A review: While different, each restaurant connected

By NICHOLAS DETTMANN - Daily News

Dec. 29, 2017

The Dec. 22 edition of the Daily News was the final installment of the 10-week look at the 10 recommended restaurants, as voted on by Daily News readers, in Washington County. It ended with a profile of The Poplar Inn in West Bend.

The series started with a visit to The Norbert on Oct. 20. Sandwiched, pardon the pun, in the middle were Bibinger’s, Riverside Brewery and Restaurant, Sloppy Joe’s, MJ Stevens, Krimmer’s, Tochi Ramen, Nuckleheadz and Joe Mama’s.

Each restaurant was different in plenty of ways. But they had one thing in common.

The concept came to light after a discussion I had with West Bend Police Chief Ken Meuler. At the time, I was already kicking around the idea of doing something about the local restaurants and he suggested I should do something. That discussion was in early February and it motivated me.

The other motivation behind the project was with the help of my in-laws. They’re from Saginaw, Michigan, about two hours north of Detroit along Interstate 75. Saginaw is a similar size to West Bend, but my in-laws, whenever they visit my wife and I and our two boys they love going to the local restaurants. They do because in Saginaw there aren’t a lot of local restaurants, just lots of chain restaurants.

Those two elements put together helped me with this series. I just needed a way to do it. Then I thought about doing a reader-based survey. I knew I had to do it this way because if myself or our staff picked the ten we thought were best, we’d miss ones for sure.

Don and Georgianne Weigend of Jackson toast to celebrate a date night on Nov. 10 at
Krimmer’s Restaurant in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News

I had a hunch I’d get a lot of responses, but for that to happen was a thrill. More than 1,000 responses to the online survey were submitted. The data and everyone’s willingness to comment on their choices was fantastic. It really brought out a lot about the restaurants and helped me get a baseline for restaurants I wasn’t familiar with.

If you remember, there were 10 restaurants listed as a choice and then one more selection marked “other.” I was often asked how I came up with the 10. Well, I used the user ratings from Yelp.com, taking the top 10. I needed a starting point and that was it.

In the more than 1,000 responses, 67 restaurants were voted on. Out of those 67 there was one vote for Dairy Queen and one for Taco Bell — don’t know if those were serious votes or someone goofing off.

But think about it, that meant there were 65 locally owned restaurants that got at least one vote. Sixty-five! Did you know there were at least that many in Washington County? I say at least because I know there were some that didn’t get votes.

Those that were in the Nos. 11-15 slots were The Great Outdoors Supper Club, Dublin’s, Perc Place, Coffeeville Co., and a tie between Bilda’s Friess Lake Pub and Slinger House.

To have at least 65 locally owned restaurants in Washington County should be something to be proud of.

We decided not to rank them because we wanted each of the 10 restaurants to be on the same level, to not make one better than the other — all 10 were great choices. I certainly learned that after telling each of their stories. All 10 had such neat characteristics that I could see why they were selected.

Did you know that the chef at Bibinger’s had her first featured dish in a restaurant when she was a teenager? Did you know Sloppy Joe’s is a popular destination for Packers players?

Of the restaurants among the 10, the ones I had been to previously were Bibinger’s, Riverside and MJ Stevens. I plan to visit each one that I hadn’t gone to previously again now that I’ve learned more about them.

Each presented fascinating characteristics, such as the memories at The Poplar Inn, a chef formerly cooking for A-list celebrities at Krimmer’s or cooks taking simple dishes and making them extravagant — Tochi Ramen, Joe Mama’s and Nuckleheadz.

But one thing was a common thread between all 10: fresh food.

All of them made having fresh food, nothing frozen, as their No. 1 priority. It showed. I guess you could say, “You can’t beat freshness.” And most of the restaurants used local vendors too, including Bibinger’s using a farm a mile away.

There you have it. I hope you enjoyed the series as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you.

So, for the next visit from the out-of-town family, you now have a checklist of restaurants to check out. I have got my list.

Nicholas Dettmann is the managing editor at the Daily News.


>> RESTAURANTS IN THE SERIES:

Intimacy creates memories at Poplar Inn

Making the ordinary extraordinary

Some things are just meant to be

It’s not your college ramen

Husband, wife dream a little dream together

Hard work is a family tradition at MJ Stevens


Turning from eyesore to ‘sloppy’ delight

Open a brew pub? ‘Sure. We like beer’

Bibinger's: An authentic hidden gem

The Norbert: Adapt, adopt, improve