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Our October 18th trail ride was also Don’s birthday. So we printed him a card that showed him celebrating an earlier birthday also on a beer trail ride. That October we were at Mario’s (now replaced by Chester V’s) and Don was looking at a birthday candle stuck in a scoop of fried ice cream. After kidding Don about being a year older and looking at all the smart alecky cards he had received, we piled in the

Elaine, Don and 400 LB Gorilla

white van headed toward Gorilla’s at 1309 Oregon Street. We had been here before, but then the tavern had a different owner and name. Chillerz. Since then it had become 10 Pin Tap, but we never got there. Now it’s Gorilla’s. Owners are Cooter and Momma. After they purchased the place last spring, they have done a lot of remodeling.

As we parked in front, a car passed us with its horn beeping and passenger and driver waving. “Who’s that?” We asked. Don laughed, “My golfing buddy Dennis and his wife Lisa.”

We walked up the two steps leading into Gorilla’s and seated ourselves at the bar. We noticed that there are no taps here but a large refrigerated case with glass doors that showed an impressive selection of beers. Marvin and Elaine chose Killian’s Red, Don had a Rolling Rock, Judy a Corona Light and I had a Spotted Cow. After my first sip, Marv pointed out that I could have had a Pabst Blue Ribbon. (I’ll have to tell nephew Steve about that. It’s his favorite beer.) Gary, our designated driver, had nothing.

 

Back Bar with Cooter

We gave Cooter our card and were telling him about our blog when the door swung open and Dennis and Lisa popped in. Turns out they were celebrating their 37th wedding anniversary. So we raised our glasses in a toast to them. They knew about our beer trail

Happy Anniversary Dennis and Lisa!

rides and were tickled pink to find us on one.

Then Cooter and I had a nice chat. He wants to get his hands on a copy of Larry Spanbauer’s book Oshkosh Neighborhood Taverns and the People Who Ran Them. I know the book’s been sold out for years and I also know I’m not giving up my copy. Elaine says the book’s not copyrighted, so legally anyone could print one for himself or herself. According to Spanbauer who printed his book in 2012, this location has been a tavern since 1906. During Prohibition it sold soft drinks and near beer. There’s a picture in the book of the interior of this tavern in 1940 when the bar was named Cy’s Casino. What’s interesting about that picture is the absence of the elaborate back bar which the place has today.

Cooter and Momma previously ran a bar on Oshkosh Avenue (also called Gorilla’s). We had been there when it was known as Sawyer Creek Pub. (You can read about our visit there at this web address http://www.ridingthebeertrail.wordpress.com. Then type Sawyer Creek Pub in the search window.) Both back bars are the same! I remember looking for the Robert Brand Co. trademark there and not finding one.

Back Bar Capital

Wish we could find out who made these bars.

Gorilla’s calls itself more than a tavern. It’s a “neighborhood Bar and Grill.” So we could have had a supper there of the usual tavern fare. But chose not to. Cooter told Gary that he was installing a new device and soon would be serving crab. Watch for it in December. Now that’s certainly different from the usual burgers and pizza.

We took a tour out back to the outdoor patio and the sand volleyball court. Yes, Gorilla’s sponsor teams for volleyball and pool. Maybe more, but those were obvious. “What’s this?” I asked pointing to a large square board with numbers and pegs. “Hmmm, looks like Plinko!” Anyone who’s watched the TV show “The Price is Right” knows this game. We wanted to

Plinko, Anyone?

play a game, but the board wasn’t installed yet. It had been Momma’s idea to have a Plinko board in the tavern.

Meanwhile our talk was about traveling. Marv, son Tom and I had spent a few days in Chicago celebrating Marv’s birthday. His birthday dinner at Shaw’s Crab House started with raw oysters and a bourbon Manhattan. I skipped the oysters, but not the Manhattan.

Don and Judy were in Door County a few days with their Florida friends. These friends are French and live in France half of the year and the other half (winter, of course) in Florida. They had never been to Wisconsin. They were impressed with Door County, especially Death’s Door and the Lake Michigan shoreline. I think many of us Wisconsinites don’t realize the significance of the Great Lakes. They are the largest supply of fresh water in the world. And, of course, great for all kinds of recreation. The beaches at Sheboygan (my home town) were great for swimming as well as “working on one’s tan.” Elaine and Gary are headed west to Las Vegas, boating on the Colorado River and visiting Death Valley.

Nothing Subtle About This Sign

We had fun reading all the clever signs in the men’s and women’s restrooms. As well as the ones on the back bar. We admired Cooter’s chute that quickly sent empty cans and bottles on their way to recycling bins.

We’re not too sure why this place is called Gorilla’s. Maybe because of the 400-pound gorilla statue at the front door. No one is going to steal that easily! Whatever the reason, Marv thinks Cooter should dream up a Jane Goodall martini.

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Our last stop on Friday, August 18 was Christine’s. And it’s the reason we had a beer trail ride on a Friday. Those egg rolls! We’d tasted them on November 15, 2014 when we stopped at the original location of Christine’s on Oregon Street. Now jump ahead to April 17, 2017 – the day after Easter – when Marv and I stopped at Tamara’s, The Cake Guru to buy some cupcakes. To our dismay Tamara’s was closed and so was Christine’s which was just across the street. Tamara’s would be open the next day, but not Christine’s. The building was up for sale.

Christine’s Classy Sign

However, a few weeks after that we learned Christine’s was relocating to 686 N. Main Street in the former home of Daisy’s Western Saloon. Ah, the egg roles. Also, we learned that Christine’s served suppers. Make a reservation the group urged me. I called and learned that Friday was the best date and no earlier than 7:00 PM. And that’s why we were riding the beer trail on a Friday. We weren’t going to go another day without those egg rolls.

Gary, our designated driver, drove us from Molly McGuire’s on Campus Drive to Main Street and snagged a parking space in front of Christine’s. We entered the front door and found a very different décor from the previous Western stuff. The floor plan was the

The First Bar at the Entrance

same. Just inside the front door is a long bar. That one was closed. To find the second bar, we walked through an area with lots of game machine, three pool tables and a dance floor. This bar is square with seating on three sides. We were the only ones there. Since this was our supper stop, we ordered our beer at the bar and carried it to a table. Marv, Elaine and I drank Blue Moon; Judy had a Spotted Cow and Don Dos Equis.

Our table was one of several in the dining area around the bar. A large American flag decorated one wall. We think that was leftover from Daisy’s days. We also saw some of the artwork that had hung in the former Christine’s. Marilyn for one.

Stacie, our server, brought us the egg rolls. Yes! Just as we remembered them! We had these as our starters; although we could have had deep-fried chicken feet or chicken gizzards. When it came to ordering supper, Marv and I stayed with Midwest food and had chicken tenders and fries. But Gary and Elaine and Don and Judy chose Pho. According to Stacie, Pho takes a long time to make, like twenty-four hours. It’s a soup that’s a delicious

Elaine, Chopsticks Expert

blend of beef consommé, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, srircha sauce, fish sauce, fennel and coriander, in addition to noodles, bean sprouts, basil and lime.

Elaine and Gary impressed us by using the chop sticks to fish out the noodles, meat and veggie pieces from the broth. It was a skill they learned while travelling in China. Judy and Don used soupspoons, but we snapped a picture of Don drinking the last of the broth.

While eating we talked about books. We are all avid readers. Marv and I had read The North Water and liked it, calling it a very well written novel of British whalers getting

Good to the Last Drop

stranded in the ice of the Artic Circle. It’s one of those books in which only two survivors make it back to England. One survivor is the epitome of evil and the other not. The blurb for the book said anyone who read Melville’s Moby-Dick and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness should read The North Water. Well, that included Marv and me. Don had also read it, but was not as impressed as we were. Elaine and Gary read Paddle to the Sea, a Caldecott Honor Book, and also saw the movie. They encouraged us to read and watch it also.

Meanwhile Stacie brought us a treat—lemon drop shots. She set a plate of lemon wedges dusted with sugar on the table and a shot of Limoncello (I think) in front of each of us. “Down the shot and then suck on the lemon slice. Gary watched, but did not partake. Each of us did as we were told except for Judy who sipped her drink. Then Stacia brought us a second tray of shots. She called them Nova, I think. They were foamy and pale green. I much preferred the lemon.

After our dinner we took a closer look at the game room and played a little with Big Daddy Blackjack. Judy looked for a quarter machine, but, alas, none was there. We saw a game machine we hadn’t seen in any other bar—a Boxer Machine. We didn’t try that.

By this time it was after 9:00 PM and a few other patrons were at the bar. We wondered if a band would be playing soon, but didn’t hang around to see if that would happen.

Care to Dance, Anyone?

What? The Beer Trail 6 went out on a Friday? Really? We always joke and say Friday is for amateurs. However, it was necessary. We started at Don and Judy’s with a beer, cheese and crackers and a chance to talk. Their 50th Wedding Anniversary was just a few weeks away. Elaine, Gary, Marv and I had a surprise gift for them: a book on how to make Parisian cocktails including some of Hemingway’s favorites, and a set of eight coasters. Each coaster had a photo of one or both of them from our beer trail rides. The coasters were made by Camera Casino in Oshkosh. After hugs and laughter and a bottle of beer (but no beer for Gary our designated driver) we got in the white van and headed for the University neighborhood.

We were going to Molly McGuire’s, a popular UWO hangout east of the campus at 539 Campus Place. Since the fall semester was still a couple weeks down the road, Campus Place was deserted. Gary parked the white van in front of the of the bar.

Elaine snapping me snapping Molly’s

Except for the bartender Rick, (not the guy from Casablanca) the place was empty. The interior was not what I expected. A college hangout—let’s see: large empty room, beat up furniture, sticky floor and bar surface, etc. A place my hairdresser calls a “Meat Market.” Nope, not here. The back bar was elegant carved wood from the Athearn Hotel, a high-class hotel in downtown Oshkosh that closed and was torn down in 1964. Gaslights that used to light Oshkosh’s downtown in the Victorian era hung from the tavern’s ceiling. To the left of the forty-foot bar a short staircase led to small balcony with a few tables and chairs, a perfect place for a quiet conversation or whatever. Tiles on the ceiling also come from the Athearn. A second bar down the hall was cobbled out of an antique sideboard. All in all we were impressed with the place and could understand why Molly’s calls itself a nightclub. The dance floor with a stage for a DJ is in an adjacent room visible through glass doors.

Judy on the Balcony

Before we toured the place, we gave Rick our card and ordered our beer. There were only five taps and Spotted Cow was not among them. Oh well, New Glarus’ Moon Man was available and we drank that. Though I think Don had Dos Equis. Is Don Oshkosh’s “most interesting man”? Molly’s also calls itself a Grill. Its menu lists typical pub fare: burgers, fish fries, wings, quesadillas, club sandwiches, mac & cheese, etc.   Plus for an additional $2.00 they will deliver any dish from their menu, but no liquor. You can see the complete menu on their website:

Speaking of liquor, Marvin was interested in the top-shelf liquor: Makers Mark, Knob Creek bourbons; Boodles, Sapphire, and Bombay gin, and, somewhat surprisingly, Johnny Walker Blue. Rick said he pours about two bottles a year of JWB at $25.00 per ounce. Well, maybe if I aced a tough course, I’d buy a shot of that.

Since parts of the Athearn Hotel are at Molly’s I looked up some information on it. It was the jewel of

Our bartender, Rick

the city when it opened in 1892. It was another of William Waters’ architectural designs. At that time Oshkosh was the second largest city in Wisconsin. I think now it is 7th or 8th. The five-story hotel was across the street from The Grand Opera House. Supposedly there is a tunnel underground that ran from the hotel to the Grand so that entertainers could access the theater without being accosted by theatergoers. When I asked Joe Ferlo, the manager of The Grand, if there is a tunnel, he didn’t say yes or no. Hmmm, I think that part of the tunnel must still be there, but Joe doesn’t want nosy folks to look into it. The entrance to the tunnel (if there is one, he said) is bricked off. The Hotel’s main floor had 16-foot ceilings. The second floor rooms were suites. All rooms had bathrooms and fireplaces.

By the 1960s downtown hotels in mid-sized cities were falling out of favor as motel chains sprang up along the highways luring an automobile population to stop there. Downtown hotels in other Wisconsin cities have suffered also. In my hometown, Sheboygan, the Foeste Hotel is long gone. A motel and restaurant have replaced it. In Oshkosh the other downtown hotel, the Raulf, is now low-income housing. The Retlaw in Fond du Lac spent many years as low-income housing, but is now undergoing renovation and will be a “luxury boutique hotel” by 2018. In Green Bay, renovations of the Northland Hotel have stalled over investor and money matters. Yet it promises to be an elegant downtown spot whenever…

But back to Molly’s. Without students, the place was quiet. We talked about Elaine and Gary redoing their kitchen countertop. Marble? Or laminate? We fooled around with one of the

Wow! Shocking Pink

few game machines. Elaine had brought along her IPhone and took many pics. Nice additions to the ones I took. And Marv checked out the men’s john and declared it neat and very clean, but lacking in a “health center.” Elaine and I checked out the women. It too was spotless. We liked the magenta counter tops with stainless steel sinks. And the Miller High

The High Life Gal

Life sign with the gal riding on the crescent moon. Wish Miller’s had not done away with that.

As I write this, the semester is underway. I’m sure Molly’s is crowded on weekends. We wonder if the young people who spend their weekend night there dancing, laughing and drinking even glance at the remains of the once elegant Athearn Hotel.

Our beer glasses were empty. We’d looked into every nook and cranny. Time to check out Christine’s–the main reason we were out on a Friday

Except for the bartender Rick, (not the guy from Casablanca) the place was empty. The interior was not what I expected. A college hangout—let’s see: large empty room, beat up furniture, sticky floor and bar surface, etc. A place my hairdresser calls a “Meat Market.” Nope, not here. The back bar was elegant carved wood from the Athearn Hotel, a high-class hotel in downtown Oshkosh that closed and was torn down in 1964. Gaslights that used to light Oshkosh’s downtown in the Victorian era hung from the tavern’s ceiling. To the left of the forty-foot bar a short staircase led to small balcony with a few tables and chairs, a perfect place for a quiet conversation or whatever. Tiles on the ceiling also come from the Athearn. A second bar down the hall was cobbled out of an antique sideboard. All in all we were impressed with the place and could understand why Molly’s calls itself a nightclub. The dance floor with a stage for a DJ is in an adjacent room visible through glass doors.

Before we toured the place, we gave Rick our card and ordered our beer. There were only five taps and Spotted Cow was not among them. Oh well, New Glarus’ Moon Man was available and we drank that. Though I think Don had Dos Equis. Is Don Oshkosh’s “most interesting man”? Molly’s also calls itself a Grill. Its menu lists typical pub fare: burgers, fish fries, wings, quesadillas, club sandwiches, mac & cheese, etc.   Plus for an additional $2.00 they will deliver any dish from their menu, but no liquor. You can see the complete menu on their website:

Speaking of liquor, Marvin was interested in the top-shelf liquor: Makers Mark, Knob Creek bourbons; Boodles, Sapphire, and Bombay gin, and, somewhat surprisingly, Johnny Walker Blue. Rick said he pours about two bottles a year of JWB at $25.00 per ounce. Well, maybe if I aced a tough course, I’d buy a shot of that.

Since parts of the Athearn Hotel are at Molly’s I looked up some information on it. It was the jewel of the city when it opened in 1892. It was another of William Waters’ architectural designs. At that time Oshkosh was the second largest city in Wisconsin. I think now it is 7th or 8th. The five-story hotel was across the street from The Grand Opera House. Supposedly there is a tunnel underground that ran from the hotel to the Grand so that entertainers could access the theater without being accosted by theatergoers. When I asked Joe Ferlo, the manager of The Grand, if there is a tunnel, he didn’t say yes or no. Hmmm, I think that part of the tunnel must still be there, but Joe doesn’t want nosy folks to look into it. The entrance to the tunnel (if there is one, he said) is bricked off. The Hotel’s main floor had 16-foot ceilings. The second floor rooms were suites. All rooms had bathrooms and fireplaces.

By the 1960s downtown hotels in mid-sized cities were falling out of favor as motel chains sprang up along the highways luring an automobile population to stop there. Downtown hotels in other Wisconsin cities have suffered also. In my hometown, Sheboygan, the Foeste Hotel is long gone. A motel and restaurant have replaced it. In Oshkosh the other downtown hotel, the Raulf, is now low-income housing. The Retlaw in Fond du Lac spent many years as low-income housing, but is now undergoing renovation and will be a “luxury boutique hotel” by 2018. In Green Bay, renovations of the Northland Hotel have stalled over investor and money matters. Yet it promises to be an elegant downtown spot whenever…

But back to Molly’s. Without students, the place was quiet. We talked about Elaine and Gary redoing their kitchen countertop. Marble? Or laminate? We fooled around with one of the few game machines. Elaine had brought along her IPhone and took many pics. Nice additions to the ones I took. And Marv checked out the men’s john and declared it neat and very clean, but lacking in a “health center.” Elaine and I checked out the women. It too was spotless. We liked the magenta counter tops with stainless steel sinks. And the Miller High Life sign with the gal riding on the crescent moon. Wish Miller’s had not done away with that.

As I write this, the semester is underway. I’m sure Molly’s is crowded on weekends. We wonder if the young people who spend their weekend night there dancing, laughing and drinking even glance at the remains of the once elegant Athearn Hotel.

Our beer glasses were empty. We’d looked into every nook and cranny. Time to check out Christine’s–the main reason we were out on a Friday.

Stumped! That’s what we were when we learned Christine’s was not open yet because the building was still being remodeled. We stood on the sidewalk outside of Fletch’s on that lovely June 26 night and pondered what to do. Maybe Woodchuck’s for pizza? Any other place on the northeast side? “We could go to The Waters,” Judy said. We’re not members we said. “Oh, but Don and I are.” Well, that was

The Waters viewed from the parking lot

news.

So while Gary, our designated driver steered the white van east toward Lake Winnebago, Judy explained how she and Don became members of the local yacht club. She and Don and their daughter Amy and her husband had attended a fundraiser dinner for the Boys and Girls Club some months ago. Amy had won a basket of goodies that she had bid on. Among the gifts was a one-year’s membership to The Waters. Amy gave that to her mom and dad since her family doesn’t live in Oshkosh.

Just hours before we had set out on this trail ride, Judy had called The Waters confirming her membership. That’s how we ended up having supper and drinking beer at The Waters, 1326 Washington Avenue. As a result on this trail ride we visited two old architecturally memorable buildings.

 

Ready to enter for a beer

The Waters sits on the lakeshore just south of Menominee Park. It was built in 1903 from a design by William Waters as the Oshkosh Yacht Club. It underwent major renovations in 2008. It is now an “events” center as well as yacht club and American Legion Post. People can buy summer memberships for dining and sailing.

It is a lovely white clapboard two-story building. Corinthian columns mark its Classical architecture entrance. We climbed the staircase to the main floor, crossed a large reception room and entered the barroom. Two bartenders, Kyle and Kyle, smartly attired in blue polo shirts with The Waters logo, were ready to serve us. While I snapped a picture of the two Kyles, Marvin ran his eye over the top shelf of high-end liquors: Bulliet, Basil

Kyle & Kyle ready to serve us

Hayden, Larceny, 12 year old Glenmorangie, Jameson, Bushmills and Johnny Walker Black were among those he saw.

We selected a table in the dining room facing the lake so we could watch the few sailboats in the harbor. At the table next to us sat our former mayor and friend Burk Tower and his family. There were only four tap beers available: New Glarus Spotted Cow and Moon Man, Coors Light and Lakefront Eastside Dark. Elaine, Marv and I chose Moon Man; Don chose the Lakefront Eastside Dark, Judy chose a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and Gary, our designated driver had a glass of water.

The menu centers on soups, salads, and sandwiches. Don and Judy shared a bowl of soup and warm pear salad. Elaine and Gary shared a Reuben sandwich and soup. Marv had soup and a corned beef sandwich. I had a portabella mushroom Panini. All the food was very tasty.

 

The Waters’ sailboat harbor

Earlier at Fletch’s Don brought up the country’s political mess and Marvin further had depressed us by urging us to read Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data in which the author, among other things, writes that people lie about whom they vote for and even if they vote. Sigh.

Now it was time to talk about something more upbeat like what do you like to watch on TV. Marv likes Preacher (I read while he watches that). Don likes Homeland. We all agreed the best series in the last few years was Justified. We jumped from that to upcoming events. Don and Judy’s granddaughter was appearing in Beauty and the Beast. Hurrah for her! Marv and I were looking forward to a visit from Marty, his cousin, and wife Janine and had planned a day at the horse show at the fairgrounds in Oshkosh. Marty has a stable of ponies down in Illinois. He never brings up the horses to this show, but like to watch the events. Elaine told us that in grad school in Illinois she took an equestrian class and even “rode to the hunt.” Really? In southern Illinois? So, that explains Gary? I always associated that activity with upper class Britons in the 1890s.

As we were leaving the dining room to explore the second floor of The Waters, we met John and Susie. “Oh,” John said, “are you on one of your beer trail rides?” “Yes,” I said and “I’ll mention this in our blog post.” So, John and Susie are you reading this?

 

Second Floor Ballroom

We climbed the staircase to the second floor that has a large ballroom and a stage. In the second floor hallways hang several

Look! There’s Elaine & Gary!

photos of The Waters. Two in particular caught our notice. A large photo of The Waters with the yacht club members taken in 1904. Next to that hangs a large photo of The Waters after its 2008 restoration also with a large group of people including Elaine and Gary. Cool. Marvin saw Zelig in both pictures.

So, though we didn’t have an egg roll at Christine’s, we had to admit our visit to The Waters was ideal for a summer evening.

 

The Waters as seen from the lake

On our June 26th beer trail ride we had two places we wanted to visit. No time was wasted standing in Don and Judy’s driveway trying to decide where to go. Instead we piled into the white van with Don behind the wheel and Marv next to him (so they could talk basketball) and headed downtown to Main Street. Fletch’s was our destination. Marv and I had heard about the new tavern at 566 Main Street from Mayor Steve Cummings way back in March at the League of Women Voters candidates forum. Steve was running for another term as

Judy and Marv at Fletch’s

mayor. “You have to go there,” he urged us, “to see how the building has been remodeled. Cross the street from the Roxy,” he added as a League member led him to his place on the panel.

Marv and I checked it out while shopping at a Saturday farm market. Lots of the taverns and restaurants on Main Street have outdoor seating and special drinks and breakfasts during the farm market. Fletch’s was no exception. They had a Bloody Mary bar. Skewers sticking out of the drink held such items as dill pickles, cheese cubes, tomatoes, sausages and even small burgers. Marvin suspected there might even be some booze in there somewhere.

 

Fletch’s Bar Check the Swordfish

Don parked the white van in a small parking lot on the south side of Fletch’s. We took a bunch of photos of the impressive exterior. Then we entered and gasped “Cool!” The wood panel walls and ceiling were warmed a mellow brown by the late afternoon sun. The bar room is a large square space with tables at the Main Street window. The L-shaped bar is off to the right. As we walked toward it Judy announced, “I’m not having a Spotted Cow!” Well, she had twenty-three taps to choose from. She settled for Honey Blonde Ale from Central

Our friendly bartender, Tony

Waters in Amherst WI. Elaine chose El Wisco from Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee. Marvin had Alaskan Amber, Juneau, AK. I had a Blu Bobber from Fox River Brewery, Oshkosh; bartender Tony scooped a small handful of blueberries from a carton and added them to my beer. Don had New Glarus’ Spotted Cow and Gary, our designated driver, had nothing. Later Don, ever the adventurer, ordered a sample of a Neapolitan stout. Remember Neapolitan ice cream with its strawberry, vanilla and chocolate flavors. Well, this stout was supposed to have all those flavors also. Let’s just say that we didn’t think so.

Though Fletch’s is in an old building, its interior is very unlike the usual old taverns such as The Copper Mule. For one thing there is very little stuff hanging on the walls. A list of the current twenty-three taps above the bar, three TV sets and

Chevy Chase as Fletch

a stuffed marlin. “The owner, Jeremiah West, said we had to hang that,” bartender Tony told us pointing at the Marlin. Fletch’s opened May 6, but the renovations had been going on for months. Several pictures of Chevy Chase as Fletch, a Lakers basketball player Number 99 or just the jersey itself hang upstairs and downstairs. I think this is from the original Fletch movie released in 1985. There was a second Fletch movie, but no basketball in that one.

We remember the building as the home of Jess and Nick’s pizza. Its last tenant was a tax firm. Stone pillars flank the large hoop window. The name WENRICH is carved in stone above the windows. At a recent farmers market, Randy R. Domer was selling his books about Oshkosh (Yesterday in Oshkosh…My Hometown and Oshkosh: Land of Lakeflies, Bubblers and Squeaky Cheese) at a stand across the street from Fletch’s. I asked if he knew who Wenrich was. “Sure,” he said, “He had his monument store here. Sold mausoleums, gravestones, monuments of all sorts and so forth.” I gave him my email and by early afternoon had received a picture of Wenrich’s from back in the day. Mystery solved. Our son Tom also did some research online so we learned that after the monument store closed, the Town Grill restaurant occupied the site until Jess & Nick’s Pizza arrived in the early 1960s.

Enrich Building from Old Oshkosh Files

Elaine and Judy took my camera and climbed the stairs to the balcony. They snapped a lot of photos of the balcony and also the view of the downstairs from the balcony. Meanwhile I visited with a guy at the bar and Tony. We talked about horseback riding and raccoon hunting. He said he used a Havahart trap. I didn’t ask what he did with the raccoon after it entered the trap. Elaine and Gary see a lot of raccoons on their land out of the city. They once had a cat that frolicked with the raccoons.

Fletch’s doesn’t serve food (except for all the stuff they pile on those Bloody Marys on farm market Saturdays). However, they have a deal with The Varsity Club that is in an

Elaine with Fletch Tee on the Balcony

adjoining building to the north. You can order your food at the Varsity and carry it to a table at Fletch’s. Don’t even have to go outside, as there is a connecting door.

 

Judy and Gary at our table

Fletch’s has tables at the front windows. Gary pulled the necessary number of chairs up to two and we sat down to talk and drink our beer. Elaine told us about the 130-acre prairie and oak savannah at Ripon College. In addition to all the prairie plants and oak trees, it has a newly installed solar system display of the sun and the planets in relationship to each other and to the sun in their proportional distances. These solar bodies are ceramic half shells set on the ground. Some have their moons too. A hiking paths connects them. So you could walk from Mars to Neptune say. The walk to Pluto from earth is quite a hike, however. And, Elaine added, if the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, were added to the display, it would be in Quito, Ecuador. Better to take a plane.

View from the Balcony

Propped up on our table was a card listing the special drinks. Old Fashioned: Honey, Claret, Peach, Raspberry and Blueberry. Or Moscow Mules: Traditional, Orange, Citrus, Cherry, Long Island, and Mexican. My Grandmother Lala would have had a field day with those. She was always one to try the new and unusual. Her husband Butch never drank anything alcoholic. His cigars were enough.

We would have stayed longer, but it was time to move on to our second stop. Out in the parking lot we noticed a bump out on the wall of Fletch’s. Maybe it had been a flue for a fireplace? Or maybe a bay window? We wondered. There was a basement window in it that we peered in. Oh man, a badly broken staircase that led to a basement that looked like something from a horror movie. Best not to go there.

Our second stop was going to be Christine’s, the eggroll heaven. We knew they were remodeling their new location, but were not sure if it was finished. “I’ll check,” said Gary and took off jogging the one block north up Main Street. He came back—not even out of breath—“No, still closed for renovations.” Well, readers, where did we go? You’ll have to wait for our next blog post to know.

Some of the 23 Taps

 

The chatter had started on Facebook in April about a new restaurant, Paloma, good wine, beer and spirits and a taco menu. That’s right booze and tacos. We talked it over. It wasn’t old. And it really wasn’t a tavern. But…we’d heard the chef, Ryan Nolan from Mahoney’s, was the mastermind behind the tacos. We liked his cuisine. And so it was decided.

Home of Tacos and Tequila

Our third stop on May 2 was Paloma. Our designated driver, Gary, zigzagged the white van from Kelly’s parking lot onto Oshkosh Avenue (Highway 21). We drove past the now closed Robbins Supper Club and reminisced about the many meals we had there. The for sale sign is still out front, but we had heard that a brewpub was going to take over the place. Marv and I told how a former waiter there said a tunnel ran from the building to the riverfront. He and a friend walked through it and noted that it was very old. Maybe dated back to the 1920s or 1930s. We wondered if it was used during Prohibition.

We continued west through the four roundabouts on Highway 21 over Interstate 41 to Emmers Road. This is not a neighborhood I’m familiar with, so I was glad Gary was driving. He turned right onto Emmers lane and then right again into the parking lot of a tiny strip mall. There at the end was Paloma. A rumor says before Paloma, the place was a Chinese restaurant; others said it was a Blimpie’s.

Paloma’s has a storefront look with large glass windows. We could see many people at tables and at the bar. The front bar is

Paloma’s Bar

smooth white, and marble like. The back bar is mirrors with glass shelves nicely lighted. Above that are three large screen TVs. The dining room is large and aglow with interesting light fixtures and the now very popular Edison bulbs. A few weeks after our visit, I looked at the photos I’d taken. Lousy exterior shots, so I drove over with son-in-law Michael to take some new photos. One of the three bosses of the place was there. He unlocked the door and let us in for a look. That when we noticed the 80 bottles of tequila—no two alike.

Back on May 3rd we were shown to a table and Casey, the general manager, explained the beer choices. Paloma prides itself on its large variety of craft beers and Margaritas. Marvin, Elaine and I had Zombie Dust from 3 Floyds Brewing Company in Munster, Indiana. Don had Modelo Especial, a Mexican beer−very appropriate since this was a taco place. Gary and Elaine had traveled often to Mexico back in the 80s and 90s and said they had had enough of Mexican beer back then. I’m not too sure what they meant by that. But Gary, our designated driver, went with water. Judy had a margarita; it was served in a tumbler and she felt it should have been in a coupe glass typical of margaritas. Our Zombie Dust was a special at that time. Indeed, when Michael and I stopped in on July 4, the Zombies were no longer available.

We studied the taco menu. Of the ten tacos listed two appeared to be “typical” Latino fare: the carne asada and quinoa bean. Other choices reflected the rest of the world. The menu listed a Wisconsin taco with bratwurst and others that were not your typical taco fillings. Except for Gary who ordered the chicken tortilla soup, the rest of us chose tacos. I had two: quinoa bean and pork carnita with apple. Marv had potato and a fish taco. We kidded Marv about the potato taco. Starchy enough? But he touchily reminded us that like corn, potatoes are a Native American food thanks to the Incas of Peru. Judy and Don were at the opposite end of the table, so I’m not sure what they ordered, but I know it was three tacos. We also had an appetizer of salsa and chips. Very good. The chips were still warm and the salsa was spicy, but not burn-your-tongue hot.

 

Very tasty Chips and Salsa

A week later Marv, son Tom and I flew to Sacramento, California, to spend a week with our daughter Brenda and son-in-law Michael. One night, Michael picked up supper for us at a Latino restaurant in Davis. These tacos were authentic Mexican fare—goat tacos called birria.

The six of us have often commented on how the restaurant fare has changed in the fifty-plus years we have lived here. Thanks to immigrants from Southeast Asia and Central/South America and Africa we now have restaurants that reflect those ethnic groups. And, we can shop for authentic Middle Eastern food at the Mediterrean grocery store on Murdock Avenue. And we can buy fresh foods at our farm market from Asian and Latino farmers. Lovely variety!

 

Back Bar with Tequila on the Left

 

Home of Tacos and Tequila

Gary drove us from The Copper Mule across the Fox River to 219 Wisconsin Avenue on May 21. He pulled the white van into the small parking lot in front of Kelly’s, which sits on the northeast corner of Wisconsin Avenue and High Street. Kelly’s is one of three taverns in

Can’t Miss That Sign

the University area. Since Gary, Marv and Don were in one way or another connected to the University, we have been avoiding these bars mostly frequented mostly by college students. However, the idea that any student would recognize them and ask to have their grade changed is pretty far-fetched since they have been retired for many years. But this was a Tuesday—one day before a student drinking weekend starts—we decided to go to Kelly’s.

We were right. The only student in the place was Madison and she was tending bar. When we commented on the fact that the place was devoid of students, she said “Students love it here” but not on Mondays or Tuesdays. She is a student from Minot, North Dakota and on the UWO women’s gymnastics team; her specialties are “bar and floor.” (Seems right, some how, for a bartender.) But, why come here and pay out of state tuition? Because of the gymnastics program was her answer. She added that many women on the team are out-of-staters. She is majoring in kinesthesiology and really likes UWO and Oshkosh. Could it be the water, we wondered. She spoke very highly of her coach. “So does your coach know you tend bar?” we asked. “Yes, she used to do that too.” That shut us up.

 

Our Gymnast Bartender

It was time to order some beer. Kelly’s has five tap beers: Coors, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Bush Light and LaBatt’s Blue. Marv, Elaine and I went north of the border and ordered LaBlatt from Canada. Don and Judy supported the New Glarus Wisconsin brewery by drinking Spotted Cow. It was the first Canadian beer I had had in a long time. Marvin and I used to live about 20 miles south of the Canadian border when we lived in Potsdam, New York back in the 1960s. Our main source of TV was Canadian. We saw Peter Jennings when he was just starting out as a news broadcaster. Canadian law strongly regulated beer ads on TV. No beer in glass, bottle or can could be shown. So the commercial would show people having a good time playing cards, fishing, eating or whatever but no beer. Lots of singing in the background would name the beer and sometimes a bottle cap or label would be shown.

Kelly’s Taps

Kelly’s is one of only three taverns east of the campus. (There are none near north, south or west of the campus.) When we moved here in the late 1960s, these three did not exist, but seven others did. Two were on High Avenue and were razed when the University expanded east.   One, My Brother’s Place, lasted until 1970. It had opened in 1900. The second one was called Giant Grip; it closed in 1955. The name sounds strange until you know that Oshkosh Trunk factory that made high-class steamer trunks and other luggage for travellers from 1898 to 1962 was located on High Avenue. Apparently it was really classy stuff with stores in New York, Paris and London. When we moved to town, that factory was still standing, but soon fell to the wrecking ball to make way for more college buildings.

The other five of the seven taverns were in a two-block area of Wisconsin Street just north of the Fox River. All of these have been torn down also. This two block area was known as the “strip” when the legal age for drinking in Wisconsin was lower than 21.

But, he was there at night?

Passage of the 26th Amendment in 1971lowered the voting age in the United States to 18. Wisconsin lawmakers made 18 the age of majority, meaning the drinking age dropped from 21 to 18. In 1983, Wisconsin raised the drinking age to 19. However in the summer of 1984 President Reagan signed a law requiring states to conform to a national drinking age of 21 by October 1, 1986 or face losing 5 percent of their highway allocation (10 percent by 1987). On September 1986 Wisconsin raised its minimum drinking age to 21.

In those years when the drinking age was 18 and then 19, the five old bars on “the strip” were crowded with students. Bouncers would permit only a certain number from entering, so it was common to see long lines of students waiting to get into their favorite tavern. We soon learned to avoid driving on Wisconsin Street at night in order to avoid running over a student inattentively crossing the street to get to a tavern.

Here is a list of those five bars, and if you were a UWO student in the 1970s to the mid 1980s you may have been one of those in line, ID card in hand to gain entrance. I’m only listing the taverns’ names during the “strip” era.

100 Wisconsin Street, My Brother’s Place (yes, it picked up the name of the one that had already been demolished.)

117 Wisconsin Street, Titan Tap

120 Wisconsin Street, Andy’s Library

122 Wisconsin Street, Tosh’s

201 Wisconsin Street Butch,’s

Tosh’s was the number one spot on St. Patrick’s Day. Of course the beer was tinted green. Supposedly Johnny Carson said on The Tonight Show, “If you can’t go to Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick Day, you can go to Tosh’s in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.” Or so Larry

Just drinking and chatting

Spanbauer’s book Oshkosh Neighborhood Taverns and the People Who Ran Them says. All of these were razed by 2001. Then, the bridge over the Fox River was rebuilt and what was left of the factories along the river was torn down. Now there is Steiger Park on the northwest side of the river and strip malls with restaurants and a bank on the east side.

It wasn’t the University’s presence that made these taverns popular originally. It was the high number of factories along the river. In addition to Oshkosh Trunk and Oshkosh Diamond Match Company, there was also Cook and Brown, Radford Company (lumber), Universal Foundry and Triangle Manufacturing. When these factories closed or moved and when the University expanded east to Wisconsin Street, so too did these taverns. Now there are only three and Kelly’s is the oldest (1974).

Kelly’s is not only popular with UW Oshkosh students, but also with visitors to the Experimental Aircraft Association that has its headquarters and museum at Whitman Field in Oshkosh and its annual one-week convention in late July. Thousands of visitors come to Oshkosh for this event making Whitman the world’s busiest airport for one week. The University rents out its 10-story Gruenhagan dormitory to EAA visitors. That makes Kelly’s a popular spot. They even put up a beer tent.

But back to our visit to Kelly’s. Except for Madison, the student bartender, and Kelly’s janitor we had the place to ourselves. Kelly’s doesn’t look like the old taverns. It’s only one story and one large room. The bar with about 20 stools is opposite the entrance. It is shaped like a question mark (?). The loop is to the right. The pool table, of course there is one, is to the right of the bar. There are also two dart machines, three “spin to win” machines and three TVs. The back bar is red brick with glass shelves. A big shelf holds the inexpensive booze. And a small shelf holds the “better” booze: Black Label Scotch, Rebel Yell, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, Gray Goose Vodka, Jameson Whiskey and Tanqueray Gin. Well, maybe some student can afford the higher price stuff. After talking gymnastics’ with Madison, we listened to “the Cleaner” tell us about his job. He likes it. (I was tempted to ask him to drop in at my house and do the

Sign in the Women’s Restroom

kitchen floor.) Cleaning up after sloppy winter days is the hardest, he said.

The rest rooms are small, but have at least a sink in each one, rather than the sink standing outside the restrooms. Elaine snapped a picture of a sign in the women’s restroom “Employees have the right to cut in line.” Marv checked the men’s restroom. It had a Health Center on the wall with “Genie Delight” assorted surprises for fifty cents. “Trojan Pleasure Packs” for one dollar. Marv sends this cautionary note: “Remember Troy had its walls breached and lost the war.” Lastly a “Treasure Chest” with mixed adult novelties. Marvin hopes this assortment in an on-site Health Center brings some comfort to parents who might otherwise worry about their kids.

Outdoor on the north side of Kelly’s is a large outdoor drinking patio. This space is very popular with the EAA crowd. It’s also a place for welcome and farewell parties with the University students. But it was time to move on to a place that served more food than popcorn.

Our designated driver is waiting

 

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