There are probably not a lot of people out there who can say they drove 350 miles for a liver sausage sandwich, but Earl and I are proud to be among them. After all, the sandwich, which comes on rye only with onions on request and no condiments, is a signature dish at Baumgartner’s, an old-time tavern and cheese store in Monroe, Wisconsin. It’s located on the town square that is as quaint at the tavern itself.
Earl and Baumgartner’s go way back, long before I showed up on the scene. So when he and I were traveling through western Wisconsin years ago it seemed natural for him to introduce me to this friend. Since then we’ve probably been there eight/night times, and the liver sausage has never disappointed. Neither have the cheese curds. They’re so fresh, they squeak.
Which is why we visited Baumgartner’s today on our way to Winnipeg, Canada. Let it be recorded that Monroe, Wisconsin, was about two hours out of the way; but we knew from early morning we’d make that detour.
The tavern itself is long and narrow, like many old-time stores. Cheese sales are rung in the front; while hearty beer, cocktails, various sandwiches and some other food items are served in the back. We always head for the back first and climb onto barstools that make me feel really tall. Then we laughed at the various signs above the bar, although we’ve seen them every time we come.
They include: “Good food takes time to prepare; yours will be ready in a minute.” Or “If you’re drinking to forget, please pay in advance.” In addition, there are hundreds of one dollar bills clinging to the ceiling. The first time I visited Baumgartner’s I wondered how they got there. I learned every server is able to send the bill, from a curious customer of course, to the ceiling with a technique that includes a tack as adhesive and a quarter as ballast. These are wrapped inside the dollar in a certain way as to make the tack and the bill stick while the quarter returns to the server’s palm.
Then there is the map of the United States and the map of the world with stick pins everywhere to represent where Baumgartner’s customers come from. I noticed that nobody had visited from Benton Harbor, so I asked for a pin to represent my community. And by the time I’d done this, our liver sausage sandwich was ready. A minute must have passed.
I don’t know what it is about Baumgartner’s. It’s dark and loud and clearly inhabited with more locals than tourists. But it exudes such energy in such a sleepy town that it’s contagious. I walk in the front door, smile, and can’t wait to bite into that liver sausage.