March 12-18 is Milwaukee in Las Vegas Week on OnMilwaukee.com. Last month, Funjet Vacations sent our editorial team to Vegas, where we sought out connections between Brew City and Sin City. These are our stories …
LAS VEGAS -- It's not exactly on the center strip -- in fact, it's too far to walk from Las Vegas' glitzy hotels and casinos. But for die-hard Packers fans who crave a taste of home, they might as well just call the Badger Café "Lambeau West."
Located in an unassuming strip mall across the street from the Liberace Museum, the Badger Café, 1801 E Tropicana Ave., and its adjoining Rumrunner Packer Backer Bar, aren't much to look at from the outside.
It's what's inside, however, that attracts cheeseheads from all over Las Vegas -- and beyond.
It's just another reaffirmation that Titletown has no official borders.
In many ways, the bar looks like any Wisconsin sports bar, decked out with jerseys, banners, memorabilia and the like. But it's not in Green Bay or Sheboygan or Eau Claire. It's in suburban Las Vegas, which is part of what makes the experience so surreal.
The first Badger Café was based in Tomah, and the current owners' father won the restaurant in a poker game.
Born and raised in Waukesha, brothers Gordy and Gino Hill eventually moved to Southern California -- by way of Wausau -- to work with their dad in the restaurant industry.
"We found that whiskey didn't spoil, so we got into the bar business," says Gordy Hill.
Along with Gino, Gordy moved to Vegas and bought the current bar, which was already an established business, 24 years ago. They converted it into a Wisconsin bar about 13 years ago.
"We're Wisconsinites, and we jumped on the bandwagon," says Hill.
The food at the café and bar are simple fare, best known for "build your own" burgers. They also serve Johnsonville brats, cheesy quesadillas (of course) and cold bottles of Miller High Life. Compared to the relatively high prices for lunch on the Vegas strip, the Badger Café is a bargain.
Other than the desert atmosphere outside, it's enough to make you forget you're not in Wisconsin -- which is exactly what Hill wants, especially on game day.
Hill says he'll entertain 150 fans at the bar by 10 a.m. on the Sunday of a Packers game. And Hill says Las Vegas boasts three or four other Packers bars, too.
During halftime, bar employees pass around bratwurst. Hill says it gives customers a taste of home.
"I hear that a lot," he says. "And that's good."
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.