Plenty of craft brews are on tap at The Fountain. Plus, Wi-Fi!
When I heard there was a new spot called The Fountain at 122 State Street, I imagined a soda fountain. But this Fountain is more of a tavern, a throwback to the long, narrow town taps of rural Wisconsin, where a showy bar with talls stools and a single row of tables leads back to the kitchen.
And The Fountain fits that description more or less to a T. "We're old school," says general manager Scott Zeitler, indicating the section of the menu called "beers of our fathers" (you know 'em -- Old Milwaukee, Old Style, Schlitz, Point, Blatz and Hamm's, with a buy-one-get-one special on Rhinelander). On tap, PBR rubs shoulders with local craft brews like Lake Louie Warped Speed, New Glarus Moon Man, and Ale Asylum Big Slick Stout.
Yet the menu at The Fountain is not quite old school. "We're a restaurant that looks like a tavern," Zeitler qualifies. The menu may start where many a bar's does -- with a cheese and sausage plate, cracker basket, and tavern eggs. But The Fountain makes a point of sourcing locally (providers are credited on the menu); the cheese is from Decatur Dairy or Brodhead and Roth Käse of Monroe, and the pumpernickel pretzel is baked by La Brioche.
Zeitler admits that all this "local-local" has become so de rigueur that folks are starting to make fun of it. But his enthusiasm is not just that of a foodie, but additionally for a piece of Wisconsin culture. His family raised beef when he was a kid, and his appreciation for the products of Decatur Dairy and Roth Käse is evident. Zeitler is from Shawano, originally, and laments the passing of bars like this one from spots up north that no longer have the populations to support them.
The more ambitious platters are a black angus steak kabob ($13) and a duo of a kabob and a brat, or substitute chicken ($16). Brats, meatloaf, hamburgers, sandwiches and salads round out the menu. The chef, Michael Cleary, comes by way of the American Club in Kohler and Margaux in Sheboygan.
The most arresting element of The Fountain is not the menu, though, but the antique bar, made of oak and mahogany, that fills the room. It's from a bar in Beaver Dam, also called the Fountain (although in later years also known as The E.R.) that's seen a lot of pints set down on it since coming into service back in 1911. The front window was removed to get it into the space. The facing wall is covered in a mural of images drawn from the archives of the State Historical Society, from Blackhawk to Fighting Bob LaFollette to Aldo Leopold. And some anonymous Holsteins.
The Fountain has been open for about a month, and Zeitler is excited that it's now also open for lunch, as of yesterday. It seats about 40.
The Fountain will anchor the 122 State Street building, along with Charley's Chocolates, which is becoming more of a local-product grocery and sandwich stop, says Zeitler. Upstairs, 122 provides office space to many area nonprofits.