Bibinger's: An authentic hidden gem

By NICHOLAS DETTMANN - Daily News

Oct. 27, 2017

Chef Kady Gibowski smiles in the kitchen Wednesday night at Bibinger’s in the town of Polk.
John Ehlke/Daily News

CEDAR CREEK — As a high school student, Kady Gibowski worked at No-No’s Restaurant in Newburg. She did everything — washed dishes, cooked, served and hosted.

“I knew I always wanted to be a chef,” Gibowski said.

One night at No-No’s, when she was 16, she assembled a dish she called Chicken Lombari.

“It was like a real simple Italian dish,” Gibowski said.

It was a featured special one night and sold out.

This was about nine years after writing her first recipe — a dip made out of butter, lettuce and salsa — on a piece of paper with a crayon.

“It was completely disgusting,” Gibowski said. “My aunt was so sweet. She was like, ‘Oh. It’s delicious. I need the recipe.’ So I wrote it down for her.”

Today, Gibowski’s mom still has that keepsake. And since then, Gibowski has figured out the whole cooking thing.

Open for only 13 months, Bibinger’s, 3747 Cedar Creek Road, has quickly grown a following with the help of Gibowski as executive chef. It was one of the 10 recommended restaurants in Washington County as voted by Daily News readers in an informal poll.

Part of that growth was courtesy of the building’s history, housing popular establishments, including Schwai’s Country Store Tavern & Hall and Emily’s Restaurant.

“It’s kind of like a hidden gem,” said Travis Dowden, co-owner of Bibinger’s.

Another factor was the authenticity of the food.

For example, the beef is from a farm a mile down the road — Pleasant Valley Meats — on Lily Road.

Because the restaurant wasn’t completed when Dowden and co-owner Ben Anderson interviewed her, hiring her was a risk. They couldn’t test her skill set. Still, they knew her by reputation, having seen features in magazines or online.

The first dish they tried made by Gibowski was meatballs. And they were good. Very good.

“She’s just blown our minds since,” Dowden said.

And they’re not alone.

“A professionally run operation with a family feel,” said Cody Lettau of Waukesha County. “Elegant, well-prepared entrees and amazing handcrafted drinks.”

Customers line the bar at Bibinger’s.
John Ehlke/Daily News

West Bend’s Jessica Swenson added, “I love the historic significance of the building and the menu is simple, delicious and the specials are always spot on.”

Dowden and Anderson, who met through mutual friends while at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, had an itch for several years to one day own a restaurant. They didn’t actively pursue it until about two years ago.

“When Ben and I looked at this place, nothing was finished, all the way down to the studs at that point with the remodel,” Dowden said. “My wife works in Hartford and she’s a dentist and we asked her, ‘Your patients. I want you to ask them if they had heard of Schwai’s or Emily’s. Do you know that building?’ Pretty much everyone said, ‘Yeah. I drive by there all the time. What’s going on with that?’” Having heard that, they pursued the idea more.

It appears to be in the middle of nowhere with no high-traffic road going by the restaurant, but Dowden and Anderson thought they had the perfect spot.

“A rural location can be tough, but it can also have its benefits,” Dowden said.

When Dowden and Anderson found the perfect person to run the kitchen with Gibowski — a West Bend native and East High School graduate — the, as Anderson put it, stars were aligned.

“Kady is extremely talented, very creative,” Dowden said. “She has a really big focus on the quality of ingredients that go into our foods.”

Gibowski has been dabbling with cooking since she was about 7 years old.

“I love food; I love to eat food,” she said. “I like making people happy, feeding them. Nothing makes me more excited than giving somebody something I made, that I created and put passion into and see their expression when they eat it.”

After high school, she went to culinary school in Minneapolis — Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

Her internship was at the American Club in Kohler. She also worked at Ozaukee Country Club for six years where she was the first chef below the executive chef.

Her first executive chef position was at Cafe at the Plaza, 1007 N. Cass St., Milwaukee, 2013-16.

“It was pretty exciting,” Gibowski said. “I felt pretty proud to make that jump. It was a challenge for sure, with so many great restaurants in the area.

“To stand out and we did, we had a great following for brunch. It was pretty awesome.”

That momentum carried her to Washington County, her home, which was one reason why she left a vibrant big-city restaurant scene.

“I love the fact that we’re so close to all these local farms,” Gibowski said. “Dairy and vegetables, it’s a great area for a restaurant to be because there is so much potential to utilize local ingredients.”

Among the go-to menu items is the pork schnitzel and the cheese curds.

“I don’t like really overcomplicated things,” Gibowski said. “I like things done the right way.”

>>OTHER RESTAURANTS IN THE SERIES:
The Norbert: Adapt, adopt, improve