Dec 15, 2015

A commoner dines (and drinks) at the Old Fashioned, Madison, Wis.

One of the first places my new job sent me was Madison, Wis., and one of the first places I discovered after working hours was the Old Fashioned.  Given Wisconsin’s rich traditions of supper clubs and taverns that celebrate beer, cheese, sausage and fish frys, I couldn’t have chosen a better starting point.  

With its location in the heart of downtown, in an older building on the square that surrounds the state capitol, you’d think -- like me -- that the Old Fashioned has been a food and drink destination for all walks of life in Madison for generations.  But the reality is the Old Fashioned was established in 2005.  I think I have socks older than this place.  Nonetheless, it seems to do old-school Wisconsin very well, and it seems to always draw a diverse crowd, from suits to students, singles to families, blue collar to politicos.   

So, the Old Fashioned’s atmosphere and reputation was enough to draw me and my co-workers there to check it out.  And the quest to find the best cheese curds in town.  And the quest for good local beer.

Nov 19, 2015

Scenes from The Great Pumpkin Patch, Arthur, Ill.

Remember that “Peanuts” holiday special where Linus and Sally sit outside in a sad looking pumpkin patch waiting for a mythical entity known as the Great Pumpkin to bring Halloween cheer?  Granted, Linus was one confused kid, but I’m betting he’d be ecstatic with The Great Pumpkin Patch in the heart of Illinois Amish country outside of Arthur, Ill.

Nov 12, 2015

Renewing my membership in the DFV cult

Since its official opening in 2013, Danenberger Family Vineyards, located just west of Springfield, Ill., and just outside of the small town of New Berlin (which used to be better known for hosting the annual Sangamon County Fair) has become a huge hit with a growing following frequent visitors and friends of the winemakers who are affectionately known as #DFVCult members (hashtag intended).

Nov 9, 2015

No runs, no hits, no worries in Wrigleyville

As I continue to catch up on all of my delinquent blog ideas from the summer, I’ve decided to look back at a particularly important day at Wrigley Field this year, as The April finally saw her first Chicago Cubs game at the Friendly Confines.  

Nov 4, 2015

Feeling perfectly frank in Plainfield, Ill.

(Editor's note: We would like to report, sadly, that Frank's Night Out has apparently closed permanently as of Dec. 31, 2016. So many of the good ones go too soon. Thanks for the memories, Frank's!)

I like to think of myself as being pretty savvy when it comes to finding unique, enjoyable places to drink and dine during my travels.  Sure, I’ve been known to blindly stumble upon an occasional great find, but I try to do my research on any place my travels may potentially take me.  But sometimes, however, The April beats me to the punch.

This was the case when, after lamenting the fact that I was unable to visit the famous Hot Doug’s gourmet dog establishment one last time before it closed, The April discovered Frank’s Night Out in Plainfield, Ill.

Plainfield is about as far west as you can get and still be considered a Chicago suburb, but I was familiar with the area, so I knew it had potential.  We added Frank’s Night Out to a weekend itinerary that included The April’s first ever baseball game at Wrigley Field.   

Nov 2, 2015

A commoner dines at Crown Candy Kitchen, Saint Louis

When it comes to dining establishments, it’s one thing to be trendy by trying to replicate the past.  It’s another thing entirely to stand the test of time year after year, generation after generation.  The Crown Candy Kitchen, a Saint Louis tradition since 1913, definitely qualifies as a prime example of the latter.  After all, fewer dining experiences are as old-school as a turn-of-the-century -- as in 20th century -- family-friendly soda fountain.  And while Crown Candy Kitchen may not be the last of its kind, it’s a good bet they’re one of the best still going.

Oct 26, 2015

A commoner dines at 17th Street Barbecue, Murphysboro, Ill.

If you look at the bottom of this blog, you’ll see a list of my five favorite barbecue joints of all-time.  Third on that list in 17th Street Barbecue in Murphysboro, Ill.  But I have a confession to make.  

Sure, I used to frequent 17th Street’s O’Fallon, Ill., location (sadly, it’s officially closing Nov. 30) and I had an opportunity to make a detour whenever I was in the Saint Louis area.  I also make it a point to visit the 17th Street stand every year at the Illinois State Fair.  But as much as I love their barbecue, I had never been to “Mecca,” the original restaurant where the legend of Mike Mills and his amazing barbecue -- which won the World Championship four times -- all started.

Thankfully, that changed earlier this summer when The April and I committed to making a dinner stop in Murphysboro during her SIU road trip down memory lane.

As the name implies, you’ll find 17th Street Barbecue on 17th Street, one block north of Illinois Highway 149 which slices east-west through downtown Murphysboro.  Surprisingly, there isn’t a lot of signage to direct you to it, but as long as you can find 17th Street, you’re obviously going to be ok.  

Oct 12, 2015

Beating the heat at the Missouri Botanical Garden

I was hoping to have a new laptop computer I could take with me on the road by now, so I could catch up on my blog posts during the week when I have down time.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet, so I keep getting further behind on things I’ve been meaning to write about. 

That said, I’m pulling this post out of the way-back machine from this summer when The April, The Kiddo and I took a weekend trip to Saint Louis to take The Kiddo to Six Flags.  Fortunately for my few faithful followers, I will not be posting about Six Flags.  But, for a change of pace, I did think our stop at the Missouri Botanical Garden was noteworthy.

Sep 26, 2015

Summer bar crawling through Carbondale

If you’re one of the few faithful followers of this blog, you’ve probably noticed my postings have become more and more infrequent over the past few months.  Well, there are a few reasons for that.  The good news is I have a new job which has been keeping me quite busy and requires a lot of travel, and I’m certainly not complaining about that.  The bad news is that schedule, along with ongoing computer issues when I’m home, has kept me from staying up-to-date on my blog postings. 

Hopefully, soon, I will start making up for lost time and catching up on some of my more “blog-worthy” (at least to me) adventures past and present.  One of those adventures happened earlier this summer when The April and I visited Carbondale, Ill., where she went to college at Southern Illinois University.  The purpose of the overnight trip was to allow her to show me some of her favorite haunts while she attended school there.  It was a fun stroll … or crawl, in this case … down memory lane.

PK's is a classic dive bar and Carbondale institution.  

Sep 2, 2015

A kiddo and her Cozy Dog

Sometimes I still find it hard to believe people willingly go to my hometown of Springfield, Ill., on vacation.   I know it was the hometown of our 16th president, too, and I get the nostalgia factor of Historic U.S. Highway 66 which once cut through town.  But when you’re surrounded by reminders of Abraham Lincoln and Route 66 every day, it becomes easy to take it all for granted. 

Recognizing this, I’m always up to the challenge when one of my few faithful followers suggests I act more like a tourist in my hometown and blog about local places and events.  So, when I had the opportunity not long ago for alone time with The Kiddo, I decided to take her to one of Springfield’s culinary landmarks – and one of historical significance when it comes to fast food – the Cozy Dog Drive Inn

Aug 24, 2015

Scenes from the 2015 Decatur Celebration

One of the many things I admire about The April is the pride she has in her hometown of Decatur, Ill.  But even she had to admit that Decatur Celebration, version 2014, was rather disappointing, especially given the lack of variety in the food vendors last year.  But that experience did not deter The April from giving the street festival, held every year on the first full weekend in August, another chance.

Conceived in the head of Fred Puglia, the Decatur Celebration has been giving the citizens of their blue collar town located in the heart of Illinois something to get excited about for nearly 30 years.  So, yeah, if you’re from Decatur or anywhere nearby, it’s kind of a big deal.  Although I am not aware of any certain aspect of the celebration that specifically celebrates Decatur. 

Aug 16, 2015

Sampling Bites on the Boulevard

Every once in a while, someone – or some group of someones – in my hometown of Springfield, Ill., surprises me and comes up with a pretty great idea for the community.  Case in point:  the recent (OK, recent in terms of this blog) Bites on the Boulevard, the first-ever gathering of some of the most popular food trucks on the Springfield scene. 

The event was hosted by the MacArthur Boulevard Association, an organization that helps promote the ongoing revitalization of one of Springfield’s major shopping and traffic areas.  I’m a little partial to the cause since I lived so close to the area for many years.  And, of course, I love food.  It was the perfect event to draw my attention. 

Aug 4, 2015

A commoner drinks at Curly’s Sports Bar & Grill, Decatur, Ill.

There are dive bars, and then there are local institutions.  After one visit to Curly’s Sports Bar & Grill on Decatur’s north end earlier this spring, I think I can safely say Curly’s is both.  

How could you miss it, right?

Jul 16, 2015

Grabbing a slice of hillbilly hog heaven

If you are one of my faithful followers, you may recall my very first blog post which explained my inspirations for this endeavor and also the profound influence my grandmother had on my thirst for travels, great and small.  Whenever I take a road trip anywhere, I sometimes think of her.  But I especially think of her whenever I make the drive between my current home in Springfield, Ill., and what I consider my “true home” in Louisiana.  My grandmother never met an interstate she liked.  In fact, she insisted on taking the two lanes.  After all, you only get to know people and the towns they’re from if you see them up close and personal.

All of this is a rather long-winded explanation of – once I learned the April and I would be driving northbound on U.S. Highway 51 through Tennessee, Kentucky and Southern Illinois on our road trip earlier this year – why I had to make a pilgrimage to a place from my past travels with my grandmother: the Harper’s Country Hams Company Store near Clinton, Ky.  

No, we didn't come for the jumbo quail.
Honestly, you really can’t miss this sign up on the ridge where the Harper’s Hams complex is located. 

I think she may have overdressed for this adventure.

Jun 24, 2015

Hooray for the Hollywood Café, Robinsonville, Miss.

Of all the destinations I frequent when I travel, I can’t think of any location that looks more out of place than the islands of casinos and the strip of commercialization that connects them that appear out of nowhere in the north Mississisppi Delta about 15 minutes north of Tunica, Miss., and a half hour south of Memphis, Tenn. 

Yet, somehow the Tunica Resorts area works, probably for the reasoning that Las Vegas works in the middle of a desert.  There’s not much else there.  And, in fact, the casinos that were built in part of unincorporated Robinsonville, Miss., starting in 1995 were at one point the third largest gaming destination in the country (the ever-expanding gaming industry has since pushed it back to eighth place).  To me, the draw was a fun, affordable halfway point in between my home and New Orleans.  The rooms are typically cheap, the slots are often loose and the atmosphere is undoubtedly mini-Vegas.  I thought The April would love it. 

The April did, in fact, love the Jacuzzi suite I chose.  But here’s the problem if it turns out crowds, noisy casinos and giant imposing glitzy structures aren’t your thing:  Your dinner choices at Tunica Resorts are either at the casino or a smattering of fast food joints and chains near an outlet mall on that same commercial strip surrounded by cotton fields. 

We almost resorted into driving into Memphis until I remembered the one place in old Robinsonville (the only place, in fact) that, thanks to my love for the blues, I’d always wanted to go to:  the Hollywood Café

Jun 17, 2015

A soulful side trip to the Old Country Store, Lorman, Miss.

If you’re a food aficionado like me, you’ll go out of your way to try a classic restaurant, diner or roadside stand that has achieved legendary status among those in the know.  In fact, you’re liable to go out of your way to make that destination an important component of any road trip you’ve planned.  Fortunately for me, The April and I think similarly, and I’ve been converting her to a fellow food fanatic.  So it was no surprise to me when she discovered a place I had not even heard about but which was reportedly worthy of a side trip on our way back from New Orleans. 

Jun 4, 2015

A commoner drinks at Napoleon House, New Orleans

If I had to name one place on my regular rotation of French Quarter hangouts I wished I frequented more often, it would have to be the Napoleon House.  After all, Napoleon House has everything you look for in a classic New Orleans drinking and/or dining experience.  It just happens to be on a quieter section (at least to me) of Chartres Street slightly shielded from tourists who aren’t as “in the know” as they should be.

Fortunately, I remembered to introduce The April to the Napoleon House on our most recent visit to the Big Easy.  As it turns out, it was one of her favorite stops of the entire trip.  

Doesn't she look happy?

May 30, 2015

A commoner dines at Camellia Grill, New Orleans

I have to admit I’m more than a little embarrassed – and frankly a little ashamed – that it’s been almost three weeks since my last blog post. 

Let’s remedy that by picking up where I left off on my most recent trip to the Big Easy – the day the April and I explored the Garden District.  Afterwards, we hopped back on the streetcar to have a late lunch at one of my favorite spots along the St. Charles Avenue line – the Camellia Grill

May 13, 2015

Scenes from the Garden District (and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1)

To anyone familiar with New Orleans, the city offers much more than the French Quarter, jazz, and parting on Bourbon Street.  That’s why, while I always seem to book my hotels in the Quarter or the Central Business District, I always try to spend at least one day of every trip I make to New Orleans in another part of the city. 

For most people, venturing outside of downtown means a streetcar ride down St. Charles Avenue to the Garden District.  Synonymous with New Orleans “old money,” the Garden District is easily one of the oldest and most famous neighborhoods in the city.  The combination of ornate mansions/former plantation homes, tree-lined streets and lush gardens at nearly every residence give the neighborhood its name and well-deserved reputation as one of the most beautiful areas in the city. 

May 4, 2015

A commoner drinks at the Erin Rose, New Orleans

No matter where you choose to stay when visiting New Orleans, it seems like you’re never too far from a friendly neighborhood bar.  That holds true even in the city’s most famous neighborhood, the French Quarter.  And it’s one reason why I love to stay at the Prince Conti Hotel … because, despite being less than a block off of  Bourbon Street, you’ll find a couple of great neighborhood bars on the same city block as the hotel. 

In front of the Erin Rose on Conti Street

Apr 23, 2015

NOLA: Bar hopping, balcony dining and finding Ignatius

Even though The April and I had spent 13 hours on the road to get to New Orleans on our recent road trip, we wasted no time in starting our adventures in the Big Easy once we got settled in to the Prince Conti Hotel in the French Quarter.  Like most tourists who stay that close to Bourbon Street, we decided to begin our trip with a walk up and down the Quarter’s most famous section. 

To be completely honest, we had a mini mission in mind – to find the statue of Ignatius Reilly, the main character in John Kennedy Toole’s masterpiece novel “A Confederacy of Dunces.”  If you haven’t read the book, and you love New Orleans as much as I do, please do so.  The city is as much a character in the novel as all the crazies you’ll encounter within its pages.  And this excellent blog chronicles all of the sites in the novel and their present-day appearance.

With finding Ignatius as our goal, we walked Bourbon Street to Canal Street, took a right and quickly located the statue right where the opening scene in the novel takes place – in front of the old D.H. Holmes department store building, the current location of the Hyatt New Orleans Hotel. 

Ignatius and me.

Apr 16, 2015

A commoner dines at Paul’s Café, Ponchatoula, La.

It’s a relatively easy and simple 12- to 13-hour drive from Springfield, Ill., to New Orleans, one which I make to begin most road trips to the big Easy. However, by the time I reach the Louisiana state line, I’m often ready to get off the beaten path and explore my old stomping grounds.  So, on my most recent road trip to New Orleans with The April, we chose to get off the interstate at Ponchatoula, La., in search of lunch … and perhaps an adult beverage.  We found very satisfying results for both at Paul’s Café

I’ve always been a little biased in favor of Ponchatoula, which is one of my favorite small towns in Louisiana.  As you head south on I-55, it’s the last town before you hit the bayou.  Located on near the north shore of both Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, it’s surrounded by rich farmland and benefits from a warm climate that is apparently ideal for growing some of the best strawberries in the world. (Coincidentally, they also use Louisiana strawberry juice to make Abita’s Strawberry Harvest Lager.) 

So, Ponchatoula has legitimacy to call itself the “Strawberry Capital of the World.”  They also have an annual festival to prove it.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to attend.  It seems like quite the blog-worthy adventure to me.  

In addition to the world-famous strawberries, many people flock to Ponchatoula for the many antique stores, art galleries and curiosity shops contained within its historic downtown.  In my opinion, this has given Ponchatoula a bit of a New Orleans-style bohemian vibe that blends remarkably well with a small town feel and friendly citizens that earned Ponchatoula a second nickname as the “Mayberry of the Deep South.”

Apr 4, 2015

A commoner’s 10 most tolerable Bourbon Street bars

My next pilgrimage to New Orleans is right around the corner, and I’m very excited to bring The April with me on this trip.  She has not been to the Big Easy since the 1990s (I can’t even imagine missing New Orleans for that long), and like most first-time tourists, or those who have not been there in forever, I recommend spending at least one night on Bourbon Street.

As a frequent visitor, I usually prefer to go to the less touristy drinking establishments in town, but I do “get it” when it comes to Bourbon Street’s allure.  With that in mind, here are 10 Bourbon Street bars I find most tolerable (many, in fact, I truly enjoy):

Apr 1, 2015

Acting upon a Wild Hare

Until recently, I only thought of the small central Illinois town of Elkhart as yet another village clutching to its historical connections to the legendary U.S. Route 66.  And when I heard they had a really nice café there for lunch, I instantly thought of your typical small-town main street diner where a few residents and farmers go to pass the time and discuss the weather over endless cups of coffee and all-day breakfasts. 

Boy, was I wrong. 

Mar 25, 2015

Things Discussed at the Brewhaus turns 21

It’s no surprise with so many life changes over the past year that my opportunities for participating in random drunken babble at my favorite local bar have diminished.  Still, occasionally, I find myself embroiled in some classic conversations. 

So, in recognition of my 21st, and first “legal drinking age,” edition of “Things Discussed at the Brewhaus,” here are 10 topics I recently discussed with fellow Brewhaus barflies that may help spur further talk at your next drunken gathering:

Mar 16, 2015

An engaging daytime pub crawl in Alton, Ill.

As my blog’s nine faithful followers may recall, The April and I got engaged in Grafton over Valentine’s Day weekend.  So, how did we celebrate my popping the question?  Day drinking … in nearby Alton, Ill. (Joint decisions like these make me think we were made for each other.)

To be completely honest, we had sort of planned to visit Alton that day anyway, but now we had a purpose.  And what better place to start than what’s arguably Alton’s most famous landmark, Fast Eddie’s Bon Air.  

Fast Eddie’s has been a fixture in Alton since as long as I can remember.  Its roots can be traced to when Anheuser Busch first opened a bar in the town in 1931.  But things really took off after the original “Fast Eddie” took over in the 1980s.  Having quadrupled in size since, today’s Fast Eddie’s is known for huge crowds, live music all the time and great, cheap grilled food (and huge peel-and-eat shrimp).  It has become so large, in fact, that many claim it to be the No.1 bar by volume served in the world. 

Needless to say that, especially considering The April’s aversion to large crowds, it pays to get to Fast Eddie’s early.  And so we did.  We were in line right as the opened the doors for business. 

Mar 4, 2015

A commoner drinks at Senger’s Tavern, Grafton, Ill.

Long before the wineries made the quaint river town of Grafton, Ill., a tourist spot, Grafton’s main tourist draw was its reputation for being a great place to spot bald eagles during their winter migration.  With that in mind, The April and I were more than a little surprised to find so many shops and businesses closed for the season during our recent visit over Valentine’s Day weekend. 

But you know what kind of business never closes for the winter?  The local small-town dive bar.  And in Grafton, the only watering hole that caters to locals year-round is Senger’s Tavern.

I recalled spotting Senger’s on our previous trip last fall, and when I mentioned it to my friends Susan and Terry Hupp, they gave it their official Hupp seal of approval, so I had a feeling we’d really enjoy blending in with the Grafton barflies.  I was not disappointed. 

Feb 23, 2015

Scenes from the Pelican Inn, Grafton, Ill.

(Editor's Note:  The Pelican Inn has been closed for business since heavy rains caused the Mississippi River to flood and mudslides to occur near the property in Spring 2015.  There is currently no timetable for when it will reopen.)

When it comes to being a hopeless romantic, I've always seemed to be a lot more hopeless than romantic.  For this Valentine’s Day, however, I wanted to make sure it was special for the girlfriend (who from henceforth shall be known as “The April” for blogging purposes), particularly since I had chosen that day to pop the engagement question. 

To celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend, I decided to take her back to one of our favorite nearby places for a brief getaway -- Grafton, Ill., where the Illinois and Mississippi rivers meet.  Even in the dead of winter, the village of Grafton provides some spectacular scenery and plenty of choices for couples to find some privacy and quality time together. 

And so, as I reviewed notes from our last trip in October, I kept coming back to one guest house we spotted that just looked irresistibly cute -- the Pelican Inn.  After all, what was the worst that could happen in February – getting snowed in with access to winery a block away?  I’ll take those chances, especially when it involves our engagement.  I called the number on the website, spoke to the very friendly proprietor and learned it was still available for Valentines’ Day weekend.  I pounced on the opportunity and booked the room.   

Feb 19, 2015

Sizing up Logan’s Package, Buffalo, Ill.

Logan’s Package probably doesn't do a strong package liquor business these days, but it does deliver a great small town bar experience, and it’s the closest thing to a village institution in the small central Illinois community of Buffalo, Ill., which is about 15 minutes east of Springfield. 

It’s also where the girlfriend and I spent the majority of our first date.  It was just blocks away from where she was living at the time and seemed like a good starting point.  Fast forward a few hours after a few cocktails and some great conversation, and we simply didn't want to leave to go anywhere else. 

Logan's Package -- a story about a man (Kevin Logan) and his bar.

Feb 9, 2015

A commoner dines at Paul’s Confectionery, Decatur, Ill.

Most cities are fortunate enough to have at least one diner/lunch counter/greasy spoon that appears to have been frozen in time for the last several decades – or one that at least looks like it’s been that long since the place had a good cleaning.  The place carries on a tradition – and a menu – that has been largely unchanged for generations (if only we could say the same thing about the prices).  And let’s face it, progress, growth or making it more modern would kill its charm.    

In Decatur, Ill., this place is Paul’s Confectionery, which traces its origins in the city to 1924 and has been operating at its current location since 1945.   

Jan 26, 2015

A commoner’s 15 favorite classic American beers

Drinking on a commoner’s budget (particularly when the commoner is unemployed) is a lot like travelling on a commoner’s budget – sometimes you have to settle for cheaper accommodations and hope to discover a few diamonds in the rough along the way. 

With that in mind, I was recently inspired by a friend who forwarded me a list of classic cheap American beers, ranked in order of the author’s preference, which first appeared on the Thrillist website.  The author ranked 36 old-school beers your Dad might have drank, from suckiest to least-suckiest.  I was impressed by the detail put into the article, even if I didn't necessarily agree with some of the reviews.  Of course, each person’s taste buds are different.     

So, I decided to share my own list of 15 favorite cheap American beers and why I like them.  It also gave me something fresh to write about as I’m travelling less these days while I’m *ahem* in between jobs.    

Some of these beers are admittedly harder to find than others.  But most tend to be less expensive than mega-brews like Budweiser, Miller Lite and Coors Light.  In some cases, they’re considerably less expensive.  To paraphrase my friend Terry Hupp, “You can’t afford not to drink them.” 

I also tried to apply a rule that the beer had to have been around at least as long as I have.  In other words, “Would my Dad have possibly enjoyed this at his favorite dive bar?”  So, sorry, Abita Amber, you’re still my all-time favorite beer but you’re too young to make this list. 

Finally, I tried to limit my list to 10 but simply couldn't.  I enjoy cheap, crappy beers way more than I should, I suppose.  And don’t be offended if your favorite isn't on the list. I may have never tried it, or even heard of it.  But I’m willing to become more educated.  With that in mind, I begin with …  

Jan 13, 2015

A Black Diamond in the rough

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the last six months of blogging, it’s how my nine faithful followers (as well as many, many more who’ve stumbled upon my posts) share with me a love of hole-in-the wall dive bars.  Whether it’s a cherished dive bar in a large blue collar town like Decatur, a local hangout in a small farming community like Eldred or the best and only thing happening at a wide spot in the road like Buckhart, these places resonate with people. 

So, it’s no wonder when my girlfriend and I decided to take the two-lane roads down to St. Louis last month for a Bob Seger concert, we dedicated some time to making a few pit stops at some small town bars along the way. 

And that’s how we discovered the Black Diamond Sports Bar & Grill in Gillespie, Ill. 

Jan 3, 2015

A St. Louis birthday bar sampler

More blurry birthday memories from O’Connell’s, Molly’s and Broadway Oyster Bar

This blog post may come off as being a bit disjointed, but I figure there’s no better way to do my last birthday justice.  In addition, my life has been a bit disjointed lately.  Fortunately, I should have plenty of time to get caught up over the next couple of weeks on topics I've been meaning to post about from last month and the holiday season.   

As my nine faithful followers may recall, my birthday celebration in Saint Louis began with lunch at Zia’s on The Hill.  You may have gotten the impression from my last post that we headed straight to the Soulard Market after that.  You’d be wrong. 

As fate would have it, we made an after-lunch pit stop at O’Connell's, a dive bar/Irish pub just off Interstate 44 and Kingshighway Blvd.  It caught our eye as we entered The Hill neighborhood, and we simply could not pass it up.  

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...