Fletch’s Local Tap Room

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On our June 26th beer trail ride we had two places we wanted to visit. No time was wasted standing in Don and Judy’s driveway trying to decide where to go. Instead we piled into the white van with Don behind the wheel and Marv next to him (so they could talk basketball) and headed downtown to Main Street. Fletch’s was our destination. Marv and I had heard about the new tavern at 566 Main Street from Mayor Steve Cummings way back in March at the League of Women Voters candidates forum. Steve was running for another term as mayor. “You have to go there,” he urged us, “to see how the building has been remodeled. Cross the street from the Roxy,” he added as a League member led him to his place on the panel.

Marv and I checked it out while shopping at a Saturday farm market. Lots of the taverns and restaurants on Main Street have outdoor seating and special drinks and breakfasts during the farm market. Fletch’s was no exception. They had a Bloody Mary bar. Skewers sticking out of the drink held such items as dill pickles, cheese cubes, tomatoes, sausages and even small burgers. Marvin suspected there might even be some booze in there somewhere.

Don parked the white van in a small parking lot on the south side of Fletch’s. We took a bunch of photos of the impressive exterior. Then we entered and gasped “Cool!” The wood panel walls and ceiling were warmed a mellow brown by the late afternoon sun. The bar room is a large square space with tables at the Main Street window. The L-shaped bar is off to the right. As we walked toward it Judy announced, “I’m not having a Spotted Cow!” Well, she had twenty-three taps to choose from. She settled for Honey Blonde Ale from Central Waters in Amherst WI. Elaine chose El Wisco from Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee. Marvin had Alaskan Amber, Juneau, AK. I had a Blu Bobber from Fox River Brewery, Oshkosh; bartender Tony scooped a small handful of blueberries from a carton and added them to my beer. Don had New Glarus’ Spotted Cow and Gary, our designated driver, had nothing. Later Don, ever the adventurer, ordered a sample of a Neapolitan stout. Remember Neapolitan ice cream with its strawberry, vanilla and chocolate flavors. Well, this stout was supposed to have all those flavors also. Let’s just say that we didn’t think so.

Though Fletch’s is in an old building, its interior is very unlike the usual old taverns such as The Copper Mule. For one thing there is very little stuff hanging on the walls. A list of the current twenty-three taps above the bar, three TV sets and a stuffed marlin. “The owner, Jeremiah West, said we had to hang that,” bartender Tony told us pointing at the Marlin. Fletch’s opened May 6, but the renovations had been going on for months. Several pictures of Chevy Chase as Fletch, a Lakers basketball player Number 99 or just the jersey itself hang upstairs and downstairs. I think this is from the original Fletch movie released in 1985. There was a second Fletch movie, but no basketball in that one.

We remember the building as the home of Jess and Nick’s pizza. Its last tenant was a tax firm. Stone pillars flank the large hoop window. The name WENRICH is carved in stone above the windows. At a recent farmers market, Randy R. Domer was selling his books about Oshkosh (Yesterday in Oshkosh…My Hometown and Oshkosh: Land of Lakeflies, Bubblers and Squeaky Cheese) at a stand across the street from Fletch’s. I asked if he knew who Wenrich was. “Sure,” he said, “He had his monument store here. Sold mausoleums, gravestones, monuments of all sorts and so forth.” I gave him my email and by early afternoon had received a picture of Wenrich’s from back in the day. Mystery solved. Our son Tom also did some research online so we learned that after the monument store closed, the Town Grill restaurant occupied the site until Jess & Nick’s Pizza arrived in the early 1960s.

Elaine and Judy took my camera and climbed the stairs to the balcony. They snapped a lot of photos of the balcony and also the view of the downstairs from the balcony. Meanwhile I visited with a guy at the bar and Tony. We talked about horseback riding and raccoon hunting. He said he used a Havahart trap. I didn’t ask what he did with the raccoon after it entered the trap. Elaine and Gary see a lot of raccoons on their land out of the city. They once had a cat that frolicked with the raccoons.

Fletch’s doesn’t serve food (except for all the stuff they pile on those Bloody Marys on farm market Saturdays). However, they have a deal with The Varsity Club that is in an adjoining building to the north. You can order your food at the Varsity and carry it to a table at Fletch’s. Don’t even have to go outside, as there is a connecting door.

Fletch’s has tables at the front windows. Gary pulled the necessary number of chairs up to two and we sat down to talk and drink our beer. Elaine told us about the 130-acre prairie and oak savannah at Ripon College. In addition to all the prairie plants and oak trees, it has a newly installed solar system display of the sun and the planets in relationship to each other and to the sun in their proportional distances. These solar bodies are ceramic half shells set on the ground. Some have their moons too. A hiking paths connects them. So you could walk from Mars to Neptune say. The walk to Pluto from earth is quite a hike, however. And, Elaine added, if the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, were added to the display, it would be in Quito, Ecuador. Better to take a plane.

Propped up on our table was a card listing the special drinks. Old Fashioned: Honey, Claret, Peach, Raspberry and Blueberry. Or Moscow Mules: Traditional, Orange, Citrus, Cherry, Long Island, and Mexican. My Grandmother Lala would have had a field day with those. She was always one to try the new and unusual. Her husband Butch never drank anything alcoholic. His cigars were enough.

We would have stayed longer, but it was time to move on to our second stop. Out in the parking lot we noticed a bump out on the wall of Fletch’s. Maybe it had been a flue for a fireplace? Or maybe a bay window? We wondered. There was a basement window in it that we peered in. Oh man, a badly broken staircase that led to a basement that looked like something from a horror movie. Best not to go there.

Our second stop was going to be Christine’s, the eggroll heaven. We knew they were remodeling their new location, but were not sure if it was finished. “I’ll check,” said Gary and took off jogging the one block north up Main Street. He came back—not even out of breath—“No, still closed for renovations.” Well, readers, where did we go? You’ll have to wait for our next blog post to know.

 

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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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