A slice of Midwestern Americana can be found in a small drive-in restaurant in Kenosha, WI, simply known as The Spot. For over 65 years, this small hamburger joint has been turning out thousands and thousands of flat grilled burgers annually. I have a dealer in the Kenosha area who was telling me about The Spot awhile back. On a recent visit to Kenosha, I decided to stop by the place for a burger.
The beginning of The Spot dates back to the twilight of World War II when Germany had been defeated and Japan would soon surrender. Harold DuBois had gotten an honorable medical discharge from the Army two years prior and had married his sweetheart, Janet, the year before. DuBois always wanted to run a drive-in, but he couldn't have picked a worse time to open a new restaurant. Beef was in short supply, as were items such as paper, napkins and buns. Even the cooking equipment the DuBois' procured was old and, according to Harold, "a bunch of old junk." But they carried on and on July 4, 1945, they served their first burger at The Spot Drive-In.
The original Spot Drive-In was at the corner of 75th St. and 22nd Ave. in Kenosha. (see map). The original building was a small brick structure. DuBois worked the grill, Janet worked the window and they had a single car hop. Sometimes when they ran out of food for the day, they simply had to close early. And because they had no wax paper to wrap the burgers in, they used newspapers.
The original Spot was a seasonal business, and to help make ends meet in the winter time Harold DuBois sold Christmas trees. DuBois was the first person to sell Norway and Scotch pines in the area. As the popularity of The Spot grew, they eventually expanded the building and added more car hops. In later years, The Spot became a year-round restaurant.
Janet semi-retired from the business in 1955, and when their son, Chuck, reached the sixth grade, they hired him to work at the place for 50 cents an hour. Harold eventually retired, and Chuck and his wife, Nancy, run the business today. (Truly partners to the end, Harold and Janet DuBois passed away a week apart in 2006.)
Hundreds of teens and college-aged kids worked as car hops at The Spot over the years. It was a coveted job that could pay well in the summertime. Probably the most famous carhop is 2012 Miss America Laura Kaeppeler. Miss Kaeppeler, a Kenosha native, worked at The Spot for six years throughout her high school and college years.
It was during the early afternoon on a clear and cold day when I pulled up in front of The Spot. I then made a rookie mistake - I got out of the car. A carhop yelled to me, "Sir, we can come take your order." I sheepishly jumped back in the car, glancing to my left and right at the regulars who were shaking their head at the "newbie".
The menu at The Spot is pretty basic. It features most of the items that you'd find at similar burger joint/drive-ins - burgers (including steakburgers), chicken and fish sandwiches, hot dogs (as well as chili dogs), plus fries, onion rings and deep-fried breaded vegetables. The Spot also features ice cream cones, sundaes, banana splits, shakes and malts. The menu is posted on the sides of the building under the soffit.
The carhop came over to take my order and I apologized for getting out of the car. She said, "Oh, don't worry. When it's busy, a lot of people will go up to the window. It's just that it's cold out and I didn't want you to have to stand at the window." Oh, that was nice of her!
I ended up ordering a double cheeseburger with everything (ketchup, mustard, onions and pickles). I had a bottle of water with me, so I didn't get anything else. It was a good 15 minutes before she came out with my burger in a white sack with The Spot's logo on the side. I gave her a couple extra bucks for enduring the cold conditions that day.
The burger was wrapped in wax paper with the logo on top. When I unwrapped it, the juice from the burger, along with melted cheese, stuck to the wrapper. I always carry a "smeg towel" in the car with me to quickly clean up spills or to use as a napkin if needed. I put that on my lap because I could tell this was going to be a messy burger.
The first bite of the burger simply explained to me why generations of Kenoshans have flocked to The Spot for nearly 70 years. The burger was misshapen as it appears that it was started in a ball and flattened by a spatula on the grill. It wasn't pressed too much that the juice was completely squeezed out of the patty, however. But the outer shell of the patty was crisp and very flavorful.
The burger featured a copious amounts of veggies and condiments, but not too much to detract from the overall great taste of the burger meat. The bun was pretty average, but still went well with the burger. And the patties weren't too large, so I was able to easily finish the double cheeseburger. It was, probably, a 1/3 of a pound total.
And it was messy. I generally rate how good a burger is by the amount of napkins that you use when you eat it. Five napkins came in the sack and I used them all. It was a very, very good burger.
The Spot doesn't take credit cards (but they do have an ATM on the grounds) and they are open Sunday thru Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., 3:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The burger was outstanding and you could tell the flat grill was seasoned by years and years of cooking burgers on it. I would have no problem wholly recommending The Spot Drive-In for a good burger and a slice of Americana if you visit the Kenosha area. (Picture courtesy Paul Evagnoni)