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For the love of burgers and the Northwoods

Hazelhurst bar wins inaugural state best burger contest

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June 10, 2024

HAZELHURST – Most Wisconsin residents know a good burger when they taste one. 

So, it’s no surprise the Wisconsin Beef Council started a contest that recognizes the state’s Best Burger.

What did come as a surprise, however,  was a small-town bar and grill in northern Wisconsin taking home the top honor.

Justin Koshak, co-owner of Pickles Bar & Grill in Hazelhurst, said he never imagined their All- American Burger would be named an Elite Eight (top eight best burgers), let alone take home the best burger recognition.

“Once we made the Elite Eight, we didn’t think we would win,” he said. “We were going up against Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay – and there’s a lot of talented chefs in those areas, too. It’s nice to be highlighted as part of the Northwoods.”

The winning burger

The award-winning burger – Pickles’ All-American Burger – Koshak said, was created by business partner Dan Linscott, who manages the food side of the restaurant. 

It is a half-pound brisket, short rib and chuck blend with lettuce, tomato, onion, smoked garlic mayo and choice of cheese. 

Koshak said Linscott found out about the inaugural burger contest through social media and entered Pickles Bar & Grill into the competition. 

From there, he said people went to the Wisconsin Beef Council website, entered their name and email and then nominated their favorite bars.

The top-nominated bars are the ones that made it into the Elite Eight. 

“From that point, they sent in ‘secret shoppers’ to come in and get your burger without any of the chefs or owners knowing,” he said. 

Business is booming

Since winning the award, Koshak said the Pickles team has seen a huge uptick in customers – nearly 300-400% more than before.

Pickles may be a smaller bar and grill compared to other contestants, but he said the team is mighty and has been handling the increase in customers with grace.

“The uptake is great – it’s a challenge,” he said. “For a place this small, this facility is not physically meant to handle the number of people we have. We’re turning these tables over 10 times in a given day.”

Koshak said the bar seats 19 people, and the dining room seats 26. 

The award-winning All-American burger consists of a half-pound brisket, short rib and chuck blend with lettuce, tomato, onion, smoked garlic mayo and choice of cheese. Submitted Photo

“We’re a tiny place in the middle of nowhere, and these people are packing in,” he said. “Many people will say it’s a good problem to have – (but) a problem, regardless of being good or bad, is still an issue and has to be resolved at some point. Everyone is doing their best to get through it and figure it out.”

He said the bar has added a pager system for seating replacing its previous hand-written process. 

As of right now, Pickles Bar & Grill, he said, has a staff of eight – which Koshak said includes Linscott and himself.

“The staff is doing well,” he said. “This is the volume we would push at the Milwaukee Brat House when I was a manager there. So, even for the Northwoods, these kids keep an efficient pace.”

Sales-wise, Koshak said, they’ve seen a growth of nearly three times the amount they previously did.

More about the bar

Pickles Bar & Grill, Koshak said, is coined after Linscott’s nickname – Pickles. 

The duo said they closed on the 5507 County Road Y location in Hazelhurst in June 2021. 

Koshak said they started with a smaller menu in the beginning “because we didn’t know what our niche was originally,” but after the big win, he said Linscott is working on adding more burgers to the menu. 

In addition to the All-American, other burgers Pickles offers, Koshak said, include:

  • Mushroom swiss,
  • Cowboy from Hell (pepper jack, bacon, cowboy candy and spicy BBQ)
  • MBBC (maple bourbon glaze, blue cheese crumbles and caramelized onions)
  • Chili Cheese
  • Build your own burger

Pickles, he said, also offers a Friday Fish Fry, chicken sandwich, smoked reuben, housemade chips and fries, hand-breaded cheese curds and – as one might expect – homemade pickles.

“(Linscott) does have his homemade pickles, which are between a bread and butter and a dill – there’s a little spike to them,” Koshak said. 

The pickles, he said, have become such a fan favorite that the bar is looking at outsourcing their production.

“People have been asking us for pints of pickles, and we can only make so much,” he said. 


As Pickles Bar & Grill celebrates its win, Koshak said the restaurant wouldn’t be as successful as it is without the surrounding community that supports it.

“It’s a magical place on the Willow Flowage,” he said. “There are so many great restaurants around here, lodging… The Northwoods, in general, is a great community, especially between the bars.”

Unlike larger cities where Koshak said competition between bars is “cutthroat,” he said there’s healthy competition between the Hazelhurst-area bars. 

“Everybody helps each other,” he said. “It’s refreshing to be up here.”

To keep up with Pickles Bar & Grill, visit its Facebook page.

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