NOTE: The Red Lion closed in September 2011. Sorry. You missed it.
As much as I’d like to keep a place like the Red Lion Pub to myself, I just can’t. You need to know about this place, and you need to go there. Now.
The Red Lion is located on Wisconsin’s Great River Road about 30 minutes south of La Crosse; if you’re switching tunes on your iPod as you’re passing by, you won’t know you’ve been there.
When I walked into the bar on a Friday night, I realized that the pub is about the same size as the village: the bar has seven stools and the restaurant about seven tables. As I walked through the door, all seven barstools were occupied, so, naturally, everyone turned to look at me. “I feel like I just crashed a private party.” I said. “No, but when you walk in here with a notebook, that’s going to get some attention.” “I wanted to make sure I had something to do in case I was the only person here.” (Seriously, it’s a defense mechanism. I routinely bring a notebook with me in case the bar turns out to be really dead or really scary.) After a few laughs, some of the guys moved to the dining room to eat and to give me a place to sit. And, they bought me my first beer.
The food at the Red Lion is a pleasant change from the tired fryer-based menus that dominate in the area. The English pub-inspired menu (the owners are authentically English) features dishes like fish and chips and bangers and mash. Remarkably, you will also find a variety of Indian dishes; in fact, this is quite possibly the only place within 100 miles where you can get Indian curries. (In spite of its large college student population and presumably well-educated and well-cultured population, nearby La Crosse does not have a single Indian restaurant.) I haven’t sampled enough of the food to feel confident in offering any opinions, but I can say that the people I talked to are in love with it.
Did I mention that the Red Lion also has a great, if not overwhelming, selection of quality beer? Get yourself a good English bitter such as Fuller’s ESB, then, do like I did and follow the lead of Marc, an unashamed beer snob like me—a true kindred spirit— and savor a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. When I took my first sip, I swear the earth stopped dead in its tracks, time froze, and I finally understood the meaning of life. Did I mention that the beer is so reasonably priced, you will never ever again be able to live with yourself if you pay $3 for a Budweiser?
The Red Lion is located in Victory, Wisconsin, named as such because it is near the spot where the so-called Black Hawk War ended, about two miles south of Heck’s Point Road, which is not an especially good landmark, I just like the name.
- Red Lion Pub & Eatery:
(608) 648-3100. Currently open for dinner Th-Su, but will expand hours for the summer. Now closed.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2009