It’s a green and gold beacon shining for New York’s weary cheeseheads. Every good Wisconsin expat finds his or herself there at one time or another—maybe for the beer, the summer sausage, cheddar cheese and crackers. Especially for the blazing ’Sconnie accents.
Or if you’re like me, you go because descending into the subterranean Manhattan tavern of Christmas lights is like a Packerland time warp. The effect can be so severe the ladies restroom bears a warning: “Watch your belongings. This IS New York.”
But there’s no denying the Kettle of Fish is the Raji-mahal (sorry) of east coast Packers bars.
You’ll find the Kettle by word of mouth or by Googling “Packers bar NYC” and landing on an NPR video showing a drunken lady valiantly extolling Midwest Airlines (R.I.P) cookies.
Wauwatosa native Patrick Daley has manned the bar for more than 16 years. He’s the one cooking Usinger’s brats in the first half and proclaiming, “It’s a nightmare. It’s a reoccurring nightmare. Fucking Groundhog Day!” in the second. He’s the leader bestowing words of wisdom to the Kettle list serv.
January 6, 2014: “No loss is a good loss, but it is worse in an elimination game so the sting is going to linger for a while. That’s life.”
Sure, some hoity-toity New York media have popped into this cavernous hideaway…but I’ve rolled with the regulars for years in their low-ceilinged, Favre-exorcised habitat.
Here are a few of my Kettle Of Fish career highlights:
Mrs. Sprecher came to the Packers bar and some regulars went wild
When Connie Kwok attended a game two years ago, she found a strange woman in a Chef Coleman’s chair. Kwok is typically one of the first in line and reigns over a designated corner, where she often sits with the aforementioned fellow regular.
“I was like, who the fuck is this lady sitting in Coleman’s chair?” Kwok recalls. “So I was kind of mad.”
It was Anne Sprecher of the Milwaukee-based brewery and root beer bastion bearing the same surname. Kwok saw the stuffed Rooty at Mrs. Sprecher’s side and a bottle of her eponymous brew—and quickly put two and two together.
“Then I ordered a Guinness,” Kwok says. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, I just ordered a Guinness in front of Mrs. Sprecher!’”
Others remember the celebrity sighting differently. Longtime Kettle mensch Matt Jensen said Anne doled out free Sprecher to the whole bar.
“With someone that age, they might say ‘It’s crowded. I’m gonna leave.’ She decided, ‘No, I’m going to stay and let everyone enjoy themselves. That’s classic Wisconsin,” Jensen says.
Mike McCarthy’s wife turned up at the bar—and bought a puppy mill dog from a pet shop next door
Another special guest includes Mike McCarthy’s wife, her kids, and an entourage around her. The first lady of Green Bay ducked out and returned with a new member of their party: a brand-new pooch bought from a neighboring shop.
After some Goldschläger and Miller Lite, I did what any progressive, animal-loving Wisconsinite would do. I railed against McCarthy’s wife on Twitter and included the official Green Bay handle—during the game. Then I deleted the missive a few minutes later.
The drinks flow so freely you might pass out on the subway, bereft of the 50-cent High Life cap from an Omro garage sale
There is a lovely bartender named Tara, and once on her good side, you’ll get a special Goldschläger concoction called an Oatmeal Cookie. But if you have too many because you arrived hours before game time (just to snag a bar stool), you might be in trouble.
After fuzzily acknowledging the game on the bar’s microscopic flat screens, I somehow made it to the subway. Except I accidentally woke up at Avenue U—a 44-minute, 10-mile ride to the end of Brooklyn. I was haunted for days after realizing an evil straphanger plucked the hat from my sleeping head.
There are veggie brats, but you must enunciate whilst placing an order
People like to reminisce about the 2011 game where I (again, a progressive and animal-loving Wisconsinite) ordered a vegetarian bratwurst—only to bite into a real hunk of meat.
“You guys,” I stopped in terror. “I don’t know. Is this a real brat?”
After a round of tests, it was confirmed I had errantly received Usinger’s, not my desired soy-based wurst. To this day, I cannot order a VEGGIE brat without half the establishment winking to the bartender.
This wholesome Midwestern community loves to eye-roll certain newbies
When the Pack scores, the bar plays Eddy J. Lemberger’s 1993 cult classic “I Love My Green Bay Packers” over the speakers and everyone claps and do-si-dos despite the tiny capacity, and Daley howls like a wolf.
When the opposition scores, famed Happy Schnapp’s Combo polka standard “The Bears Still Suck” plays.
The bar even distributes punch cards during the season, so if you’ve attended most of the games, you’re guaranteed entry during the playoffs. This stops bandwagon “fans” from commandeering loyal patrons’ posts.
But regulars love to heckle newbies exhibiting bad behavior—especially those that push through the crowded bar to ask which beers are on tap. Or the tall folks who stand directly in front of the tiny TVs. Especially when someone calls during the game and asks if it’s on. That’s when Tara says, “Yes, we’re showing the game” and hangs up.