Hidden Gem: Sloppy Joe's Saloon and Spoon
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To those passing through, Hubertus may seem like just another small town in Wisconsin with the typical small-town setting. However, right near the intersection of Hubertus Road and Scenic Road, you will find a place that's quite the contrary. That place is Sloppy Joe's Saloon and Spoon, a bar and restaurant in Hubertus with a family-friendly, home-like atmosphere that provides live music every Friday night.
"Every customer is welcomed when they walk in the door within 10 seconds," said Joe Hennes, owner and founder of Sloppy Joe's. "It's 'Welcome to Sloppy Joe's. Are you joining us for dinner tonight or are you just here for a beverage?' People love the welcome so much so that if our regulars are not welcomed when they come in the door, they welcome themselves."
Sloppy Joe's history stems back to 2003, when Hennes gave up his 13-year career as a guidance counselor in Brookfield and give his full commitment to the bar business as he bought the rundown two-story building to fix up.
Although it may seem like it's located in the middle of nowhere, the location is no accident as Hennes' history with Hubertus goes way back. Hennes was born and raised in the area in a family that made its home in Hubertus in 1858. In fact, it was just a mile and a half up the street from Sloppy Joe's current location that the Hennes family planted its roots. And as time can tell, that is where they remained.
After much work was done to the building, in 2006, Sloppy Joe's finally opened its doors – and has been a success ever since, continuing to expand to regular and new customers alike.
"I think there were some customers that just from me being a local guy that were natural costumers who came in," Hennes said. "I think that within the last five years we have really expanded. One of the biggest changes we have done is that we have added real barbecue to our spread."
One of the things you'll notice when you first see Sloppy Joe's is the massive barbecue smoker that sits out front of the restaurant. The smoker has become one of the main features to the dinning experience, using real hickory wood and a water tray with a hint of apple cider to keep the meat juicy as it steams and smokes at the same time.
"I think our business really caught fire when people started talking about what was different about us – and I think that's the barbecue smoker," Hennes said.
It's clear that Sloppy Joe's prides itself in having a family-friendly atmosphere, and although it is very laid back, Hennes said that that does not mean it takes its food menu lightly. Not to mention a cooking staff that includes kitchen manager Ralph Aliota who has owned his own restaurant, Steven Pruse who worked under the No. 1 pit master in Wisconsin and Hennes who himself has grown up cooking.
"I think of it as upscale-casual," Hennes said. " You can come dressed casually, but it is certainly way up on the spectrum of what people would consider bar food. I'm not trying to replicate what a fine dining establishment is trying to do, but I am just trying to give components to what that might be. So if you are out for dinner with your wife and you want to get a great prime rib on a Saturday night, but someone else in your group wants to have one of our house-smoked brisket sandwiches, you've got options available to you here."
Although the dinning experience is certainly a unique feature to Sloppy Joe's, the bar is also a main factor to the success of the business. The bar is fully loaded with 10 beers on tap, including Miller, Spotted Cow, a few IPAs and even a few exotic beers, such as Icelandic Einstok.
As bartender Paul Barnes would tell you, whether you are stopping in for food, a drink or even working a shift as an employee, Sloppy Joe's is a fun place to be.
"This is a lot of fun, it is wildly fun," Barnes said. "This is definitely rural Washington County, but it still is a neighborhood pub. It really is that. The food is really good, but really what it is is a common connection. There is a core of people who live around the area that are very regular, but the connection is very neighborhood despite the fact that it is a fairly large geographical area. And people pick up on the vibe when they come in. That's the biggest thing of all."
According to Hennes, on any given night, there will be regulars who come in and know everyone's name and make themselves right at home. One of those regulars is Jeff Kinzinger, who has been close friends with Hennes for a while and was his roommate as they both lived above Sloppy Joe's for a while.
Kinzinger is father to six kids and, because of the family-friendly atmosphere of Sloppy Joe's, he is often there.
"I always feel like part of the family when I come through the door," Kinzinger said. "I tell everyone I meet that they have to have the fish fry at Sloppy Joe's. Ironically, most of it has to do with service as well. You feel like people want you to be here."
Perhaps what makes Sloppy Joe's such a friendly establishment is that Hennes and his wife, Ellen, are both very friendly themselves. Regulars like Grant and Carroll Gerondale appreciate that.
"It's really a neighborhood thing – Joe and Ellen introduce you to people," Grant said. "If you don't know people, they will introduce you to them. So we have met some really good people from this place that we see here and other places as well."
Hennes said his wife is a real asset to the business, and Ellen Hennes says she enjoys working around the restaurant.
"I'm kinda the organizer, the payroll, the accountant," Ellen said. "Joe's the big idea guy. One of our regulars, Tuesday Tom, will come in and he was laughing and he was like, 'This job is not that hard.' And I had probably just sat down from running a 15 hour day and I go, 'But the good news is I can still have a cocktail after my day and still hangout and talk to my friends.' Our regulars have become our friends – one of our biggest sayings is that, 'Strangers become friends and friends become family.'"
Sloppy Joe's is certainly a must try when in the Hubertus area. It is a place where all are welcome as they are. Whether you come in for a drink, some food off the authentic smoker or to see the live entertainment every Friday night, Sloppy Joe's is a guaranteed good time. Also, while dining and drinking, be sure to ask Joe Hennes about the series of unusual events that happened in the Sloppy Joe's restaurant many many years ago. He will enjoy telling it.
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