Kewpee Lunch

Review by: Michael Stern

Kewpee Lunch | A little History

Kewpee Lunch dates back to the pre-Depression days; and although today it is a spanking-clean stainless steel and Formica-table urban burger joint with lovely little images of Kewpee dolls in the tiles along the wall, it has all the ambience and the no-frills menu of a 1920s urban hash house. A big glass case along the back wall is filled with old-time Kewpies and memorabilia of the Kewpie Doll, the baby-faced munchkin designed by Rose O’Neil in 1909 that became one of the most familiar pop-culture icons of the century’s early decades.

What to eat at Kewpee Lunch

Sit at counter or dinette tables, and order either a hamburger or a double (or a bowl of good Midwest-style chili). The hamburgers start as a 1/6-pound or 1/3-pound sphere of fresh ground beef that is hand-fashioned into a patty, then flattened on the grill and cooked until crusty brown, finally sandwiched in a toasted bun with condiments of choice.

What to drink at Kewpee Lunch

To drink with this lunch counter hamburger, there are homemade root beer, a thick made-to-order milk shake, or a malted milk. The Kewpee Lunch menu notes that Racine, Wisconsin is the birthplace of malted milk. This refers to the fact that Racine is home to Horlick’s, the company that makes malted milk powder, originally developed in 1877 as a weight-gain aid for children.

What To Eat

double hamburger

malted milk

Root Beer

Frosted Malted


Kewpee Lunch Recipes


What do you think of Kewpee Lunch?

3 Responses to “Kewpee Lunch”

Michael Murphy

February 22nd, 2022

I grew up in Racine, and had a downtown paper route into many of the businesses there, but, I’d always stop at Kewpee’s for a burger during my deliveries, and 2 on cold winter days.


Randolph Becker

September 14th, 2008

I grew up with the Kewpee Hotel Restaurant in Utica, NY, right next to the Universalist Unitarian Church. Since my mother ran the Sunday School, we were often there late, and that meant Kewpee! Hamburgers beyond belief, great fries, and Frosted Malteds. In high school it was only two blocks from Utica Free Academy, so it was a popular hangout.

Alas, “progress” came and the Kewpee went, to be replaced in succession by an empty lot, a Burger King, an empty lot, and a Dunkin’ Donuts. But the memory of taste remained.

So I began my detours on trips to elsewhere, heading for Lima, OH and Racine, WI. I mean detours of more than a hundred miles. My first wife, in mid-detour, asked one time if I was serious about driving that far for a hamburger and milkshake. When she finally had a taste, she knew I was right.

Story has it that Wendy’s chain founder Dave Thomas was inspired in many ways by Kewpee: individually shaped burgers, thick chocolate shake/dessert. Don’t know if it’s true, but there is only one Kewpee’s.


Julie Balke

September 3rd, 2005

I have been a frequent visitor to Kewpee since approximately 1952, when I discovered it across the street from Zahn’s Department Store (where my Aunt Nora was the head of the alteration department). I devoured hamburgers, french fries, malts, cherry pie and root beer for the next 20 years, at the rate of once or twice a week. In junior high and high school, this authentic diner was our “teenage hangout”. The jukebox sang continuously all weekend, all year. My family and I live in Florida now and we don’t get back very often. I have never found hamburgers that taste as good as Kewpee’s anywhere, except the Kewpee’s in Lima, OH. I think they should start sending them out – Kewpee deprivation is hard on the taste buds!


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