Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Culver's

On our road trips, when we go out to eat, we usually stick with what's familiar...with two exceptions. 1) Barbecue, because it's really all just meat and sauce, although everyone does it just a little bit differently. 2) Fast food, because a trip to California without a stop at In-N-Out is a wasted trip to California, right? A few fast food joints such as In-N-Out have developed cult-like followings, in part because they aren't all over the country like McDonald's/Wendy's/etc are, and because keeping supply down helps increase demand.

Now enter Culver's: I've heard them described as the "In-N-Out of the Midwest". As in, good unhealthy food, and you can only find them in a certain area of the country. So when I drove through the Midwest on my way back from Colorado, I figured, better take advantage!


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Walking into the Culver's in Urbandale, Iowa (a suburb of Des Moines), my first impression was...well, what the heck do I order? What are Culver's signature items, upon which they've based their reputation? There are a couple of ways one can figure that out without outing yourself as a lame outsider and asking someone (something I always try to avoid when doing this sort of thing):
1) Look at the promotional photos scattered throughout the restaurant, and on the windows. What is most prominently featured? Ignore promotional features that include prices (these are sale items rather than signature items), or say "new".
2) Does the name of anything on the menu have a trademark?

In Culver's case, their burgers are branded as "Butterburgers (TM)". Well, there you go. Let's have one! With a side of fries, of course. (By the way, it wasn't clear to me what was so "buttery" about their burgers.)


Culver's other signature item appears to be their frozen custard, but I passed on that, because I actually get more enjoyment out of a good burger than I do ice cream.

Well, it was delicious! So, yay. I don't think it's really fair to call it the "In-N-Out of the Midwest", though, because the food is nowhere near as greasy as In-N-Out or Five Guys. Which I actually think is a good thing, considering that Culver's didn't give me indigestion or anything. Fries and burgers don't need to be swimming in a puddle of grease to taste good. The 20-year-old me would probably strongly disagree with me on this, but the 31-year-old me says that Culver's is better because of it. (Now, I'm sure Culver's is still pretty unhealthy regardless, but at least I didn't feel like I was killing myself by eating there.)

Next time I'm driving through the Midwest and decide to stop at a Culver's, maybe I'll have dessert, too.

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