Tuesday, August 11, 2009

American Legion Post #67 Burger Visit, Finally

A few weeks ago I made a trip to Lake Mills, Wisconsin for one thing only - a hamburger. It was a special trip because the burger I planned on eating is only served on Fridays in the summer. For this burger, timing was everything. Local expert burger taster and friend Todd did some 'research' on an earlier Friday and joined me on the trip. There's no phone at the stand so my visit was to be somewhat anonymous, that is until the awesome Doug Moe, friend and columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal, announced my impending visit in his column. It was clear when I arrived that Moe is a well-read columnist.

The American Legion Post #67 Hamburger Stand is a gem. Wedged between two buildings in a comfortable tiny town near Madison, the stand is walk-up service only with a severely limited menu. My kinda place. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and sodas were all you could spend your money on (with the exception of a must-have tee shirt that depicts a burger midway down a playground slide). I asked for my usual, which of course is the burger that everyone else is ordering. "The most popular burger is 'one with'," one of the stand operators Randy told me. 'One with' is simply a burger with stewed onions. Typical for a stand that has been around for over 83 years cheese takes a backseat and makes up only a third of all burgers ordered.

I asked if Todd and I could squeeze into the tiny stand while our burgers were being made and I immediately recognized a cooking method that is rapidly disappearing throughout small-town America - the Deep-Fried burger. That's right, the 5/1 pound burgers at Post #67 are deep-fried in a huge, shallow tank filled with canola oil. The fresh pattied meat comes in daily and over 2500 burgers are plopped in the hot oil on a busy day. The first went down fast so I ordered another. The hot oil soaks the soft, white-squishy bun and becomes a condiment to the peppery burger. A small table of ketchup and mustard sits on the sidewalk but I enjoyed mine unadorned, hot and oniony.

The stand is run by a rotating crew of 5 that are members of the Post #67. Most of the volunteers are retired military and are paid in burgers and beer. Not the kind of beer you take home, the kind you enjoy on the job. Intrigued, I asked past commander Don Hein, "When does the drinking start?" He told me bluntly, "Whenever we start working." I gathered from the other vets hard at work that in most cases they are way too busy bagging burgers to drink themselves into oblivion. And as Don pointed out, "You really can't come down here and get hammered."

Get your butt over to the Post #67 burger stand in downtown Lake Mills, WI, but make sure you visit on a Friday in the summer. Unlike I had originally reported, the stand is actually open from the first Friday in May to the first Friday in October, 10AM - 8PM or so. That's still only 23 days a year...