Feb. 1, 2023 marked 45 years for Randy’s Neighbor’s Inn, 6922 W. Becher St., the unassuming West Allis gathering place which – over the course of many years – has made a name for itself with its Friday night fish fry.
But, after over four decades, Randy Katzuba says he’s retiring from the bar business. "It's time," he says.
Katzuba has announced that the bar will be serving up its very last fish fry on March 17 and officially observing its last day of regular service on Friday, March 24. Guests are invited to visit Randy’s Neighbor’s Inn for their official closing party on March 25 from 10 a.m. to bar close.
Should you choose to visit during their final weeks of business, please be patient and kind. Wait times may be longer than usual due to customer demand as folks make their final visits to this popular bar and eatery.
Katzuba says that the bar itself has been around for 87 years. During 82 of those years, it was operated by a member of his family: first his grandmother, then his uncle. For five years, he says the bar was run by another party, but in 1978, his father Max brought it back into the family. Randy was just 18 at the time, but his father took him under his wing and helped him build the foundations of the legacy which would follow.
“He promised me he’d teach me everything I needed to know,” says Katzuba, who worked alongside his father for about five years before buying him out and taking on full responsibility for the bar and restaurant.
But Max wasn’t the only one to leave an imprint on Randy’s Neighbor’s Inn. Katzuba says his aunt Juhl was the one who spent her time in the kitchen teaching him how to prepare what would become the bar’s popular fish fry.
“She taught me how to make everything just right,” he says. “And she told me: ‘You keep this the same way, and never change it, and you’ll be very successful’.”
As it turns out, Aunt Juhl was right. The light crisp breading on Neighbor’s Inn’s weekly servings of all-you-can eat cod, the creamy coleslaw and the German potato salad won over customers in West Allis and beyond.
“We’ve never changed anything about the fish fry in all these years,” says Katzuba, who has spent countless Fridays in the kitchen preparing thousands of platters of fish. “And eventually it became the thing we were best known for. I think we’ve been among the top five fish fries in all of Milwaukee County for the last 30 years.”
“That’s been really flattering,” he adds. “We have regulars who come here every single week, and some people come from as far as New Berlin, Muskego and Waukesha.”
Katzuba says he could never have made it through many of those years without the help of his wife Suzanne, who – before she passed away in 2010 – divided her time between her job at Northwestern Mutual, helping to raise their daughter and working as hostess, server and events coordinator at Randy’s Neighbor’s Inn.
“She did so much for us here,” says Katzuba, “And I wish she was here to enjoy these last days. I know she would have really enjoyed seeing all the people coming out to say their goodbyes.”
Katzuba says he always thought he’d close out his final days at the bar with Suzanne and they’d move somewhere and enjoy their retirement. But even in her absence, he says he’s made plans to enjoy himself while he is in good health. He says that once he gets things settled here in Wisconsin, he has plans to move out West to Nevada.
“I have a lot of friends out there,” he says, “The weather is beautiful, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life.”
In the meantime, he says, he’s looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces as they come through the bar over the next few weeks, and to be able to share the final day at the bar with his daughter Amber, who is coming home to mark the occasion.
“It’s been an amazing ride for me,” he says, “All these years and I’ve met amazing people, some who are now close friends. It’s very humbling, and the outpouring of support I’ve received from people has just been amazing. I will always carry those memories with me.”
Randy’s Neighbor’s Inn will be open regular hours through Friday, March 24. A closing party is planned for March 25 from 10 a.m. to bar close.
Randy’s Neighbor’s Inn will offer its final fish frys on Friday, March 3, March 10 and March 17 from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Due to demand, no carry-out or reservations will be accepted. Walk-ins only.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.