Saturday, April 7, 2018

Butter Burgers

Charles Nagreen was selling meatballs at the Outagamie County Fair in Seymour, Wisconsin in 1885.  It dawned on him that the meatballs would be easier to eat if they were between two pieces of bread. The budding ad man also developed a theme to help him sell his meatballs: "Fried in butter, listen to them sputter!"

So if you trace the lineage of the butter burger, "Hamburger Charlie" was certainly the creator. Today, Culver's garners much of the attention for butter burgers. While their headquarters is also in Wisconsin, dairy capital of the United States, two other Wisconsin locations played a pivotal role in the development of the butter burger.

In 1936, Kroll's Hamburgers opened it's doors in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Their signature burger featured a pat of butter on top of the meat. That same year, Solly Salmon opened a restaurant in Milwaukee. He loved butter on his burgers as well and soon the world was beating a path to Solly's Grille to feast upon his butter burgers.

So Charles Nagreen created the buttered meatball sandwich in 1885. Kroll's Hamburgers made the butter burger mainstream in 1936. And in the same year, Solly's Grille made the butter burger famous. And to this day, butter burger aficionados are still making the trek to Solly's, which is still serving butter burgers, albeit not in their original location. They had to move in the year 2000 to make way for an outpatient heart clinic. Oh how I love irony.

9 tablespoons salted butter, softened
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper
1 pound ground beef
4 hamburger buns, toasted
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 slices American cheese


  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, covered, until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook until translucent and just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Cover and keep warm.
  2. Separate beef into 4 equal mounds. Gently shape each mound into 4-1/2-inch-wide by 1/2-inch-thick patty. Combine 3/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in bowl and sprinkle both sides of patties with mixture. Refrigerate until ready to cook, up to 30 minutes.
  3. Spread 2 tablespoons butter onto each bun top; set aside. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Using spatula, transfer patties to skillet and cook without moving them for 3 minutes. Flip patties and cook for 1 minute. Top each burger with 1 slice of American cheese and continue to cook until cheese is melted, about 30 seconds longer.
  4. Transfer burgers to bun bottoms. Divide onion mixture among burgers and cover with buttered bun tops. Serve immediately.

Pairing: There is nothing better in this world than an ice-cold pilsner to wash down that butter burger. Bartender, make mine a Stella Artois!

Grogs and Goldie, 1956

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