Thank you Culver’s for sponsoring this post.
What do you think of when you hear the word “burger?”
Culver’s asked me that question on a recent visit to their Headquarters in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. I had been invited to spend a day learning the method behind their menu and the story of their success. The visit included a video interview, and while I felt pretty confident in most of my responses, I flubbed the most important one of all:
What do you think of when you hear the word “burger?”
My answer should have been “family.” What I said was “juicy satisfaction.” While the latter is a true statement, it’s not enough. It doesn’t wrap the word with the emotions and feelings of comfort that envelop me whenever I hear “burger.”
It’s just beef on a bun, right? Nope. Not in my family. My dad is serious about his meat patties, so much so that my son’s labeled his grandfather’s version “panic burgers.” The man freaks out, and it is highly entertaining to watch as he meticulously sets the timer to ensure perfection and waits impatiently as we take our first bites.
That expectation of perfection applies to restaurants, too, and when we find a favorite spot for burgers, it’s a bonding experience. We know that anyone can throw meat on a hot plate or a grill and call it a burger. But, when we take a bite and smile with pleasure, we know that the restaurant that offered that experience has passion.
This is why, when I was invited to spend the day at Culver’s Headquarters and get the inside scoop, I leapt at the chance. My parents now live near Asheville, North Carolina, and when a Culver’s location opened in Arden, they were practically giddy. When my husband and I moved to Lake in the Hills, we were thrilled to learn there were two locations just a few minutes away.
What I’m trying to say, if you haven’t guessed by now, is that I really, really like Culver’s.
Now that I’ve been behind-the-scenes? I like Culver’s even more.
I joined a small group of fellow storytellers at Culver’s Headquarters in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, a few miles north of the original location in Sauk City, Wisconsin. Craig and Lea Culver opened that first Culver’s in 1984. The Wisconsin family had a background in farming and restaurants, and Craig wanted to open a place that would feature two of his childhood favorites: his mom’s burgers and frozen custard.
He also wanted to share his mom’s genuine hospitality. CEO and President Joe Koss told us “we genuinely care, so that every guest who chooses Culver’s leaves happy.”
It’s working. From that first restaurant, the chain has now expanded to more than 710 franchise locations in 25 states. To maintain quality control, every franchise owner must also be an operator. He or she must also care.
Before leaving us, Koss introduced Quinn Adkins, Culver’s Director of Menu Development. Adkin’s background had been in fine dining at hotels and resorts, and he brought his own strong sense of the importance of food quality. When he joined Culver’s in 2015, he knew that they had that same commitment.
But what does that actually mean? The beef is fresh, never frozen meat which consists of a combination of sirloin, chuck, and plate, which is part of the short rib. Those cuts provide the perfect texture and flavor, and when they’re always seared to order, the smell is enough to drive a burger-lover insane. We tried some hot off the hotplate in their test kitchen, and only the knowledge that I’d get my very own burger very soon kept me from hogging the whole tray. (That, plus if I’d tried everyone else would have stabbed me with their toothpicks). Adkins demonstrated the bun toaster, which comes complete with a butter roller. Each bun is toasted to order; there are no sandwiches hanging out under heat lamps at Culver’s.
Because everything is made when the customer places their order, customization rules. Single, double, triple – choose your number of patties. Then choose your toppings; mix and match. Each burger is unique, built for one person.
I told you I like them…
The ButterBurger starts with that fresh beef and the buttered, toasted bun, and after that it’s up to you. My personal favorite is the Culver’s Bacon Deluxe (because BACON). Like all Culver’s cheeseburgers, the Deluxe is made with real Wisconsin cheese and also has juicy tomatoes and crisp lettuce.
Speaking of cheese… GET THE CHEESE CURDS. Every curd comes from one company: LaGrander’s Hillside Dairy in Stanley, Wisconsin.
Fellow storytellers had ButterBurger Cheese, and others the ButterBurger without. We’d been a chatty bunch, but as soon as our burgers came out of that kitchen all conversation stopped.
Going into this visit, I already knew I liked the food itself. Now, after spending a day at Culver’s Headquarters, I like the company, too. There’s a real passion and a feeling of happiness. From the waterfall outside the entrance to the view overlooking the Wisconsin River, it’s more than just a building centered on profit. I truly felt like this was a family, and I was a bit sad when the day was over.
While Culver’s Headquarters is not open to the public, you can still visit their original location in Sauk City, Wisconsin. Make a day of it with a visit to nearby Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio, or take a hike on the Great Sauk State Trail. Either will build up your appetite for some delicious ButterBurgers and some Frozen Custard. Hungry and ready for a Culver’s ButterBurger now? Learn more about Culver’s and find your nearest location here!