Image via Dotty Dumpling's Dowry Facebook
Image via Dotty Dumpling's Dowry Facebook

Some of the best burgers in Wisconsin you won’t find at national chains but rather small, local burger joints.

Hamburgers are the quintessential American food—maybe even more than apple pie. Choosing the best burgers is a highly subjective matter because of multiple variations and cooking methods. When choosing Wisconsin’s best burger spots, we, of course, ignored fast-food chains—even though we love a homegrown Culver’s Butterburger in a pinch—and looked for small, unpretentious establishments that have a reputation for great burgers.

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These burger joints might not get a lot of national love, but locals know where to go when they want a mouth-watering, satisfying hamburger with or without all the fixings. 

Barker’s Bar & Grill, Hudson

Photo courtesy of Barker’s Bar & Grill

Barker’s Bar & Grill has been a downtown Hudson staple for more than 30 years. In addition to winning awards for being the best bar and tavern in the St. Croix Valley, Barker’s is known for having some of the best burgers in the area. You can have a classic burger with cheese or California-style, but it’s pretty hard to pass up some of the other scrumptious menu items, such as the Premo Bacon and White Cheddar half-pound burger made with a blend of brisket, ground chuck, short rib, and bacon.

Barker’s is also a great place to try a bison burger if you have never had one. If fries are a must to accompany your burger, don’t forget to order some. Barker’s hand-cuts their fries twice per day, resulting in unmatched deliciousness.

Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry, Madison

Once a simple hamburger stand when it opened in the ’70s, Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry has lived in several Madison locations, until it finally settled at its Frances Street location in 2003. The owner, Rachael, is known as the Hamburger Princess and continues to serve up some of Madison’s favorite burgers. Dotty’s received national recognition more than a decade ago, but these days they remain more familiar with locals and college students at UW-Madison.

Dotty’s serves classic burgers and bison burgers, but the bravest diners opt for one of their creatively named burgers, like the Toadstool, the Runnelstone, and the Gladiator. Dotty’s captivating history also makes it a fun place to visit. It actually started as an eclectic gift shop in Des Moines in 1969 before the founder, Stanley, moved his business to Madison and turned it into a burger joint. 

Court’N House, Eau Claire

Photo courtesy of Court’N House

This new burger joint opened its doors in Eau Claire in the summer of 2022. The internet has been in an uproar over their fabulous burgers and great Bloody Marys. One of the things that makes Court’N House a great under-the-radar burger spot is its distinctive build-your-own-burger menu. They offer a handful of specialty burgers, including a patty melt and pizza burger, but the build-your-own-burgers take the cake—or the bun in this case. You can choose from six types of cheese, all the typical veggies, and an abundance of sauces. You can also add corn beef, ham, and bacon to your burger. 

Howie’s on La Crosse, La Crosse

Howie’s has been a favorite hangout for families and friends in downtown LaCrosse for more than 75 years. They remodeled their restaurant in the last few years and decided that after their kitchen redesign, adding some signature burgers to their menu was the perfect choice. Howie’s maintains its fun, sports bar atmosphere, but there’s nothing better than biting into a delicious burger while watching the game. Their menu features nine signature burgers, including the Triple H—Howie’s Hangover Helper. Like all of Howie’s burgers, the Triple H is a third-pound patty, but it comes with bacon, fried egg, ham, and cheddar cheese. 

Wedl’s Hamburger Stand, Jefferson

Courtesy of Wedl’s Hamburger Stand

If you crave a burger and don’t want a garden salad on top of it, Wedl’s is your place. They are so adamant that lettuce and tomato do not belong on a burger that they state it on the menu. Wedl’s might be on to something because they have been around for more than 100 years. Even with multiple owners, the humble hamburger stand has maintained its position as a favorite burger joint in the small town of Jefferson.

Wedl’s serves slider-style hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and pizza burgers. All burgers include their own special seasoning and you can order them with raw or fried onions. Make sure to plan ahead for this burger adventure; the stand opens in mid-May and typically closes in late October for the winter. 

Holly’s Drive In, Danbury

Thinking of a hamburger sometimes conjures up images of a burger, fries, and a milkshake at your local drive-in. If you long for that feeling of nostalgic Americana and crave a good burger, Holly’s Drive In, found way up north in Danbury, doesn’t disappoint.

In 2022, they received the award for “Best Hamburger” in Burnet County. Holly’s has a pretty standard menu, as far as burgers go. You can get a hamburger, cheeseburger, California burger, mushroom swiss burger, and other popular combinations. They also feature the “Hootie Burger,” which is basically a cheeseburger with mayo and all the veggie fixings. If you visit Holly’s Drive In for a burger, make sure you save room for an ice cream cone. They also won “Best Ice Cream Cone” in Burnet County. 

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