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. 

For starters, just look at the building, right in the heart of downtown Grafton and just steps away from the Ruebel Hotel.  A crooked Budweiser sign on a narrow shotgun style shack with a foundation that’s slowly sliding down the hill.  This is by no means a tourist trap.

The entrance and the brick front is also about as nondescript as you can get.  But a neon Stag sign and an open sign were welcoming signs to me. 

Notice The April, smiling approvingly, on the bar stool nearest to the door.  
Once inside, we found an appropriate dark and hazy atmosphere.  We chose two seats along the bar rather close to the entrance and made ourselves comfortable.  The bartender was just the right combination of friendly and surly (admittedly she was counting the minutes before she got off work) you learn to appreciate in dive bars, and she made drinks stiff enough to show us we were welcomed.  I had a Captain Morgan and Coke; The April opted for Jack Daniel’s and Coke.  After our first round, we washed those down with ice cold Stags. 

While the bar’s walls weren't as lined with personal touches and graffiti as some other dives I've been in, the ceiling more than made up for it.  Every tile tells a story (or several).

Although I did find this sign on the wall seemed to capture the spirit of Senger's quite appropriately.  As my friend Ken says, you can’t drink all day unless you start in the morning.  And Senger’s would certainly be a fitting place to start.

To be fair, we found other watering holes open in Grafton during the off-season.  The Ruebel Hotel’s bar was perfectly fine and even had Michelob Golden Light on tap, which was a plus.  The bar inside the Piasa Winery had a great craft beer selection, and the bartender was especially friendly and made us feel very welcome. 

But if you want a cheap drink and a classic dive bar atmosphere, Senger's is the place to start -- or end -- a quiet evening in Grafton.   

No comments:

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...