What You Never Knew About Solly's Butter Burgers

You're sitting in a small dining room, occupied not by any booths or tables but a single long wrap-around counter. There are Milwaukee-centric decorations on the wall, with perhaps the most eye-catching item being a display case full of Milwaukee Brewers memorabilia. But you aren't here just to talk about the Brewers' performance in last night's game; you're here because of one thing and one thing only: the Butter Burger. 

Through the friendly chit-chat of other patrons at the counter, you can hear the whirring of the old-time milkshake machine churning a chocolate malt in a metal cup, the hiss of the deep-fryers as a server dumps a basketful of golden-brown crinkle fries onto a plate, and the seductive bubbling of beef patties and butter pats singing together in one delicious choir.

Described by Men's Journal as an "extraordinary, perfect piece of engineering," the butter burger combines a juicy beef patty with fresh Wisconsin butter. It's a deliciously simple concept, popularized by Midwestern fast food chain Culver's. Yet while Culver's boasts that it prepares its famed burgers by "lightly buttering the crown of the bun for an extra touch of goodness," the company doesn't seem to have any claim that it alone invented the butter burger. 

It would seem that the origins of the butter burger may not lie in a fast food chain but rather in a single restaurant that lies hidden in the backdrop of historic Milwaukee breweries, stadiums, and motorcycle museums. That place is known simply as Solly's Grille.

Solly's Grille is home to the original butter burger

Located at 4629 North Port Washington Road in Milwaukee, Solly's Grille is, at first glance, a cross between a sprawling residential home and a neighborhood tavern. But looks can be deceiving! This humble restaurant is said to be the home of the original Wisconsin butter burger. 

According to Solly's history, Kenneth "Solly" Salmon opened a small coffee shop in Glendale in 1936 (60-some years before Culver's), serving up hamburgers made from fresh ground sirloin topped with cooked onions and a generous pat or two of Wisconsin creamery butter that soaks into both the burger and the bun. Solly's Grille soon became more than just a local hotspot as its buttery burgers, crinkle fries, and malted milkshakes began to spread beyond Wisconsin's borders. In February 2022, the restaurant was honored as an American Classic by the James Beard Foundation (via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

There was a dark period in Solly's history, however. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Solly's was forced to close due to the strict regulations in 2021, placing the 85-year-old restaurant in danger of closing. With only $3,000 in the bank, according to FOX 6, Solly's was on its last legs — that is, until a generous grant from Barstool Sport's Barstool Fund helped to pull the restaurant out of the red. 

Solly's Grille is open for business seven days a week and also sells make-at-home burger kits in case you want a bit of Wisconsin to take home with you. Now, this connection is just one thing you didn't know about Culver's.