New patio at rural Fredonia bar, restaurant stays true to quirky roots
By owner Dave Cookâ€™s best guess, the Little Kohler Haus at 4818 Hwy. H in the Town of Fredonia, has been entertaining guests for more than 80 years.
Cook bases that estimate on an old photograph he found in a back room of the bar showing several people huddled around a classic car with the inscription â€śPioneers of Little Kohler steak and chicken diner.â€ť
Although proud of the history, he said that doesnâ€™t mean the bar and restaurant couldnâ€™t use a little updating.
Cook used that rationale recently in enhancing the outside service area and patio, adding several new seating areas, a stage and an outdoor projection screen.
A grand opening celebration of the patio area is planned for all day Saturday, May 16, when there will be DJ music and drink specials.
Much like the rest of the bar, Cook said, the patio draws heavily on repurposed materials.
Old advertising signs are displayed throughout the building.
â€śWe have always been big on recycling. I want a place that looks comfortable, like it has been around awhile,â€ť he said.
The inside and outside of the building feature re-used barn wood, furniture and even some materials salvaged from Milwaukeeâ€™s Deep Tunnel project.
Cookâ€™s business roots are in Milwaukee, where he ran Cookâ€™s Custom Choppers, a successful motorcycle customizing shop.
It was a booming business that earned him quite a bit of national acclaim, including being featured on the Discovery Channel.
â€śThings were going good but I was looking to branch out. I bought the bar thinking it would be a nice side business, maybe four hours a day,â€ť Cook said.
â€śIt turned into a 16-hour-a-day business and now is my primary job. I spent the first four years pretty much rebuilding everything. It was a real pit.â€ť
Long favored by the biker crowd, the rejuvenated Little Kohler Haus eventually became known for casual dining â€” making it popular with families.
â€śLast Friday night we served over 100 people who came to our fish fry,â€ť Cook said.
He also added a volleyball court, which led to league play two nights a week with a dozen teams.
The growing popularity of the bar has led to some conflicts with a few neighbors, forcing the town to set up a permit system limiting businesses to eight outdoor music performances each year.
â€śIt is a little crazy for a bar to have to live with those kind of restrictions, but we are getting by,â€ť Cook said.
â€śWhen you look around, you can see we are pretty much in the middle of nowhere but I think we have become a destination place for people.â€ť
Image information: WHIMSY IS IN the air â€” and apparently in the tree, as a bicycle parked amid the tree limbs attests â€” in the new patio at Little Kohler Haus in the Town of Fredonia. At left, Leea Cochenet got ready to serve drinks in the outdoor seating area. Photo by Mark Jaeger