The Iconic Island Burger: The “Alby” at the Albatross

The staff members at the family-owned and -operated Albatross Drive-In on Washington Island know a thing or two about running a business on “island time” as they move through its 44th season. A sign posted on the window reads: 


We are not fast! 

We are good, 

We are cheerful, 

We are courteous, 

But we are not fast! 

For fast, go to Chicago. 

North of the Tension Line you are, 

So relax, 

Take time to smell the flowers – 

And give us time to prepare 

Your order with T.L.C. (Tender Loving Care).

The sign appeared on the very first day when the restaurant was open, in response to a Little League baseball team that began forming a long line to order. Owner Patricia Sawosko saw the line of hungry mouths and claims the Holy Spirit inspired her to write it. 

Since then, the sign has been rewritten with care and posted at the start of each season. This year the seasonal grill at 777 Main Road – about a mile and a half from the ferry dock – opened on May 22 and will stay open daily, 11 am – 9 pm, through the fall.

Visitors make a stop at the Albatross for classic drive-in fare, including burgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, brats, baskets and a cold treat: a malt, shake or soft-serve cone. There are plenty of options for every palate, but if you’re going to try just one item, make it the restaurant’s signature burger, the “Alby.” 

“It’s not your average cheeseburger,” said recent diner and photographer Brett Kosmider. “There’s something about the Swiss cheese and bacon that sets this one apart. I’d describe it as a monstrous, old-fashioned burger topped with what I can only assume is love.”

The deliciousness starts with the burger patty. Burgers at the Albatross are made fresh with meat ground and formed on the island. Then the staff adds Swiss cheese, hickory-smoked bacon, ketchup, pickles, onions, lettuce and tomatoes to create a famous Alby burger. 

To complete your perfect pit stop, follow up the Alby with an ice cream cone that (literally) has eyes for you. (Each cone comes with two edible, goofy blue eyes to personalize your sweet treat.) Or, choose something else from the sundae selection or 60 flavors of shakes and malts. 

As a seasonal entity, the entire dining area is outdoors, so it’s an easy place for patrons to socially distance and play in the sun. And thirsty guests who are older than 21 can check out Alby’s Nest, an outdoor tiki bar behind the restaurant that carries a selection of domestic beer, Door County wine and Island Orchard’s hard cider. 

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