We had a fine time yesterday. Our annual invasion of Fred's Parkview Bar
in Burlington didn't disappoint. The Burgers, while maybe not "The World's Best", as claimed on the sign outside
, still provided great satisfaction and brought one new convert to the flock. First-timer ChiBears15 and I split a new addition to Fred's menu, the Bacon Jam Burger. It was their standard 1/2 pound Burger, cooked medium rare with a generous dollop of finely chopped bacon mixed with sweet grilled onions; all topped off with a melted slice of Smoked Gouda. The Bacon Jam was a little sweet, but the solid beefy flavor of the Burger held its own.
Normally, I'd polish off one of those all by myself, but I knew it was best to start off in moderation. Once we finished at Fred's, we were embarking on a daunting tour of semi-rural southeast Wisconsin's hidden food gems.
After our Burgers, Pot Roast Sandwiches, Cheese Curds (duh), Potato Kegs, and Parmesan Fries; all washed down with frosty mugs of Sprecher's Root Beer, we headed west to Annie's Burger Town
in Elkhorn. The original intention was to just relax with some of Annie's house made Root Beer, but when "Burger" is in the name of the place, ya gotta check it out.
It's a good thing we did, because that Burger was better than it had any right to be. First good sign was the bun. It stood tall and firm, almost like a high quality brioche bun. Inside was a juicy 1/4 pound beef patty, with an appetizing undertone of real char-grilled flavor, covered with melted cheese. Maybe not as good as Fred's, but for a beat-up old joint in the middle almost nowhere
, it was pretty damn good.
ScreamingChicken went rogue and ordered a Breaded Pork Tenderloin. Gotta tell you, this was a really good BPT. It overhung the bun by a good margin, but not like one of those crazy versions where it looks like an oversized super-thin Frisbee on a bun. This had some heft and substance. Nice thickness, enough to hold in the natural juiciness and flavor of the pork, and still very tender. I'm no BPT expert, but his was one of the better ones I've had.
Oh yeah, the Root Beer, the reason we stopped at Annie's in the first place, was pretty good. Nice vanilla notes, very smooth and refreshing. It made a tasty Root Beer Float, too.
From there it was north and west to Whitewater for Casual Joe's
for BBQ. Wisconsin 'Que, generally, barely meets the standard of real Barbecue. With the exception of places like Speed Queen and Iron Grate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin BBQ lacks any prominent smoke flavor, tasting more like roasted meat. It's fine I suppose, but not even close to what you've come to expect if you've eaten in any region of the country known for their Smoked Meats.
I knew we were going to be okay at Casual Joe's as soon as I stepped out of the car and smelled the wood smoke wafting from the building. Except for the chicken, the food didn't disappoint. We ordered a generous sampler platter for four, which was just enough for six people who'd already eaten at two places and had at least two more to go (as it turned out, it was three for some of us). The Beef, Pork, and Sausage were all moist and tasty with good smoke flavor. The boneless, skinless chicken breast was okay, but too dry. Since they serve it chopped, they'd be better off smoking whole chickens, then mixing all the meat together, not unlike inside and outside meat from a whole hog.
Sides were solid. For me, the Mac & Cheese covered in crumbled bacon was the stand out. The Cole Slaw fans loved Joe's seasonal version using cranberries. The beans were very good; made from scratch with a good amount of smoked meat shards tossed in for flavor.
Service at Joe's was over-the-top helpful. They were thrilled to have visitors from out of state, even if the state was Illinois. They let us taste the sides before deciding on what to order and even adjusted the three meat sampler to four, at no extra charge, so we'd get to try everything. I can't say Casual Joe's is worth going out of your way, but if you're in the area it's a must stop.
Next stop was Poyer's Farm Market
, a cute little produce stand
in Ft. Atkinson. Not much to eat other than a few samples of the available fresh fruit and veggies. They've got lots of locally produced honey, jams, and preserves along with house baked pies. We walked away with a half dozen ears of local Corn, which I'll be stripping and sauteing in the near future.
We continued north to Jefferson where, for some, we made the most anticipated stop of the day. Wedl's
(pronounced wait'll, as in "Wait'll you taste 'em") Hamburger Stand serves up some the tastiest, greasy little meat muffins
on the planet. Once again, in the name of belly space conservation, CB15 and I split a Burger, this time a Bacon Double CheeseBurger.
In order for you understand what I'm going to say next, it's important for you to know, I grew up on McDonald's classic four Burger Condiments, ketchup, mustard, pickle, and onion. That is my "go to" topping mix for 95% of the Burgers I've eaten in my life. Wedl's Bacon Double CheeseBurger requires no added flavor enhancement. It is the Burger equivalent of Taoism's Uncarved Block
; pure, perfect, and a thing of beauty in it's own state without requiring an outside force to change it into something else. Pretty heady stuff for a greasy CheeseBurger, but once you've tasted Wedl's version, I'll lay heavy odds you'll achieve Burger Enlightenment.
Just for fun, I ordered a bowl of the Soup of the Day, Spicy Corn & Crab Chowder. Who knew a place known for their greasy burgers could turn out a damn fine Chowder? Very thick, good balance of flavors from both the corn and crab with small chunks of potatoes adding body and texture.
After that we started heading east for dessert; LeDuc's Frozen Custard
in Wales, WI. This is a classic Custard stand; the kind of frozen dairy outpost you'd find almost anywhere east of the Mississippi. LeDuc's lacks both the attempted artsy architecture
, and the retro 50's car hop look of Leon's
. It is easy to look at, family oriented, comforting Middle America at its finest
. And the Custard is pretty good too. I think everyone in the group opted of the Flavor of the Day, Mocha Toffee. It was good quality Custard, meeting Wisconsin's tough standards, with plenty of crispy, nutty Toffee bits strewn throughout.
This was the last "official" stop of the day, but some of us continued on to St. Francis, south of Milwaukee, where we met X1 at her favorite bar, The Landing
. We're usually there in late winter/early spring for X1's annual Mardi Gras shindig. They serve a fine NOLA buffet that night, but the rest of the year they have an appealing pub grub menu which we've always wanted to try.
Our table ordered up the two Saturday night specials, Fried Chicken and Chicken Fried Steak. The Chicken was very tasty; excellent crust, very crispy and not too thick. The CFS was massive, very tender and quite good. I wish I could say more about the meal, but at that point in the day, objectivity was limited. Maybe we'll return to The Landing sometime to give them a fair shake without the burden of food from five previous stops clouding our judgment.
Thanks to all who joined us at various points in the day. We enjoyed your company and look forward to doing it again soon.
post edited by BuddyRoadhouse - 2019/08/19 00:57:23