Here in the Northwest we tend to think we've got it way better than Midwesterners. We've got mountains, for one, and an ocean not far off. Less humidity, better coffee, smaller mosquitoes. But there are plenty of things the upper Midwest does better than anywhere else: roller coasters, indoor malls, state fairs and — not unrelated — cheese curds.
Thanks to Wisconsinburger, which opened in a warmly lit retro-style space on the South Hill last week, Spokanites now have the opportunity to enjoy genuine, deep-fried cheese curds in all their Midwestern glory. The new restaurant from Jeff Nordvall and Laura Paisley, who previously owned what was once known as the Lantern Tavern, offers up a menu of hearty burgers and "fried goodies" that defy anyone who believes fresh-and-local is a synonym for health food.
"It's not necessarily the least greasy food on the planet," Nordvall says. "But we're trying to do everything as fresh as possible."
Favorites so far include the Spooner ($9) — a burger topped with Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, a fried onion ring — and the Beloit Blue, made with blue cheese. The beef, from the Tri-Cities, is ground on-site daily. Even the hefty vegetarian burger, which contains beans and greenery, manages to taste both wholesome and indulgent.
Beer drinkers will correctly intuit that this sort of meal is best with a pint, and Wisconsinburger offers eight beers on tap, including Miller High Life for the sake of authenticity. The family-friendly joint also boasts a refrigerator case stocked with so many types of craft beer, it could be mistaken for a neighborhood bottleshop. (A fact about Wisconsin: Kids can sit at the bar and drink as long as they're with their parents.)
Nordvall grew up in Milwaukee and went to college in Eau Claire — then, he says, got out as fast as he could: "And now I kind of miss it."
The truth is, Spokane's got a lot of the Midwest in it, and expats from Green Bay and Minneapolis and Des Moines should stop by Wisconsinburger just to eavesdrop as servers explain the concept of cheese curds to the uninitiated. Customers have been spotted eating cheese curds with a fork — come on, Spokane, don't be afraid to get your fingers greasy.♦
Wisconsinburger • 916 S. Hatch • Mon-Thu, 11:30 am-9 pm; Fri-Sat, 11:30 am-11 pm • 241-3083 • facebook.com/Wisconsinburgerspokane