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Jan 22, 2003 01:22 PM

The Great Wisconsin Custard Debate- My $.02

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Having had Monday off for the King Holiday,I decided to venture north to Wisconsin to make my own decisions in the battle that erupted below last week for the king of burgers and frozen custard in the Milwaukee area.

My first stop was Culvers. A clean reliable looking chain store located just South of Milwaukee. My order there consisted of a double cheese "butter" burger and a small chocolate frozen custard.

The burger was excellent in my opinion. The two thin patties were seared so that the outsides were crisp and the insides juicy. The dressing was a bit much and a little sloppy due to an over abundance of mayo.

The custard was of a medium richness and was the consistency of soft serve. I would best describe the flavor as milk chocolate.

My next stop was the famous Kopp's where I found the burger not nearly as well prepared. I like the crust that searing a burger on a hot sheet grill produces. Kopp's burger didn't have that. However, it was better dressed than the Culvers burger. Not as sloppy, with condiments in a more reasonable proportion to meat and cheese. For those of you questioning what kind of glutton I am, it should be noted that I only ate a couple of bites of the Kopps Burger after having downed the double just 30 minutes earler at Culvers.

Kopps is kind of an odd place. It's in a large cavernous building that looks like it may have been orginally designed as a Bank Branch. Yet, the counters have been moved way to the front of the building and the only place that you can eat in house is at a few metal tables standing. There are no sit down tables or booths. There seems to be an awful lot of space wasted in the back of this building that could be used for customer seating if only they'd move the counters back.

Kopps clearly was the winner in the custard category. It was obviosus from the density and richness of the product that Kopps uses much higher levels of butter fat in its product than Culvers does. It results in a richer and more chocolatey custard than you get at Culvers. The consistency is more like that of dipped ice cream versus the soft serve consistency of Culvers.

All in all. I'm going to have to call this one a draw. In my opinion, Culvers won the burger war and Kopps won the custard war.

I, however, lost the heartburn war about the time I got to Kenosha.

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  1. I went to Wisconsin and tried the custard in Madison. I was not impressed. St. Louis is the place for custard - Fritz's or Ted Drewes.

    3 Replies
      1. re: angethereader

        Leon's is my favorite too but Kopp's and Ted Drewes are both damn good. As for a true butter burger you can't beat Solly's in Milwaukee.

      2. re: Doug

        Heh, St Louis for custard. Yeah, no. Brain sandwiches, sure. Custard, come on.

        Kopp's is bomb good. Great malts. I too am a fan of the crunchy top on a well-seared and mid-rare burger, and usually the Kopp's near my wife's parent's place properly cooks them. Leon's is also awesome and the cherry-waffle avalanche there is a gift from the dairy gods.

      3. My votes - Leon's for custard. Kopp's does a better job when they're really busy than some other times, at least that's my experience with the Glendale one. For the sodium-impaired, they'll even go 'fries no salt' if you ask.

        That said, I've never actually eaten at Culvers.

        An addition to the list, Bella's Fat Cat on the east side. They grill a little 'harder' giving the better browning. Same size burgers, same style.

        Haven't tried their custard.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mike_d

          I tried Bella's custard when I visited MKE last fall - I didn't like it. The chocolate had ice chunks in it. And there wasn't enough chocolate flavor.

          Leon's and Kopp's were much better. I liked Oscar's custard, too.


          1. re: AnneInMpls

            thanks for adding this. I hadn't tried the custard at Bella's, only the burgers. I haven't had Oscar's custard or burgers in years, but they did a nice job as I remember.