Lake Life Review

It's Susan, and we're back at it! Oh, and did we start with a good one! The only rule was to come hungry; stretchy pants were optional. That's right, it's a food review!

Anyone that has ever gone out to lunch with me, could order for me, right Tara? Guilty! I find something that I like and I won't try anything new. So today was a good experiment for me, and I was delightfully surprised! Who knew I would like onion rings! Wait I think people do know I like onion rings, but who knew I would like them on my hamburger. A couple  of these stops had just that. YUM!

Or what about a fried egg on a hamburger? "Never have I ever!" My husband and my oldest daughter have ordered a fried egg on their hamburgers before...yes I judged, maybe silently but with a scrunched up nose, so they knew. Serves me right, I was missing out! The fried egg was just like adding another condiment. Once again, YUMM-O!

So here we go! Tara, Max, Joy and myself set out to our first stop! We visited 6 local shops. We had to split it up into 2 days. No one wore big enough pants to go to all 6 places in one day!

Each place we asked them to make us their signature, or most popular burger and favorite side.

We started at Burger & Company, which is downtown Spirit Lake and on the corner of Hill Ave. and across from the post office. At this burger joint, you order at the counter and they deliver it to you at the table. I loved the decor. Rustic with cool stools and chairs at big wood tables. So unique and fun!

Shortly after we arrived, a sweet lady full of smiles and named Liz came out with an amazing looking burger, along with a side of BC Fried Cauliflower and BC Fries! This burger....This HUGE burger is called their BBQ Stuffed Burger. I thought it was called stuffed because they stuffed a burger with cheese, a handful of onion rings, topped with BBQ sauce in-between the two buns. Tara corrected me and said, "No, it is a STUFFED BURGER...the burger itself had bacon, cheddar and chives...BACON, CHEDDAR and CHIVES...OH MY!"

I asked everyone what their favorite part of the burger was: Max loved that they "stuffed" the burger with BACON, CHEDDAR and CHIVES, oh my! "All the stuff mixed with that beef was most excellent," Max voted! Joy thought it was a nice juicy burger and no extra condiments were needed! Tara loved the onion rings on this burger. As I mentioned, I had never ordered anything with onion rings and those were most delightful! But the BBQ sauce made this more of a sweet burger. And I love sweet meat!

As for the sides, the BC Fries were delicious. They aren't just any ole fry. They are sprinkled with Rosemary Salt! It was tasty! But, when you do go, get the fried cauliflower, it is a must! Tara took the first bite and said, "I am not a fan of cauliflower and I dig this! The breading feels light and the cauliflower is not mushy!" I agree with Tara...I dig it! They were so good. To tell you the truth, I went back the next day for lunch and had an order just for myself!

Our next stop...Duke's. Duke's is located right as you get across the bridge separating East and West Lake Okoboji. Travel up the hill and Duke's is there on the west side.

Walking into Duke's is like walking into a burger shop in California. Surf is up! The restaurant is full of surfer decor, along with Palm trees and all.

The ladies at Duke's were expecting us so we took a seat in a booth and our food came out shortly after. They cooked us up their California Burger and Surfer Fries. I think we could have gone back to Duke's at least 9 times to have a unique specialty burger that you wouldn't find anywhere else in the Lakes area.

The California Burger is a customer favorite. It has bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, jack cheese and their secret sauce. Tara was trying to smuggle out as much secret sauce she could get her hands on! It was so good!

Tara broke the rules when it came to eating the hamburger. Yep, Tara I did. I threw you under the bus! And backed up! She picked out the best parts. She doesn't know what she is missing! She chose to not enjoy the avocado and tomato. But she would take a little extra secret sauce! HA!

My favorite part was the avocado with the secret sauce. Max liked the avocado as well. Joy thought their burger tasted very fresh and as a farm girl, she knows what fresh burger tastes like. Tara loved, yes the secret sauce, but she also liked the crispy bacon on the sandwich.

Once again, the side was unique and delicious. The Surfer Fries had melted cheddar cheese, gilled onions and the secret sauce. Tara saw the secret sauce on top for fries and was all in. Then she said, "Woah, wasn't expecting those onions." So good!

I felt like we were eating and running. We couldn't express our appreciation enough to these restaurants for sharing with us their specialties! But we waved our goodbyes and headed to the next shop. The Screaming Burro.

Once again, here is a shop that has a handful of specialty burgers. But first, the atmosphere. This shop has seating indoors for probably about 20 and then additional seating on their patio, once the weather is nice. But it also has a drive through! I don't know how they do it, gourmet burgers that you can grab in a drive through. Kind of like Starbucks...or wait Scooter's that is right next door. Gourmet drinks in a drive through...but in burgers. GENIUS! I know now why the drive through always has a line. These burgers are SO GOOD! But I would recommend anyone that frequents the drive through to park and go inside at least once. The clean modern setup is so inviting. AND there are coolers of all sorts of different types of beverages, Including a local favorite West O Beer.

I also need to give a shout out to one of my favorite photographers in the area, Drew Dau. His pictures have been seen in past issues of Lake Life. But what a surprise to see these amazing lake pictures on The Screaming Burro's menus! Nice job Drew!

This restaurant is just plain hip! (Is that an old person's term for cool?) But it really was. Big on their menu it says B.Y.O.B., and after I just told you all about their big selection of unique drinks, this didn't really make any sense! Then underneath the sign read, "BUILD YOUR OWN BURGER." Aren't they so clever! I loved it! I felt so "hip" just sitting in there. HA!

Out of all of their unique burgers, they chose to make us "The Rising Sun" burger. Does anyone remember if it was a double or a single? They make all their sandwiches a double or single. I think they made ours a single and it was HUGE! The Rising Sun Burger has a Burger topped with Jack Cheese, American Cheese, Bacon Jam, Fried Egg, Onion Ring, Lettuce, Tomato and Burro Sauce, all encased in a Toasted Potato Roll.

Okay back up. I mentioned that I wasn't sure about Onion Rings on a burger, but Burger & Co prepped me well for this.

So I was game. But a fried egg. What are they doing to this burger? And what in the world is bacon jam?

Now, I need to describe what happened when I took my first bite. I picked up my portion of the burger and made sure I had a little of everything on there and bit in. My eyes popped open and a "MMMMMM" escaped my mouth. Seriously, it was a verbal bite. You know how those happen. You can't contain it. I said, "What did I just taste?" And Melissa, from behind the counter, said, "It had to be the bacon jam." So, I don't know what bacon jam is, but like Tara wanting bottles of the secret sauce at Duke's, I wanted to bottle up that bacon jam. That was SO GOOD! I am sitting here, in my office, writing this and my mouth is watering , that is how good it was.

Melissa came out from around back with a dish of Queso and said, "We dip everything here in Queso." I looked at her and said. That is the most fun thing I have heard today. And Tara agreed, her favorite were the fries, dipped in queso. She thanked Melissa for the need to always have queso on all her fries in the future!

Max loved the fries as well. He just kept saying, "These fries, they're just so good." Joy, like me, had never had an egg on a hamburger and was pleasantly surprised with the added flavor it gave the burger.

Our bellies are getting full, and pants a little tight, but we still had one more stop for the day, and that was to The Ritz for their Lou Bacon Cheeseburger. Max has been talking about this burger for over a week now!
We get there and they had a table reserved for us right next to the window. They have a hugedeck and they are right on the water of

East Lake Okoboji. Right before you go under the bridge to get to West Lake Okoboji. You can come by boat, they have a lot of dock space for boats to park, or you can come by car, or bike, they are right along the bike trail.

So remember the deal is the restaurants cook us one burger to share and serve their favorite side with it. So by the end of the day, we will have had one full burger a piece after each one is split in fourths. Well, not only did they bring out their Lue Bacon Cheeseburger, but they brought out a burger they don't even have on their menu yet. I think they were using us as their guinea pigs. Oh yeah, challenge accepted!!! This second burger was called Black & White. It had a bun, but this bun was just like an everything bagel, with all of the different type of seeds on top, but it was still a bun, not a bagel. It had sautéed onions and cream cheese on the burger. WHAT? Who would do that? Wait, why do I keep asking that question. They do it because they know, obviously because it was DELICIOUS! We all highly recommended adding this new burger to their menu. So, if you find yourself at the Ritz look for that Black & White burger and give it a try.

Back to the Lue Bacon Cheesburger, it is served with Swiss and American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. It was a sweet pickle! This caught me by surprise but a very good surprise! The burger was delicious! They have hand pattied burgers; they were nice and thick. Max's favorite part was the fresh beef. Tara asked our server if they made the buns there as well, that is how fresh they were. They don't, but he easily could've fooled us. Joy loved the cream cheese on the burger, and the beef was amazing. I liked the surprise of the sweet pickle.

They served us with cheese curds, fries and a macaroni salad. The macaroni salad had cucumbers, tomatoes and I don't know what else! It was like a homemade salad and quite refreshing; this summer they have hopes of growing their own tomato, cucumber and basil to create this salad.

What a day! 2 more restaurants to hit tomorrow. What goodness will it bring?

Our first stop on our second day of burger madness as Max is calling it, is The Hutt Bar & Grill, right outside of Arnolds Park Amusement Park on Hwy, 71. Diana made us the Hutt Burger, which comes with Swiss cheese and freshly shaved ham, on top of a freshly made burger, served with a side of sweet potato fries. Diana also included a side of BBQ sauce, which she buys from a fellow Iowa company, Countryside BBQ, based out of Algona.

I didn't feel like I needed to add anything to my burger. I always add ketchup to nearly any burger, unless they serve it with some form of secret sauce because of course then that should be the condiment, right? I took my first bite and I loved the ham and Swiss on the fresh beef pattie. The next bite I dipped it in the BBQ sauce she had brought. And as I mentioned, I love sweet meat and that BBQ sauce made it that much sweeter. Tasted so good.

Max frequents The Hutt often, sometimes just to order a Dunker Burger on the run. Max said, "This is the first time I have tried The Hutt burger, I love the Dunker Burger so much I can't get myself to try anything else." I am guessing Max will have choices next time he goes to The Hutt because he loved The Hutt burger just as much!

Joy was the opposite—her go-to is The Hutt Burger. So she knew she would like it. The Hutt will switch out any of their hamburgers with grilled chicken. Joy mentioned The Hutt Burger with the chicken instead of the beef is one of her favorites as well.

Back to me ordering the same thing always. That same thing includes sweet potato fries. The Hutt has one of the best, if not the best sweet potato fries in the Lakes area. There were no leftover sides for Tara to package up on that trip!

Our last stop was at Tweeter's. Kae was a gracious host and just like the Ritz, served us TWO burgers instead of just one! The first was the Tweeter Burger. This is a burger topped with melted creamy peanut butter. Ummmm. Wait! What did you say? Peanut butter? Well the saying goes, "Don't knock it until you've tried it." Okay Kae, I will give it a shot! The second burger is the same but with a couple ingredients that the "regulars" put on it. What could possibly go with peanut butter? OF COURSE, fried egg and bacon! Nice. So, with the promise of not knocking it until I tried it, I tried it. This delicious burger has never been frozen, and it is hand pattied topped with the egg, peanut butter and bacon. Seriously delicious! Once again, I wouldn't be adding ketchup or mustard to this burger. The peanut butter, egg and bacon were all that was needed!

Joy loved how the peanut butter soaked into the burger. Max was impressed by the fresh taste of the beef and enjoyed the peanut butter a lot more than he thought he would.

What a couple of days! Each of these burgers were so unique from the next, we can't pick a favorite. If you ask anyone of us, we would say bits and pieces from each of the shops. So how do you pick the best. I will just leave you with, there are 7 days a week, take a week and try out each one of these burgers yourself!