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Hungry Peddler

Kevin Arnold is the owner of the Hungry Peddler restaurant.

Kevin Arnold has seen a lot of other La Crosse restaurants come and go, during the more than 40 years that he’s managed the Hungry Peddler restaurant at 3429 Mormon Coulee Road, and the more than 30 years that he’s owned it.

He says the Hungry Peddler, which opened in 1976 on La Crosse’s South Side, has lasted so long because of its history of offering good food at reasonable prices, consistency and an experienced staff with lots of longevity.

The restaurant is a longtime favorite of Frank Fritz, co-star of The History Channel television series “American Pickers.” Fritz has been dining at the restaurant for many years, Arnold said.

Most of the Hungry Peddler’s customers live in the greater La Crosse area, Arnold said. “But during the day, we also get a lot of people from Iowa who might have appointments at our local hospitals,” he said.

The building was constructed in 1911 as the home of Miller’s Tavern, and was run by members of the same family for more than 50 years. “There were a couple bars in here after that,” Arnold recalled.

The business became the Hungry Peddler in 1976 after Fred Wakeen bought it. Arnold began working there in 1978, as the restaurant’s manager. He had begun working for Wakeen in the early 1970s at Guys and Dolls, which Arnold described as a pool hall with a lunch counter, at the current location of Fayze’s restaurant in downtown La Crosse.

Arnold bought the Hungry Peddler from Wakeen in 1985 and now owns the restaurant with his wife, Karen Arnold.

Karen, who is a Dubuque, Iowa, native, is a server. And Kevin, who is a La Crosse native, mostly serves as a host, visiting with customers.

Hungry Peddler

The Hungry Peddler has been serving customers for more than 40 years.

“I enjoy interacting with people,” said Kevin, who likes to get to know customers on a first-name basis.

Many other of the restaurant’s approximately 25 staff members also have gotten to know customers on a first-name basis.

“The longevity of our staff has been a major factor” in the restaurant’s success,

Arnold said. One employee has worked there for 35 years, while five have worked there for more than 25 years, he estimated.

“Another five have worked here for over 15 years,” Arnold said. “And most of the rest have been here at least 10 years.”

The restaurant’s interior is decorated with plenty of old photos. The dining room also has a stained-glass ceiling, while shelves in the bar room are full of old beer steins, bottles and cans.

Some of the food fare that the restaurant is best known for includes breakfast items, French onion soup, a Wednesday and Friday fish fry and half-pound hamburgers — although quarter-pound burgers also are available.

Hungry Peddler’s two most popular hamburgers are the Windsor Burger topped with bacon and cheddar cheese; and the J.B. Winder Burger, topped with bacon, mushrooms, onions and Swiss and cheddar cheese.

Apart from burgers, the reuben sandwich is the restaurant’s biggest-selling sandwich.

Eggs Benedict, prime rib hash and a variety of omelets are some of the most popular breakfast items.

The Hungry Peddler’s menu also includes seafood, steaks and pork chops. One of the most popular items is Doug’s Dynamite Duo, which includes a steak and a choice of lobster, shrimp, scallops or fish.

The menu also has “On the Lighter Side” and children’s sections.

About 30 years ago, the Hungry Peddler began adding full-dinner items such as T-bone steaks and lobsters to its menu, Arnold said. “Customers were looking for more than crepes,” he explained.

When he started at the restaurant in 1978, its focus was crepes and sandwiches. Crepes were eliminated from the menu about 25 years ago.

Lemon meringue pie is the Hungry Peddler’s most popular dessert. The dessert part of the menu also includes plain cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake and a rotating list of other treats such as turtle pecan cheesecake and a seven-layer chocolate cake.

Hungry Peddler’s biggest-selling beer is its house beer, Peddler Brau, which is made for the restaurant by the Capital Brewery in Middleton, Wis.


(10) comments

Buena Vista

The waitresses call you 'hun', the carpet appears crusty, the ugly ceiling fans are fuzzy with dirt, and the place is just a general dark brown color inside. A real turn off for me. I stopped going there over 10 years ago. have no idea how this place stays in business.


You were overserved at vics lounge that day


Brought my kid in once. Waitress made him cry. Never been back.


Your kid needs a shrink then

Uncle Harry

We stopped there a couple years back for supper with our kids and in-laws. He took one look at our kids, and said we should find another place to eat. None of us have been back since.


haven't eaten there since they upped the prices and kept the same 'quality'. not only that, but they scrimp on the veggie plate they bring out now ... one piece per person. WRONG. with higher prices should come more, not less. PLENTY of parking now tho

lutefisk are way off

Rick Czeczok

Great place to eat and people are so nice. You guys rock as bar and eatery owners.


Nice restaurant, just wish they'd get over their paranoia about cooking soft poached eggs. Not into the scrambled or over hard. Fish is fabulous and wish they could expand the restaurant as it's quite small to serve the amount of people they serve.


Wish you'd get over it

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