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Hungry for Wisconsin
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Hungry for Wisconsin

by Mary Bergin

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.


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.

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

Product Details

Flying Fish Graphics
Publication date:
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6.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

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 p.m.one 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


Meet the Author

Mary Bergin writes weekly “Roads Traveled” columns syndicated in daily newspapers throughout Wisconsin and at www.roadstraveled.com. 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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