I've got lots of favorite places. I've got a favorite place in Milwaukee. I've got a favorite place in Taiwan. I've got a favorite place in Mexico City. And I've got a favorite place in Barcelona. I've even got a favorite place in lovely Doolin, Ireland.
But no favorite place is like my favorite place in Monroe, Wisconsin.
My favorite place in Monroe is the bomb. Or more like, "the Baum."
Of course, if you know Monroe, you know I am talking about the incomparable Baumgartner's Cheese Shop and Tavern - Wisconsin's oldest cheese store (1931). There's so much to love about Baumgartner's it's hard to know where to start, but picking one ... I'd have to say it's the cheese. Why more places don't serve good cheese sandwiches, I don't know, but it's worth driving two hours from Milwaukee or Chicago to Monroe to dine on one of these beauties. Earlier today I ate one made from a thick slab of medium cheddar on light rye. Of course I had to upgrade it with hard salami and red onions and, at my own discretion, I slathered it up good with some stone ground mustard.
So simple you could make one right now in your own home. But, for whatever reason, it won't taste as good as one at Baumgartner's!
They also serve craft beers from nearby breweries like New Glarus, Ale Asylum and the very near (two blocks!) Huber. (I suggest not drinking TOO local, if you know what I mean.)
Besides the great cheese and beer, the ambiance and service is pure fun and classic Wisconsin. There must be $1,200 stuck to the ceiling and one young waiter will show you exactly how it's done. I dunno, they wrap a quarter into a dollar with a thumbtack or something. Give it a good hard whip and it sticks right up there. If you try, and in the process you knock some money down, it's yours to keep!
What took me to Monroe today was business. I traveled with a colleague who had never been to Monroe. At the end of our meeting, I said to the guy with whom we had just met, "You know, my coworker has never been to Monroe and there's a place that I need to take him."
Without a moment wasted, he said "You're taking him to Baumgartner's for a cheese sandwich and beer, aren't you."
"Yes," I said. "How'd you know?"
"EVERYBODY that visits Monroe goes to Baumgartner's for a cheese sandwich and beer!"
Well it's good to know that America hasn't swung completely to the corporate side and that they still recognize the quality, value and fun of a true American classic -- Baumgartner's.