Weary Traveler Freehouse
1201 Williamson Street, Madison, WI 53703 (map); (608) 442-6207
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Bob's Bad Breath Burger is spectacular and well worth the guaranteed halitosis that follows
Want Fries With That? No fries, but the potatoes cooked in oil and garlic are delicious
When I woke up on my third and final day in Madison, I wasn't sure where the day's burger would be eaten. Dotty Dumpling's Dowry and The Plaza Taven are local legends and both were calling out my name. But there was a third burger that I couldn't stop wondering about: Bob's (Organic) Bad Breath Burger at Weary Traveler Free House, a bar and restaurant in Madison's hippest of hip neighborhoods.
A perusal of the menu at Weary Traveler does not inspire confidence in the place's ability to make a burger. Options like Tom Ka Tofu and vegan chili are not ones I've typically found in my favorite burger joints. But one step inside, with its large wooden bar, dim lighting, eclectic décor, and array of board games for public use, and it's clear the place offers the kind of comfort that inspires confidence in the burger. I have no idea what the kitchen at Weary Traveler can do with tofu, but I do know it produces an insanely delicious burger.
Bob's Bad Breath Burger has been renamed Bob's (Organic) Bad Breath Burger thanks to the use of beef from Lange Farm Meats. The grass-raised, corn-finished meat is bursting with clean, rich beef flavor. Despite the variety of toppings piled on and the strong flavors served with the burger, the beef remained the star of the show. But the rest of the creative and delicious plate came in at a very close second.
The beautiful piece of beef has garlic mixed in with it and sits atop a sizable bed of caramelized onions. On top of the burger sits a thick piece of fresh tomato and a slab of cream cheese. Cream cheese? Oh yes, and it works perfectly. See, in addition to the toppings there is not one, but two different sauces. Pickapeppa Sauce is a lightly sweetened Jamaican concoction that is actually often served with cream cheese. The second sauce is a green goddess dressing, a mayonnaise-based sauce that gets a whole lot of extra punch thanks to the anchovies in it. With all that extra flavor on there, the cream cheese serves to smooth everything out while adding a nice amount of extra fat to the burger.
In the previous two days, I'd had a great burger at The Great Dane and a phenomenal burger at The Old Fashioned, but both those places missed my desired rare by a little bit. Fortunately for me, the dude making vegan chili and tofu dishes in the back of Weary Traveler absolutely nailed rare. And even with all the additional flavor on there, that perfectly cooked patty shined through
The sole problem with this burger was the bun, the bottom half of which had no chance of holding up to all the toppings and beef juice. It ended up being an eight-napkin meal but I didn't mind at all. This thing could not be my daily burger, but for an occasional treat, there are few that are better. Incidentally, Robyn did a great job editing my pictures, but if you want to see some truly beautiful shots of Bob's Bad Breath Burger, take a look at this professional photographer's site.
The Weary Traveler is so committed to ensuring customers remember they ate the bad breath burger that they decided the garlic, onions, and sauces on the patty are not enough. Both sides that come with the burger contribute to the halitosis that remains with people for hours after finishing their meal. The salad of fresh greens is covered in a tangy Italian dressing, and rounding out the dish are some outstanding chunks of Yukon Gold potatoes that took a long bath in oil and an insane amount of garlic. Fries are not an option, but with potatoes this good, that's not remotely a problem.