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Kwik Trip—and Kwik Star, as it’s known in South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois—currently has close to 900 locations spread throughout Wisconsin and five other Midwest states. Though the sizes and interior layouts of specific stores may vary slightly, the gas station juggernaut strives for uniformity from location to location. No matter which Kwik Trip/Kwik Star you visit, you’ll find many of the same selection of goods stocked on the shelves and coolers, the same distinct branding and promotions on display, and the same iconic in-store offerings that range from grocery and bakery items to beverages to hot case consumables intended to be taken to be enjoyed elsewhere.

However, we’ve found one exception to the convenience store chain’s grab-and-go business model. Yes, there’s an outlier in Kwik Trip’s otherwise consistent approach to food service that’s not really an amenity the corporation actively promotes. There’s a 24-hour diner in a small Shawano County village that’s not only located inside a Kwik Trip store. The sit-down restaurant also serves up elevated versions of Kwik Trip takeout standbys and is even staffed by Kwik Trip employees. Upon learning this, we made a bee line to Bonduel, Wisconsin to experience it firsthand.

When pulling into the parking lot of Kwik Trip #621 (located where Highway 117 crosses over Highway 29) in the 1,400-resident village of Bonduel), you’ll see signage for Hearty Platter Café (102 Express Way, 715-758-2366) posted on the north side of the fueling station near some dumpsters.

In order to get to the restaurant itself, prospective customers must go through Kwik Trip’s main entrance and hang a right just after the checkout counter.

There—just beyond a corridor flanked by potato chips, day-old bakery items, coolers stocked with milkshakes and ice cream, and some fountain soda dispensers—you’ll happen upon the unconventional entrance for this unexpected convenience store restaurant.

The rumors were true! We found a seat at a window-adjacent booth and took it all in.

Aside from the booths lining the entirety of the surprisingly spacious eatery, was noticed approximately half a dozen tables in the center of the dining room, and a few stools at the counter. There were photos of old Bonduel landmarks, such as the railroad station and long-shuttered factories.

During our visit, some of the other patrons at the Hearty Platter appeared to be truckers there to grab a quick meal between stops. There were locals fielding phone calls and clacking away on their laptop between bites. And others, much like us, seemed to be commuters who were curious to see what this Kwik Trip diner was all about.

While waiting for our dining companions to return from the bathroom, I took note of the variety of ways this diner was NOT an independent restaurant that just so happened to be operating out of a Kwik Trip. I instantly spotted a napkin holder promoting food from The Kwikery. Just beyond my booth was a stack of Kwik Trip-branded buns. An employee emerged from the kitchen with a tray of freshly prepared sandwiches and sides that were packaged and being brought to the hot bar in the gas station portion of the building.

Within a few minutes, our server Denise (who was super nice, attentive and all-around extraordinary) brought us some menus and took our drink orders. As we had anticipated when scouting the location, the menu’s fonts, design aesthetic, and color scheme were all consistent with Kwik Trip’s in-store branding.

Moreover, many of the menu items we happened upon during this cursory glimpse were indeed either exact versions of prepackaged things that were available for purchase 20 or 30 yards away or variations that could be made with Kwikery-sourced ingredients. Soon, Denise returned with our coffee and water, which we saw her fill from the gas station’s soda machine and Cafe Karuba coffee dispenser, respectively.

Before taking our food order, Denise told us Hearty Platter Café serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner 24 hours a day. The full menu was fair game! It was about 8:15 a.m. and we were initially intending to get something from its extensive breakfast menu (which has very little overlap with the breakfast items you’ll find in other Kwik Trips), but in learning the entire menu was now on the table, we decided to see how dine-in Kwik Trip, er, Hearty Platter stacked up with things we’ve previously gotten from Kwik Trip and eaten in our car.

So yeah, were we the person eating a bacon cheeseburger before 9 a.m. on a Tuesday (for journalism, okay!). This was a far cry from the heat lamp-warmed version of a Kwik Trip burger we ate while waiting for a tow truck back in March. Instead, the burger came with our choice of four cheeses (we went with cheddar) and the default the toppings of fresh lettuce, tomato, raw onion, pickles, and crispy bacon on a just-toasted sourdough bun. With a heaping side of potato wedges, this $9.99 meal was bar none the best thing we’ve ever eaten from a Kwik Trip.

We also snagged a bite of our companion’s Club Sandwich ($10.49 for the meal) and thoroughly enjoyed that as well. Beyond its sizable breakfast menu (which even includes a “Kwik Trip Omelette”), and the respectable selection of lunch-suited sandwiches and sides, Hearty Platter Café also offers a full dinner menu that includes unexpected works of gas station gastronomy like Country-Fried Steak, a Roast Beef Dinner, and even a Perch Dinner (paging Caleb Westphal!).

And true to its roots, customers can also enjoy everyday Kwik Trip specialties like pizza, fried chicken, corn dogs, soups, and macaroni either in the restaurant or taken to-go.

Before paying, we asked Denise—who we noticed was wearing a Kwik Trip name tag—for some background on this eat-in anomaly. She confirmed that Hearty Platter was indeed the only location in the entire “Kwik Trip System” to employ servers. We asked why that was, and she said the restaurant was acquired when “we” purchased the property. We couldn’t help but note that our Hearty Platter Café server wasn’t speaking as a representative of the restaurant, but as an employee of Kwik Trip #621.

After she got us up to speed and thanked us for coming in, she gave us the bill…on Kwik Trip receipt paper and were told we could pay the check at the register in the gas station. So there you have it, folks. Even though it operates under a different name publicly, there’s a Kwik Trip diner in Bonduel, Wisconsin. Next time you’re passing through Shawano County (where “Up North” begins!) and you’re looking for an elevated, sit-down dining rendition of convenience store cuisine, hang a right after the registers and take a seat at the Hearty Platter Café. And tell ’em Milwaukee Record sent you.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.