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Friday, September 08, 2006

More Pack: Where to dull the pain this year

In Wisconsin, there is no such thing as a Packers bar. Every bar is a Packers bar. Finding a watering hole that is showing the game is like looking for a liquor store that sells Miller Lite. Take your pick.

In states where a brat and sauerkraut is considered an exotic delicacy, the concept of a Packers bar has real meaning. In the days before NFL cable packages, a green-and-gold friendly tavern was the only place to catch the Pack if you lived outside Wisconsin.

Now that Brett Favre and company can be beamed into the comfort of home no matter where home is, Wisconsin expatriates still seek out Packers bars to be part of the football-based community they had back home.

Aaron Olson is on the hunt for a good Packers bar in Columbia, S.C., where he recently moved with his girlfriend Lauren. Olson, a 28-year-old Appleton native, hasn’t lived in Wisconsin for 10 years. But he found bars that showed Packers games when he lived in Minnesota and Indiana.

As a student at the University of Minnesota, Olson frequented a Packer-friendly establishment just down the road from the Metrodome, home to the hated Vikings. “It was interesting sitting in the lion’s den,” Olson said. “You’re sitting in the shadow of the Metrodome, literally.”

Do a quick Google search and you will find hundreds of Packers bars located in practically every major city in America. On the Packers fan site www.southendzone.com, more than 60 bars are listed for California alone. Every state has at least one bar listed.

What exactly constitutes a Packers bar? Definitions vary, but it has to be a place that gives the Packers game precedence (that means putting the sucker on a big screen TV) and lures cheesehead-sporting fans with curds, sausage and Wisconsin beer.

Watching the game at a Packers bar outside of Wisconsin puts a different spin on the game day ritual. For one thing, “when you’re in Wisconsin, you’re not in a bar,” Olson said. “You’re at home with friends and family.” (Local bar owners would disagree.) The Packers cheering section also is more diverse than the crowd at a typical small-town Wisco bar.

“It’s not just fat guys in mustaches,” said Nick Prueher, a filmmaker from Stoughton living in New York City. “Occasionally you’ll get someone from Pakistan.”

Sounds cool. Here are four unlikely but fun places to see the Packers away from home.

Will’s Northwoods Inn, 3030 N. Racine, Chicago

Wrigley Field is only three blocks away, but Will’s Northwoods Inn is a refuge for Wisconsinites looking for a Packers fix. UW and Marquette fans are welcome, too. Just look for the bar with a Packers flag out front. It sticks out in the middle of Chicago like a loss to the Bears at Lambeau Field.

Owned by La Crosse native Jon Bunge, Will’s Northwoods Inn celebrates its 15th anniversary as “a little bit of God’s country” in the middle of Bearsville this season. Setting up a Packers embassy in the most hostile anti-Packers territory may seem like a risky proposition, but Will’s dairyland atmosphere makes it a favored hangout for Wisconsinites stranded in Illinois.

“Being from La Crosse, he saw an opportunity to hang some dead animals on the wall and he went from there,” said manager Julie Breen, who makes special weekly trips up to Kenosha to buy authentic Wisconsin cheese curds for game day.

Over the years “Packers fans have definitely run Bears fans out of the bar,” Breen said, though there’s still a group of 10 Bears backers who engage in good-natured ribbing with their rivals.

Along with free cheese curds, Will’s rolls out complimentary cheese and summer sausage platters as well as Wisconsin-style Bloody Marys “served with a pickle rather than celery or some other fou-fou concoction,” according to the bar’s Web site (www.willsnorthwoodsinn.com). Oh, and you can yell “The Bears still suck” and be cheered instead of beaten.

Read the rest here.

1 Comments:

Blogger paul said...

Bummer... none in my area code (864).

1:47 PM  

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