Bootleggers is open for business

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Bootleggers is now open on weekends in Millville, welcoming customers with food and drink. From left are Bootleggers owners Rod Schlitter, Kris Lewis, and Brenda and Mike Landwehr. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

For the first time in six years, the Millville area can call itself home to a bar and grill. Bootleggers opened to the public on Friday, April 3, and will be open on weekends until May, when owners hope to serve the hungry and thirsty seven days a week. 

“We had a great first weekend,” said co-owner Kris Lewis of Garnavillo. “We were overwhelmed by the support and enthusiasm.” Kris and her partner Rod Schlitter, also of Garnavillo, along with long-time friends Mike and Brenda Landwehr of Milwaukee, Wis., have spent every weekend of the last six months renovating the restaurant and planning for its opening. 

After closing on the property last October, the four owners were given a barn in Maynard. They worked together to disassemble the 30 x 60 foot structure, salvaging the barn board for the outside of their new building and keeping the antique corrugated tin roofing to line the bar. 

“We all complement each other and that’s why it makes a good partnership,” Brenda told The Press. Rod transformed the bar with the corrugated roofing and planed rough-cut pine for the building interior. Mike is in charge of finances and is familiar with the bar’s point-of-sale system. Brenda and Kris are best friends and will work together behind the bar. 

The inspiration for Bootleggers came after many motorcycle rides together took the two couples through rural towns with fun, friendly little bars. They often wished for such a spot in Millville, which Mike describes as a beautiful place to stop in this part of Iowa. Situated along Highway 52, near PromiseLand Winery and the Cassville Ferry, and just steps from the Turkey River, Bootleggers does indeed have an opportune location. “It’s a destination point for people coming to the area to see the scenery,” he says of the new restaurant. 

Bootleggers’ grand opening will be held Saturday, May 23, and celebrated with a hog roast, live music from Krankstate, and outdoor dining. The regular menu will include fresh, handmade pizzas; juicy, lightly breaded broasted chicken; homemade French fries; and a specialty burger with a unique backstory.

The Landwehrs, who will soon begin construction on their new home in Guttenberg, once frequented a Wisconsin restaurant known as 8-Twelve, co-owned by sports stars Ryan Braun and Aaron Rodgers.  When the restaurant closed, the couple tracked down its chef and got the recipe for their favorite burger. They’ve adapted that recipe for use in the kitchen at Bootleggers. A sautéed blend of onions, bacon, and Worcestershire sauce make a compote that will be spread on burgers for a unique flavor. 

While the menu will be limited, Mike says, “Our big goal is that we want to do a few things very well.” A drink they call the Sidecar, which the Landwehrs first tried at a Harley-Davidson museum, will be one specialty behind the bar. “The Sidecar is brandy, triple sec, and sour with a lemon wedge. It’s a great refreshing summer drink,” explains Brenda. 

Behind the bar sits a metal motorcycle sculpture given as a bar-warming gift to the new owners. “It’s a must-have item,” smiles co-owner Rod. Bootleggers isn’t just a bar for bikers, though. “We’re looking forward to meeting the locals. All are welcome!” Brenda told The Press. 

Bootleggers currently opens on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 11:00 a.m. For more information, call 563-252-7775.

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