Kurt and Jo’s in Wisconsin: It’s About What We’re All About in Wisconsin

The front entrance to Kurt and Jo's Eats and Treats in Marathon City, Wisconsin

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.

A cheeseburger and French fries basket at Kurt and Jo's Eats and Treats in Marathon City, Wisconsin

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.”