Summer is upon us, and so is the season of wanderlust. Who knows why suddenly a trip southeast on Highway 12 seems like a good idea? Maybe you're heading to Lake Koshkonong or the southern Kettle Moraine, or planning to paddle the Rock River, or just roaming. Whatever you're doing, you're hungry.
In Fort Atkinson, and worth a visit any time of year, is Ken & Betty's Cheesesteaks, Hoagies and Grinders. Yes, Cheeseheads, it's cheesesteaks. Like they have in Philadelphia.
Ken & Betty's has been around since 1996. This storefront on an unmemorable side street (but a stone's throw from Fort's pretty Riverwalk along the Rock River) is a little bit of Philly right down to the sport team memorabilia. The razor-thin shaved meat is griddled and then stuffed inside Philly-traditional Amoroso rolls. White American cheese and Cheez Whiz (for a South Philly version) are both available, along with bags of Herr's potato chips and (at my last visit) a somewhat picked-over rack of Tastykakes for dessert.
The roll, described as "chewy, yet soft" (true), is memorable largely for being unmemorable - the bun in a cheesesteak is really just a utensil for the eater to hold the cheese and meat. It should be substantial enough to keep the sandwich together, but not so bready that it calls attention to itself. This one does the trick and keeps the focus on the tasty little torpedo.
The base cheesesteak ($5) comes with meat and cheese, and can be gussied up with the works (green peppers, onions and mushrooms, $6.10) or ordered as a hoagie (mayo, lettuce, tomato slices, raw onion and vinaigrette, $5.10). Less traditionally there's also a pizza, a taco and a chicken version. I have a weakness for the hoagie style, though the works and the plain version also are fine.
I also have a soft spot for the hot oven grinders (basically East Coast-speak for a toasted sub), especially the ham and provolone. Ken & Betty's also serves salads, wraps and club sandwiches, but if you've made the trip, you should probably order the cheesesteak.
Another find along the river, or rather over the river, in Fort Atkinson is the Los Agaves taco truck. Not a cart, a real taco truck. It travels from the restaurant of the same name that's located in Delavan, and it moved from parking in a spot in Milton last year to the bridge in Fort earlier this year.
Parking a taco truck on a bridge may seem like a bad idea if you want drive-up customers, but this bridge is a wide roadway with parking spaces delineated all along its span. Most of them are conveniently empty, because who parks on a bridge?
If you're checking out the Riverwalk, it's an easy detour up some steps to Los Agaves, where burritos, tortas, tacos, tostadas and quesadillas are ready to be filled with steak, pork (pastor), chicken, tongue, chorizo, ground beef or tripe. There's a veggie tostada option (avocado).
Purists ordering tacos should remember to specify if they want it topped with onions and cilantro, otherwise it might be served with the North American abomination of wan chopped tomato and lettuce. Best so far have been the pastor and the chorizo; steak was a little tough. The brick red salsa is medium-hot and, not unpleasantly, a little bitter. Sadly, Los Agaves was out of horchata when I visited.
The worst thing about your trip to Fort may be having to choose between Ken & Betty's and Los Agaves.