Born in Austria in 1892, John T. Kegel immigrated to the United States in 1911. During prohibition, he started Kegel’s place, an illegal speakeasy that eventually became Kegel’s Inn, a West Allis fish fry staple that stands to this day.
These days, Kegel’s Inn is filled with family and friends enjoying a night out for authentic German cuisine, or of course, a Friday night fish fry.
100 years ago, the establishment was filled for a slightly different, less-than-legal reason.
“They were slingin’ soda pop under the disguise of whiskey being brewed in the basement,” said Julian Kegel, who along with his wife Stephanie now own the restaurant. Julian is the great-grandfather of John T. Kegel.
Kegel’s Inn is located in the heart of West Allis on the corner of 59th and National. Julian says the restaurant’s origin story is not necessarily an original one. At the time of it’s founding, Kegel’s was one of over 600 speakeasies in Milwaukee.
“It was definitely the thing to do,” said Kegel.
An immigrant from Austria, John Kegel worked various jobs before being convinced by a long-time friend to open a “soft drink parlor”. Kegel’s Place soon became a popular prohibition-era speakeasy serving customers a free meal with the purchase of a 15 cent home-brewed beer and 20 cent whiskey.
If Kegel’s isn’t most known for it’s authentic German food, what it is known for is it’s fish fry. Take a listen above to hear all about Kegel’s Inn and the famous fish fry put on each and every Friday night, pandemic or not.
Special thanks to Julian Kegel. Music by Wauwatosa native Jason Fabus and West Coast Prost.