Jurt and Jo's Eats and Treats: It sounds Dairy Queen-esque and shoves the words FAMILY DINING into your eyes the second you see their strip mall hideaway, off Highway 29 close to Wausau. Before you cross into Rib Mountain, before you pass over the Little Rib River, you've got a shot at some FAMILY DINING.

Look at it. Don't you want to just run up with an elderly man, plop in those Adirondack chairs, and bitch about weather for a few hours? The ice cream shop's got a crane game and some pinball the tykes can toil around with while they wait for their ice cream inside, and the adults can just belly up to the bar.

(Record skips)

Oh, come on. This is Wisconsin we're talking about. You get a beer, then you get a beer, then you get a burger -- the one with the beer cheese, or the macaroni and cheese -- then you get a beer, then you get blutterbunged by the size of your ice cream helping. You walk out to the tune of belly-slaps and blusterous exhales, and you're on the road at 1 p.m. after working off your first little beer buzz.

The Dairy State is full of worthy diners and bars. Let me introduce you to one of both, if I may.

"You eating or treating?"

The Basics: Without stuff like this, you'd only find this on accident. From what I can tell, I'm mis-typing the name by not using "Eat's and Treat's." I'm fine with that oversight. They have no website of their own.

I need to tell you that our server greeted us upon entry with: "Are you eating or treating?" We didn't know how to handle this until we saw the bar, decided we'd be doing a little of both, or a lot of both, and which one is drinking because we'll do plenty of that as well.

I don't remember how exactly we answered. The bar.

The bar's interior is like that of your buddy's garage, with its walls addled with beer tins and shelves packed with tchotchkes. He might not have a bathroom built into it, or a helmet-rockin' sloth on a bicycle situated above it, but otherwise it's very man-cavey. We sat near the sloth, in front of a television playing Vanilla Ice Goes Amish.

What I just thought about Vanilla Ice: He's like a Swiss Army knife ... whose knife you use as a screwdriver, whose Phillips you use as a chisel, whose scissors you use as a file, and whose file you've yet to unhouse. The 90s kids are still curious about him, though, so here we are with that flimsy filet knife and some screws that need tightening.

The menus were set before us by the woman at the door. She was motivated and attentive despite having only two customers. At times, other team members filled in to assist us. If this is a family-owned business, the family cares.

The burgers were fired at us out of a cannon (not really) and landed in a diner meal's default attire: Little red snack basket; thin, sketchy fries; eerily disc-like patties failing with grandeur at containing their toppings; and the red and white plaid napkin beneath. These are all positive attributes, if you're keeping score.

My wife kicked off by dropping a pickle on "the shelf," if you know what I mean (her words, not mine). A couple of macaroni noodles followed soon after, and ice cream soon after that. In total, a four-course meal would be fed to her sweatshirt.

"I hope you didn't want a clean wife the rest of the trip," she said, running her fingernail under a glob of cheese and lifting it from her hoodie. Her manicure upkeep is impeccable -- there isn't a wayward food wad in the world she couldn't snatch up.

The burger was cooked right, just a hint crunch of char on the bite but easy to chew. The pretzel bun had a firm shell, but squished and rose like a pillow. The beer cheese was zesty but not spicy, thick and simply a joy to eat and lick off my fingers. I'd bite, see a bunch ooze into the basket, run my next bite through that, repeat without rinsing.

Her mac-n-cheese was a clumsy operation, as mac-n-cheese burgers inherently are, but delicious nonetheless. I mean, if you like cheeseburgers and you like mac-n-cheese, you'll overeat mellifluously by exploring this one. We finished our burgers (oh, by the way, it's only $2.30 to make them doubles) and the ice creams essentially ordered themselves.

Her ice cream was called Pirate's Booty, a caramel flavor with all manner of crunchy trespassers. Ice cream sandwich bread might've been one of them. I chose Zanzibar Chocolate, made from the three richest chocolates Wisconsin can get imported. I didn't object to this in the slightest.

Below are the "single scoops of ice cream" we ordered apiece. It took our waitress three scoops to load up what they define as "one scoop." Our singular scoops took us 10 minutes apiece to consume.

Wisconsin prices, I swear, are a misprint everyone's just going with. Our double burgers, a local beer apiece (and I'm not talking Millers), and two ice creams totaled $30. That's a $45 meal in the Twinkies, easily, probably $50 if you're downtown or uptown.

In sum, Kurt and Jo's does nothing to calm Wisconsin's preeminent stereotype -- but neither do any of Wisconsin's visitors, and neither do anyone who's ever lived in Wisconsin. If we're all in agreement that best practice includes over-consumption of dairy and beer in their borders, who am I to suggest against that?

Go in, dive in, stagger out. It's like that line in a Streets song goes, "If you think you're a state, you definitely ARE a state."

Frankie's Pub and Grill in Sheboygan is almost conspicuous in its commonplace appearance: Bland, earthy-toned siding, uninspiring signage, second-floor windows that hint at apartment spaces. It's just another hole in the wall, right? Would you even step in there ironically?

Then you remember how prideful this region is of having stashed away gangsters back in the day. You begin to think this workaday approach might be hiding something of importance. You walk up to that creaky ol' door and step in.

Then, you get it.

A mannequin Capone shows you the specials upon entry, white suit, clean, fat ol' cigar in his free hand. The walls are loaded with legends: Sinatra, Jimmy Dean, Monroe, Hepburn, Scarface. The name of the bar is spelled out in big gold across the entire bar's top trim. You're in the presence of something, but you won't know it until it comes out to meet you.


It's a pint glass high and a foot across easily. Meet the Frankie's Challenge: Three buns, four patties, five-and-a-half pounds. It's the MFIC today, hanging out in the old bosses' hideout.

Don't worry: It's got plenty of rings you can kiss when it comes to you.

The Basics: Here's a random website with a pixellized photograph and skeleton details about Frankie's. To my knowledge, they don't have a website -- as if they need one, as if they'd want one. They've an unexpected selection of Wisconsin craft taps on the roster, and they play the Chargers and Cowboys if the Packers aren't playing.

Here was our route home from Door County without Frankie's. Here's our route with it. Notice the absence of regrets on that second map.

My wife and I stepped around Plaster Capone, and were greeted by a half-full establishment, maybe five or six at the bar. The window seats were washed out by sunlight, in sharp contradiction to the otherwise dusky little room. It wasn't long before a buzz-cut man hustled to the end of our table.

My wife had to look at the menu. I did not. My pointer finger rose up slowly, and dove to a thud on the Frankie's Challenge: The most elemental facets of burger-dom, five-and-a-half pounds strong. We also ordered some fries.

"What we'll do is," said the tender, stroking his goatee the way I would, "since the challenge takes up the entire grill, we'll bring the fries and the other burger out first."

It was faster than advertised, maybe a half-hour, for everything to come out.

This is what everything looked like:

Save your campy comparisons. They're no good here.

From bottom to top: Bun, pickles, onion, bacon, burger, cheese, burger, cheese, bacon, bun, onions, burger, cheese, burger, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, bun. A knife was plunged into its heart, but wasn't long enough to penetrate its whole body. After an extended photo shoot, I readied my jaw, pressed out some handles, and started the advance.

Chaos ensued. The squeeze freed grease and tomato juices, that immediately made their way down to the bottom bun and made it a wet paper towel. The top bun fractured. My first bite was a pathetic nibble of bottom bun, but my next bite gave me a station to work from. I worked the bottom and middle, earning a nice nostril full of cheese and onion bits in the process. I wiped it away, flipped the burger on its head, and began working the top.

Across the bar, a woman took pictures -- not an employee, not someone I knew, just a woman who'd been watching the Cardinals and decided this was more interesting. Is that weird? While you're thinking about that, know that I'm getting used to this. Is that weird?

The Frankie's challenge goes like this: Finish this boss in 45 minutes, it's free and you get a prize. I didn't bother. I made good headway in a short amount of time, but no prize was worth the next five hours in a car with this whole thing in my stomach. I called for the doggy bag barely a third of the way in.

This counts as pointing, right?

About that doggy bag: Do you think they make one big enough for this? My "box" was two paper plates and half a roll of saran wrap.

Challenge burgers are worth it, even if you flake on the challenge. Forget the week of meals I'm getting  from this: I'd pay $30 (THIRTY BUCKS, only!) just to hold this, on the right day. Our total bill (two "regular" burgers -- or whatever passes for regular around here -- fries, and two beers) ran us $64 lighter. That's easy.

Frankie's Pub is easy, too; if you're not in the know, it's easy to miss. It's easy to miss on your map, it's easy to miss in its own neighborhood (seriously, only six or seven people there on a Sunday?!).

That might be what makes it so special -- well, that and the humongous burger, I suppose.

Ronnally's pizza, Woodbury's must-have

Dear Woodbury,

It gives me great pride to say I've lived in your city longer than any other in my adult life. After hopping from home to home, surfing from couch to couch, you gave me the first address I bothered to register with the Postal Service. I went three years without wondering once when I'd be forced to pick up and go. You were chief in my transition from nomad to family man -- yet, sadly, that very transformation now forces me out.

As I write this, our belongings are boxed in the dining room. Our excess has been dropped off at Savers. The walls have been scrubbed down, our Internet provider advised, the rooms measured for carpet replacement. The shelves and cupboards are bare.

The next time I groan about Monday, I will do so from foreign soil: the winds of change have blown us to Plymouth.

I want to thank you before I leave, for three years of ill-timed red lights and deep-dish pizzas from Rocco's. You've got this cursed intersection, at 494 North and Lake St., whose light would go red as I approached it every morning, without failure. Rocco's had this coupon, for a free order of pizza fries with purchase of a large two-topping, that we never once gave the delivery guy. We had to have used it 100 times. We still have it.

There isn't much in life one can depend on, but you gave me a couple.

I want to thank you for three years of growth together. I lived out some of my darkest hours here, but I had many more of the best: The mornings running down Woodlane, the afternoons in Carver Lake Park, the nights at Ronnally's -- oh, man, the nights at Ronnally's -- the Sundays at Lakes, the Wednesdays at Jack's. We'd munch away meltdowns, one waffle fry at a time, at the Tavern Grill.

Meanwhile, I watched you become the fastest-growing suburb in Minnesota. I watched Cowboy Jack's and Punch Pizza move in. I watched Total Wine fall in, ass over teakettle. I watched the Best Burger Ever become Woodbury's first signature cheeseburger. I watched the Four Firkins set up shop just outside, and saw the signs for Patina. My wife loves Patina -- if you heard a loud scream from afar over the weekend, I can tell you exactly where that came from.

D-Spot wings

We could be anywhere in 15 minutes from our Lego-block townhome community, do just about anything. Little Oven two-for-ones, a walk on the Mississippi, beer and bacon Sundays at American Sky, and Pitchfork tours were all within reach. If we hauled enough ass, we could reach IKEA in 20 (you'd have to ask my wife why). The only place we couldn't reach, ironically, was the alien colony into which we've been shoved.

They've a gazillion guys and gals making brews over the river, but none do it like Lift Bridge. None do it like Big Wood. Day drinking at Washington Square. Nightcaps and mac at Smalley's. I'll be back this way for sure, but there was comfort in ease of access.

Now, I'll be forced to premeditate visits and head back at a reasonable hour -- practices I despise.

I'll miss the comedy. I'll miss the borderline-pervasive city name typeface (you'll never unsee it). I'll miss cruising by corny communities like Lake Inverness and The Seasons. I'll never forget the night a woman brought a crossbow arrow into a City Council meeting and made the chamber pass it around like a show-and-tell trinket. I'll still get my fill of soccer moms stomping their Audi brakes injudiciously, but you prepared me for this.

You gave me my first home as a husband. You gave me a nice park to grill and get drunk in, and a comfortable porch to smoke my cigars on. You raised me into my thirties, helped this yokel Duluthian become a man who can sort-of make it in the metro.

It might not home anymore, but it'll always be my pet burb and I'll always be grateful for my years in your borders. Almost everything I've become, I became here. I couldn't have chosen a better place. Woodbury, Minnesota.

Stay cool.