By George Motz
George Motz is the host of Burger Land, airing tonight @ 7|6c. In the show, George travels to New Jersey and Wisconsin to sample some of the best burgers the 2 states have to offer. Check out behind-the- scenes photos from the show, and be sure to tune in to learn more about America’s burgers!
Regional diversity in burgers abounds in America. Even with the homogenizing of hamburger culture across the country there are still many places that serve burgers that are unique to their region. The green chile cheeseburgers of New Mexico, the steamed cheeseburgers of Connecticut and the “goop-covered” burgers of the Pacific Northwest are just a few. The goal of Burger Land is to immerse the viewer in a region and discover its unique burger culture.
Our Journey across Wisconsin’s ‘”Burger Belt,” the latitudinal route between Milwaukee and Prairie Du Chien, hits some of my favorite burger joints: Solly’s, Wedl’s and Pete’s. Solly’s is home to the original Wisconsin butter burger, a burger whose only condiment is butter. If you are lucky, your burger arrives at your spot at the counter with the butter still in its semisolid state. It sounds disgusting, but is truly amazing. They must be doing something right because Solly’s has been in business for over 75 years. At Wedl’s in Jefferson, one of the tiniest burger stands I’ve ever seen, I discovered (on camera) that the reason the burgers taste so good at Wedl’s is because they’re cooked in rendered lard. I’ve been going there for years and never knew that. And on the far west end of the Burger Belt is Pete’s in Prairie Du Chien. At Pete’s they make a burger in one of the most unique ways I’ve ever seen … they are boiled in water. Good friend and local hamburger expert Todd McIlwee likes refer to them as “poached.” I know it does not sound like a great way to make a burger but trust me, they are unbelievable. And serving the same burger for over 100 years speaks to its longevity.
A second episode of Burger Land explores New Jersey’s hamburger heritage. New Jersey is home to one of the most vibrant diner communities in America. It seems no other state can rival New Jersey’s love of nostalgia and, not surprisingly, some of the best sliders in America can be found in the Garden State. White Manna, a true example of an authentic American diner, serves a slider whose DNA can be traced back to the original American hamburger of the 1920s. But one of my favorites is nearby in Linden — the White Rose System. One of my hamburger heroes, Rich Belfer, helms this gleaming stainless-steel beacon of hamburger heaven. Consistency is key and every single time I set foot in White Rose the burgers are unreal. My usual is a “double slider,” which is a lesson in hamburger simplicity. It is a burger with grilled onions and some American cheese on a simple white squishy bun, nothing more. I usually eat 3 of these in one sitting.
People are always amazed when I tell them that hamburgers in America can actually be regional. Thankfully local traditions keep the rationality of the American hamburger alive and well.