The Mouse Tavern: It's All About the Story -
Before I even knew the location of the Mouse Tavern, people were telling me the story. Located on Madison Avenue, just down from Woodmans, this little bar/restaurant has been in the rumor mill of Beloit for a very long time. I’d never been there, but nothing pleases me more than a great new place to eat, so off I and my date went.
We went on a Saturday night, a busy night for any place serving pretty much any kind of food. We were lucky enough to find the last parking spot, and when we went in, the tables were almost filled to capacity. If I were to travel to Hong Kong and ask a resident to describe a Midwestern American bar, they would have described the Mouse. Yes, it looks precisely like that. Television up on the wall above the bar playing the Badgers game, floor gone wavy through years of heavy shoes tracking in and out, and tables which are at the age to now be called “vintage.”
Deep Fried, with Lots of Cheese
Our denim pedal-pusher wearing server, Randi, was a cheerful brunette with her hair caught up in a messy ponytail. She was more than happy to give us the house recommendations, and we ended up with deep fried mac & cheese with broccoli & cheese bites for an appetizer, neither of which I’d ever heard of. Hey, I’m new to the Midwest, whattayawant?
I think I must have peered at mine for a good half-minute before taking a bite. Deep-fried? Cheese? How wrong could I go? My date, a native Wisconsonite, had no such compunctions and tucked into his almost before I could snap a picture (Put that down! My flash isn’t working!) I was actually pleased. The appetizers were hot and creamy, and though I wasn’t making any points with the health-conscious side of my brain, I really didn’t care.
The Mouse Tavern’s Famous
Chicken and Dumpling
Then came my entree. Chicken and dumplings. “Have the chicken and dumplings!” my sources had urged. “You won’t believe it!”
I didn’t believe it.
I had no idea they made dumplings the size of my head. One per plate, topped with gravy, with an extra bowl of gravy to the side. Holy schmolie. Was I supposed to eat it or climb it? My date was laughing his fool head off as he dug into his pork chop and I turned my plate around and around, hoping for a flashing “START HERE” sign. I chickened (so to speak) out and ate the coleslaw. Then a piece of the fried chicken. Then I took a manly breath and cut open the dumpling. It lacked the particular texture of a boiled-in-broth dumpling, but was surprisingly light. Not bad at all, especially with the gravy. I took a good 3/4 of it home to eat the next day with my beef soup. When Randi asked me if I wanted dessert, all I could do was stare at her in amazement.
Where the Mouse got its name
Oh, yeah, the story. Well, it’s hard NOT to notice the Disney-esque paintings on the wall. Seems that “some years back,” according to Randi, the Mouse was the Mick E. Mouse Tavern. An employee wore his MMT shirt to Disneyworld while he was on vacation. Several weeks later, the tavern was served with a sharp “cease and desist” order from the ever-vigilant Disney attorneys. Randi, unprompted, showed me an ancient, yellowed obituary written by the regulars of the bar at the time, mourning the demise of the Mick E. Mouse.
I have no idea if this story is true. And for any Disney attorneys who may be reading this blog, try the deep-fried mac & cheese. Really. It’s pretty amazing.