February provided a plethora of winter weather in the Badger State. We, here in Wisconsin, may not particularly care to shovel snow or drive icy roads, yet find ways to make snow and ice entertaining materials. Pastimes including snowmobiling, ice fishing, tubing, snowshoeing, ice skating and fat tire biking are all things I wished I could have included in this season’s blogs. To tell the truth, weather and my wallet just didn’t permit that. There were some excellent days for it this month, but some of my off days were just horrible, precipitation filled days.
This Sunday was no different, as I realized by midweek that travel was not a good Idea. I believe there was a massive pile up on US-41 that day, killing one person. So, staying home sometimes is the best idea, especially when winds deteriorate visibility to absolutely nothing.
Not to worry, I found a place within the Green Bay city limits, sheltered from the dangerous wind gusts. It’s not ritzy or glamorous or a thousand other adjectives that usually describe a popular tourist destination. This no frills landmark has been woven into the fabric of Green Bay’s community for 85 years, and its still very popular. The establishment is not large either. I think my kitchen and living room combined are as large as the dining room, if not larger. However, what keeps this iconic place relevant is what matters most-excellent service and tasty food at an affordable cost.
It’s Sunday and I’m debating on writing a content free blog. You know, I’m contemplating a frivolous composition, something like a list of where I want to travel in March. However, while Heidi braves the weather on the way to my house, I’m struck by a notion. I could post a blog on a novel eatery, assuming they stayed open despite the high winds plaguing the area.
She arrives, and after a few minutes of small talk I find the perfect spot on my phone. It’s very affordable, a short drive into downtown Green Bay and its name is Iconic.
The name of the place is simply Al’s Hamburgers. I’ve heard so many good things about Al’s that I don’t doubt that it will be blogworthy. After all, it’s a restaurant most locals know well. The reason being, before Washington Street was the thriving commercial district it is today, Al’s stood where only a few other establishments stood. It’s reputation has lasted from 1934 till this present day.
We make it to Washington street without incident and enjoy the free weekend parking. I make the short hike to the entrance of the building. Immediately, after crossing it’s threshold, I sense this place is throwback, and not in the retro-hip sense that many places seem to emulate. I feel as I’ve stepped back in time and, as the eatery is empty on this day, the sounds of early Rock ‘n’ Roll top off the setting.
If the appearance of this hammer and nails building doesn’t sell an authentic old fashioned vibe, the sign that indicates that Al’s only accepts cash certainly does. Not to fret, there is an ATM in a corner near the entrance. There are a few pictures hanging from its walls, nothing too fancy. There’s even an old fashioned milk shake fountain behind the counter.
A man named Nathan greets us and is full of information. He reminds me that six years ago the building was consumed by a horrible fire. A photo taken from across the street displays flames erupting fifteen feet from the storefront. An outdoor sign and the original grills were the only survivors. However, instead of giving it a modern twist, its been rebuilt to it’s original self.
He explains that usually the place is hopping on Sundays. Like everything today, the weather is hampering business. I also learn that Al’s was family owned till just recently, when the grandchildren decided to sell. It’s now owned by a local investment group that have their hands in a diverse set of business’ in town.
I’m curious to know what the clientele of such of an establishment would be. Nathan supplies and interesting answer, “We have decades old regulars that pass on a lot of the restaurants history, we also get people from all over on packer gamedays. Of course, you’ll see a few Bears fans. That’s always fun, you know, give the guys a hard time.”
If your looking for anything but a hamburger for lunch, you might want to try somewhere else. Al’s menu isn’t extensive, although they do serve a veggie burger for the health conscious. But really, did we come to a place with the word hamburger in the name and plan to order something else? Of course we didn’t. Hamburger is the beef of their business. Sorry, that was a horrible pun.
There’s a slogan printed on Al’s Hamburgers’ Tee’s. Come for the burgers stay for the hash. I think I’ll try both. I order what is known as a Hash Burger, topped with one thousand island dressing. Heidi plays it conservative and orders the deluxe.
When the food comes, as I also ordered a side of fries, I savor every last bite. The Hash Burger is delicious. The fries may be a little dry, but not horrible. Heidi enjoys her burger as well.
For Breakfast, if your interested in the Summer’s Saturday farmer’s market, their specialty is two eggs and hash. With the market set up just across the street, a stop at Al’s for a morning meal is a convenient and cheap Idea.
When the bill comes, I’m surprised to find that a single twenty dollar bill will cover our meal and the tip, of course older patrons remember when burgers were a dime. Maybe, a McDonald’s value meal is cheaper than my check today, but I prefer local. Not to mention, this tastes better. McDonald’s just can’t compete with the atmosphere and the savory Hash Burger.
We say good bye to Nathan, venturing back to our car. Although my visit wasn’t planned, I feel like this place is blogworthy. It’s certainly an original setting. I’ve seen places with the checker pattern tiled floors and retro stools before, but this one elicits a different emotion . The interior doesn’t have the modern juke-box made to look retro. Nor does it have tons of neon signs in the interior.
I felt like I was in my grandparents house. I suppose that is fitting as my grandfather was eleven when Al’s first opened it’s doors. According to Nathan, the methods and food really haven’t changed much since that time. That is truly throwback, and absolutely the way I prefer it.