Culver’s ButterBurgers & Cheese Curds Are Delicious

Since my initial visit to Culver’s ButterBurgers & Frozen Custard in Naples, I’ve eaten one of their ButterBurgers in a handful of states. And unlike some of the other burger chains I come across, I get excited like a schoolboy when one unexpectedly shows up on one of my travels.

Culver’s Mini History

During the mid-1980s, Fuddruckers was rapidly expanding across the US, but if you were in Sauk City, Wisconsin, then you might have been lucky enough to see the opening of the first Culver’s on July 18, 1984.

For almost ten years, you could only get Culver’s ButterBurgers and Frozen Custard in Wisconsin. They expanded slowly to twenty-five states over the following thirty-five years.

The first time I heard about Culver’s was from my late friend Spencer Block. He was from Wisconsin and mentioned them pretty much every time we spoke.

He wanted me to go to a Milwaukee Brewers game with him and then hit up Culver’s afterward, but it never came to pass.

Culver’s Food Talk

I had been waiting for years to try Culver’s ButterBurgers. When I came across the press release with info about their imminent arrival in Florida, I was ecstatic.

All 3 locations (Naples, Port Charlotte & Ft. Myers) are on the West Coast of Florida, but that didn’t stop me from making the trek to the Naples location. The other two spots were still under construction at that time.

My cousin Fred and I made the drive into Naples (almost 2 hours by the way) and arrived just a few minutes short of 11 a.m. We discussed what exactly we were going to order during the drive.

Culver’s has a Giant Menu?

Once that giant menu was in front of us, it kind of all went out the window. There was no one in line behind us, so we had the luxury to take our time and order.

The first thing out of my mouth is, “I’ll take a number 2,” and the cashier looks at me, then looks at the menu board behind her, and then back at me. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I asked for a #2 when there is no numbering system at all.

Worst of all, I didn’t catch my mistake. She was the one who told me there are no numbered meals. And then I wanted to crawl into a giant ball and roll into a river of cheese.

OK, I’m exaggerating; I took a cheap shot at myself, which made her laugh, so I rebounded pretty quickly.

Culver’s ButterBurgers

Here was our order: Sourdough Melt (which I tacked on right after she gave us our total), Wisconsin cheese curds, and a Double ButterBurger Cheese w/crinkle cut fries. I stick to drinking cola or water with my meals, but I took this picture for those who are into it; Culver’s has their own branded Root Beer.

I made a big mistake when I ordered the sourdough melt. The cashier did ask if I’d like to double up the meat, but I turned her down. The patties are thin, so a double is essential to get a good burger flavor out of the sandwich.

Those Wisconsin cheese curds are deadly. They’re breaded and deep-fried little balls of un-aged yellow & white cheddar cheese from Wisconsin.

I could pop those like candy all day, so please keep them far away from me. No, for real, keep them away.

This Culver’s BurgerBurger is a Beauty

Culver's ButterBurger with only American Cheese
Culver’s ButterBurger with only cheese

This ButterBurger cheese was a beautiful little number; take a close look at the crust on that burger. The cheese is always nice & melty. We ordered it as a double, so now you could get a good grasp on that unmistakable fresh beef taste.

The bun was lightly toasted with butter, which came through just a little bit. I would have eaten a second if I wasn’t so full. On subsequent visits, I’ve become addicted to their sourdough melt.

The crinkle-cut fries are the best in the fast-food game, no discussion necessary.

We weren’t leaving without having one of their Concretes. A Concrete is a frozen custard mixed with a topping like candy or fruit.

We went for a small Nestle Crunch Concrete. It was pretty good, but I should have gone straight to vanilla for my first frozen custard experience at Culver’s.

If Culver’s ButterBurgers were in my neighborhood, I’d hit them up over any of the big 3. Hell, I would choose it over Five Guys Burgers & Fries any day of the week.

Damn you, Wisconsin cheese curds; I miss you already.

Culver’s Food Pictures

Wisconsin Cheese Curds
Culver's Sourdough Melt
Sourdough Melt
Culver's Double ButterBurger
My wife’s Double ButterBurger with cheese, lettuce & tomatoes
Vanilla Frozen Custard
Vanilla M&M Concrete Mixer
Vanilla M&M Concrete Mixer

I love burgers, and I’m sure that statement shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. My earliest memories of enjoying them are tied to Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s.

However, my deeper appreciation for the hamburger sandwich grew from stopping on road trips and vacations at diners, drive-ins, and luncheonettes. So, you need to get out there and explore your community.

These little hidden gems are out there and waiting for you.

Lil' History about Diners, Drive-Ins and Luncheonettes
Lil’ History…Diners, Drive-Ins, and Luncheonettes


*No, this chapter isn’t about a particular show, but about some of the types of eating establishments that helped popularize the majestic burger.

Diners

Diners are usually small restaurants with a laid-back atmosphere. They serve comfort food. Diners should have counter seating and booths where you can enjoy music from tabletop jukeboxes while you wait for your food.

I just described my ideal version of one, but yours might differ slightly. Typically, only one or two short-order cooks handle all the cooking, which is impressive to see up close.

All good diners are open twenty-four hours or at least into the wee hours of the night. I lump coffee shops into the same group as diners.

Many folks believe that the original diners were the lunch wagons of the late 1800s. Eventually, as the need for more seating arose, lunch wagons switched to prefabricated buildings.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and the advent of highways crisscrossing the United States that diners took off nationwide. Before this, most diners could be found in small towns and urban areas.

A Trio of Diners

Burger Beast Approved - Angel's Dining Car
Angel’s Dining Car in Palatka is Florida’s Oldest Diner
Reececliff Family Diner - Lakeland, Florida
Reececliff Family Diner in Lakeland, Florida
Starlite Coney Island & Diner in Burton, Michigan
Starlite Coney Island & Diner in Burton, Michigan

Drive-in Restaurants

The drive-ins I’m referring to weren’t the theater kind. At a drive-in restaurant, you would park your car, and a member of their staff would come out to meet you at your vehicle, take your order, and then return with your food.

Depending on the efficiency of the spot, you might have a quick meal or a drawn-out affair. Drive-ins rose to prominence as car culture took over America during the 1950s and 1960s; as folks got more comfortable using their cars for traveling from point A to point B, their “wheels” also started to become an extension of who they were.

Drive-ins are commonly associated with women skating around from hot rod to jalopy in the parking lot, but most, if not all, of the original carhops were fellas or “tray boys.” It wasn’t until after World War II that women replaced men after American males were called up to join the military.

While it’s true that having a pretty girl serve you food increased sales, in the long run, it created problems with fellas loitering. McDonald’s found a way to streamline food service and cut out the problems with drive-in service.

Once that new system spread to restaurants nationwide, drive-ins‘ popularity began to wane. But it was the even more popular drive-thru service that would significantly damage them.

I wasn’t around to experience the original drive-in. My first taste of it was watching Happy Days on TV. I dreamed of eating and hanging out at Arnold’s Drive-In, which was featured on the program.

Believe it or not, there are a few hundred drive-ins still around where you can have your in-car eating experience. To find a list of all active drive-in restaurants with carhops, go HERE.

A Few Drive-in Restaurants

Luncheonettes or Lunch Counters

Lunch counters or luncheonettes were initially just that, a counter where you could sit down on a stool to enjoy lunch. Waitresses would tend to the customers while a cook prepared the dish.

Lunch counters were popularized inside five-and-dime stores, which had two reasons for being there: Hungry customers could stop and grab something to eat, and someone who had just dropped in for a bite might end up in the store buying something.

The menu kept it simple, with items that could be cooked on a flat-top grill, such as hamburgers, sandwiches, soups, and desserts. Breakfast was a favorite at most lunch counters. Specials like meatloaf or hot turkey were available daily.

Fast Food fever in the United States has immensely hurt lunch counters. Unlike drive-ins, which have been able to carve out a living in smaller towns, lunch counters, and luncheonettes have been wiped from existence.

Luncheonettes I’ve Enjoyed

*This post contains excerpts from my book, All About the Burger.

4 thoughts on “Culver’s ButterBurgers & Cheese Curds Are Delicious”

  1. I am from Wisconsin, so I was ecstatic when i found out one was opening in Margate, FL. (Broward), one mile from my home. There is also one in Lake Park, FL. (Palm Beach).

    Reply
  2. The Crinkle-Cut French fry Admirers Association looks on with ravenous eyes while viewing those wonderful crinkle-cut fries. The accompanying burger looks yummy, also, but it is merely an accompaniment to the main part of the feast fest… those awesome oh-so yummy crinkle-cut fries.

    Reply

Leave a Comment