Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jug's Hitching Post means the world to Jason Jug

Things are going okay, considering the economy, but it has taken a
while for Jason Jug, owner of Jug’s Hitching Post, to be in a position
to say that. Jason grew up in the restaurant business. His father, Mark
Jug, is proprietor of MJ Stevens in Hartford. The family, originally
from the Milwaukee area, has been in the restaurant business since
1933. Mark Jug moved his family to West Bend in 1979 when he purchased
the Longbranch Saloon in Barton. Jason was five, but remembers a few
salient points, like searching for loose change on the bar floor.
(During the day, of course.) MJ Stevens was purchased in 1985, and at
13, Jason began washing dishes and bussing tables there. Eventually, he
worked his way into the kitchen and began cooking for the restaurant.
At one point, he left the business and tried a career in sales, but
came back to MJs in fairly short order.
“I learned that was what I wanted to do,” explained Jason, “and I
became head chef in 1998.” Jason was only 23 at the time, but had
accumulated a great deal of experience. “I pushed for the expansion of
MJ Stevens,” he recalled. “We needed a bigger kitchen so we could serve
more people.” Things were going very well, but after about seven years,
Jason felt he needed to have personal growth, and take on more
responsibility. In 2005, Jason and his father began looking at various
properties as they became available. Jason settled on The Hitching Post
in Kohlsville (just east of West Bend), in December of 2005. “Parking
was a huge factor,” he said. “There was a lot of space.” The building
also had a great history, which Jason looked into.
The building dates to the late 1880s, when it was primarily a dance
hall. Dinner was served at midnight and sold for a whopping 25¢. Since
the first time a bar was opened on the premises, in the early 1900s, it
has been called The Hitching Post. In the 1960s, the basement was dug
out to create two levels, with the upper remaining a hall, and a larger
bar added in the lower. When Jason bought the building, he had a budget
firmly in mind for renovations. That number flew out the window in a
flash. “I ended up gutting the entire place without quite knowing where
I was going,” he said. “I had no guarantee that it would work out. I
had all kinds of contractors running around here for three solid
months, and we opened in March of 2005.” All the major systems were
replaced. Jason did all the design work himself, and the whole place
shows off the attention that went into custom design - the brick detail
on the walls behind the bar, the woodwork detail on the bar and
remaining walls - everything from underneath the floor on up. Old tools
decorate the walls, and the place seems bright and welcoming,
particularly if you choose a table near the fireplace.
Not just a bar?
Breaking into the business was tough. After a few years of treading
water, Jason asked his father, Mark, for advice. “He told me I had to
add food,” said Jason. “But, I’d spent everything on the remodeling. So
I sold my Trans Am - my baby actually - to buy the stove and
ventilation system.” The strategy worked. “I’ve had other tough times
over the last five years,” Jason added (such as learning all the
practical aspects of the business, like the books, as he went along),
“I’m glad I toughed it out. It’s like a dream come true now.”
Jason chose what appears a fairly simple menu at first glance, but
there is actually a lot there. “I just wanted to serve good quality
food at reasonable prices,” he said. “We’re known for our burgers,
which are all 1/2 pound, fresh black angus. People come from Fond du
Lac for our burgers. And I have customers that come from Wales for our
crab legs (a weekly special).” Another menu feature is Jason’s homemade
soup. Jason likes soup so much that he can’t name his favorite. He has
over 100 soup recipes, which I consider awesome. He says the most
popular are cream of duck and beef mushroom. There are also Papa Jug’s
pizzas, made with all fresh ingredients, appetizers including duck
strips, big giant nachos and multiple fish fry choices. Plus, Jug’s is
open seven days a week, and there is a special each day. Jason is in
the process of reworking the menu, and plans to add several new
sandwiches and grilled fish and new salads in time for warm weather.
“My main concern is consistency,” said Jason. “Even smaller criticisms
are taken to heart.” Other plans for the business include a month long
special on gift cards, coming soon, and hopes for outdoor patio
serving. “Things are going okay now,” said Jason. “We’re on the
snowmobile trail and we have bikers stopping on poker runs, that all
helps out. Someday, I’ll buy my Trans Am again.”
Lunch and dinner are served at Jug’s Wed. - Sun., from 11am until the
cooks leave (9pm). Mon. and Tues., Jug’s is open from 4pm-9pm. The hall
upstairs has a stage where Jason occasionally books bands, and the hall
is rented for birthday parties, showers and small weddings. (Its
capacity is 100 people.) For any group over 50, there is no room
charge. Food can be brought in, or catered by Jug’s, but beverages must
be purchased from the business. Volleyball leagues are now forming,
please call the bar at 262-629-5859 if interested. Jug’s Hitching Post
is located at on Highway D, just west of the intersection of Hwy. D and
Hwy. W in Kohlsville. It’s a quick drive from West Bend. For more
information, go to You can find a list of
upcoming events and specials, plus an email link.
Jason wanted to share a really nice recipe, but one that was fairly
easy to make. His directions were packed with advice! He added that the
shrimp works as an appetizer or a good side dish with fresh fish or

Jason’s Cajun Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Sauce
12 med. to large shrimp
smoked bacon, such as Nueske’s (found at Kewaskum Meats,
Gehring’s or Schwais)
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
2 tsps. cajun spice
1 tsp. minced garlic
pinch of black pepper
Wash shrimp in cold water and drain well. Wrap shrimp, depending on
size, in 1/4, 1/3, or 1/2 slice of bacon. Do not overlap the bacon, but
try to cover the whole shrimp. Secure with toothpicks. Mix oil, spices
and garlic in large bowl & add shrimp. Gently mix shrimp into marinade
with slotted spoon until basted. Refrigerate at least one hour. Remove
shrimp from bowl and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350ยบ for 12-15
minutes until shrimp are white and bacon is cooked. You can also grill
on charcoal or gas grill on low to med. heat. Serve with sauce.
Side Sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbl. ranch dressing
1 tsp. Cajun spice
1 tsp. horseradish for extra kick

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