Friday, December 4th, 2015

I was in charge of feeding us last night, but I had given literally zero seconds to thinking about what to make for dinner so I defaulted to stopping at Stalzy’s Deli for hot sandwiches, which has never been disappointing before and wasn’t last night. B ordered a slab of fried walleye on a hoagie bun, and I had a Ruben, and we were both so hungry that we ate every bite rather than save half for later, our usual modus operandi.

That was the second night in a row this week that we ate out. Wednesday was the first. After a long and especially busy day at work, B didn’t want to make dinner, she wanted to relax and have someone make dinner for her. I didn’t see how I would have a leg to stand on if I were to argue against her, so I didn’t. Take that back; I argued just a bit. She suggested Alchemy, but I’d been thinking about how long it had been since we visited Grandpa’s, a pizzeria on Willy Street, so I suggested that, and she went along without a moment’s regret.

The pizzeria’s in a building that used to be Grampa’s Gun Shop. It was right next door to what used to be a store that sold bibles and other Sunday-school tchotchkes. Both stores went out of business years ago; with a new coat of paint, the bible store became Jane’s Junk Shop. Gil Altschul and Marissa Johnson, the pair that have opened several crafty restaurants and bars in the area, bought the gun shop after it closed, gutted it and reopened it as a very cozy little pizzeria, naming it Grandpa’s as a nod to its previous life.

The front of the shop, where gunsmith Larry Gleasman used to sit and work on guns behind the big picture window when it was Grampa’s Gun Shop, was turned into a dining room with one long community table. We were seated there the first time we visited, but when we’ve gone back every time after, they’ve seated us in the dining room that was added to the back of the shop and faces the gardens. Paneled in dark wood with windows all around, the addition has the homey look and comfortable feel of an old-fashioned family room.

Our second visit was on a Tuesday, which they’ve declared Date Night, so we ordered the Date Night Special, which comes complete with special pizza, appetizers and a bottle of wine at a very reasonable price. Since we missed Date Night by twenty-four hours on our most recent visit, we had to pay for the bottle of wine; it was overpriced, but drinks everywhere always are so what the hell.

We built our own pizza last night, or rather B did. I suggested too many toppings and combined pepperoni with basil, a culinary no-no, if B’s reaction was anything to go by. She suggested roasted red peppers and sausage instead of pepperoni, which turned out to be a fabulously delicious pizza indeed. We gobbled up all but two slices, which I saved for lunch the next day. And we got to take home the olives we didn’t eat. So, a very nice night out indeed.

eating out | 1:22 pm CST
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Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Omigod. I am so full. Still. We went to Stalzy’s Deli for dinner last night and they served us so much food and we ate all of it. WHAT WERE WE THINKING?

We didn’t eat ALL the head cheese. That was the only exception I can remember. In the spirit of the event we tried the head cheese, and agreed that it was good, but we also agreed that a little head cheese goes a long way and also that head cheese is a food that is probably in need of a robust rebranding effort. “Cheesehead” sounds whimsically funny, but somehow “head cheese” sounds … not right.

The rest of the appetizers were eagerly gobbled up by everyone at our table. Smoked deli meats, pickled cukes and Brussels sprouts, breads sliced & stuffed – it all got snatched up as the plate was passed hand to hand.

We ate all the cabbage rolls. Because they were sooo delicious.

I don’t think we ate all the spaetzel, but I’m going to stand fast on the claim that they gave us way more spaetzel than any six people could eat no matter how much beer was liberally poured to help wash it down.

I didn’t mention the beer? The good folks at Karben4 Brewing aided and abetted the crew at Stalzy’s to pair one of their fine brews with each course of the meal: A seasonal beer with the appetizer, a red ale with the first course, a black IPA with the next and a firkin of specially-crafted, barrel-aged IPA with the final course.

I was feeling full by the time I finished the spaetzel but couldn’t say no to the schnitzel, because Stalzy’s schnitzel is about as good as schnitzel gets. I really shouldn’t have eaten all of it, but I did. And hated myself for it. And loved every bite.

The final course was a cherry-stuffed pirogi drizzled with cream. I tried to eat it all. I really did. I just couldn’t. I could barely lift my fork by then.

I will eat nothing but leafy greens from now on.

fat fat fat | 8:50 am CST
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Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

When I was a boy, our family used to pile into the car about once a month and make the two-hour drive from our home in central Wisconsin to visit my father’s parents in Door County where, mere minutes after we got out of the car and were welcomed at the door, my grandmother would begin to stuff us with food. And that woman could set out an impressive spread: baked hams, roasted chickens, mashed potatoes, corn and beans, dinner rolls and kolaches, and I don’t know what all else. She was an old-school housewife of Bohemian extraction who could pile on the hospitality like nobody’s business. If we arrived early in the afternoon she often had a lunch waiting for us, too, and at the end of the day as we packed up to go, she piled leftovers on a plate for us to take home. I didn’t think I would ever be fed like that again.

Until last night. We ate so much food last night that I’m pretty sure I won’t have to eat again until July.

Stalzy’s Deli, one of our very favorite places to eat, as well as one of the best places in town to stock up on lunch meat, bread and beer, set out a couple tables for dinner with food so delicious and plentiful in its variety that I couldn’t stop eating, even though my stomach threatened me with retribution of biblical proportions. “Just one more bite,” I kept assuring it.

We showed up to the party shortly after six to find they’d rearranged the tables. There was one long table in the front of the dining area and another in front of the beer coolers; we sat at the end of the table in the front and were immediately served a couple glasses of freshly-brewed beer from Next Door Brewing. The beer from Next Door is always fresh because brew master Keith Symonds is always brewing up a new batch of it in the neck-high stainless steel kettles that crowd one corner of his brew pub. From there, it goes straight to the cooler and gets drunk almost right away by the thirsty customers who throng the bar nightly. Keith was at the dinner to serve brews they’d chosen to go with each course. These beer-pairing dinners have become a thing around here, and I hope they continue to be a thing for many years to come.

The first round of beer was Wilbur, a cream ale made with rolled oats to give it a smooth, sweet flavor to go with the plate of pickled veggies they brought to our table: mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, onions and what looked like scapes. I tried a little of everything, and more than a few of the mushrooms because, you know, mushrooms. Well, maybe you don’t. My Darling B, a dedicated foodie, won’t have anything to do with mushrooms. She’s gamely tried a few but they don’t taste like anything to her, she says, so she won’t touch them. Or Brussels sprouts, but I understand that has more to do with a bad childhood experience. I’m not a fan of Brussels sprouts either but I enjoyed some last night, maybe the only time I’ve eaten Brussels sprouts that didn’t taste like rubber bands.

The veggies were just a small part of the “welcome course,” the rest of which included a plate of Russian rye bread and a bowl of duck liver mousse to spread on the rye, so rich that I probably shouldn’t have eaten more than a spoonful of it, but by the time I realized that it was way too late. Oops. There was also German flammekuche, a sort of bialy with carmelized onions in the center; and Latvian piragi, little buns stuffed with BACON! And what’s a welcome course without a plate of assorted Wisconsin cheeses: yummy fonegreek gouda, MonteAmore, muenster and a bowl of garlic cream cheese. B loved the cream cheese as much as I loved the duck mousse.

For the second course they brought out plates piled high with spaetzel and mushrooms in montchevre goat cheese, German-style green beans (BACON!) and boiled, sliced Yukon gold potatoes, which they paired with a foamy glass of Munchkin Rye. By the time I finished my moderate helping of spaetzel I was already feeling I might be in trouble by the end of the night because the third course was Ente gekocht in fett (which is German for “duck cooked in fat.” Those Germans don’t get too frou-frou with the names of their dishes, I guess) and smoked Labelle duck breast, served on a bed of braised red cabbage. There was no way I was missing any of that. The smoked duck breast, cut into thick slices, was almost sweet and yummily smoky. And they served the duck in duck fat as a whole leg of dark meat so tender that it fell off the bone at the slightest touch. I should have maybe nibbled just a bit of each to get the gist, but as soon as I got a taste I ate every damn bite, groaning with pleasure as I did. To go with the duck, Keith poured glasses of Sevex Ale, still my favorite Next Door brew.

Finally, each table got a Black Forest torte, four layers of chocolate cake with a deep, dark chocolate layer on the outside, whipped cream and cherries in between layers and plenty more on top and around the base. Wow. I mean, WOW! As if that wasn’t special enough, Judy, the maestro who thought up this delicious treat, told us she made it with cherries from the tree in her yard. It was fantastic, and it was the only thing I absolutely could not finish because by that time I was full to bursting. If I’d dared to eat it all, I feel confident in saying I would have literally busted a gut. My stomach still feels a little sore this morning just thinking about it.

What a night. We’re so looking forward to Stalzy’s next dinner, although we might have to go a little easy on the portions next time to make sure we can enjoy them all and still be able to get to the car without waddling.

hospitality | 10:33 am CST
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Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Rode my bike to work yesterday. The weather was flawless and perfect in every way, so I had to ride my bike. I would’ve hated myself all day if I hadn’t.

Rode it to work again today. The weather tricked me this time. It was nice this morning, but on the way home I was sweating so hard it looked like cartoon sweating where those golf ball-sized drops go shooting off in all directions.

About halfway home I got a text from My Darling B: “Where are you? Want to meet me at Stalzy’s Deli?” I’d gotten as far as Olbrich Gardens, about five blocks down from Stalzy’s, but a sandwich and a cold beer sounded so good just then that I doubled back right after I texted a great big “YES!” at her.

I can’t recommend the Brooklyn Breakfast enough. (Stalzy’s serves breakfast all day.) And, if you’re a beer-drinker, it goes well with Ale Asylum’s Hopalicious.

Brooklyn Breakfast | 9:45 pm CST
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Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Planting season has arrived. It’s official when dinners go from being meticulously prepared over a period of hours and eaten long after sundown, to being deli-sliced pastrami and cheese sandwiches with a bag on chips on the side – still eaten after sundown, but now so that My Darling B can spend the last hour or so of daylight in the garden, poking holes in the ground and filling them with onions and radishes and spinach. Although we cheated last night and stopped at Stalzy’s Deli for dinner, wasting a precious half-hour of daylight as we sat in a booth by the window. She still had time enough to get some onions in.

seeded | 6:01 am CST
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Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

On the way home from work this evening we were stopped almost literally in our tracks when we both caught sight of the specials chalked on a sign standing on the sidewalk in front of Stalzy’s Deli on Atwood Avenue:

“Fried egg and bologna sandwich!” we said.

I coasted for another block.

“Sounds good,” B said.

“Sounds good to me, too,” I answered.

“We could have that for dinner tonight,” she suggested.

“We could,” I agreed.

That conversation took almost another block. By the time we got to the stoplight we’d already come to a decision. I cranked the wheel around to the right, circled the block and threaded my way through the neighborhood to come out onto Atwood Avenue again so we could double back to Stalzy’s.

The special was delicious.

bologna | 7:12 pm CST
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