Sunday Morning at the Red Rooster
By Marni Berliner
29 July 2018
Where the library is 4 times the size of city hall and the newspaper’s front page is an ode to the lakes of the Yahara River (“Our Sparkling Jewels”).
Where strangers lend you their flip phones to track down your buds, or let you in the back of their shops to play around with wire cutters and pliers.
Where a wedding stays set up all night because - heck - why ruin the party vibes by breaking down tables?
Where an expert in just about anything is within 2 degrees of separation. The spinach quiche has pieces of ham. Where the only food available for purchase after 9pm is pizza at the Midway Bar, and the only place for breakfast on Sunday morning is the Red Rooster Cafe.
[What is the dark side of Mineral Point? A man with some quilts told Val that the dark side is just across town lines: Dodgeville. A place with disregard for tradition, with houses from a catalog and more fast food restaurants than local cooks.]
Entering Red Rooster (7am): A single man in a black t-shirt sits at the bar reading the paper. A burly man in flannel saunters through. Another with gray hair perched atop a leather jacket and a motorcycle helmet sits and reads the menu. He hopefully asks for blueberry pancakes but ends up settling for spinach quiche with a side of ham.
Meanwhile, the Original Man slowly savors a skillet full of biscuits and gravy.
[How does one small town have so much great facial hair? The mustaches alone - oh my!]
Slowly, the bar fills up, with men eating alone, together.
[“Each lake - Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa, and Wingra - has its own characteristics, quirks, and foibles” - Wisconsin State Journal, Steven Verburg]
The Lady in Red roams the bar, coffee pot in hand, offering fuel for those in need.
I look up from the paper, and just like that, the Original Man is gone. Snuck out without a word. Took his goatee to his next stop.
As Motorcycle Man gears up to go, I casually remark to him as he’s walking past: “nice jacket.” His face lights up as he tells me the story of said jacket; he’s “the victim of fashion, after all.” By a stroke of fate he ended up with a $200 vintage steal in Indianapolis. He learns about my origins and travels, and beams when he describes riding along “The Rise” in CO in the summertime. We talk about the mystifying charm of Mineral Point. An outstretched hand: “nice to meet you, I’m Eric.” And he’s gone.
By 8:30, the bar is empty (except for me). Conversations in booths transition from a quiet murmur to an excited buzz. “The chicken’s cookin’!” a woman yells to the lady in the kitchen before heading out.
[Opinion page of the local paper: The headline on the front reads “Socialism Surge?” The page features two equal-sized articles, separated by a vertical line. Harold Myerson explains why democratic socialism is having its moment, while Cal Thomas blasts that the “spoiled children of America are drawn to failed ideas.” An energetic photo of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez looms above them - her hand hand outstretched as if to say: Stop. Consider.]
Two stylish young ladies sit at the corner of the bar. The day goes on.
[I move to a more comfortable chair to finish the paper. I read a farewell piece to Jack Lussier. Seems like a mensch.]
A family comes in with a baby. The tables in the sunny front section start to fill up.
The town is awake.
is a food enthusiast and amateur dumpling reviewer living in Cambridge, MA. She has recently started writing food and travel stories, and enjoys exploring the connection between the two. You can usually find her at a farmers market, in the kitchen, or exploring outside.