In this series, we’ll be hiking the burger trail to find the latest, greatest and most delicious burgers in Milwaukee. Click here for an explanation of the criteria used to rate each burger. Where have we been? Check out the complete catalog of burger reviews here.
Since carry-out is king, and there’s little better than frozen custard during the summer months, I’ll be focusing on "custard stand" burgers for the time being.
Hefner’s Frozen Custard & Jumbo Burgers
N71W5184 Columbia Rd, Cedarburg
It was June 1995 when the late Tom Holubowicz (depicted below in a drawing by artist Peter Poppele) founded the custard stand just off the main drag in Cedarburg. He'd spent years working at various custard stands, including Kopp's Frozen Custard and Storheim's Custard in Green Bay, so when he found the former Tim's Custard stand in Cedarburg for sale, he decided to branch off on his own.
25 years later, Holubowicz’s children, Joe Wollersheim and Rachel Hahn, run the business. But they continue to carry on the legacy their father left behind: including frozen custard (a rotating cast of over 60 flavors), burger specials and a dedication to community.
The current burger of the month is one that shows up every now and again at Hefner’s. In fact, it was on the menu when I wrote about the stand last October. It sounded good then, so I thought I’d give it a try.
The Cedar-Burger features a Hefner’s burger topped with Cedar Creek Winery’s Pinot Grigio Swiss cheese spread, American cheese, bacon and fried onions ($6.49). I added onion rings ($2.59) and a malt ($3.99) to go alongside.
Despite the usual smash-up that inevitably happens inside those tightly packed custard stand bags, my burger came out looking fairly respectable. The bun made the trip without losing all of its lift, and the toppings remained intact, each one peeking out from beneath the cover of the bun.
The standard bakery bun was pleasantly soft, but resilient. It definitely fresh, nicely sized for the burger and seemed to hold up relatively well, despite a very light toasting that really only grazed the edges of the cut sides.
The uniformly shaped burger was nicely browned on the exterior with a pleasantly loose texture that gave it a good mouthfeel and allowed it to retain a semblance of juiciness. Overall, it was relatively plain in terms of seasoning; but it bore a pleasantly beefy flavor. Pretty solid all around.
Meanwhile, the toppings came together nicely. The bacon was ultra crisp, lending a bit of smoke, salt and a welcome texture to the very cheesy burger. The onions, too, were well prepared; they were fried enough to soften them, but not so far that they lost their texture.
The American cheese, meanwhile, was fairly nicely melted and positioned on the patty so that it kept the fried onions in place. It was also positioned on the opposite side as the Swiss cheese spread, which offered not only additional cheesiness, but enough complexity to effectively elevate an otherwise standard cheeseburger.
If you've been following my Burger Trail reviews, you're probably waiting for me to say that this burger needed a pop of acid to make it shine; but in this case, I think the addition of anything more would mask the more subtle flavors of the Swiss cheese spread. To settle my suspicion, I tried a bite or two with the addition of a pickle; I like pickles, but this burger was definitely not the place for them.
Overall, the flavors worked well together. The burger offered texture, meatiness and a complex cheesiness that took it slightly over the top.
At just under $6.50, you get a solid classic custard stand burger that’s been gussied up just enough to make it memorable.
The Cedar-Burger is a delicious homage to Wisconsin in a bun.
Hefner’s is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Orders can be placed online and picked up curbside. Outdoor seating is also available.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.