Have you ever taken a day trip for a burger? If not, Fred's in Burlington, Wisconsin, makes the case to start. Giving itself the tagline "World's Best Burgers," it's got some hype to live up to. I don't know about the "world" part, but "best" is pretty tough to argue with.
It's a typical wood-paneled place, and a crowded one at that. Going into the experience, the uninitiated should know you seat yourself. It's a self-order situation, too.
Grab a menu from the wall, along with an order card. Then, write down what you want, including any special requests, and bring it to the far end of the bar—this is where you place your order and pay.
As far as pubs go, the menu is pretty large, housing atypical appetizers—fried green beans ($3.99), broccoli and cheese poppers ($5.59), and jalapeno-cheese-filled tots, ($4.59), for example, plus a other miscellany. Honestly, everything I've tried, including the peppery popcorn chicken ($4.99), is good.
Still it's the bragged-about burgers everyone comes for. One bite, and you'll know why. Choosing one is hard, as there are versions both straightforward and fancified. Stick with what Fred's is known for: the sloppy melted cheddar cheese sauce cheeseburger ($4.29 for a 1/4 pound, $5.49 for a 1/2 pound). It arrives perfectly pink with or without crispy, fresh toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles, plus grilled onions if you wish.
Skip the fries in favor of house-made, Parmesan-showered potato chips ($2.49), and leave a happy man, woman or child.
Great taps house icy-cold Sprecher root beer and locally loved Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewing. Watch, too, for limited release and lesser-known brews from the brewery as well, such as crisp, balanced Two Women lager, named for Viking gals who brewed in Norse society.