MY HUSBAND AND I EXCHANGE glances as we enter the Red Hill Royal Cafe in Coloma, Wisconsin, around noon on a Friday.
Except for a couple seated in the main dining area and a man at the lunch counter, the place is empty. Usually not a good sign.
We may have turned around and walked out if not for my hunger and my desire to eat at a local restaurant rather than the chain across the street.
So we stay. I order a Philly steak sandwich. Randy chooses a cheeseburger and fries.
While waiting, we reminisce over the non-functioning jukebox, 45 rpm records visible inside.
We also study historic photos and information on the wall. The Royal Cafe building was relocated to this hilltop spot from downtown in July 1987 after Wisconsin State Highway 21 was rebuilt on the edge of Coloma.
But on this Friday nearly three decades later, not even the location along this busy highway that cuts across central Wisconsin from Tomah to Oshkosh draws in diners.
Business has been slow all winter, the waitress tells us. And not just here, but everywhere. Been too cold, she explains. That I can understand after arriving here from cold, and much snowier, Minnesota.
To our satisfaction, we find the Red Hill Royal Cafe’s food to our liking. I’m no food critic, but my tasty Philly steak arrives piping hot on a toasted bun. Ditto for Randy’s burger. He shares his generous portion of fries.
I limit my fry intake as I want a slice of homemade pie. Rarely do I order dessert out, but I decide to treat myself.
That is not to be. Although pie is listed on the menu, it’s a seasonal item reserved for the busier warmer months when folks are drawn to the region’s lakes, the waitress shares.
I am disappointed.
But there’s always next time. And next time should be pie season.
© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling