I read it in the Wausau Daily Herald on April 28: Columnist Mary Bergin wrote that Turk's Inn north of Hayward had closed in the wake of owner Marge Gogian's death in February. The iconic restaurant/bar/cultural center had been open for 85 years, run first by Gogian's mother and father.
Gogian was a fashion designer in New York for decades, and moved home to help her family run the restaurant after her father had a heart attack in the 1970s, Bergin wrote.
"This was not casual, log cabin setting, and it was remarkably out of place for Northwoods Wisconsin," Bergin wrote.
The column brought back my own Turk's Inn memory, a rare bright spot on a day's long bicycle tour from St. Paul to Bayfield with my friend Mark.
I'm not sure what year it was. 2006? '07? Doesn't matter. It was late fall, and we had been riding through a gray cold rain for two days as we rolled through Hayward around mid-afternoon. The rain was beginning to turn to snow, and even though it was about 3 p.m., it seemed like it was getting dark. I was miserable, and argued for a bit that maybe we should hole up in Hayward, even though our destination was some 20 miles away east of Cable.
"Nah," Mark said. "We'll just have to ride farther tomorrow then. Let's go on."
OK, I said.
It was getting darker and scarier for me as we pedaled slowly north on Highway 63. It was a busy highway, and cars and trucks sprayed us as they moved past. I began to hate bicycling.
We pulled into a driveway for a rest, and there was this strange looking Arabian Nights-kind of building set back into some trees. An unlit sign pronounced it as the Turk's Inn.
"Hey, I read about this place," Mark said. "Let's go in."
I protested. It's getting dark, I whined. I'm tired. Plus, the place was so strange, I wasn't exactly keen on going in. Too many horror stories are set in northern Wisconsin.
But when Mark sets his mind, it's hard to change it. Plus he knows his business when he's on a trip, and his instincts were dead on when it came to the Turk's Inn.
We walked into a different time and place. There were strange plates and knick-knacks everywhere, some with a Middle Eastern motif, some with American and Wisconsin themes. It looked as if a garage sales from Turkey and Green Bay had dumped their leftovers in a 1960s Las Vegas steakhouse.
Marge was there, another man, and one customer, a woman, sitting at the bar. The man explained that food wouldn't be served until later, but we were welcome to get a drink. I had a coffee, Mark had a beer.
Marge came in and told part of her story. She talked about how her parents started the restaurant, and showed us a picture of them. She showed us a picture of her as a fashion designer in New York. She was a knockout, and even though she was small and bent with age, you still could see the beauty of youth in her.
Mark loves these kinds of places, lifted from different places and times, and he went a bit crazy looking at all the glassware, art, paintings and photographs on the wall. There were pictures of Kennedys in the restaurant, and Richard Nixon, if I'm remembering correctly. Marge said all sorts of celebrities had come to Turk's Inn. I was too tired to appreciate any of it. But it was warm and cozy and a weird in a nice, hospitable way.
It was hard to leave the place and pedal for another couple of hours in the rain, but Marge had taken some of the misery out of the trip.
A year later, Mark and I and our wives made a cross-country ski trip to Hayward, with the real intent being to have dinner at the Turk's Inn.
Marge was there again, and she remembered us after Mark told our cycling story. We had a terrific meal, with great drinks. Marge believe that great meals took time, and were there at least two and a half hours. I remember that the food was excellent -- the steaks melted in our mouths. I had a sort of Middle Eastern rice dish that were terrific, and finished the meal with a thick Turkish coffee.
That meal was a work of art and Marge and the Turk's Inn will be missed.
Keith Uhlig’s blog veers toward outdoor silent sports, running, biking, kayaking, etc., but also can be about eating cheese, growing up and living in central Wisconsin and life in general. You can reach Keith at firstname.lastname@example.org.