A Taste For It

11-11_burger_friesBY Jamie Lee Rake

So what if we’re a mite late getting to the party when it comes to 11:11 Comfort Food (417 S. Main, Fond du Lac; 920-933-6566)? Readers of another paper serving its home town have awarded the eatery specializing in hamburgers and beignets numerous readers choice awards in its first year of operation. Good for them, really. But the place hasn’t come under yours truly’s scrutiny, has it? Not until now, anyway.

Yes, generous, if imprecisely allotted ground beef patties (the large variation of which I was told could have a two or three ounce variation by an enthusiastic cook/clerk at my latest visit) may be 11:11’s savory calling card. But sometimes the contrarian in me gets the better of my culinary senses, such as my first time at 11:11, when a veggie burger seemed like the thing to try.

Think of it this way: if the place can do right with its sandwich option by carni-phobes, they must be doing spectacularly well by the sammies they serve with actual moo meat, right? That theory proved correct.

Whether or not the veg’ patty was a store-bought Garden Burger, another commercial variety, or one of 11:11’s own concoction, it’s a winner. Neither with that weird, overtly faux taste and texture combo of Boca products nor a crumbly morsel lacking heft when encountering teeth, it’s worth a meatless return trip for that reason alone.

Then there’s the bun. The fluffy, hearty wonderful bun. With that and the assortment of free condiments – ketchup, yellow mustard, pickle chips, onions (give me them both raw and fried, thanks) and may-along with some sautee’d mushrooms and a hard fried egg,  my server thought my creation to be one especially apt for breakfast. He was partly right. I’d eat it again at any time of day.

The traditionalist in me still wanted to try 11:11’s French fries. Double fried, says the signage. One might think that going into the bubbling breach twice would render the skins-on strands of potato greasy to the second power. Perhaps amazingly, that’s not really the case. Julienned with the same sort of disregard for proportional propriety as the burgers, they may be Fondy’s most generous portion of pomme frites, too. What some establishments would call their large is what 11:11 calls its small. Not overly salty, they’re worth the caloric splurge.

11-11_SignA couple of subsequent visits led me to the their bovine flesh specialty. Lest you’re famished as the day is long or have a metabolism that makes hummingbirds envious, a single burger may suffice for most patrons. Especially if said patrons have eaten early the same day and may plan to do so later in the same 24-hour period. The same array of toppings that festooned my veggie patty complemented my burger at least as well as they did my first 11:11 entree’.

I must have been close to starvation to order the Hump Burger, a hamburger topped with a heap of smoky pulled pork. As if I wouldn’t down the whole thing? Of course, I did! The same option is available for the slit and flat-top grilled Nathan’s Beef Frankfurters they serve by the vaguely perverse name of the Hump Dog. The same treatment could likely be had for their crispy chicken sandwich,  B.L.T., Patty Melt, fried fish sammitch and, if one desires being a contrarian to the point of contradiction, the veggie burger.

My next visit will likely be for one of 11:11’s inverted bun specialties. Yup, the proper  top and bottom of the bun are put in the middle, so the flatter insides can be grilled. Apart from the Patty Melt with its Provolone and fried onions, that includes an assortment of increasingly complex grilled cheeses. Adding bacon, a thin burger and egg doubles the price of the original model, but it’s still under $8. And if you wanted to add some pulled pork, that shouldn’t be any trouble, either.  

And the beignets? A Fondian friend who has visited 11:11 both with his children and alone tells me that he wishes the French, fried, pillowy pastries that resemble the love children of doughnut holes and ravioli were made on premises. Maybe that would make them better, but the ones they import from New Orleans’ Cafe’ Du Monde are still tasty as they ought to be by my taste buds. The black raspberry, hot fudge and salted caramel dipping sauces (one comes with an order) differently enhance the crunch, doughy, chewy morsels covered in cinnamon & sugar, or powdered sugar. A small order is a big-enough-for-two, eight pieces. Sauce cups could be wider to facilitate dipping a beignet’s entire side, however.

Special mention must be made of 11:11’s restrooms, gender-coded with Popeye and Olive Oyl. Not only do the paintings of the cartoon sailor and his best gal fit within the Hollywood theme of the framed pictures adorning 11:11’s back wall, it has me thinking that stewed spinach may be another burger topping they could add to their already scrumptious menu…

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