Schreiner’s is the gateway to Wisconsin’s North Woods

Founded in 1938, Schreiner’s Restaurant, now located at the busy intersection of Highways 41 and 23, has never strayed from its roots. The Grill, as it was originally named, began serving comfort foods in 1938 during the great depression, and many of the recipes from those early years are still in use today. Known from day one for freshly prepared food in a clean and friendly environment, Schreiner’s maintains that reputation to this day.

Visitors in the lobby of Schreiner’s Restaurant can’t help but notice a 4’ by 8’ collage depicting the early years of the restaurant’s existence. Grainy photos taken of The Grill in the 1930’s, and Schreiner’s Home Cooking, as it was called in the 1940’s, remind guests that this is a restaurant with a long local history.

The Grill, at the intersection of Main and Johnson Streets, was the original location operated by Regina and Albert Schreiner. Funded by a loan from Regina’s father when Albert lost his factory job during the Great Depression, The Grill opened its doors on July 13, 1938. Revenues from the busy first day of operation came to $65, an astonishing amount of money at the time. Family legend tells of Albert and Regina dancing in their bedroom at the end of that first very busy day.

The success of The Grill soon prompted Albert and Regina to relocate, and Schreiner’s Home Cooking was opened at 237 South Main Street in 1940. By 1946, seating at this location had expanded to 190, and the line of customers often extended out the door and down the block. It was during these years that Regina developed many of the recipes she was known for. Her scratch-prepared entrees and fresh bakery products cemented Regina’s reputation, and that of her restaurant, in the community. A trip out East inspired her to experiment with clam chowder recipes and Schreiner’s Famous New England Style Clam Chowder was born.

In 1953 Albert and Regina sold their restaurant and embarked upon retirement. Their son Bernard, who had been helping with the family enterprise, moved to Marinette WI. There Bernard and his wife, Maureen, opened Schreiner’s Restaurant, which they operated until 1968.

In 1955 Albert and Regina were lured out of retirement when a motel developer convinced them to open a restaurant to complement his motel at the intersection of Hwy 41 and Grove St. There the Schreiner’s trademark light-blue-and-white color scheme was adopted. Every location before, and since, has also been located on highway 41.

In 1968 Bernard moved back to Fond du Lac to take over some of the duties for his mother. In 1971, when property became available at the intersection of Hwys 41 and 23, Bernard knew the time was right for one more relocation. The current Schreiner’s Restaurant opened on March 15, 1973. Grandma Schreiner, as Regina became known, retired in 1976.

In 1992, Bernard made the decision to retire and sell the restaurant to me and my wife, Joan. I had been a long-time manager of the restaurant after starting my career at Schreiner’s in 1969 as a 15-year-old busboy. Our current management team also includes Michael Schaefer, Nathan Haupt and Marcia Haupt. This management staff has more than 120 years of combined employment at Schreiner’s.

A 2011 remodeling and redecorating project increased Schreiner’s seating capacity, created a more open concept in the coffee shop and dining room, and added an entirely new element to the Schreiner’s experience. Guests now have the option of dining in a cozy new Irish Pub, appropriately called Bernie’s Pub, which serves the full Schreiner’s menu along with a separate Pub menu. While the restaurant has had a liquor license since 1973, visitors can now enjoy beverages ranging from Guinness on draught to champagne.

As times change, new generations of diners find comfort in different menu items, and Schreiner’s has always offered menu items to reflect these changing tastes.

The current menu combines traditional comfort foods with the comfort foods of the current generation. Selections ranging from Grilled Pork Chops to Deep Fried Cheese Curds, from Liver and Onions to Buffalo Wings, share space on the daily menu. The restaurants’ popular Torke’ Coffee exists side-by-side with single-malt Scotch or a Chocolate Martini.

While founder Regina Schreiner probably never envisioned the Quiche-of-the Day or a Beer-of-the-Month, her recipe for New England Style Clam Chowder remains a staple at the restaurant, so popular that it’s even available at breakfast.

With the recent opening of Bernie’s Pub Schreiner’s has added the crowd-pleasing feature, Pub Happy Hour. Another recent addition is Pie Happy Hour, which entices diners to visit during the afternoon to enjoy freshly baked pies in their signature hand-rolled flaky pie crusts. Multiple generations enjoy one, or both, Happy Hour programs. Pub Happy Hour offers $1 off any drink from Bernie’s Pub from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Pie Happy Hour offers $1 off each slice of pie from 2:00 p.m. through 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

As times change, tastes change; and yet some things remain the same. Pumpkin Pie, which is baked on a daily basis, has always been the top selling dessert at Schreiner’s. And Hand-Breaded Haddock Fillets, a long-time entrée, is the top seller on the menu.

Each generation has its own idea of what constitutes Comfort Food, but every generation can find their own Comfort Food at Schreiner’s.

Today 500,000 guests per year travel from all over Wisconsin and beyond to enjoy fresh bakery products and homemade soups and entrees. The location and name has changed over the years, but guests continue to visit Schreiner’s Restaurant for food that’s as good as Grandma (Grandma Schreiner, that is) used to make.

One hundred staff members, 28 of whom have worked there for over 20 years, continue to give the professional service that has been an important part of Schreiner’s from the start.

The current management staff continues the restaurant’s tradition of involvement in, and dedication to, various community and state organizations. Active involvement in the Governor’s Tourism Council, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, the Lake-to-Lake Chapter of the WRA, and the Fond du Lac Visitors and Convention Bureau keep the restaurant on top of developments in the restaurant and tourism industries.

The location and name have changed over the years, but after 75 years the commitment to quality food and professional service in a clean and friendly environment remains as strong as ever at Schreiner’s Restaurant.

Falling on a historically busy day, we are making the best of it by offering these 75th anniversary promotions:

· Buy one container of frozen New England Clam Chowder and receive a second one for $.75.
· A free meal for you and up to three friends with proof you were born on July 13, 1938.
· A free drink in Bernie’s Pub with proof you were born on July 13, any year, (and are over 21 of course).

Paul and Joan Cunningham are the owners of Schreiner’s Restaurant Inc. and Bernie’s Pub in Fond du Lac. Readers of the BizTimes Daily can sign up for the Schreiner’s e-newsletter by clicking here.

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