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Monday, July 8, 2013

Milwaukee's legendary burger (Solly's): A river (of butter) runs through it

roadfood.com
Sept, 2012 I left Milwaukee in 1982 and haven’t been to Solly’s since. That is until Wednesday afternoon! It’s still the same great burgers and shakes that they have been doing since the 1930’s! Here’s a great review done by and thanks to the Chicago Tribune back in 2004. Very interesting history. Yum, yum! 
See the 7/27/2015 update at the bottom!

Update: 7/2/2013  MILWAUKEE - A new list has named the top 33 hamburgers in the country, and one Milwaukee restaurant made the list.
Thrillist.com, a food and travel website, has named Solly's "The Solly Burger" to the list.
"Often called 'the reason people in the Midwest are generally kind of fat', The Solly Burger is 1/3lb of 'juicy' (aka fatty) sirloin, mixed with butter, then fried on a flat grill for extra fat, then topped with onions stewed in presumably MORE fat, then put on an onion roll with -- you ready for this -- MORE F&$%ing BUTTER," the website said. "If it wasn't so delicious, it might be downright offensive"
Solly's started back in 1936. Its burgers are classic, with 100 percent sirloin, onions, plenty of butter and a special bun. Their not-so-secret ingredient is the 150 pounds of butter they use each week.
Glenn Fieber with Solly's said the restaurant was opened in 1936 by his stepfather Solly, or Kenneth Solomon.
"Restaurant work today is a very difficult business and when you get some accolades like this and you get a call from the biggest station in Milwaukee, it's a great honor and we appreciate it," Fieber said.
The burger hasn't changed much in the past 77 years, and it still holds the same ingredients Solomon loved: real sirloin and butter.
travelwisconsin.com

"We use real Wisconsin butter. When you put butter on any kind of food, you can ask any big chef, it provides a fantastic taste," Fieber added. We have been doing it since 1936, so we know how to do it. And we're very proud of this product."
October 18, 2004|By Monica Eng, Tribune staff reporter.
MILWAUKEE — I was shocked to find that while Chicago ranked as the fifth fattest city in the U.S. this year, Milwaukee leapt into the elite ranks of the 25 fittest cities (the 21st to be exact, according to Men's Fitness magazine).
It's not that I know a lot of porky Milwaukeeans. And it's not that I automatically think of our city as more sophisticated, lithe and urbane than a certain cheese- and beer-swilling neighbor to the north.
Who would think that?
No, the real reason is that on a recent visit to Milwaukee, I stopped for lunch at a place called Solly's Grille. And as I washed down my delectable butter-soaked burger and fries with a thick chocolate malt -- like just about everyone else at the counter -- I thought to myself, this has got to be the fat-consumption capital of the Midwest, possibly the country.
That's largely because Solly's, just outside Milwaukee in suburban Glendale, is home to the legendary Solly Burger. For the uninitiated, that's one-third of a pound of grilled sirloin topped with stewed onions and, according to owner Glenn Fieber, at least "a tablespoon of good Wisconsin butter."
From the river of grease sliding down my wrist and the golden pool gathering in my plate, I'd have to guess that Fieber's "tablespoon" estimate is not quite accurate.
But neither, I think, is a report I read online -- where culinary passion often gives rise to complete hyperbole -- claiming that at one time Solly's slapped on a whole stick.
At this Fieber laughs.
"No, I can't say we ever used a whole stick," he says. "But let's just say we use a good heaping tablespoon of good Wisconsin butter."
Regardless of the exact amount, one might reasonably ask what kind of sick mind would think of showering a patty of fatty beef with butter in the first place. That answer would be: Fieber's late stepfather, Kenneth Salmon -- but we'll get to him later.
That's because the question of "Why slap butter on a burger?" would really only occur to someone who hasn't yet tried one.
Once you sink your teeth into one of these beauties, you understand the velvety richness that the butter brings to the patty. You appreciate the silkiness it lends to the butter-marinated bottom bun. And you grasp the urgency of finishing the delicate treasure quickly, before it falls apart in front of your eyes (although ordering it on a hard roll, or "pillow" as they call it, will help retain its structural integrity for a lot longer).
Solly's has been a favorite in the area since 1936 when Salmon opened the tiny diner and started slathering butter on his beef.
Other sources
Years later -- in 1984 -- a place called Culver's in Sauk City, Wis., would follow suit and even patent the name ButterBurger. Several eateries around Milwaukee and the state also serve this gushy delight, but most lack Solly's history and warmth.
Still, the atmosphere of Solly's has changed a bit over the years too. In 2000, to make way for a development project, Solly's Coffee Shop left its rectangular stucco building, moving south a couple of hundred feet, and reopened in a new building as Solly's Grille.
The horseshoe counters, toasters and grills are the only things that survived the move. Today they've been reinstalled in a building that looks like country house meets suburban subdivision dwelling. Inside it's pure Wisconsin grandma, with knotty pine walls, checked curtains and lots of Green Bay Packers tchotchkes.
If you're lucky, you'll find a seat at Solly's 24-seat counter as soon as you arrive -- during lunch rushes it can take as long as 30 minutes to snag one. And if you're really lucky, Gert Lavora, a peppy grillmeister and former waitress who has been at Solly's for 33 years, will be working the grill.
"It was 33 years this July," she giggles. "But I'm still in training."
One giddy couple who looks way too tan to be year-round Milwaukeeans, seemed particularly sentimental.
"We used to take our kids here after gymnastics and swimming meets," explained Sue Weil, who was with her husband, Dick, on their yearly pilgrimage back to Milwaukee from their retirement home in Florida.
"I remember when I was still a grad student and I was back home in Milwaukee writing my thesis and I needed a break, my dad would take me to Solly's," recalled Joyce Mallman, who was visiting Milwaukee with her kids from home in Edmonton, Canada.
Multigenerational favorite
The multigenerational Solly's stories come up all the time around here, especially among those who stayed in the area.
"My husband's grandma always used to take him here, and now we bring our kids here," says Tracy Eastburn, 43, of nearby Oconomowoc. "I usually get the cheeseburger, french fries and a chocolate malt. You can't worry about a diet at Solly's."
Actually, you can, Fieber says. Over the last few years he has been tinkering with the menu in ways that would have freaked out his stepfather.
"In 2000 we introduced a veggie burger," says Fieber who, daily, still serves up about 250 to 400 beef burgers too.
"I know that Solly is turning over in his grave over this, but we actually do a great businessin them. We also introduced salads last year and we can put grilled chicken, pork chop or grilled steak over the greens. People love it. I also try to get organic vegetables whenever I can."
But Fieber's innovations haven't focused solely on health nuts; he's also quite interested in serving Packer nuts.
"When the Packers were in the Super Bowl we introduced the cheesehead: two-thirds of a pound of beef in the middle, then raw onions and our famous stewed onions with mushrooms and Swiss and American cheese," he said of the burger that is still popular today. "You'd be surprised. It's eaten by quite a few women."
Speaking of Swiss, Fieber says that at breakfast one of his most popular items is the Swiss rosti, a kind of big thick, crispy fried potato pancake -- yet another theoretical artery clogger and can expander.
Why these popular Wisconsin treats -- along with fish fries, bratwursts, fatty frozen custard and deep fried cheese curds -- have not catapulted Milwaukee onto the fattest cities list next to its Lake Michigan neighbor remains a mystery. All Fieber knows is that his buttery burgers, in addition to delivering continuity through the generations, just make people happy.
"One thing I've noticed over the years," Fieber says, "is that when people are eating butter, they're smiling."

UPDATE: 7/27/2015

Solly's Grille listed as one of the "Best Burgers in America"

Posted: Jul 27, 2015 11:01 AM MDTUpdated: Jul 27, 2015 11:03 AM MDT
Thrillist.com included Solly's Grille of Milwaukee in its "33 Best Burgers in America."
This is the third year the website has published this list. 
The website wrote this about Solly's:
Is this Wisconsin institution that opened in 1936 and goes through 30lbs of butter every day to make sure America's Dairyland is given its recommended daily allowance of butterburgers the entire reason Thrillist went and decided to open a Milwaukee edition? No. Did it help? Absolutely.
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