If these walls could talk, the building that surrounds
you would tell tales of Saturday night dances, civic meetings, wedding receptions, homemade coleslaw, BBQ Ribs and a Friday Fish Fry!
The Bartlett Tavern was built in the 1880s, and is the oldest continuing business in the Village. Bartlett’s 1891 Incorporation vote was held in the dance hall above the tavern, when it was owned by original proprietor Herman Niewisch.
In 1893, the tavern was sold to Henry Harmening Sr. whose wife Caroline cooked the tasty free lunch that was served daily. Rinderwurst (pot roast) was a favorite of the saloon’s many German patrons. Harmening sold to his auctioneer partner, Herman Schnadt, in 1905.
Like the Harmenings before them and the Jensens after, the Schnadts lived in the residence in the rear of the tavern. They continued the tradition of handing out free sandwiches to patrons who bought a beer. The upstairs hall continued to be used for civic gatherings and dances.
By the time Serena and Ed Jensen bought the tavern in 1942, the Friday Fish Fry had become a tradition. The fish was thawed in the family’s bathtub in the rear living quarters. A jar of pickled pigs feet, a favorite of the predominantly male patrons, sat on the bar until the 1940s and 50s.
The tavern, at the “T” intersection of Railroad & Oak Avenues was the unofficial home of the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department. Serena was responsible for sounding the fire alarm during the overnight hours. After a call, the firemen could count on hot coffee and a sandwich when they returned to the tavern. In 1994, the upstairs dance hall was turned into a private residence, silencing the sounds of gavels and dancing feet.
The biggest change to occur in the Tavern’s history was the 2009 name change to Papa Pacino’s where they served Italian food. In late 2013, the name changed to The Tap. In September 2015, after being closed for several months, the business reopened as Platform 18 Tavern and Grill, a nod to Bartlett being the 18th stop on Metra’s Milwaukee District West Line. The business permanently closed in March 2017.
After many months of restoration and renovation the historic structure was reopened on April 30, 2019 as the Bartlett Tap with John Castilla as the newest proprietor. Bartlett’s favorite BBQ ribs, coleslaw, fries and the fish fry are back, along with exciting new dishes, sure to become new favorites. Within the revitalized walls of the Bartlett Tap, new memories will be made, and history will always be preserved.
“Where Past, Meets Present”
Destination since 1884
The woodgrain background on the menu cover is part of the Bartlett Tavern’s history. During renovation, John wanted to sand and repaint the back wall, with a fresh coat of paint. As it was being sanded, multiple layers of paint were revealed, in many colors, from many eras. This colorful history was too rich and too beautiful to remove. Check out the back wall which surrounds the original walk-in cooler to see and feel the textured history of this grateful old building.