about a good burger. Now my cook/bartender is Nick. He made my visit to the Village Bar enjoyable. I order a Cheeseburger and a beer. Nick walks over puts my patty on the griddle, adds some seasoning. Turns around to make small talk with me again. Within a couple short minutes it is flipped, cheese added and my bun thrown on the griddle to warm it. Ta Da that simple. It comes on a small paper plate, no fancy china here. I really like the seasoning of this burger. It reminds my of a Lawry's season salt. Which it maybe I could not tell. They get their burger from Sentry's Grocery store, ground that day I do not know but they are not frozen patties. I had a nice time there and the burger hit the spot. When you sit at the bar you can see a local golf course and the people chasing a little white ball. I will have to get back to the Village Bar and talk with the bartenders again and have a burger.
Main Depot 627 W. Main St. Madison WI 608-257-3100
Ok this place is a typical tavern in a small town in WI. The only thing is this in a city of 250,000. Just think back to 80 yrs ago. The griddle is small, the decor is awesome. Take a look at the ceiling, decorative molding from way back. The beer is cold but pricey for a small bar. I got there @ 1 pm and ordered a Cheeseburger and fries. I hear the burger hit the griddle. A little butter on the bun and it also goes on the griddle. The bun is the star of this burger. Think Brat Bun but shaped as a Hamburger Bun. The burger was OK, nothing to cheer about. That is why I said the Bun was the star. Always a bad sign. I would not put the burger in the Top Ten of Madison Places for a burger. I know there has to be better ones out there then this one.
Now the tavern itself is great. If you go make sure you take in everything. A lot of nick knacks and UW-Badger stuff. I could see coming here for a cold brew before going to a Badger game. The Kohl Center is just a few blocks away.
The picture on the left is the Village Bar, the right Main Depot.