A friend called the Longbranch “a quirky curio shop of a bar.” While the name conjures up images of Wild West cattle drives and gunfights, the atmosphere is pure Wisconsin marsh country. Speaking of which, the Longbranch squats at the edge of the Germania Marsh State Wildlife Area like a fat bullfrog.
The area is home to some of the strangest ghost stories in the state and has its share of tall tales. One Longbranch regular whispered an odd tale of amorous spirits that visit in the night to consummate their love of living flesh. This account gave new meaning to the phrase “they all look prettier at closing time” and reduced my inclination to take him up on his offer to let me pitch my tent on his spit of land out in the marsh. Another talked of a local variation on Bigfoot. Then there are the fifty year old stories of flying saucers. Hey, they’re just getting started.
This is the home of the 2 1/2 pound “Hippo Burger”, and therein lies one of Wisconsin’s strangest legends. A decade ago, fisherman in the area were accused of mental disorder and intoxication when they reported seeing a full grown hippopotamus in local rivers and swamps. It turned out the critter had escaped from a game farm. Ultimately the animal was destroyed after capture efforts failed. Thus the “Hippo Burger.” No one is talking if indeed a hippo haunch still occupies a freezer locker.
There is a small colony of Madison East Siders who park RVs and trailers in the area and add to the local color. Just make sure that if any Longbranch storytellers are holding court that they do not turn out to be Madison cabdrivers. They love to pull the chains of casual passersby and act the part of the backwoods yahoo.
While microbrews and imports have not reached into this bit of marsh country, the standard beers are available in around 15 varieties. The locally acclaimed fish fry brings in a mixed crowd of local families, grubby fisherman, and weekend visitors. It’s a congenial mixture and is remembered fondly by those whose travels bring them to Germania on an infrequent basis. Kids and adults alike are captivated by the heavily visited bird feeders near an outside deck. Closed Mondays.