Having written often about road trips in our Jeep Wrangler, Hubby Bryan and I often get asked, “Where are you going this summer?”
We generally go on one extended trip and several shorter long weekends over the course of a summer. During the long pre-Fourth of July weekend, we went on one of those shorter excursions to one of our favorite places — Wisconsin.
Wisconsin in the perfect place to venture if you love beer, cheese, sausage and windy roads. We fit that description to a T: Bryan is an avid homebrewer (I help, usually by naming and consuming the resulting brews) and we enjoy craft beers; we both love cheese; Bryan’s favorite meal would be a platter full of sausage; and taking those S-curves in the Jeep with the top off is a navigational delight. (And amazingly, the Jeep gets its best gas mileage in such terrain.)
This is somewhat of a generalization, but just about any town of any size in Wisconsin has at least one bar (if not four, often all at a crossroads on the four corners), a cheese factory and a butcher shop that specializes in sausages. We have our favorite such locales in Wisconsin, many of which I’ve shared in previous stories about our travels.
This time, we went in search of a very small tavern in a very small town. Friends Kevin and Kami Lease, former Worthingtonians who now live near Madison, had told us about a place called Dot’s Tavern. I was immediately intrigued, because we lovingly called my late mother — Dorthy Rickers — Grandma Dot, and now I often refer to her as DotMom in these writings. The Leases also refer to Kevin’s mom — another Dorothy, albeit different spelling — as Grandma Dot. So the name holds significance for us all.
The Leases weren’t able to guide us to or meet up with us at Dot’s Tavern, so Bryan and I ventured there on our own. It is located in a tiny little unincorporated town called Basco, just south of Madison, Wisconsin. Our GPS doesn’t recognize Basco, but we managed to find the place by plugging in Dot’s official address.
There it was — a house in a small cluster of houses (think Org) on the edge of a Wisconsin pasture. If the Dot’s Tavern sign hadn’t been posted out front, we would have surely thought we were in the wrong place. The tavern is actually located in the basement of the house, and the sign indicates it’s been there since 1948.
On this particular day — a Sunday — a meat raffle had taken place earlier, and some vintage cars were parked around the perimeter when we arrived. As the clouds let loose with a few sprinkles, those vintage rides quickly disappeared. But by the time we went downstairs to the bar to fetch a beer and re-emerged, the sun was shining again, so we sat outside on some plastic lawn chairs at a picnic table.
Yes, Dot’s is one of those unique Wisconsin small-town watering holes, to which, in all likelihood we will return again.
Here’s a seasonally appropriate recipe that features two prime Wisconsin ingredients — cheese and beer.
Wisconsin Berry & Cheese Salad
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons beer (preferably a pale ale or fruit-based beer)
2 tablespoons honey
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups mixed greens or romaine lettuce
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1½ cups fresh blueberries
½ cup Cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
⅓ cup chopped pecans
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, beer, honey, garlic and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.
In large bowl, combine greens, berries and cheese. Add dressing, tossing well. Sprinkle pecans over all and serve.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.