Reservations recommended at 'House of Bratwurst'

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— Ever since my college days, when I waited tables at the Stag and Hound, I've secretly harbored a desire to open my own restaurant. Those feelings were rekindled last week as I went around town interviewing restaurateurs making changes to the Steamboat dining scene.

I think I'm really going to pull the trigger this time. I've got a prime location picked out and I've got an idea for a theme restaurant. I know that in order to be successful in Steamboat's ultra competitive fine dining scene, I'll have to stake out a niche that hasn't yet been filled. And that's the genius behind my business plan for "Tommy's House of Bratwurst." Before I give you all of the details behind my concept for creating Ski Town USA's first and only sausage palace, let me take you back to the Stag and Hound.

The "Stagnant Hound," as we employees fondly dubbed the place, was a brand new restaurant on the west side of Madison, Wis.

It served an unimaginative menu of steak, prime rib and baked potatoes. It was quality food, just nothing out of the ordinary. The corporate chefs there believed that a pan of mushrooms saut in butter and chablis constituted fine cuisine.

What was out of the ordinary at the Stagnant Hound was the costume worn by the food servers, myself included. The restaurant was part of a chain whose corporate architecture called for a building that looked like an English Tudor manor. Never mind that a dairy barn would have been more in context. Accordingly, the food servers were required to wear a large white blouse with puffy sleeves, leather laces, black knickers and black knee socks. Picture a cross between Tom Jones and the Three Musketeers and you get the picture.

We looked like gravy-stained extras from a low-budget Shakespeare festival.

I would not confess this painful memory to my readers if it weren't for the money.

No, not the money I get paid for writing this column this is actually my hobby. I'm talking about the money I used to make waiting on tables.

At the age of 19, I was going back to my apartment after each shift with the pockets of my knickers stuffed with small bills. I was carrying a full load of credits at the university and rarely had time to go to the bank.

So, I kept a dresser drawer stuffed to bursting with paper money.

I'm not making this up when I opened the drawer, paper money sort of popped out like green confetti. Needless to say, I lived like a prince. So, it's little wonder that 30 years later, I'm contemplating giving up journalism for the carefree life of a restaurant owner in paradise.

Back to "Tommy's House of Bratwurst."

I know a lot of you are already thinking, "Is he nuts? You can't have a successful restaurant that serves only bratwurst!"

Stop stressing, I've thought this through. Tommy's House of Brats will also serve bockwurst and knockwurst! But the fun is going to start as soon as you step over the threshold.

If I could put up with knickers back in the day, I think it's only fitting the food servers at Tommy's House of Brats be required to wear lederhosen and one of those sporty little green caps with a grouse feather tucked into the band.

What are lederhosen you ask?

Why, lederhosen are those gray leather shorts with the bib and suspenders attached. They are traditional garb in Bavaria and frequently worn by polka guys. Upon their arrival, guests will be advised of the 60-minute wait for a table and invited to change into their choice of lederhosen or a ski jumping uniform, so they can pose for a digital photograph.

We intend to construct a large ski jumping diorama in the waiting area of the restaurant. There, guests may pose for free souvenir photos (actually, I intend to build the cost of the souvenir photo into the menu prices, but that's a secret).

Food servers at Tommy's House of Brats will also learn to yodel, and give a demonstration before describing the nightly specials.

On Mondays and Sundays, typically slow nights in the restaurant industry, Tommy's House of Brats will be packed for the free yodeling clinic at half-time of the football games.

It's critical that all food servers are able to describe the dishes on the menu, and my staff will be thoroughly trained in bratwurst etiquette. It goes without saying there won't be a bottle of ketchup in the place.

Ketchup is sacrilege on a brat bun.

In fact, people who are ill mannered enough to request French's mustard may be shown the door at the floor manager's discretion.

Instead, each table will be provided with a Lazy Susan stocked with six kinds of coarse brown mustard. Don't even think about pickle relish. I know many of you feel vegetables are an important part of your daily diet; Tommy's will be proud to serve homemade sauerkraut and grilled onions to satisfy vegetarian cravings.

The brats themselves will be imported from Vic Grittners meat market. Guests will be able to choose from among three beers in which their premium sausages will be boiled. The house recommends Huber bock, but Leinenkugels is OK too, eh.

Look for Tommy's House of Bratwurst to open in late April 2003. Reservations are recommended.

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