Restaurants with German food are abundant in Wisconsin, but a chef in a Northwoods town of 2,100 adds authenticity beyond bratwurst and hot potato salad with bacon.
Running the kitchen at Black Forest Pub & Grille in Three Lakes is Marcel Biró, whose career began as one of Germany’s youngest master chefs. By age 24, he already had worked for then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Also on the resumé: “Kitchens of Biró,” a nationally syndicated and 26-episode reality TV series based in Sheboygan; the start-up of Edgar’s Grille, a fine dining project for Goodwill Industries and Helms College in Georgia; and a partnership with Regal Ware on a cookware line.
Biró barely spoke English upon arrival to the U.S. in 1999, first to cook German favorites at the annual Christkindlmarket in Chicago, then to work in Wisconsin.
The decision to settle into a small-town business (which originally opened in 1934) brings life full circle. “What we really like about this town is that it’s little,” the chef says. He walked to school as a boy and says his two daughters could do the same.
The work of selling Biró as a business brand has taken a back seat to more family time, but Biró and his wife, Heather, are cautiously introducing fine dining to the area. After a farm-to-table dinner for 100 sold out last summer, the couple added five- course wine and beer tasting dinners over the winter. “People will splurge for a unique experience,” says Heather.
Business as usual is a mix of pizzas and burgers, schnitzels and pork shanks, onion rings and spaetzle. Expect Old World recipes and sly deviations from tradition. One example: fried cheese curds with a side of lingonberry sauce.
Recent hires include Gary Rankin of Arkansas, a “Sweet Genius” on the Food Network. He switched from engineering to culinary school after surviving a serious motorcycle accident.
This article originally appeared in the 2019 spring/summer issue of Experience Wisconsin magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.
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