South Florida is known for a lot of things, but its population of Wisconsinites is not one of them; New Yorkers, definitely. Still, you'd never guess it based on the turnout at Slackers Bar on Sunday for the Packers game against the Redskins. A sea of forest-green Rodgers jerseys, this South Florida bar might not be Lambeau Field, but serving cheese curds, Wisconsin-brewed beer, and lavish bloody marys, it's undoubtedly the next best thing. (Especially when the wait list for season tickets is almost 1,000 years.)
"Oh, really," owner Jon Slack says disinterested to the only two Dolphins fans boasting about Miami's stroke of luck against the Bruins. Slack's arms are crossed, and his eyes are fixed on the TV. He grips the remote to the sound system, waiting for the Pack to score a touchdown so he can blast their fight song, "Go! You Packers! Go!"
"I made this a Green Bay bar so I could watch all the games," Slack says modestly. "I'm from Wisconsin, and I guess you could say I got homesick, so I added Wisconsin stuff to the menu. It's the only Packers bar in South Florida, and people come from all over."
Slack was born and raised in Platteville, Wisconsin. He headed to South Florida once he graduated, looking for something more exciting than tipping cows. The college grad then worked at a bar, Captain Billiards, and unwittingly converted the space to a Packers bar simply because he would turn the game on TV because he wanted to watch it. Other cheeseheads in the neighborhood began to congregate there too.
After pursuing a career in real estate, Slack opened Slackers Bar three and a half years ago, when the market crashed. Since it was his bar, the new owner incorporated Wisconsin favorites like cheese curds and bratwursts. At the time, he didn't realize how many other Wisconsin transplants in South Florida missed the same things.
"It was very surprising to see how many people from Wisconsin come in," Slack says. "We have a great local group of regulars, but then there are always people visiting from Wisconsin who Google us because they just want to watch the game."
The bar is wallpapered in more than 30 plasma-screen TVs of all sizes. Packers memorabilia -- like a framed newspaper from the 2010 Superbowl, a Rodgers jersey, and a Packers Country banner -- fill in the empty spaces between the gadgets. Streams of fairy lights dangle from the high ceilings. By kickoff, every table in the bar is full and dominated by green and yellow. At every first down, interception, and tackle, the place erupts with Wisconsin camaraderie. At a touchdown, everyone chants the same song.
"My favorite memory [at Slackers Bar] was after the Packers won the Superbowl in 2010 and Jon [Slack] played 'The Bears Still Suck,'" Wisconsin native Howard Weber recounts. This is his fourth football season at the bar.
Regardless of your connection to America's dairyland, the menu at Slackers is not to be missed. The classic cheese curds are a Wisconsin specialty and not commonly found in South Florida. They are filled white cheddar cheese from, you guessed it, Wisconsin. During the game, a plate of these are at every table and clear out pretty quick. "They don't taste as good cold," a Wisconsin native explained.
While hot dogs are the token tailgate food group, in Packers country, they prefer bratwursts, the German equivalent of the hot dog. Served in a hot dog bun, the sausage is topped with sauerkraut.
Slackers bar also boasts their own beer called Slacker's Wisconsin Amber. Brewed in Middleton, Wisconsin, the beer is made at Capital City Brewing and shipped to the bar. It's crisp and goes down smooth. While not a lot of people are drinking this particular beer, the Hell Mary is the popular drink of choice for every Wisconsinite who missed having his bloody mary served with skewers of greasy hors d'oeuvres and shot of beer. Made with vodka, tomato juice, and spices, it's topped with bacon, a boiled egg, cheddar cheese, dill pickle, celery, olive, pepperoncini, cherry tomatoes, and a pearl onion. It comes with a mini chaser of beer to down at the end. For only $8, it's a meal wrapped around a drink.
Whether you're from Wisconsin or like the Packers or had always wanted to visit Wisconsin but couldn't be bothered buying airline tickets, Slackers Bar is your one-stop for everything Wisconsin- and Packers-related.
"There is not a big Wisconsin community down here," Stephanie Wikstrom explains (she's an honorary Packers fan since she married her husband 12 years ago). "But turn the game on and you've got them all in one room!"
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