Biking ‘n’ Riding with Aaron — Tommy J’s, Johnsburg
Riding the rolling hills under crystal blue skies in the Holylands does much for putting one’s mind at ease. So was the case for me on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in late June. The corn and soybeans that seemed to be barely peeking out of the dirt just a week before were making their presence strongly known. The sun was out, the wind blew warm in my face, and life was good. Happily, for me, it was about to get better.
Fond du Lac county boasts two, count em’ two, Blanck’s supper club restaurants. I look forward to adventuring to both in the near future. However, on that particular day, Tommy J’s was the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow. I parked my bike, stowed my gear, and strolled up to the door. As I walked in it was easy to notice that the establishment was clean by any standard of measure. Being a little bar in a little town had no impact on upkeep. I was comfortable and felt invited in by the quality condition of the hardwood floors, tables, stools, and bar area. The grill, as heavily as it was being used, was clearly well kept. The space was open and had enough light to keep the climate upbeat. A back area boasted a pool table with a vaulted ceiling, a dart board, and plenty of seating.
It wasn’t long before I was able to saddle up to the bar and take a peek at the menu. This was a mere formality. The Tommy Burger is what I pined for, something I knew before even getting on my bike that afternoon. Though, at first, I was a little worried. This quaint little place, kitty-corner from a sizable church given the population of the town, was abustle with company. Be that as it may, my fears were soon pacified; for the bartender/cook/owners daughter was able to zip up and down the line of packed patrons with the skill of a pro. Drink orders, food orders, and polite tidbits of conversation were all executed in impressive fashion. Before I knew it my menu was gone and the snapping sizzle of my steak burger hitting the grill filled my ears.
Half a High Life later, my Tommy Burger was in front of me. It almost stole my heart. If you know me or have seen me eat, you’ll know that this claim is only half hyperbole. Savory grub makes me a happy man and what was in front of me only increased my anticipation of bliss. The bun was buttered and lightly toasted, the ground steak was packed thick, and the piles of sauteed mushrooms and stringy onions were mountainous in nature. I didn’t instantly dig in. I sat for a moment and simply smiled. These delectable pleasures dare not be rushed. My patience paid off. The steak was juicy, the cheese was melty, and the seasoning connected with the other ingredients as to almost perform a country shindig on my taste buds. From the first bite to last, I was wholly satisfied.
As wonderful as the food was, the true joy of the day was the people. Tommy J’s celebrated an eclectic crowd of churchgoers (fresh out of a wedding), hard-working farmers, and casual patrons. What immediately struck me was the openness and ease in which people were mingling and striking up friendly conversation. There wasn’t a frown in the house. So too was the case for myself. Almost immediately after ordering, a nice couple, Carol and Russel, who were day-tripping from the Milwaukee area, initiated a pleasant conversation. It centered around something I’ve noticed and believe to be true about our home area. The landscape is beautiful, the food is hearty, and the people are welcoming. It may seem counter-intuitive to think of small towns and local bars this way, but my personal experience as a stranger feeling included, wearing equally strange cycling attire, has backed up this hospitality theory on many occasions. So thank you, Tommy J’s. The food was great, the beer was cold, and the company was exceptional. They were just the right amounts of nourishment I needed to fuel my ride home. I greatly anticipate my next visit and hope some of you will think to do the same.
Hope to see you there!
A note about our blogger Aaron Ehley
The eternal flatlands of central Iowa provide an abundance of life-sustaining crops, gorgeous glacially carved parks, and some truly picturesque sunsets. That’s where I’m from, and I’m never going back. Hills, trees, sand, water and the Green Bay Packers. Yes. when Wisconsin called, I answered. The past 7 years have been a delight. The Fond du Lac area has proven a gracious host, both in being home to my first career as a public school teacher and especially in regards to my favorite hobbies: biking and feasting. This brings me to the purpose of why I’m writing this blog. It’s my distinct pleasure to have the opportunity to pedal my beloved 1988 trek up the hills and through the valleys of our lovely local landscape. My mission? Explore as many little well known and unknown gems on my zany adventures as I can, savor local cuisine and/or brews (Milwaukee products are not to be shunned), and let you, the reader decide if you would like to adopt my adventures as your very own. Personally, I’m confident that Fond du Lac County has more than a few summer presents waiting to be unwrapped. Enjoy!