Culver’s moves south of the Mason Dixon Line

By Jody Conrad | Special to the Press Gazette

If you grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line and haven’t traveled much north of it, chances are you’ve never heard of Culver’s.

But thanks to Randy and Honey Smith, an Air Force couple who settled in Navarre, the experience can now be enjoyed in multiple Gulf Coast locations, including Navarre, Fort Walton, and Miramar Beach.

Owner operators Honey and Randy Smith pose for a photo inside their restaurant.

Owner-operator Randy explained the appeal. 

“If you’re from the Midwest, you know the cult following of Culver’s," he said. "Fortunately for us, people here have also embraced what Culver’s offers.”

So what is Culver’s?

Culver's opened locally in 2015 and already has become a favorite in Navarre.

It’s a northern hamburger and custard chain. Begun in Wisconsin, the chain prides itself on using only farm fresh ingredients, most of which come from, well, Wisconsin. The restaurant is famed for three things, but those three only scratch the surface of what makes Culvers so popular.

First is the butter burger. No, it’s not a hamburger sautéed in butter as the name might suggest, but it is served on a buttered bun that gives it a buttery flavor. The beef is always fresh, never frozen, and it is pressed and seared in the cooking process, which gives it a unique flavor.

Server Peyton delivers food to waiting customers with a smile at the Navarre Culver's restaurant.

Next is the frozen custard. Unless you remember roadside ice cream stands that all but disappeared in the 1970s, chances are you’ve never had frozen custard. It’s a lot like ice cream, but denser, richer, and creamier. Made with the same ingredients as traditional ice cream, frozen custard becomes its own creation with the addition of egg yolks. The process of making frozen custard also sets it apart from traditional ice cream, and the result is a denser delight that tastes like nothing else.

Last but certainly not least on the Culver’s claim to fame food list is cheese curds. 

“Cheese curds are small chunks of cheese, which of course come from dairies in Wisconsin," Randy said. "They are breaded and deep fried. This popular side or appetizer is springing up in southern restaurants, but it is Culver’s that put cheese curds on the culinary map.”

This customer said he's eaten at different Culver's from Navarre to North Dakota.

It didn’t take long for locals to discover Culver’s appeal.

“We were slammed with transplanted Midwesterners and curious locals from the moment we first opened, and the pace has stayed steady ever since,” Honey said. “We even have regulars who claim their own tables!”

Culver's is located at 8792 Navarre Parkway in Navarre.