In the summer of 2022, two of my sisters spent a nearly three weeks in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. They visited the breathtaking snow-capped mountains of the Alps and took Europe’s highest cable car to the top of the Matterhorn. They walked in picturesque villages reminiscent of your favorite fairy-tale as well as medieval towns resplendent with covered bridges, waterfront promenades, historic buildings replete with frescoes painted by the masters, and sun-drenched plazas with bubbling fountains. Naturally, my questions about their vacation were centered on cuisine. Dolores, one of my sisters, recalled most fondly the bread and butter served with every meal on their excursion. She’s a Garduño after my own heart.
During our years in Europe, my Kim and I were surprised at the ubiquity of butter on sandwiches. It didn’t matter what other ingredients were used in the construction of a sandwich; each slice of bread was buttered lavishly. Our favorite was a buttered floury bap with Branston pickle and Cheddar cheese. We also grew to love butter sandwiches with bacon. Frankly, a butter sandwich with extra butter was also quite good. As common as butter was in England (where we lived), the French slathered it on even more generously. Croissants dripping with butter and topped with cheese and ham were fabulous.
While Europeans have continued to enjoy butter, across the pond colonists have largely eschewed butter in pursuit of more healthful alternatives like Diet Cokes with their Big Macs. Americans were made to feel guilty if they enjoyed butter on a baked potato or toast. Nutritionists and researchers touted margarine as a more healthy alternative, one made from trans fats instead of saturated fats. Then it was discovered that the trans fats prevalent in margarine raised levels of bad cholesterol and lowered levels of good cholesterol–a double whammy. As seems to be the case with fake news, butter remains on the list of foods that are bad for you.
Since 1936, the venerable Solly’s Grille in Milwaukee has snubbed its nose at the haters who would desecrate burgers with lesser condiments such as mustard and (gasp) ketchup). Solly’s is the peerless purveyor of the butter burger: one-third-pound sirloin patty topped with what appears to be an equal amount of sweet and creamy Wisconsin butter. A river of artery-clogging fat runs down the sliced burger and resembles a small buttery lagoon at the bottom of the plate. It’s a treasured regional specialty that no one in their right mind would serve anywhere else.
That is nobody but Culver’s, a burger franchise serving the Midwest since 1984 with its own version of a better burger. Culver’s version of the butter burger is made from ground chuck seared on a hot grill at 475 degrees then sandwiched between a “lightly” (that’s a matter of opinion) buttered, toasted bun. Melted butter doesn’t exactly run down your arms as it does at Solly’s, but if you’re intimate with the inimitable flavor of butter, you’ll enjoy its presence on the burger.
If you’re counting calories or are cholesterol conscious, Culver’s has a diverse menu featuring more than 45 other items including salads. If you want to risk an angioplasty, try Culver’s ButterBurger deluxe, available as a single, double or jumbo. The jumbo lives up to its name with three patties sandwiched between two large bakery buns and served with mayonnaise, pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato and American cheese. If you really have a death wish, you can also add strips of bacon to the deluxe. With or without bacon, it’s one of the saltiest and most “well done” (crispy edges, very little moistness) burgers we’ve ever experienced and were it not for an aversion for salty foods, we might have enjoyed it more. Culver’s waffle fries are desalinated in comparison.
Culver’s is also famous for their frozen custard made fresh daily from premium ice cream. Served cold, you can have the custard on a cake cone, waffle cone or dish in sizes ranging from single to triple scoops. The “flavor of the day” includes several creative and sometimes seasonal flavors with the common denominator being great, albeit very sweet, taste. Culver’s ice cream products are nearly as sweet as their burgers are salty.
The frozen custard can also be enjoyed as a malt or shake or you can eat “Concrete,” a Culver’s specialty made with three scoops of vanilla frozen custard and a topping and (or) flavor of your choice. Toppings include M&M, Oreo, Snickers, Butterfingers, Reese’s Pieces and more. Shake and malt flavors include chocolate, hot caramel, mint, hot fudge and even root beer, all served cold.
There are now seven Culver’s restaurants in the great state of Texas and several more in Arizona so maybe there’s hope that this franchise will soon be moving west to New Mexico.
805 East Highway 260
LATEST VISIT: 21 December 2022
# OF VISITS: 4
BEST BET: ButterBurger, Culver’s Bacon Deluxe