Hungry for Wisconsin


Here’s a guide for the hungry traveler looking for familiar and favorite comfort foods or wonderful culinary experiences around the state. Divided into four regions with additional chapters on Madison and Milwaukee, Hungry for Wisconsin celebrates the people, places, and foods that define the multi-ethnic Badger State.

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Here’s a guide for the hungry traveler looking for familiar and favorite comfort foods or wonderful culinary experiences around the state. Divided into four regions with additional chapters on Madison and Milwaukee, Hungry for Wisconsin celebrates the people, places, and foods that define the multi-ethnic Badger State.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A delightful book that is close to my heart and closer to my stomach. I can’t wait to get back to my home state with this tasty guide in my backpack.”—David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi

“This book is for real! I was captivated by the charming collection of authentic travel tales. Readers will want to experience the original characters, tantalizing recipes and down-home cafes and restaurants which give this book such life. Mary Bergin's use of vivid language and amusing anecdotes make us want to hit the road and return to Hungry for Wisconsin again and again.”—Jessica Doyle, former First Lady of Wisconsin

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780981516103
  • Publisher: Flying Fish Graphics
  • Publication date: 9/1/2008
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 940,732
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Bergin writes weekly “Roads Traveled” columns syndicated in daily newspapers throughout Wisconsin and at Her other books include Sidetracked in Wisconsin: A Guide for Thoughtful Travelers, Sidetracked in the Midwest: A Green Guide for Travelers, and Eat Smart in Germany.
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Read an Excerpt


Watch Your Mouth

The jukebox got yanked because it was a cause of irritation and disagreement, as in turn that up, turn that down and who played this?

Then the pool table was removed. Always a source of conflict or argument, the barkeep concluded.

During football season, after a transient band of unruly Badger fans annoyed the regulars, the television was tossed. Im going to do it tomorrow morning, while Im still mad, the owner announced. He already had curbed smoking and tightened the noose on vulgarity.

Would you please watch your language in here? was the first warning, and if the swearing continued, the request would be repeated, nose-to-nose with the offending customer. Behavior, and clientele, soon changed.

So what is left at the Roxbury Tavern, in an unincorporated town whose only other draws are St. Norberts Church and the Dorf Haus restaurant?

We drink good beer and talk to each other, says Tom Gresser, the owner, who laughs far more easily than all this may indicate.

Among the regulars are farmers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, factory workers and retirees. Some of them plot political campaigns or events. Jim Hightower has been here. So has Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin.

We tell Tom that he needs to put lines on his bar napkins, so we can read whats been hatched the day after taking notes, says Gail Lamberty, who has helped organize Voices of the Progressive Traditions and Fighting Bob Fest, tributes to Robert La Follettes progressive politics.

Tom recalls refusing to post a County Board campaign poster in 1980 because I didnt want to alienate anybody. Things have changed, but I try to not argue too much politicshell, there are still Republicans coming in here.

He dilutes the Roxburys reputation as just a place for liberals by sometimes bringing in musicians on Sunday afternoonsor organizing a couple of hours of James Joyce readings, to mark the anniversary of Ulysses, while customers eat Irish stew or steak-and-kidney pie.

He takes pride in presenting a comfortable space for everyone: single women, same-sex couples, races other than Caucasian andyesconservatives. Benefit concerts have helped local charities. A wake for his beloved canine companion, Sam, included bluegrass music, a retired ministers eulogy and $1,800 raised for a veterinary medicine program at the University of Wisconsin.

The annual Geezers New Year celebration involves dinner and live music, but the tavern closes at 10 hour later than usual.

On tap are four kinds of beer, three from little Lake Louie Brewing, in nearby Arena. Sugar-rimmed goblets are filled with Spanish coffee: add rum and Kahlua, top with whipped cream. The drink arrives flaming.

Put away any thoughts of ordering a Bud Light. There is none here.

On the menu are bison burgers and chicken reubens, an assortment of beef burgers and soups made on the premises. Wednesday is Spaghetti Night, with vegan, vegetarian and meat-eater varieties.

Not bad for a joint whose kitchen isnt much bigger than a closet and has no oven.

Add Taco Tuesdays, plus Cajun/Creole food on Thursdays and Saturdays, African peanut stew on occasion. Staff make their own fries and freeze cubes of tea for iced tea, so it wont taste watered down.

Add respectable local food suppliersWyttenbach Meats, Carr Valley Cheese, Willow Creek Farm, Lodi Coffee Roasters, Webers Lodi Bakeryand you have the makings for a pub with memorable grub.

So the Roxbury Tavern isnt typical, although it may look that way from the outside.

Tom knows the place needs paint, and he credits St. Vincent de Paul in Prairie du Sac as a great place to shop for decor.

Tom paid one customer for a framed collection of antique fishing lures, another for a framed assortment of marbles. When you want it back, just pay me back, he says.

A hammock hangs from the ceiling. So does a canoe and Mexican flag. An old poster of a Muslim art show is a little display of our tolerance. Two clocks show the time in west and east Roxbury (locals claim there is a ten-minute difference).

Elsewhere, magazines are scattered. A half-dozen copies of the New York Times arrive on Sunday mornings; most are picked up by regular customers.

When Tom bought the Roxbury Tavern in 1989, it was an average country tavernsoftball, horseshoes, a lot of beer and a little food. He was 40 years old, had just returned from a West Coast hunt for horticulture work, and was not in the mood to work for someone else at an entry-level wage.

Four sisters who grew up on a farm near DaneRhonda, Christine, Lisa and Michelle Meierhelp Tom run the Roxbury. They make blueberry and apple-cinnamon pancakes for up to six dozen people on Sunday mornings, using organic flour that is freshly milled on the premises. Friend Lisa Lutz, who conducts cooking classes locally, has helped Tom refine the food, and the styling.

An elegant, framed certificatewhose nine signatures include Ellen Kort of Appleton, Wisconsins first poet laureate, and Forevertron artist Tom Dr. Evermor Every of Baraboounabashedly established the Roxbury Rectangle in 2001 as a local version of New Yorks legendary Algonquin Roundtable.

Painted rocks by artist JoAnne Robarts jazz up the Roxbury. They include one that looks like a hamburger. Featuring the 2 -pound hamburger, Tom proclaimed, in a tavern advertisement. Bet you cant eat it.

Historian Jack Holzhueter, also the organist at St. Norberts, found his way to this tavern early on, in search of lunch. Now hes an ardent fan who describes the business as highly revered and much appreciated.

My life would be less rich without it, he insists. I hope I dont outlive the Roxbury Tavern.

Roxbury Tavern

8901 Highway Y, Roxbury


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Table of Contents


Tell Me About: Wild Rice Heritage
Barron: Safari Cuisine
Bayfield: Wild Rice Restaurant
Bloomer: Bohemian Ovens
Cumberland: Rutabaga Festival
Dallas: Viking Brewing Company
Downsville: Creamery Restaurant
Eau Claire: Fanny Hill Dinner Theatre
Hager City: Harbor Restaurant & Bar
Hayward: Turk's Inn
Hixton: Cain's Orchard
Lake Wissota: Native Bay Restaurant
Menomonie: Legacy Chocolates
Pepin: Harbor View Cafe
Pittsville: Cranberry science class, tours
River Falls: Best Maid Cookie Company
Washburn: Racheli's Deli & Restaurant
Elsewhere in the Northwest
Northwest Road Trip: Heartland Bounty

Madison & Area

Tell Me About: Farm/Fork Relationships
Fitchburg: Rolling Pin Bake Shop
Madison: Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream
    Dane County Farmers' Market
    Ethnic  Eats on Park Street
    Greenbush Bakery
    Harmony Bar & Grill
    Harvest Restaurant
    L'Etoile & Cafe Coleil
    Nilda Chocolates
    RP's Pasta    
    White Jasmine
Elsewhere in Madison
Madison Road Trip: Capital Eateries


Tell Me About: Cheese
Belleville: Belle Bleu
La Farge: Organic Valley
Mineral Point: Red Rooster Cafe
Monroe: Chalet Cheese Cooperative
Monticello: The Dining Room at 209 Main
Prairie du Sac: Blue Spoon Cafe
    Wollersheim Winery
Roxbury: Roxbury Tavern
Sauk City: Carr Valley Cooking School
Sparta: Justin Trails Resort
Spring Green: Local Choice Farm Market
Tomah: Mr. Ed's Tee-Pee Supper Club
Wisconsin Dells: Thunder Valley Inn
Elsewhere in the Southwest
Southwest Road Trip: Fortification Along the Bike Trails

Tell Me About: Brats
Cedarburg: Strawberry Fest
Eagle: Old World Wisconsin
East Troy: Michael Fields Institute
Elkhart Lake: Rolling Meadows Sorghum Mill
Fall River: Fountain Prairie Inn & Farms
Fond du Lac: Schreiner's
Genesee Depot: Ten Chimneys
    Corner Stone Restaurant
Kenosha: HobNob, Ray Radigan's
Kohler: Food & Wine Experience
Lake Geneva: Gilbert's
Nashotah: Red Circle Inn
Oshkosh: Ardy & Ed's Drive-in
Pewaukee: It's a Beautiful Day Cafe
Racine: Charter Fishing
Sheboygan: Stefano's
    Majerle's Black River Grill
St. Cloud: Baker Cheese Factory
Elsewhere in the Southeast
Road Trip: Sheboygan Picnic

Milwaukee & Area
Tell Me About: Fish
Milwaukee: Alem Ethiopian Village
    Old World Third
    Heinemann's Restaurants
    Indian Summer Festival
    Three Brothers
    George Watts & Son
St. Francis: Quality Candy/Buddy Squirrel
Wauwatosa: Penzeys Spices
West Allis: Holiday Folk Fair International
    Wisconsin State Fair
Elsewhere in Milwaukee
Milwaukee Road Trip: Breweries

Tell Me About: Supper Clubs
Algoma: Farm Market Kitchen
Appleton: Lombardi's Steakhouse
Ellison Bay: Savory Spoon Cooking School
Minocqua: Beef-A-Rama
Portage County: Bernard's, Country Inn, Christian's Bistro
Seymour: Burger Fest
Sister Bay: Sister Bay Bowl
Sturgeon Bay: Perry's Cherry Diner
Suamico: Chives Restaurant
Two Rivers: Susie Q Fish Market
Washington Island: Death's Door Spirits
Wausau: Van Der Geest Dairy
Wautoma: Buck Rub Restaurant
Elsewhere in the Northeast
Road Trip: Door County Cherries

Text Credits & Photo Credits

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Interviews & Essays

Wisconsin is more than a pretty face. It is a state of incredible diversity, tradition and dynamic accomplishment as well as great modesty. Contrary to popular mythology, we are about far more than great beer, brats, cheeseheads and polka parties.

You can stay close to home and think youre in another country, find stunning and unusual getaways on a tankful of gas, feel among kindred spirits in the most remote areas, eat the finest of foods in the smallest of towns. The line between city and country is blurring, as creative thinkers gladly relinquish urban trappings for rural tranquility.

Much of what you see every day is worth cherishing, but sometimes an outsiders perspective can be the most convincing.

Consider this: A couple of Louisiana women came into Wisconsin to talk up Highway 51, which runs 1,286 miles from our Hurley and Lake Superior to their Lake Pontchartrain and Laplace, not far from New Orleans.

According to the Louisianans, the road is full of Americana and it could become as well-known and respected as the famed Route 66 across the American west. We just have to let people know about it.

The work has begun to do just that. If we take the southerners advice, we wont ignore our carhops, drive-in theaters, restored indoor theaters, statues of cows and lumberjacks, Northwoods carvings of eagles and bears. And, yes, our squeaky cheese curds.

I have lived in Wisconsin for all but two of my 50 years and have no intention of calling anywhere else home. Will you have enough to write about? a friend asked when I began Roads Traveled, a weekly travel column that typically is about Wisconsin or a border state. Uh-huh. Its years later, and the heap of rich topics hasnt diminished much. This could go on for quite a while, without gross repetition.

I bristle when I see the booths of Midwest destinations idle during travel writer trade shows. The lines form for Spain, Hawaii, or for luxury resorts with big marketing budgets.

Wisconsins portfolio tends to go unnoticedeven among the natives.

We so hate to toot our own horns in Wisconsin. This reticence sometimes makes me wince: For example, I might be in your town asking, What is there to do? Too often the answer is Nothing. Sometimes you qualify that by saying you dont live around here. Youre from the next town, 10 miles down the road.

I cant help but think that wed want to do better, if we knew more aboutand believed inthe variety of historic, human and natural beauty that surrounds us. I ponder this, with a glass of wine, after an exhausting and fascinating day on the road. During the past 24 hours, I have learned:

How to make great soup from scratch. The teacher was Marcel Bir??ne of the nations rising-star chefs, who calls Sheboygan home.

What Houdini and Joe McCarthy had in common. The explanation comes from Terry Bergen, an Appleton museum director whose work generates controversy and inquiries from around the world.

Where the nations oldest continuously operating bowling alley is located. It is in the basement of the nicely preserved Fond du Lac Elks Club No. 57.

I am easily amused and fortified, from the Bir??ef consomm?ith exquisite quenelles, to the chili dog and tap of Capital Amber that become my supper at The Magnet in Oshkosh. That was yesterday. Tonight it was fine lake perch at a VFW fish fry, 50 miles away. And tomorrow it will be something new . . . different . . . unexpected.

All of it makes a tremendous cornucopia of culture, richly flavored by our diverse traditions and fascinating past.

What you have in this book are discriminating glimpses of who and what make Wisconsin worth knowing. It is not meant to be a comprehensive travel guide that tries to please everyone or include every shop or stop with an open sign in the window.

Its pretty easy to peg my soft spots: food, Frank Lloyd Wright, Sheboygan County, underdogs and mavericks, relatively unknown but pretty landscapes. But thats just for starters.Mary Bergin,Madison, Wisconsin

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