WHEN I think about fast food, I can eat an order of fries from that golden arch place or an occasional burger from that supposedly royal place or two pieces of fried chicken from the Colonel’s hangout.
But, that’s why I really don’t like to call Culver’s — the Midwestern tradition making major inroads here in Florida — “fast food.” Yes, they serve you quickly and yes, there is a drive-through, but Culver’s is actually perfectly priced, fresh food with plenty that I can enjoy…The fact Culver’s also is famous for its better-than-ice-cream frozen custard is just a bonus.
The other bonus is that Jannah and I live only a mile from franchise owners Ann and Marty Roeske’s location between Starbucks and Chick-fil-A on S.R. 56, in front of Costco, so you know I’m checking the specials board every day for my old and new favorite custard flavors.
But, Ann and Marty agree with me that Culver’s isn’t really “fast food.”
“It’s good food done fast,” Marty says. “Every item on our menu is fresh, served quickly and priced right, especially when you consider the quality.”
Ann and Marty are natives of Wisconsin, where the chain started with its original location in 1984. The Roeskes purchased one of the first 100 franchises there, sold it and moved to what they felt had to be an untapped market in Florida. Their Wesley Chapel/Lutz location was one of the first in the Sunshine State and there are now nearly 700 locations in the U.S. and nearly a dozen across the Tampa Bay area, including Ann and Marty’s second Culver’s — which is getting ready to open on Monday, December 31 (not a misprint), also on S.R. 56, in Wiregrass Ranch, just east of the Shops at Wiregrass, near Audi Wesley Chapel.
“The new location is even closer to where we live in Wesley Chapel,” Ann says. “We’re really excited about it. This is such a great area to live and work.” She adds that all Culver’s locations also will be open on New Year’s Day.
As For The Food…
Of course, Culver’s is famous for its Butterburgers, so called because of the butter grilled into the buns, and they are a cut above most any other burger in their price range. I also really enjoy the Midwestern-style fried pork tenderloin sandwich (delicious with pickles and melted Swiss), the chicken tenders and even the homemade soups, including the chicken noodle, chicken with wild rice and the clam chowder.
The pot roast is similar to my Mom’s brisket recipe except for the gravy. But, the brown gravy is excellent (perfect for the mashed potatoes, too) and the pot roast itself is still fork tender, juicy and truly delicious. The crinkle cut fries are always hot and crispy and I even love the salads and lightly seasoned green beans with chopped onions. Fast food place, my bum!
One menu item that I personally don’t order but every Midwesterner in town is sure to love are Culver’s famous fried cheese curds.
“People really are crazy for the curds,” Marty says. “Anyone from Wisconsin, Minnesota or almost any Midwestern state will drive here just for them. They’re truly authentic.”
What’s For Dessert?
No one had to explain how good Culver’s frozen custard is to me. Every boardwalk in New York and New Jersey offered custard and I always liked it better than any soft serve, including my beloved Carvel. It has a higher fat content (surprise, surprise) than even most ultra-premium ice creams, and it’s so rich that even though I like to order a scoop with extra hot fudge, it becomes at least two or three decadent servings for me. The custard also is served in shakes and in Culver’s super-thick Concrete Mixers.
But, it’s the flavors of the day that keep me coming back for more. Any flavor with peanut butter, caramel, butterscotch and/or chocolate bars (Kit Kats, Snickers, etc.) already mixed in is a can’t-miss for this editor.
In other words, if you’re not already a Culver’s fan and you’re not craving any of the outstanding items described above, I suggest checking both your taste buds and your pulse!
For more info about our two local Culver’s, visit Culvers.com. The store in front of Costco is located at 2303 Sun Vista Dr. (33559) and can be reached by calling (813) 949-1414. The soon-to-open Wiregrass Culver’s is located at 28831 S.R. 56 (33543). And please tell Ann & Marty and their super-friendly crew that Gary at the Neighborhood News sent you!!!