(First published in the March 7, 2019 issue of City Pages)
Two local couples are bringing new life to a longtime establishment in the country
Brian and Annie Williams (left) and Jose Ortiz and Maria Lara de Ortiz are the new owners of Kambary’s Homestead, east of Wausau on Hwy. 52.
She might have been raised in Costa Rica, but Annie Williams of Wausau really cares about local historic buildings and it pained her to see the Homestead bar/restaurant in tiny Nutterville locked up and dark.
It didn’t take much arm-twisting to get her husband, a teacher and history buff, interested. Next she approached two Mexican-American friends, Jose Ortiz and his wife Maria Lara de Ortiz. Both saw the potential to fold in some interests of their own, so the couples formed a partnership for a multi-faceted business. They want to operate a family-friendly place where memories are made of food, music, beverages and good times.
They’re all more than a little in awe of the fact that they have revived a business founded in 1878 by a fellow named J.W. Nutter on Hwy. 52 about 8 miles east of Wausau.
That’s 141 years ago. Annie says, “It was built as the first piece of Nutterville and now it’s the last piece of Nutterville.”
Early on, it was an inn, too, with rooms to rent. A fire decades ago destroyed that part of the building, which was also a brothel and a moonshine liquor operation during Prohibition.
They’ve renamed it, dropping the “Inn” and they are using Jose’s nickname to now call it Kambary’s Homestead.
A lot is happening within those walls these days. It’s open at 4 pm Tuesday through Friday and at 11 am weekends. The menu can vary. Friday they feature the classic Wisconsin fish fry, but the fare is Mexican on Tuesday and Thursday. With help from a former cook, they’re also bringing back the broasted chicken the Homestead Inn was known for, serving it on Wednesday and Sunday.
On Mexican food days, customers can get the usual array of tacos, chimichangas and enchiladas but also “fiesta fries” with all kinds of toppings. Brian calls it “a giant salad with french fries.” For lovers of spicy foods, they’re also offering “locas (crazy) fries” and a variety of salsas that they plan to start bottling for customers to take home.
They’re big on burgers, too, all week. Jose came up with the Country Homestead Burger with a beef patty at its core but also containing ham, bacon, refried beans, avocado, cheese and onion. “People get crazy about that,” says Annie, who has been surprised at how much love non-Hispanics are showing for the hot foods.
And they aren’t stopping there. Annie describes her partners as “so talented.” Maria is using the new place as a base for her interior decorating business and making special-occasion cakes.
Jose is a DJ and has invested in a sound system, lights, laser displays and a smoke machine. All are brought into play on Friday nights when at 9 pm the fish fry place becomes a dance hall. They’re having Latin music twice a month on Saturday nights. The Wausau-based Latin band ESK-PE Musical (pronounced “eskapay”) is booked for March 22.
The four talk about long-term goals of having some sort of outdoor family area in back for the warmer months, so Kambary’s Homestead can continue to spawn memories. Annie says, “This is the last piece of Nutterville.” In the culture she grew up in in Central America, “We preserve things. We pass it on.”
Customers have come in with stories of how they were introduced to Homestead by their parents, who were first brought there by their parents. To people in the area, Annie says, “It is amazing how important it is to the community.”