4 of the most iconic foods invented in Wisconsin

Solly's famous butter burger, Credit: Solly's Grille

By Christina Lorey

April 29, 2024

What is Wisconsin’s most iconic food?

That’s a question we could spend all day debating, and for good reason: Badgerland is a food lovers’ paradise.

Since joining the US as the 30th state in 1848, America’s Dairyland has brought to the table a cuisine strongly influenced by its German and Scandinavian heritage.

In other words: You’re welcome.

Here are four of our most iconic inventions:

Beer Cheese Soup

While this hearty soup’s roots trace back to Medieval Europe, it became popular in America by way of Wisconsin. Many of the state’s first settlers opened taverns and filled their menus with recipes from their heritage.

Because they didn’t have a lot of money, beer cheese soup was an easy addition, as the first recipes were as simple as beer that had been boiled and thickened with stale bread and egg yolks. Over time, spices, onion, and cheese were (thankfully) added. Try this recipe from a Wisconsin native.

Blue Moon Ice Cream

While multiple midwestern cities call dibs on this delicacy – including Plainwell, Michigan, and Milwaukee – the Madison-based Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream company is the place that really put it on the map.

Blue Moon is best described as Smurf blue and marshmallow-sweet. Many dairies that make the flavor keep their ingredients a secret, adding to its mystique. (Blue Moon is one of the flavors that makes up “Superman” ice cream in certain states.) Here are five spots to grab Wisconsin’s signature flavor.

Butter Burgers

Culver’s gets credit for bringing them to the masses, but a 15-year-old by the name of Charlie Nagreen is their most likely inventor. Legend has it, Nagreen originated the spin on a classic hamburger by frying his in butter at the 1885 Seymour fair.

Butter burgers were later popularized by Milwaukee’s Solly’s Grille (which still serves its original recipe!) beginning in 1936. Culver’s didn’t come into the scene until 1984. (And their version butters the top bun, as opposed to the patty itself.)

Morning Buns

Best described as the cinnamon roll’s croissant-like, sugar-coated sister – made with a light, flaky dough rather than a heartier, breadier base – morning buns originated at The Ovens of Brittany Restaurant in Madison in 1970. By 1984, the smallest of the local company’s four restaurants was churning out 3,500 every weekday (and even more on weekends) to meet customer demand.

Today, you can pick up mouth-watering morning buns at most Madison-area bakeries, including Madison Sourdough, Batch Bakehouse, and Bloom Bake Shop – as well as at the Saturday morning Dane County Farmers’ Market.

Feeling brave? Try your hand at making your own! Here’s a great recipe.

RELATED: The Story Behind Wisconsin’s State Pastry, the Kringle


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.



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