The Weary Traveler Freehouse

I had the best burger in Madison today and you’ll never guess what was on it. First let me tell you about where I had it.

My wife suggested the Weary Traveler recently. She said that her and her late husband used to frequent the establishment on a regular basis. I guess that’s what it means to frequent a place. Whatever.

My wife ordered it, but I did NOT order Bob’s (Organic) Bad Breath Burger.  As soon as the server brought our plates, I knew that was a mistake. There was nothing wrong with the Hungarian Goulash I was served, as a matter of fact it was very good. It just wasn’t Bob’s (Organic) Bad Breath Burger.

Had I known, that we were sitting in the home of Bob’s (Organic) Bad Breath Burger, consistently near or at the top of anybody’s list of the top ten burgers in Madison, I would have ordered it.  Had I known that I was that close to one of the finalists in Madison Magazine’s 2015 Burger Madness Poll, I would have asked, “May I please have Bob’s (Organic) Bad Breath Burger?”

C’est la vie – it was not to be.  I saved the trip back to the Weary Traveler for a review visit.

The Review Visit

I had the chance to go back at 12:30 on a  Friday afternoon.  Even though there is a door at the corner of this building that sits at the intersection of Willy and Few Streets, the way in is the side door. Ready to make my grand entrance,  I…stuck my chest out a bit, straightened out and…  I stumbled through the door like a big clod. It’s a good thing that patrons and staff can’t see guests as they come through the door. There is a drapery hanging in the hall to keep the cold air out in the winter.

So, slipping quietly in, I took a seat at the old wooden bar where a bar napkin and menu were in front of me almost immediately.  Two people were seated at the nearest end of the bar working  a crossword puzzle out loud, eating lunch and drinking Bloody Marys.  One more was seated toward the other end of the bar with a laptop in front of him, eating lunch as well.  There were two servers that took care of what amounted to two rooms with about half of the 25 tables or so occupied with people having lunch.  The staff was nicely attentive my whole stay.

First order of business, a beer. A fine selection of brews were on tap, all of which come from small local or regional micro-breweries.  The Great Dane, Lake Louie, Ale Asylum, Potosi, House of Brews, Founders and Bell’s are what were available at the time. Just about all of them were winter beers and, not being a big fan of stouts, darks, pilsners or hoppy beer, I was looking at what was available in the bottle.  A nice selection there as well – Ale Asylum, Capitol Brewery, Goose Island, Czechvar and several more.  I went with the “El Heffe” Weiss.

Setting the opened bottle in front of me, the bartender repositioned the menu as if to say, here you go, take your time in deciding what you want to eat. Absolutely not! I know and everyone reading this review knows, that wasn’t going to be necessary. One thing was on my mind – “I’ll have Bob’s (Organic) Bad Breath Burger please – cooked medium.”  I think the guys looked up from their crossword puzzle briefly in deference to my resolve.

I had been waiting to say those words for a few weeks.  It was nice to finally get them out. I settled in to the comfortable old wooden barstool, took a sip of El Heffe and looked around at the menagerie of stuff that make up the décor of the place as the two at the end of the bar began floating words as possible answers to the crossword clues.  (No guys, an 8-letter word for, “The state of having only one mate at one time” is not, monotony.)

An eclectic mix of decorative items are at home all over the dining area.  Portraits hang on the walls that look like paint-by-numbers – Martin Luther King Jr, Anthony Perkins with big hands and one that looked like it was painted from the Polaroid Self-Portrait of Andy Warhol. Do you know the one I’m talking about? It’s on eBay for $65,000.

I also saw a framed Royal Spade Flush hanging on the wall and couldn’t help but imagine that it was the winning poker hand that got the owner the restaurant. A library of books too high to reach, old musical instruments and South African currency on a cork board where you might expect to see the establishment’s first dollars pinned on display – all worked in concert to make me comfortably occupied until my food arrived.

Bob’s (Organic) Bad Breath Burger

When it did arrive, I must have gotten noticeably excited because the bartender reacted with a smile and said, “Here you go, it’s all yours.” Well, I was glad of that because it looked great!

A half-pound of quality hand packed ground beef was cooked to perfection and seasoned nicely. The burger was adorned with green goddess dressing, caramelized onions, garlic, tomatoes and a little kick – Pickapeppa Sauce…just enough to say, “Hello.”

Slipped into the middle of all this was a slice…yes, a slice of cream cheese. You’ve got to be kidding me! This interesting assortment of burger goodness sat in a bun that was just the right size.

The burger patty on any hamburger has to be slightly bigger than the bun.  If it is, then my favorite bite is the first one and that was the case with Bob’s (Organic) Bad Breath Burger.  The burger was big enough, juicy enough and savory enough not to allow the condiments that sat atop to smother out the taste.  Absolutely astounding!  The mix of tastes, textures and temperatures worked well.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Presented alongside the main event on my plate were mixed greens and fried Yukon Gold potato slices – not as thin and crispy as kettle cooked chips but not thick and soft like potato wedges. The potatoes seemed to me to be just the right size, seasoned nicely and fried perfectly.

I was told that the Weary Traveler sources everything they can from local suppliers, farms and purveyors. It worked! All of that going on in front of me and a proclivity for the local economy as well – it added up to a delicious lunch I could feel good about. The burger was a big one but manageable, so come hungry and pair it up with your favorite brew. It tasted great.

On my way out I saw that Boo Radley is live at the Weary Traveler every 4th Wednesday. I wonder what he does…aside from leaving little toys in the knotholes of a tree.  (Or was it Boo Bradley?)

The Weary Traveler Freehouse
1201 Williamson Street
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 442-6207

Open at 11:30 am Daily.
Menu available as take out
Accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard and Discover

Leave a Reply