Wisconsin Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Serve Up Classic Fun
Posted on: 4/25/2013
MADISON, Wis. (April 23, 2013) – The rise in popularity of diners, drive-ins and dives can certainly be attributed to the famous television show, but in Wisconsin we’ve been perfecting this restaurant experience for decades. Our state lays claim to dozens of eclectic and fun local spots, some of which have actually been featured on the popular TV show. Ranging from places that have been around for 70 years to newbies that capture the dive vibe, here are a few hot spots (in alphabetical order) that are the perfect place to grab a burger and a chocolate malt. Yes, a malt. They still do exist.
DISHING IT OUT: WISCONSIN DINERS WE DIG
Home-style cooking is the name of the game when it comes to authentic Wisconsin diners. Some of thefollowing have been serving up delicious meals for generations, others well, all they had to do was add bacon.
The Comet Café – Milwaukee
We have to give a nod to this diner which actually made it on the TV show, “Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives.” The Comet Café in the trendy East Side neighborhood of Milwaukee impressed Guy Fieri with their made from scratch entrees and ability to use bacon as an ingredient in just about everything. And that’s not all you’ll find at Comet. Think fresh ingredients, made from scratch soups and sandwiches, and some pretty mean (in a good way) cupcakes.
Delta Diner – Iron River
Set yourself back in time to 1940. You’re driving along the forested roads in your classic Chevrolet through northern Wisconsin, looking for a bite to eat. Today, you’ll find a replica of what that experience was like at Delta Diner. It’s a completely rebuilt and restored 1940s Silk City Diner (think shiny, retro diner car with booths and counter) in the heart of northern Wisconsin’s Iron River. This year marks Delta Diner’s 10th anniversary, and with a recent expansion and brand new outdoor deck you can now enjoy your meal al fresco. The outdoor patio will host a new dinner series this summer on topics from Midwestern wine to eating “oryoki,” a style of Zen Monastery eating.
Kroll’s, Green Bay
You can’t go to a Green Bay Packer game without stopping at Kroll’s before or after. What started as a local burger joint in 1931 (Kroll’s has been serving butter-soaked burgers for over 70 years) continues to serve generations of Green Bay families and visitors, as well as Packer legends. There are actually two Kroll’s locations. Kroll’s East, the older location, is still serving up favorites and is a designated historic site. Kroll’s West is located right across the street from Lambeau Field and has become a Green Bay landmark. The secret to success? Charcoal grilled burgers and a big slab of butter. Yum.
Monty’s Blue Plate Diner – Madison
Located in a quintessential neighborhood gathering spot, Monty’s Blue Plate Diner stays busy all day. The real deal here is where the food comes from. Chef Matt strives to purchase all food from local producers to support the local economy, and to have the freshest ingredients possible – fitting for a Madison restaurant. And for vegetarians, this is the place for you. They have tons of meatless options, including meatless meatloaf.
Frank’s Diner – Kenosha
Frank’s Diner is no stranger to prime-time national TV. It was featured on the show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and most recently “The United States of Bacon.” Frank’s is the oldest operating railcar diner in the U.S. and is famous for their “garbage plate.” What’s a garbage plate you ask? Try five eggs (three for the half portion) mixed into a combination of hashbrowns, peppers, onions, and your choice of up to five, yes five, meats and five cheeses. Add a side of toast, and voilà.
ALL AMERICAN DRIVE-INS
We love drive-in restaurants in Wisconsin. We’re talking the old-school, park your car, have a roller-skating car-hop take your order, type deal. So cruise on over in your pink Cadillac and check out these ‘50s throw back drive-ins.
Ardy & Ed’s Drive-In – Oshkosh
Ardy and Ed’s is a real blast from the past and a truly authentic 1950s drive-in. This year marks the drivein’s 65th anniversary from when it opened as Southside A&W back in 1948. To celebrate, enjoy various specials throughout the year, like 65-cent fries. Roller skating waitresses still take your order, and we recommend well, everything on the menu. Don’t miss their monthly classic car Cruise Nights.
Flat Pennies Ice Cream – Bay City
This unique drive-in on Wisconsin’s Great River Road is located right next to a SooLine railroad car. It’s also considered one of the best pet rest stops in the state with “hitching posts” for your pet to sit right near your table. With hot dogs, brats, and their famous soft-serve ice-cream made with real Wisconsin dairy, it’s the prefect stop after a summer day exploring the Mississippi River and surrounding towns. In fact, train engineers agree. Due to its close proximity to the railroad, train engineers frequently stop their trains at Flat Pennies just to get some delicious ice cream.
Gus’s Drive-In – East Troy
With traditional drive-up fare, Gus’s is a great stop in a prime location. Close to Alpine Valley Resort and minutes from Lake Geneva, this drive-in is an easy and scenic drive through the Kettle Moraine State Forest. And on Saturdays, just follow the sound of rumbling and thundering engines to
Gus’s during their Cruise Nights. Car lovers love the display of classics, hot-rod and rad-rods every weekend.
LaGrander’s – Chippewa Falls
LaGrander’s is an old-fashioned car-hop located right across from Lake Wissota beach in Chippewa Falls. You could say it’s a family business – Bob LaGrander and his wife opened shop in 1978 and LaGrander’s famous house-battered cheese curds come from none other than LaGrander’s Dairy, owned by Bob’s brother. But the real deal at LaGranders is the ice cream. Made on site, the most popular flavor is called “Sinful” – real honey with a wave of chocolate and chocolate-covered peanuts folded in. It’s devilishly good.
Milty-Wilty – Wautoma
This drive-in has been serving custard for more than six decades and offers a classic drive-in experience. With delicious burgers and custard, and a giant neon sign with an ice-cream cone, you can’t go wrong at Milty Wilty. This is that iconic drive-in you went to as a child, and now bring your own children to. Make sure you visit this summer, because Milty-Wilty is only open through September.
HANGING OUT WITH THE LOCALS AT WISCONSIN’S BEST DIVES
It’s always fun to feel “in” on a best-kept secret, and you know it’s a best-kept secret if it’s where all the locals go to hang out. The following Wisconsin dives are unique and downright fun.
Anchor Bar, Superior
This bar is the go-to dive in northern Wisconsin. Featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” Anchor Bar serves up the most outrageous burgers you’ll ever see. It also has a crazy nautical theme and even a life preserver from the famed Edmund Fitzgerald. Family owned and a favorite by locals, people from all over come to Superior to check out Anchor Bar.
Bayside Tavern – Fish Creek
Bayside Tavern is generally recognized as the social center of the Egg Harbor/Fish Creek area and is a must stop when you are in Door County. It’s a place where locals mix with visitors, for an all-around fun atmosphere. With a variety of beers and spirits and great home-cooked food (served until 1 a.m.), it’s a great place to just hang out.
Koz’s Mini Bowl– Milwaukee
Milwaukee is a city with a large brewing history where “dive bars” are standard, and Koz’s Mini Bowl not only fits the bill, but takes it one step further. Koz’s is the last duckpin bowling venue in Wisconsin. Think mini bowling alley, with mini lanes (four total), mini pins (with actual pin setters) and mini bowling balls the size of a grapefruit. This historic landmark hidden in Milwaukee’s south side is a guaranteed fun time. Koz’s also has a pool table, darts, and an old school jukebox.
Moccasin Bar, Hayward
Where else can you get a drink and stare down the world record muskie that hangs on the wall, than a halfmile from the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame? Moccasin Bar is a true “dive” in the heart of northern Wisconsin. With numerous award-winning fish mounted on the walls, and a “wildlife museum” of other stuffed animal dioramas this is one unique place to find yourself on a Saturday night.
Wolski’s – Milwaukee
Opened in 1908, Wolski’s has been serving beer for over 100 years. In the 1970s, faithful Wolski’s customers who would stay at the bar until closing hour asked to be rewarded for their patronage. It was then that the famous “I Closed Wolski’s” bumper sticker was created. Thirty-five years later, the bumper sticker can be found all over the world. Wolski’s has most recently added a new beer garden to open this summer, so make sure to enjoy a drink or two outside.