By Martha Keeffe —
There is something about a drive-in restaurant like Kate’s North in Holmen that says summer.
“I can remember driving by (what originally opened as an A&W in 1953 and most recently The Frosty Mug) and stopping in when I was little,” says owner Kate Gerrard as to why she purchased the restaurant. “People love to share their stories of riding their bikes here; they have fun memories regarding this place and I wanted to continue this legacy for Holmen.”
After extensive renovations, Gerrard reopened the drive-in during April 2018 and was met with great enthusiasm from the community. “That first summer we were extremely busy. It wasn’t unusual to sell over 200 ice cream-related items in any given day.”
Using locally sourced produce, meats, and buns (from Fayze’s in La Crosse), Gerrard aims to treat her customers to superior service and competitively priced, high-quality food. “I have been a restaurateur in the area for 17 years,” says Gerrard, who also owns Kate’s on State (known as Shady Kate’s) and Kate’s Pizza Amore, both in La Crosse. “And I’ve found that in order to be successful, my restaurants need to be about my customers and my employees, not about me.”
Reflecting that unassuming attitude, Gerrard has designed her menu to remain true to time-honored favorites while introducing new items that appeal to the general public. Classics like the Straight-Up Burger (¼-pound fresh Angus beef with cheddar and onion), chicken tenders or a classic Hot Dawg will continue to be available, even as The Holmen Burger (¼-pound fresh Angus beef with cheddar, bacon, tomato, lettuce and onion), The Viking (¼-pound fresh Angus beef with cheddar, pepper jack, bacon, chili, lettuce, tomato and Cha Cha Sauce) and BBQ pork (with bacon, cheddar and coleslaw) establish themselves as must-have eats. In addition, at the behest of her customers, she has introduced Italian selections (Italian sausage and Italian beef hoagies, hot links, Mambo Italiano and Italian ice) as well as daily food or ice cream specials.
As I was fortunate enough to sample some drive-in fare, Justin Tyler, one of the front-of-house managers, recommended that my companion and I share an order of Wisconsin cheese curds, The Portobello (a sandwich made with a portobello mushroom cap, swiss, cheddar, onion, tomato, lettuce and Cha Cha Sauce), the Mushroom Swiss Burger (portobello, swiss and onion), french fries (which were delightfully crispy) and a mug of 1919 Root Beer. And for dessert: a Mississippi Mud Slide Sundae (twist, chocolate chips, Oreos, cookie dough, chocolate and caramel). All of it was delicious!
“That’s because Kate lightly seasons her fries with a little extra love that she calls Mamma’s magic garlic,” says Tyler. “And, anything served with the Cha Cha Sauce—kind of like a zippy Thousand Island—is going to be good!”
But according to Gerrard, it’s more than the food that makes her establishment great. “It’s my employees—Sydney Navoichik, Zach Ammonn, Sam Fritsch and all the high school students, who work hard throughout the summer—that keep this place going.”
For more information, find Kate’s North on Facebook, online at https://www.loc8nearme.com/wisconsin/holmen/kate-s-north-drive-in/5184890/ or stop in at 614 N. Main St. in Holmen.