Shining Along Green Bay's Fox River
Green Bay, Wis.
If you build it, they will come. Well, it wasn't until the Green Bay city council and developers came together to construct a quarter-mile boardwalk along the Fox River that Dan Timmers and Jess Miller decided to build Hagemeister Park. And the people have come ever since.
This 9,000-square-foot restaurant was inspired by the original Hagemeister Park, an expansive park owned by the Hagemeister Brewing Co. where the Green Bay Packers first played and where locals would come for picnics, dancing, and to watch theater and harness racing in the early part of the 20th century.
The new restaurant sits along the CityDeck with a 4,000-square-foot outdoor patio. It serves as an upscale yet, approachable, sports-themed destination for the thousands of people who work downtown as well as Green Bay visitors.
"Our vision was to re-create the entertainment destination with a different theme," co-owner Timmers said. "We have a nostalgic look from the days gone by. There's a lounge right on Washington Street with glass frontage. There's a 50-foot wood bar that has the old iron and wood vintage look with a distressed bar top. The whole west wall is all glass; it's a nice viewing area even in winter."
Timmers and Miller, who also own seven locations of sports bar The Bar in northeast and central Wisconsin, have been in the restaurant business for 20 years, but approached this new venture cautiously. It wasn't until they were sure there was enough development and knew that people would come that they pulled the trigger. The restaurant seats 300 people at any given time, not including the 150 on the patio or the approximately 1,200-square-foot party rooms that accommodate groups visiting the nearby KI Convention Center and Hyatt and Hampton Inn hotels. In winter, the city builds an ice rink along CityDeck and Hagemeister Park serves as a warming area serving hot chocolate and coffee and, of course, cocktails and food.
Timmers describes the menu as homemade fare that's approachably upscale, but not fine dining. They source seasonal, local ingredients when possible, like local beef and five-day-a-week bread delivery as well as some in-house baking to get their mix of ciabatta, pretzel, wheat and brioche buns for their large selection of fresh ground, USDA chuck burgers, brats and sandwiches including their popular Reuben, Cajun mahi mahi and Portobello Florentine. These are served alongside prime-aged, bone-in tenderloin, wiener schnitzel and their Rajun Cajun Alfredo with chicken, andouille sausage and shrimp atop linguine in a spicy cream sauce. Where Hagemeister further differentiates itself is that about 80 percent of the menu can be prepared gluten free, something the restaurant takes very seriously.
"People have entrusted it with us and we get a lot of repeat diners because of it," Timmers said. "We knew it would be a challenge. We do it right so people don't get sick. People are so happy we do it for them."
Chef Kurt Fahler constantly experiments to keep things exciting and fresh on the menu and creates seven seasonally themed menus throughout the year, including Oktoberfest, harvest and holiday. With the addition of the outdoor ice rink, Hagemeister adds more winter drinks like Irish coffee, hot toddies and darker beers. And they offer a "2-3-4" happy hour: $2 beers, $3 call cocktails and $4 higher-quality cocktails with some "chef's choice" appetizers. "We're not fond of 2-for-1; it reduces quality and I don't like the look of having two drinks put out," Timmers said. "We reduce our prices. It's a better deal. People are drinking less, looking for high quality and we want to provide that."
If someone may have had a little too much to drink, the restaurant provides a free shuttle to take people to area hotels and nearby neighborhoods. This care translates to the restaurant's staff, which Timmers said is the backbone of the business. "You're only as good as the people you hire," he said. "I need good people around me. We have benefits for our staff like attractive wages, health benefits and vacation time. To get quality people, you have to have it."
In the end, it all comes down to good service and good food. Without both, Timmers said you will not have a successful business.
"People are always looking to take shortcuts, but I believe in doing it right the first time," he said. "People are more knowledgeable about drinks and food and I believe in full transparency. If you make a mistake, apologize and make it right. When you get a great compliment, own that, too."