Monday, July 02, 2007

Chippewa Falls Revisited

I don't even have any pictures to add because the trip was completely spontaneous. Matt & I woke up Saturday shiny and happy after a fantastic night before. It was Aisha's 30th birthday and after a lovely dinner we spent the rest of the night basking in the glow of a bonfire in their backyard.

Still, my food at Amore Victoria was not that great. (Actually, it was putrid, but everyone else's food was fantastic and the service was impeccable.) I hadn't eaten much and was starving by sunrise. And... I'll admit, the multiple glasses of Southern Comfort on the rocks might have been fuelling my desperation to fill the void with something serious and greasy as soon as possible.

We drove down West 7th to the not-downtown Mickey's. The waitress was sweet and I had about fifteen cups of coffee and 4 glasses of water. I ordered the One Eyed Jack. It's slab of ham, pepper jack cheese and a sunny side up egg sandwiched between two pieces of wheat toast, fried on the buttery grill. This was hangover heaven. Seriously - we've got the salt, the grease, the butter, a little lard, potatoes and cheese - all the important components for making the dogs stop barking in your head. It was so good. And, of course, I ate ALL of the hash browns. Mickey's makes the best hash browns by shredding russet potatoes and frying them in lard. Oh, so what if lard has fallen out of fashion? I don't care what they say - it's good. Lard = Yummy Flavor/ Hangover Heaven. No wonder Matt's buddy Mike suffers the worst hangovers on the planet - silly vegan.

Matt had the Everybody's Favorite All Day Meal - eggs, sausage, hash browns and toast. That's what I would usually order, but now I'm not so sure I'll ever be able to turn my back on my buddy Jack. Maybe that's what we'll have to name our first born... It's a pirate name and great food! That'd be so cool!!

So, we're sitting there and the caffeine has finally wandered over from doing his job of stopping the shakes to inducing a nice buzz. SO WHATER WE GONNA DO NOW!!???

Matt gave me a sly smile and slowly stroked his 'stache. "Well, now... I have been thinking about that all week." It was a perfect day so far... It was time for little time in good ol' Sconnie. Now, I still contend that Wisconsin is all things Minnesota, but better. No lousy rules about buying sh*t beer at convenience stores on Sunday and EVERYBODY eats pork sausages and cheddar cheese on a regular basis. (Then again, I wouldn't want to live there, don't get me wrong. No matter how kick ass Madison and Milwaukee can be - they ain't no Twin Cities or Duluth.)

So, we peeled the top down, gassed up Speedy Marie and headed on down the highway. I had both the Wisconsin and the Minnesota road maps out, but mostly we just drove. Slathered and glistening in SPF 45, feeling the wind whip my hair into knots that might never come out, I slid on my shades and did my best Lana Turner.

Because of the gravity of our respective breakfasts, we didn't even realize how late in the day it was until our stomachs started growling. We had to drive through three more little small towns before we finally found one with a roadside restaurant. We had a couple of ginourmous cheese burgers. I'm not even sure what town we were in at that point. It was a cute little roadside place and the burgers were smothered under about three slices of American cheese. It was filling enough, if not overly satisfying.

We were heading back down the state when we decided that maybe it was time to pay a visit to some of our old friends in Chippewa Falls. We rolled into town on Highway 124 right to the front door of the Glen Loch. We were happy to see the same folks were there from last year and luckily, they had a room for us. (I can almost hear Tom Beaudette now.) It's been almost exactly a year since the last time we were able to visit. We started out our night in the same place that we did before, the Filling Station. Again, the bartender was a really young girl. This time, we found out that the bar itself is so old that they don't have one of those soft drink guns that are ubiquitous in bars. Odd. They also didn't carry soda water. "Charged water?" asked Matt, as if maybe that's what the young kids were calling the fizzy unsweetened water these days.

"No..." answered the girl. "This place is sort of what you'd call... 'ghetto.'" But it wasn't! It's one of the tidiest places we'd been in there. So, Matt wandered down the street to the LiQuor store and bought his own.

By this time we were just getting a bare inkling of hunger again. We didn't really know where to go this time. We attempted to enter Loopy's, but we're too damn old for that place. Or maybe it's just that we don't like to try that much. Most of the people in there were youngish - early 20's and had obviously been out on the water drinking all day. They were burned and on the fast track to an angry drunk that I remember all too well. She's gonna be crying because he's not spending any time with her and he's going to get in a fist fight with that other guy over a spilled beer. Oy, no thank you. There's usually and underage or DUI following those nights around like a bad mood. Plus, it was hot and no one seemed interested in serving us.

We drove back to town and saw the James T. Sheely house on the way back in. This was one of the two bars in all of Chippewa Falls that we didn't make it to last year. It looked like they sold food. We approached the upstairs door marked "Restaurant." I hoped the door and there was a melodic little twinkling of delicate bells above me. Before me was a Victorian style chair reupholstered in Chintz and delicate pink wallpaper borders tracing the wall. I stepped inside and the door closed behind me. I caught a glimpse at the little white tablecloths and conservative people seated before them before I turned around.

I opened the door and looked at Matt, frozen on the entry way. "What - "

He just shook his head and whispered, "I can't."

I raised an eyebrow as one corner of my mouth turned down, "You what?" I asked.

He spun on his heel and started heading for the car.

"What? They serve food!" I said walking behind him. Sure, he was right, that was no place for us to be. I mean, by now my head was wound up with all these little pickaninny strands of matted brown hair haloing my face. But, I am his wife, it is my duty to make things more difficult than they need to be.

"I'm not going in there!! I took one look at that chair and knew I couldn't be in there." He was right, too. Matt's nothing if not dependably clumsy. That chair wouldn't have stood a chance.

"Look, there's a saloon in the basement of the place. I'm sure they serve food."

Okay, he agreed.

Behind Door number 2 was a scene much more familiar to us. The stairs led down, I felt the original bricks and mortar under my fingertips as we descended into the cool dimness of the bar. The floors are the original French imported tiles, worn down, but still a lovely deep mud and black colors. The pressed tin ceilings are also original and the walls are decorated with old advertisements. Oh, yeah. As soon as we entered the main bar area I saw a couple digging in to large plates of food. Perfect. We sat at the bar and the bartender was before us as soon as we settled. His effortless service and great personality made me silently promise to return before I'd even taken a sip of my first drink. On the TV's before us there were competing movies of Das Boot (there's a real pick me up... or a real leave me laying on the bottom of the ocean HA!! ha... ha.... okay, the one person who's suffered through that sweaty movie reading this thought that was hilarious.) The other movie was National Treasure a movie I'd never seen, nor wanted to see, but had no problem following despite the lack of sound.

Since we weren't exactly starving after the Mammoth Burger of Norther Wisco, we decided to order a couple of appetizers. I got the ham and mozzarella rolled up in an egg roll and deep fried. It was a simplistic dish that was probably the cheapest to make thing on the menu, but they were tasty none the less. Sort of one of those super easy, why haven't I ever made these myself things. Matt got the crab cakes. And, as I mentioned in the Grand Rapids post, I'm not a huge fan of crab cakes. Perhaps this is the summer that finally changes that for me. These things were terrific. Were I a huge crab cake fan, I might not have loved these so much. There was huge hunks of meat barely held together with some jalapeno, red bell pepper, onion and Parmesan cheese that were then all friend to crispy perfection. They weren't the dense cake that I usually imagine, but more like a light little.... crispy cracker type deal, but with crab. Hmm... It's hard to explain. And dammit why didn't I have my camera!? Or at least my notebook? You know, I bought a little notebook just exactly for these sorts of things when I stumble onto good food or other genius ideas? But, no, there I was at the bar, furiously scribbling little notes onto the back of the motel receipt. At least, here's a picture of where I was sitting.
Thrilling, I know. For all you know this could be any bar in the country. But, honest, this was where I was sitting.
We'd inhaled the cakes before I remembered that I do have a camera phone. We had originally planned on cutting out after the food, but this place was so great. Eric Clapton and BB King were playing overhead and the bartender was such a chatty friendly fellow. He told me that Jim Bloms is the owner and the chef - he was to blame for the tasty little treats and is a Stout grad. I did see a couple eating sandwiches, and they really didn't look quite as good as our food had, but they seemed happy.
Eventually, it was time to wander back up the road. We were both exhausted from all the sun and fun times. Still, we dropped by the Glen Loch bar for a couple. Wouldn't be very neighborly to be in town and not swing in to say hi. It's still a nice little dive. The father/son duo were still working there. I was relieved. There had been a For Sale sign outside the place the last time we'd been in. Matt loaded up the jukebox with Willie, Merle and Waylon as we settled in for just one more one more.


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