Cicero: Persistent professor tracked down A&W barbecue recipe (2024)

Cook's Corner

Linda Cicero| Athens Banner-Herald

It seems a lot of us have fond memories of not only the frosty cold glass mugs of root beer at A&W Root Beer stands, but of the food as well. B. Chamberlain asked if anyone knows how to make the barbecue as served at the stand on Madison Street in Eau Claire, Wis., back in the 1960s. She called the sandwich "the best-tasting anywhere."

Wonder of wonders, the recipe has been found! And it turns out, it's not what we'd traditionally call barbecue, but is closer to a Sloppy Joe or "loose meat" sandwich.

"As a teenager, I washed glasses at that wonderful root beer stand owned by Byron Lord," writes David J. Johnson, social-work professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. "It was a family enterprise with his wife, daughter Rita, his sister-in-law Eva Dahl and his mother-in-law. ...

"The loose-meat hamburger recipe was a family secret, and mothers in the neighborhood tried to duplicate it without success. Many years later, some friends and I had driven to the Norske Nook in Osseo, Wis., for lunch and their wonderful pie. We got into a conversation with a farmer there who asked if we knew his relatives by the name of Lord that lived in Eau Claire.

"Of course I was delighted to meet this man and asked him about the secret hamburger recipe. He said that Rita Lord was married and lived in Northfield, Minn. I gave him my address, and he promised to mail me Rita's address. He did just that, and I wrote Rita with some remembrances of our days at the old root beer stand. I also inquired about the recipe for the A&W burgers, and she promptly sent it to me with kind words of those days so long ago.

"Here is the secret 1950s recipe from the A&W root beer stand that has been closed for so many years. The original burgers were served on Tender Crust Bakery buns."


8 pounds ground beef

1 cup ketchup

½ cup Open Pit Barbecue Sauce

2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons pepper

2½ cups finely chopped onions

Brown and drain hamburger. Make an open space in middle of pan and add other ingredients except onions. Stir good and often. When it begins to simmer, add onions. Simmer until onions are translucent and done. Serve on buns. Makes 32 servings. Leftovers can be frozen.

Per serving: 218 calories (48 percent from fat), 11 g fat (4.6 g saturated, 4.9 g monounsaturated), 74 mg cholesterol, 23 g protein, 4.5 g carbohydrates, 0.3g fiber, 628 mg sodium.


ESPN's college football analyst Todd Blackledge has spent years seeking out unique eating spots while on the road for his "Taste of the Town" segments.

Now he's written a book, "Taste of the Town: A Guided Tour of College Football's Best Places to Eat" (Center Street, $20), highlighting his favorite spots, interspersed with restaurant recipes and game-day specialties contributed by coaches and their wives.

For the University of Miami, Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor in Dania Beach, Fla., gets the nod, and he provides the recipe here for chicken chili from Hurricane's head coach Al Golden (as prepared by Kelly Golden). It's a fun book with recipes that aren't fussy and a little football lore thrown in.

Other schools in the book include the University of Florida, Florida State, Boston College, Clemson, Auburn, Alabama and the University of Wisconsin.


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

4 cups chopped yellow onions

2 tablespoons cup minced garlic

2 bell peppers, 1 red and 1 yellow, cored, seeded and chopped

2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern beans

1 teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon cayenne

Salt and pepper to taste

4 large tomatoes

2 to 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Cook the onions until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the bell peppers, beans, chili powder, pepper flakes, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook 1 minute.

In a food processor, crush the tomatoes in batches (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add the tomatoes to the saucepan, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Rub chicken breasts with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 30 to 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Cut into 3/4-inch chunks. Add the chicken to the chili and simmer, uncovered, another 20 minutes. Serve with crackers or cornbread. Makes 12 servings.

Per serving: 254 calories (22 percent from fat), 6.3 g fat (1.1 g saturated, 3.2 g monounsaturated), 60 mg cholesterol, 26 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 5.3 g fiber, 121 mg sodium.


I always read in your column about people who find something they like at a potluck, and then they can't get the recipe. I always thought that was hooey, but then my own niece told me at a Labor Day reunion that she couldn't give me the recipe for her biscuits because the recipe was her secret invention. All I can tell you is they tasted like old-fashioned pimiento cheese. There's got to be someone with a similar recipe to share.

- Rebecca, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

• Write to Linda Cicero at or c/o Food, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. Personal replies are not possible.

Cicero: Persistent professor tracked down A&W barbecue recipe (2024)
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