The Howard in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, stands prominent and regal at 92-years-old; a fixture landmark in the heart of the community and in the memories of all who have lived within its proximity. Originally built in 1927 as a men-only Eagles club, The Howard was carefully restored by a pair of sisters who renamed the property after their grandfather. Today, it is home to a multi-use event space, concert hall, bar, bowling alley, and a quick-service café that’s rooted in old school simplicity and yet daring change.
“Everyone has a memory with The Howard from years ago,” Oshkosh native and Café Manager Lizz Redman explains. “So, we need to help people understand what we’re doing now. There’s no more $1 PBR in the bowling alley. No more Rueben and fries…”
For a state celebrated for their beer, cheese, and brats, the concept of quick and healthy is rare. The idea of eliminating a Rueben from the menu seems unfathomable. And yet, Redman is pleasantly “surprised that people are at least willing to give things a try.”
“People who grew up here either leave and never come back or don’t seem to get out much,” Redman describes. “But this is one of the best millennial towns to live in.”
Redman was one of the few, by her count, who left and came back. Some might marvel at Redman’s determination to move back to the sleepy Midwest town after spending years traveling and living around El Salvador, Costa Rica, Belize, and even Chicago.
“I was an au pair after studying medical illustration in Iowa,” Redman reminisces. “That’s when I fell in love with fresh food. I would shop at these beautiful markets and started cooking a ton.”
During her time as an au pair, Redman began catering small parties for the families. When she returned to the United States, she decided to attend graduate school in Montana and that’s when food became her calling. “I started working in restaurants. It was fun and I had a little bit of cooking experience. I taught some cooking classes as a TA and to low-income families.”
The year was 2013 and Reman was struggling to find non-profit work that aligned with her degree. As most do when lost, she traveled, and soon found herself in Santa Fe, assisting with the opening of a health food café inside a yoga studio.
“I loved the business and numbers side of the restaurant,” she says with as much enthusiasm as when she talks about food. “I ended up getting involved in a lot of startups.”
Fast forward to 2017, Redman finds herself back in Wisconsin. “I put out the word that I wanted to do some private chef gigs, and that’s when I met the owners of The Howard.” As the culinary director for The Howard, Redman does all the menu planning and staff training, along with working on general operations and even social media. “I really try to feed my creative side so that I don’t get bogged down with scheduling and margins.”
Well-versed with the mentality of her hometown, Redman works hard to make comfortingly familiar food with local produce. “When we say healthy, people don’t really know what to expect.”
From the café to the bowling alley, Redman works with Executive Chef Ben Raupp and Catering Manager, Amanda Raupp, to deliver pleasant surprises, like smoked chicken sandwiches (with a cashew sauce), beet juice, salads filled with farro and hemp seeds, lobster rolls…even cocktails and a good old-fashioned ice cream sundae. Juices, smoothies, and hot soups also hold their steady place in The Howard’s new café.
The menu is approached from a nutritional standpoint but then tested and tried until the results are delicious. “Eating healthy shouldn’t feel like you’re giving something up. You should always enjoy what you’re eating,” she sighs. “Make it worth it.”
While Wisconsin natives might take some time to adjust to these offerings, the local farming community is celebrating this chef-driven movement for more organic, local, produce-driven food options. “I hope it starts a trend for more healthy options in Oshkosh,” Redman emphasizes. With her deep knowledge of locally sourced and sustainable food, Redman is paving a new path for the future of Wisconsin food. Given that Oshkosh was recently named a top city for millennial homebuyers by USA TODAY, this might be a trend that is welcomed sooner than expected.