Wisconsin Rarebit

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A dark, cool, Wisconsin autumn night has rolled over you and sounds of dairy cattle can scarcely be heard over the breeze. You contemplate the future while gazing into the clear night sky. A sandwich seems like a pretty good idea, and you’ve got to go somewhere. After all, the bar closed half an hour ago.

Instead of wandering into whatever place is still selling questionable food at this hour, head back to your kitchen for some fast and tasty grub of your own. A fried onion and cheddar sandwich is going to hit the spot just the way post-bar food is supposed to, and do it with a little Wisconsin flair to boot.

Papa Hemingway knew a thing or two about drinking and he wrote of a simple butter and onion sandwich in Big Two-Hearted River. Why not take a good idea and do what Wisconsin does best? Fry your onions in butter, toast up a brat bun, and add cheese. The result is the silver-tongued country cousin to Welsh Rarebit, that classic  celebration of cheese (the poor man’s meat in Wales) and toast.

And if this sandwich seems a sophomoric cocktail of leftovers, your mind will change in a hurry when you experience the magical interaction of the butter and onions. To complete this dairy-assisted nirvana, you need only tap into the cheese stockpile in your fridge. Yes, you should have one of those.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Wisconsin Rarebit
Makes 2 sandwiches

½ onion (Vidalia or other sweet preferred) cut into half petals
2 brat buns
Garlic powder
Two thick slices of Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese (aged three years, max), chopped into small cubes

  1. 1. Cut the onion into petals and cut the petals in half.
  2. 2. Add a good dollop of butter to a frying pan and saute the onions on medium-low until al dente, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. 3. Toast the brat bun and butter it, adding a light sprinkle of garlic powder.
  4. 4. Just before removing the onions from the pan, add the sharp cheddar briefly to soften, and place everything in the bun.


  1. Brad

    It becomes even better if you toss a dollop of mustard in with butter and onions and then whatever of worcestershire or smoked paprika you have on hand.

  2. John Fox

    Brad, all of those sound like they’d be tasty additions. I’ll have to give it a shot next time I make one up. I think you’ve got the right idea, this recipe just begs for alterations.

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