Sunday, August 30, 2009
Where to start with this one???? Lets start with just a name. Pete's Hamburgers. Pete's Hamburgers is located in Prairie Du Chien WI. I caught word of this burger stand from Jeff Stanely (Dotty's Dumpling) last November. The name he was not sure of. I would ask people now and then if they have heard of a burger stand in Prairie Du Chien. No luck. I figured I would just have to drive the 2 hours and ask around Prairie Du Chien. Then the Burger Gods looked down on me! Last week the Wisconsin State Journal had and article on Pete's, front page even! Now after that article I had people ask me if I saw it. I have people giving me leads and info all the time now, which I love! I would tell them "Yes, I saw it and have a copy." Now after researching a bit more I made plans for my burger trip. What intrigue me the most was the history of Pete's. Make sure you checkout Pete's website. It is full of history and photos!
On this trip I would have my girlfriend. This would be her 4th burger trip with me. Now our trip would be about 2 hours one way so I took the scenic route. I took Highway 60 all the way from Sauk City WI to Prairie Du Chien. This Highway follows the Wisconsin River all the way to were it meets the Mississippi. It was a beautiful ride and can't wait to take it when the leaves change color during Fall. I am getting off track.
A little insight on how the burgers are made at Pete's. They are simmered/poached in a shallow griddle. Yes the burgers are put on the griddle then water is added. The water is the secret ingredient!! (inside joke.) There are onions also cooking with the burgers. This griddle can do batches of 50-60 burgers(pictured above) in 12 minutes. Now Pete's is open only Friday-Sunday 11 am-8 pm and open only in the "Warmer Months" here in Wisconsin. So figure late May to the 3rd weekend in October. I don't know how many burgers they do in the weekend but they easily can go through 300 lbs of onions. Now think of how many burgers that can cover...You do the math!!
You can order on either side of the stand. We waited on one side with about 12-15 people. On the other side is about another 6-8 people. The reason we are waiting is a "Batch of Burger" are being prepared. OK time to pay attention on how Pete's serves it's burgers. Now remember there are serving windows on each side. The most common way to order a burger is "with." If you are not a burger lover that means with onions. A lady in front of me ordered a onions only, yes onions and bun that's it! OK picture this, the griddle faces the front of the stand(pictured above) The cook turns to his right and takes and order. He then takes a burger places it on a bun adds onions and hands it to a server behind him and to his right. That person will add your condiments (Ketchup, Yellow Mustard, Brown Mustard, no Cheese.) That person will also get your soda and chips if needed and take your cash. After the cook finish the order on his right he turns to the window on his left. Then the whole process in done over again. After that order is done he returns to his right, pretty simple. As we wait my girlfriend is talking with a woman and we get some information from her. She is with her family. Her sons are the 4th generation to enjoy Pete's burgers. She use to live in Prairie Du Chien but had move to Texas. When she visited her folks she made sure she got to Pete's. She now is back in Prairie Du Chien so she can all the burgers she wants. Her order 2 without 3 with and that onion sandwich! In front of that family is a elderly couple with there daughter. They are from Iowa. One important thing I learned is that the burgers are going to be HOT so let them cool a bit. My turn at the window. I order two "with." The cook takes our burgers places them on the bun covers it with onions. He then places it on wax paper and sides it to his server. My girlfriend gets "Ketchup" I go with the Brown Mustard. There is no real seating but I knew that so back to my car and I got out folding chairs. We then sat by my car and ate our burgers. Burger researchers always come prepared!!! The burger is 1/4 lb. and you knew that if you read the WSJ article. First bite..... tender hot and can taste the beef. It is different to what I am use to, griddle or char-broiled burgers. It does get messy though, the bun soaks up the juices and water on the burger. I enjoyed the burger, my girlfriend said it was OK. The reason I enjoyed it is because of the history of the place and the family that has run the stand for 100 years.
118 W. Blackhawk Ave.
Prairie Du Chien WI
Friday, August 7, 2009
It is hard to believe that I have not visited Solly's in more then a year. I have thought about going at times but for some reason I would not make the drive. Well I got there nice and early, 9:30 am. I was staying at a hotel just a mile away. I got there and the breakfast rush was done. I sat down and to my left a couple stools down was Glenn the owner. He was taking a break and having a coffee. He remembered me and we got talking about burgers and where I have gone. He filled me in that Andrew Zimmern had been there to film a show called Appetite for Life. It is a quick little video about Solly's. We also talked Culver's. He knows the owner and said the Franchise Consultants that help Culver's get started contacted him once. Glenn said no to having a Solly's Franchise. I am glad, Solly's is unique and I think you would lose something if you did"Cookie Cut Outs" of the place. Also learn that at times they have to cook the burger and ship it out to people that love them. A woman takes 20 Butter Burgers down to Chicago to her son and coworkers once a month. He also told me that they gave a guy burgers to take back to Colorado. I guess it made the whole plane smell like Burgers!! They have cooked them and flash froze them for some people. Best way to eat it is at Solly's though. We sat and chatted for awhile longer. I can't remember everything but it was fun just to chat. Back to the burger. I finally got somewhat good pics of the burger. I order a Butter Burger With, meaning steamed onions. The top picture you can see the butter on the right side on the burger, the second picture is a pool of butter on my plate. I let my girlfriend have the first bite. Butter started running down her wrist. "You knew that was going to happen." she said, "Yep." Now I had a burger she did breakfast. Let me tell you, I could eat a plate of the hash browns at Solly's. Yes the use the butter in that also. I wonder how I stay thin?!?!
If you are a burger nut, you must put Solly's on your list of "To Do."