When we walked into the historic Range Line Inn, 2635 W. Mequon Rd., we were immediately greeted by one of the owners, Patrick Strong, who has overseen the restaurant for more than 20 years.
Our waitress, too, had been with the restaurant for about two decades. As we looked around, we realized many of the patrons were likely regulars who had been coming to the restaurant since the new ownership took over in the late 1980s, and possibly before.
This building and the existing parcel have a lengthy legacy beginning in the 1830s and early 1840s, making the Range Line Inn one of the oldest structures in Mequon. The entry foyer is decorated with newspaper articles and write-ups about the historic building, its record as a restaurant and several glowing reviews from local publications.
The inn itself is warm, cozy and intimate in a friendly and almost boisterously joyful fashion. The entrance door leads you into the bar, which separates a casual wooden booth and leaded glass dining area from a larger, more formal dining room. All three areas were busy on a recent Wednesday evening.
The menu at Range Line Inn is casual, with sandwiches, soups, chicken, steaks and ribs. All entrees come with a basket of homemade rolls and the history of the inn is shared on paper placemats, giving context both to the setting and the greeting from Mr. Strong, which is referenced on the same placement in the very first few paragraphs:
"In the finest restaurants you will see the owner roaming from table to table greeting guests ... Please be assured the staff and I welcome you to the historic Range Line Inn where a commitment to excellence in dining is our goal."
House specials include "Our Famous BBQ Chicken" that former Harley-Davidson CEO Jeffrey Bleustein raved about in a 2004 Fortune magazine interview. The chicken, like most entrées, is served with soup or salad, choice of potato, and with or without skin for $14.95.
"Our Famous Range Burger" ($9.95) also makes an appearance, not to outshine the Friday fish fry, which is a neighborhood favorite. The Range Line Inn's version includes French fries, potato pancakes or parsley and butter boiled potatoes. Diners can opt for beer battered haddock ($12.95) or lake perch ($14.95), baked cod ($12.95) or a fish sandwich ($10.95).
Unlike many restaurants that serve steaks, burgers and chops as their main theme, the Range Line Inn caters well to a vegetarian crowd, with eggplant parmesan in entrée and sandwich form ($13.95 and $9.95, respectively) and both vegetarian ($8.95) and black bean ($10.95) burgers.
Dinners can be followed with homemade apple ($2.95) or pecan ($3.95) pie, double chocolate truffle brownies ($4.95), a hot fudge sundae ($3.50) or strawberry schaum torte ($4.50). Most items are made fresh in house.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.