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Packers, cheese and beer

3/4/2020

Wear a cheesehead hat for an Instagram-worthy pic at this Wisconsin-themed bar.

Wisconsinites, celebrate! If you want to experience a bit of Wisconsin in the heart of Iowa — complete with cheese, beer and the Packers — look no further. The Wisco Grub and Pub is the place to be.

Wisco, located at 3015 Merle Hay Road, was opened two years ago by Milwaukee transplants Jeni and Tom Riley. The pair moved to Des Moines 12 years ago, and shortly after, Jeni’s parents followed suit. When the new transplants wanted to attend a fish fry, they couldn’t find anything that tasted like home. That was Jeni’s inspiration to open Wisco, where nearly everything Wisconsin is represented. Beer offerings from seven different Wisconsin breweries are available at Wisco, including the popular Potosi beer. (Sorry, there’s no New Glarus Spotted Cow.) And the food? Can you say cheese? The menu includes mac and cheese, pretzels with beer cheese sauce, Sheboygan polish sausage, beer brats, pretzel-crusted cheese curds and a keto-friendly cheese crust pizza. A Friday fish fry includes cod or walleye. They’ve made their own popular “buffaque” sauce, a combination of hot sauce and barbeque sauce.

Sporting teams from Wisconsin are well represented, including the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin Badgers and more. One sign reads: “Lambeau Field 433 Miles,” indicating exactly how far it is to the sacred playing ground.

Game days are big at Wisco and include drink specials and free Jell-O shots for Packers touchdowns. Birthday guests can wear a cheesehead hat for an Instagram- worthy pic, along with a free shot or ice cream treat.

Wisconsin TV show memorabilia adorns the bar, and themes of Wisconsin shows are represented on the menu. Shark bites exist at Wisco because of the “Happy Days” episode when Fonzie “jumped the shark.”

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Jeni and Tom Riley bring a taste of Wisconsin to their bar Wisco.

“Laverne and Shirley” might get you an impression from the owner and cook, Jeni, who bops up and down, singing, “schlemiel, schlimazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated.”

A trending event at Wisco is its trivia nights. Jeni makes up the questions and puts them together on a PowerPoint. Reservations are now required. Recent trivia themes include Harry Potter, Disney movies and TV theme songs.

Wisco’s happy hour offers half-price appetizers and drink specials, and a brandy or whiskey Manhattan is $4 on Fridays.

The Wisco was recently included in “On Milwaukee,” being recognized on a list of 50 Packer Bars in 50 States. However, its not just Wisconsin fans, “dontcha know,” who stop in.

“We’ve had folks from Prairie du Chien and others who live up the street. People love to chat with us and tell us where they’re from and just hang out. They like theneighborhood pub and good food,” says Jeni. ♦

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