Christine’s: Last Stop on Oregon Street

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When I wrote this a couple of years ago, we thought we had done every bar on Oregon Street. But shortly after this night, The Copper Mule opened where formerly had been South End Zone. Our next piece will deal with our visit to The Copper Mule.

            Now, alas, Christine’s has closed and the building is up for sale. Sigh, where have all those marvelous egg rolls gone, just when you need one??

The last time the six of us had been out on a beer trail, it had been our intention to complete our visits to every tavern on Oregon Street. So far we had been to all of them, except Christine’s. It’s not that we hadn’t tried, but it was always closed. This time it was open! Aha! we would now be able to say we had been to every bar on Oregon Street. (However, there are a few that have new owners and names since we were there, but really…)

Christine’s was the first tavern we six had ever visited in which the TV was showing PBS cartoons. But that’s not the only first. Christine’s is owned by a Southeast Asia couple—one of only two Asian bars in Oshkosh. We stepped inside just as the place opened for business on Wednesday, November 5. The north and south walls are painted black halfway up and dark gray from there to the ceiling. The east and west walls are painted a rich, dark red. The dark walls are lighted with spider-like colored lights and panels with silver discs and squares. The bar itself is U-shaped with maybe 15 bar stools. The kind I like with backs and swivel. The back bar is small, but nicely lighted and has a white board where the day’s specials can be listed. On this night, however, small daughter Paige was using the white board to do her drawing and coloring.

A much larger dining room is adjacent. Over each booth hangs a large lamp. I like that. I hate dark dining rooms. Not too long ago Marv and I were dining at one so dark that Marv whipped out a tiny flashlight so he could read the menu. There is also a small stage for bands and two overstuffed black leather couches in this room. But best of all is the big picture of the Chicago skyline at night. Marv, that Illinois guy, was impressed with the picture of his “favorite city.”

Christine’s owner is Toy and the little girl industriously coloring is his daughter Paige. Toy’s wife, whom we did not meet, is Hmong; Toy is from Laos. An older daughter Christine (she gave her name to the place) was back in the kitchen cooking. The food smelled delicious—but first a beer.

Don chose a Budweiser, Judy chose a Coors Light and Elaine chose a Bud Light. Those were the only working taps. There was a Miller’s tap, but it chose to break down at that time. That’s okay. Marv and I each had a bottle of Spotted Cow. There were many brands of bottled beer, but we stuck to New Glarus Brewery. Call it Wisconsin loyalty, if you wish.

Christine’s has only been opened for a few months. Before that it was PJ’s. Toy said they did a complete renovation—cleaning, painting, new fixtures, table lamps, etc. It looks classy. Where, we wanted to know, did the nice wall art come from? Elaine and I thought it might be Southeast Asian designs. Nope, Toy said he bought the pieces at Gordmans. Wherever it came from it looks stunning against the dark walls.

All this time that we were sitting at the bar and talking that wonderful aroma of East Asian food hung in the air. “It’s eggrolls, doncha think?” Judy asked us. Yeah. Two to a serving we were told. Well, what were we waiting for? Each couple placed an order.  I’ve eaten in a lot of Chinese / Southeast Asian places, here and there, but the egg rolls at Christine’s are the best! They are huge, hot, homemade and spicy. The sweet cool marmalade sauce was the perfect balance to the spicy roll. While we were eating egg rolls and sipping beer, three couples came in. They chose booths in the dining room and ordered dinners. We had dinner plans, so chose not to eat, but Judy asked if Christine’s did takeout. Yes, was Toy’s answer. All meals, except noodle dishes are available for takeout Wednesday through Saturday after five.

I looked up Christine’s in Larry Spanbauer’s book: Oshkosh Neighborhood Taverns and the People Who Ran Them. The entry on page 125 has a color photo of the bar taken sometime between 1943 and 1970. Based on a car in the picture, I’d say much closer to 1943 than 1970. At that time, the tavern was called Carol and Dick’s Bar. It still had large plate glass windows. The portion of the building that is now the restaurant had its own entrance with a large Coca-Cola sign and a smaller People’s Beer sign over the doorway.

Like many taverns “back in the day” this place was called The Sample Room when it opened in 1900. The owner was Albert Ziebell. Ten years later Fred Hedtke bought it and sold it in 1912 to the Schaffer Brothers (Edward, Moritz, and Charles). Typical of how ineffective Prohibition was is the fact that the place remained a tavern through the decade of Prohibition. Three different owners ran the place then. From 1932 to 1970 members of the Frank family owned it. The Carol and Dick names on the old picture are members of the Frank family.

Between 1972 and the present this tavern changed owners and names nine times. Here are the names and (proprietors): Butch’s Bar (Frank Jungwirth), Jeff and Mike’s Bar (Jeffrey Daye), Robbie’s Bar (Michael Roberts), Bulldogs (Harland Roberts), Tim and Sharon’s (Timothy Lang), Fiddlers (Janice Bocek), B & B Sports Bar (Brett Jungwirth), PJs Bar (John Gaser), and now Christine’s.

One last thing to do before we left. Men’s room checker Marv said the six by six foot space was neat and clean as a pin. It sported in addition to the necessities, a big sign for WSCO Appleton Sports Radio reading, “We talk Bads.”

Only a few crumbs were left of the egg rolls and our beer glasses and bottles were empty. Time to move on across town to Main Street.

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About Author

Frankie Mengeling

Frankie Mengeling taught English at Oshkosh North High School and Lourdes High School and was co-director of the Fox Valley Writing Project at UWO. She lives on the Oshkosh’s only hill, with her husband Marvin, son Tom and cat Katrina. The blog www.ridingthebeertrail.wordpress.com began in the summer of 2009 after the three couple beer trail began.

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