First look: The revamped Horse & Plow
The bowling alleys are long gone, but the loss has never affected the popularity of The Horse & Plow pub in The American Club at Kohler.
The subterranean pub and grille was especially bustling during a recent Tuesday visit as the lunch service drew a mix of locals, resort guests and – because the weather was good – golfers to the eatery, which recently got a bit of a facelift.
The restaurant was closed for two months while work was completed, and a grand reopening ceremony took place in early April.
The changes won't likely feel drastic to a patron returning after being away for a while. They included creating a better separation between the bar and dining areas, some reconfigurations to improve the flow of natural light during the day and a new sunken lounge with a fireplace, comfy seating and televisions.
An expanded and reconfigured bar seats more guests and allowed for the addition of more draught lines, too.
"The mood speaks to the history of the venue as a place for friendship and camaraderie," says chef and restaurant manager Loren Rue, "but with a fresh atmosphere. The updates have created a fun and energized new look."
When the rambling Tudor revival building was erected in 1918 – to the designs of Milwaukee architect Richard Philipp – to house the immigrant workers (or what have been described as "single men of modest means") at the Kohler Co., the space was a tap room. By 1924, it was a full-on recreation center with a bar, game room, pool tables and card tables.
In the 1940s, the building's adjacent bowling alleys were moved into the space, too.
The Horse & Plow debuted in 1981 when The American Club reopened, serving pub food and tapping beer for resort guests, company workers and neighbors. By then, the bowling alleys had been removed.
The vibe is casual, but with the sort of attention to detail you'd expect from The American Club. There are quirky fixtures, including vintage lighting that can be raised and lowered above tables by patrons and, in the sunken lounge, a rustic, heavy-duty cart that was rescued from the Kohler factory to be re-purposed as a table.
Like the cosmetic alterations, the menu has undergone changes that have not been drastic.
The sinfully delicious beer battered cheese curds? Still there. (The Horse & Plow sells more than two tons of them each year!) The beer cheese soup? Still there. The house-made pretzel bites? Thankfully, still there.
But there are some new items, too, like a bourbon apple chicken panini ($12) and mustard crusted pork loin ($17).
"We've taken this opportunity to really refine our dishes," said Rue. "The favorites aren't changing flavor but the presentation is new and we've incorporated some new products, so guests get a better meal experience."
I had the piping hot curds ($8) and the pretzels ($6), too – because one almost has to, here. Both matched the advance hype. My shrimp po' boy ($13), with sweet potato fries, had four, fresh jumbo shrimp atop a bed of shredded lettuce, sliced tomato and pickles on a toasted hoagie roll.
Alas, there was no room for the State Fair Sundae ($6) – buttered popcorn ice cream, caramel-coated popcorn and cotton candy with caramel and chocolate sauces – dessert. Next time.
The venue has always been one of the most family friendly restaurants in the sprawling Kohler complex and that remains true today. Kids eat free on Wednesdays and there's a kids menu available all the time.
You won't find tables of young immigrant laborers playing games of Skat and Schafskopf, or hear the thud, rumble and crash of bowling anymore, but The Horse & Plow is still plenty fun and worth the jaunt up north, especially if you're planning on wrapping a round of golf or a visit to a spa into your journey.
The Horse & Plow kitchen is open daily from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. The bar stays open until midnight and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
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