Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The $200 Burger

Although absurdly priced burgers do exist...think Kobe & lots of truffles...this $200 burger isn't exactly the cost of your lunch but more appropriately the cost of getting to lunch.  Popular among local aviators is a lunch rendezvous at Piccadilly Lily Diner at the Tri-County Airport near Lone Rock, WI.   The short flight from Morey Airport in Middleton, WI, has an approximate price tag of just under $200.  Tack on the real price of the burger (approx $6.50) and you've got your "$200" burger.

This lunch escapade was my most recent dining adventure.  The surgeon I routinely work with took up flying lessons just over a year ago and ever since has been regaling his surgical staff with stories from his time in the sky.  These stories were often ended with "When I get my license I'm taking you all up for a ride.  We'll go to Lone Rock and get lunch...the $200 burger." We would all politely nod our heads in approval with a chuckle while giving one another side glances of apprehension.  Though we were happy for his passionate pursuit, we weren't entirely sure we wanted to partake.  

The moment of truth finally arrived yesterday.  It was a beautiful clear (cold) day and we were expecting to finish our work early.  Our friendly surgeon announced, "Today is the day.  If you are all free, how about I take you to Lone Rock for lunch by way of a plane?".  What could we say?  How could we argue?  And, how could we say "no" to his look of sheer boyish delight?  I think, "Um, okay" was our collective answer.  Our apprehension wasn't so much about our new pilot's abilities, he's extremely conscientious, but more about falling from the sky while strapped in to a tin can with wings and, possibly even worse, about being too green around the gills to even eat once we arrived.  I popped my Dramamine equivalent and practiced my yoga breathing.  After all, what is life without some adventure? 


Thankfully our flight was uneventful and was actually quite beautiful.  Cruising at an altitude of 2500 feet gave our familiar Wisconsin River landscape a whole new appeal.  Our short flight to Lone Rock took all of 17 minutes from Middleton.  As you might imagine, the airport in Lone Rock is rather small.  A short runway that ends at a few small buildings.  The Piccadilly Lily was one of those buildings.  Once on the ground, our pilot taxied the plane right on over to the Piccadilly's "parking lot". The whole setting couldn't have been more quaint and unusual.  The restaurant is a small salt box diner like you'd expect to see in any of our tiny rural towns.  The parking lot, however, is designed for private airplanes.  Simply fly in and park your plane in the lot like a car.  It is quite a sight.  Once inside the diner we saw that there are parking spaces for cars on the other side, but what fun is that?


The diner has about 10 tables, one waitress, and a bustling lunch crowd.  The crowd was pretty mixed.  Everywhere from beautifully groomed men in starch white collared shirts with designer ties to guys who looked like they had spent just one day too long at Deer Camp.  Our foursome fit somewhere in between.  The walls are naturally adorned with aviation themed artwork of all kinds.  (The airport and diner seem to have quite a history, but unfortunately no website or online information to share.)

The menu is pretty traditional small town diner.  A large breakfast menu that is served all day and a smaller lunch menu comprised of burgers, a variety of sandwiches, and nearly any fried side you can think of.  The prices tell you that you are definitely not in the big city anymore.  

I had the Philly Steak sandwich with homemade "pub" chips on the recommendation of our waitress.  I'm not a connoisseur of Philly Steak sandwiches by any stretch, but I was hungry and it was tasty.  The pub chips were curly shaved potatoes that had been fried.  They were crispy and not at all greasy, but were deficient in salt.  My friends seemed to like their food well enough...eggs & hash browns, eggs Benedict, grilled ham & cheese and chili.  

This particular dining adventure wasn't really about the food.  It was about the whole experience.  An unexpected exhilarating trip in a small private plane to a tiny rural diner for lunch was something to relish.  Even after we were safely back on the ground in Middleton, it still didn't hit me until later that evening what an amazing experience I had just been treated to.  I can't say I'd go out of my way to drive to the Piccadilly Lily (though it appeared that many people do), but if you are ever offered the opportunity to fly in for the "$200" burger, don't hesitate, just say "yes"! 


  1. I apologize for the arrangement of the photos. Still trying to figure this out!

  2. Great story! I like the photos too. Makes me want to visit Lone Rock, WI.

  3. Thanks Anita! It is a beautiful area if you've never been.

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience. I look forward to more entries/food adventures. Proud of you for doing this blog.

  5. What a fun afternoon! I would love to do this. Bert got a pilot's license back when he was living in Alaska, but hasn't updated his certification in many years (pretty much since moving to Wisconsin). I'll need to do some nagging :-)