When we checked into our motel in Brookfield, Wisconsin, Jacqui wanted to find a good fish fry, seeing as it was our last night in the Badger state, home of Ol’ Abe, the original War Eagle. She went online and Googled “Best fish fry’s” in the Brookfield Wisconsin area” and came up with the Historic Red Mill. Its official name is Butch’s Red Mill Pub & Eatery but not to its regulars, it’s still the Historic Red Mill.
The Historic Red Mill isn’t a restaurant, it’s a SUPPER CLUB and it opens at 3:00 p.m. We arrived at 3:07 p.m., not as promptly as I wanted to, but we were driving a Toyota Yaris, which scared the bejeezus out of me every time we drove on a highway.The only people present were Joe the bartender and Jackie the bar manager. So, after ordering a well-brandy, which was the 5 Star Brandy, for which we received an apology for the second time in two days from a bartender who served it. We told him we didn’t care, we were just happy to be able to get brandy wherever we went in Wisconsin because many places in Georgia don’t carry it. I am told that the Wisconsin Synod of the Lutheran Church sometimes substitutes wine with brandy for communion. That rumor hasn’t been confirmed yet. We told Joe and Jackie we were visiting from the Atlanta area and that I grew up in Brookfield and my Jacqui was one of the former 14,000 busy beavers from Beaver Dam, but we both had left before the invention of the gas engine and were amazed at how much the Brookfield area had grown from a rural community when I lived there, to where it now appears to be an extension of the city of Milwaukee.
It wasn’t long before the “regulars” started to mosey on in and sit down around the bar. Joe was kept busy slopping brandy in glasses while Jackie the bar manager, not to be confused with my Jacqui, kept up a lively conversation with all the patrons sitting at the bar. We found out one lady had just purchased a 2016 Chevy Camaro. I asked her what she had under her hood and she thought I was referring to the car as she replied, “485 horses with a six speed because my son can’t drive a standard transmission.” But I meant was she crazy for buying a General Motors product not the size of its engine. She told us she only had it for a couple of weeks and hasn’t had a chance to drive it “wide open.” She got up to 120 mph before she backed it down, afraid she might hit one of the many orange traffic cones that litter the side of Interstate 94 outside of Milwaukee.
When I grew up, I don’t think there was a young man around that didn’t know how to drive a standard transmission, but I have to admit, 6 speeds may get a little confusing. I might lose count of what gear I was in once I passed 3rd while winding that monster out.
Among this eclectic crowd were two octogenarian ladies who had just finished moving out of their house into a condominium. As they walked through the door, Joe the bartender, prepared their drinks, a Rose wine on the rocks and a vodka tonic. I was the fortunate one as they sat down beside me. They were regulars, obviously, at the Historic Red Mill, as were the others at the bar and Jacqui, my Jacqui, and I felt like we were sitting in a private home in a family recreation room as the family members brought each other up to date on what they had done since they were last here. In a few cases, some only left at 1:00 a.m. that morning. These were the ones with red noses.
It wasn’t long before everybody started to tell us about the history of the Historic Red Mill.
The building dates back to 1847 and is one of the oldest buildings in the area. It started out as a farmhouse with over fifty acres of farmland and then became a home to an intriguing variety of other businesses, including a general store, a stagecoach station, and even a brothel. It has been a restaurant, off and on, for the past 80-plus years but what local residents may not know is that it is haunted.
Evidently, one of the original owners named Ellen experienced a miscarriage and died and she is the one whose spirit is unsettled and is wandering around the house.
Jackie, the bar manager, not to be confused with my Jacqui, the brandy drinker, told us that on a couple occasions while she was closing up, she would turn around and all the bar stools would be turned around in the opposite direction of where they had been previously. She said it wasn’t just her, other employees experienced seeing an apparition in the mirrors while they were closing. When something like this happened to me in years past, I just assumed I had too much brandy in my belly, but now I’m not sure.
I was getting a little nervous so I ordered another shot of 5 Star.It was 4:30 p.m. the time the kitchen was supposed to open but the cook still hadn’t arrived, agitating Joe the bartender. We heard him utter a few good Wisconsonite words aimed at anyone who doesn’t respect their job enough to arrive at the designated time agreed upon when they were hired.
Finally, the cook showed up and it wasn’t long before some patrons headed to one of the dining areas, and those who decided to eat at the bar so they could keep a close eye on the 5 Star Brandy, started to receive platters of fried perch and fried cod. By this time I had caught on to my Jacqui’s ongoing attempt to clog my arteries by forcing me to eat all this fried food, so I ordered baked cod. It was awesome! It didn’t taste like fish; it didn’t even taste like chicken. It tasted like good old Wisconsin butter. Every time I bent over my platter, not a wimpy plate like you get at a regular restaurant, a platter, I was overwhelmed by the aroma of that wonderful Wisconsin butter.
We said our goodbyes to all of our new friends, including Ellen, in case she was listening, promising a return visit when we were back in the area.