Scott Kintopf of West
Bend, left, and Ryan Weyker of Jackson talk during a
company party Dec. 14 at the Poplar Inn in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News
Memories are made at The Poplar Inn, 518 Poplar St.,
lot of memories for that matter, which was one of the
reasons it was selected as one of the 10 recommended
restaurants in Washington County by Daily News readers
in an informal poll.
“(It’s) where we go for special occasions,” said one
restaurant’s blend of nostalgia and elegance, along with
emphasis on the experience and food, has been a staple
for many, many years, further advanced by co-owners Mike
and Dee Koebel.
is a two-level establishment with room for 32 patrons on
the ground floor. Upstairs is room for 32 more patrons,
plus another 15 to sit at the bar, and 60 on the patio,
with weather cooperates. There is also a private room
with sliding door.
Much of the mystique comes from its rustic look with the
wood flooring throughout, plus the wood bar top with
gold foot railing.
quarters are tight, but that adds to the intimacy.
“Excellent food, service and ambiance,” said Susie
Goneau of West Bend.
From the outside shows what looks like is a house more
than a restaurant. Well, there is a reason for that.
According to the History Center of Washington County,
the building — across the street from the Old Courthouse
Museum — dates back to the mid-1850s. In the 1860s, it
was used as an inn during the Civil War. Then, it was
used as a private residence for several decades, up
until about the 1950s, according to an article printed
in The Court Reporter, provided by the History Center of
the 1950s and 1960s, a transformation began as the
building was used by Abstract and Title Co., then
Norwood Paper — an arts and crafts company.
the 1980s, the shift toward a restaurant had begun.
Koebels took over the ownership in 2007.
“The Poplar Inn is where memories are made,” Mike said.
“An awful lot of memories in people’s lives are
cultivated in their hearts when they come to this
Lights reflect off a glass of wine sitting
on the bar.
John Ehlke/Daily News
is not out of the norm to see key life events unfold at
The Poplar Inn — blind dates, first dates,
anniversaries, birthdays, engagements, weddings, etc.
“Poplar Inn is a great special occasion restaurant,”
said Laura Gustafson of West Bend.
While they’ve owned it for 10 years after it was the
Brown Dog Restaurant before them, Mike and Dee have
heard seemingly hundreds of stories of why people choose
to come to The Poplar Inn. Those stories include a first
date and, some years later, that couple requests to sit
at the same table they did for that date, just to jar a
“They always enjoy coming here enjoying that special
occasion,” Mike said.
memories don’t end there.
get people that call and tell us when they come in and
they tell us what table they want because that’s where
my husband told me about his new job,” Dee said.
Mike added, “Or they got engaged.”
how did that become a trademark at The Poplar Inn?
think people feel nostalgic about (the building),” Dee
said. “It’s a memory maker. Our serving staff is all
very professional. They’re all dressed in black, they
are very personable with people and they make every
guest feel really special.
think that goes along with the event they’re
Mike added he believes the building’s history is “a
magnet” for people.
serving staff is also experienced. Between five of the
servers on staff is more than 100 years of experience in
Mike and Dee have memories at The Poplar Inn, too,
having been through first communions or confirmations,
for example, with one of their six children. When they
came to the restaurant, there wasn’t a goal to one day
own it, but there was always a curiosity. If it came up,
the Koebels thought it’d be neat to own it. But they
never pushed for it. They didn’t need to.
day, while Mike worked in a building next door with a
property management company, the owners of the building
known today as The Poplar Inn, knocked on the door and
gauged Mike’s interest.
“Before we knew it, we were buying the whole thing,”
Mike and Dee had no restaurant experience at that
moment, but two of their children did, including their
son, Tony, who owns The Norbert.
“They were right there with us,” Mike said. “They said,
‘Dad, this would be a great opportunity.’” Because of
its elegance and consistent connection to life-changing
memories, there is a belief The Poplar Inn has a dress
code. They still get calls asking if there is one. There
isn’t one, but most still adhere to one.
was very formal when we took over, people felt they had
to dress a certain way,” Dee said. “We wanted to bring
it down a few notches to make it more comfortable.”
While they have done that, there is still a formal
feeling about The Poplar Inn, which adds to the whole
course, a restaurant won’t last long if something is
off. The Poplar Inn appears it isn’t slacking in any
“The Poplar Inn is a treat every time I go,” said Ben
Funk of Hartford. “And they tend to do steaks better
than most steakhouses I’ve been to. I will sometimes buy
gift certificates for my parents to go there for a
special evening. Highly recommended.”
Mike is the butcher, which he said is an important
reason for why the steaks are as popular as they are.
of the popular dishes is the 6-ounce filet mignon.
Another popular choice on the menu is called Happy
Family, which includes lobster, scallops and shrimp
sautéed with Asian vegetables, sweet thai-chili sriracha
and coconut rice.
think our biggest joy in running this restaurant is to
see people enjoy themselves when they’re here, enjoying
the food, enjoy the experience, walk out of here because
they made a memorable moment here,” Mike said.
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