ROXBURY, WI (WKOW)-- You can find turtles nearly everywhere in pop culture. From the fairytale of the Tortoise and the Hare, to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Rarely are they found on a dinner plate.
It all started as a way to give local Catholics an alternative to eating fish on Fridays during Lent. Since then it has become a local tradition with several people calling ahead for a plate full of turtle.
The minute you walk in the Dorf Haus in Roxbury it's easy to figure out their theme. From the outside architecture to historic paintings, the place screams German tradition, but on Friday nights their special is anything but traditional.
"We roast it in a roasting pan with carrots and onions, a bunch of spices and red wine," Head Chef Cory Breunig says.
They serve it with carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy. Roast turtle, just like dad used to make.
"My father came up with the idea of serving turtle 25 plus years ago," Co-Owner Rebecca Maier-Frey says.
Taking over the restaurant, which has been in the family since the 50's, Rebecca and her brother Monte are keeping their father's recipe alive. Every Friday several locals call hours ahead just to reserve a plate. Each night they prepare enough to make 30-40 orders and by the end of the night it's all gone.
"The lighter meat tastes more like chicken," says customer Shirley Anding.
Long time customer Shirley Anding says turtle has been in her family for years. The Dorf Haus recipe is pretty close what she used to make.
"They actually say there are seven different flavors of meat in this, in the turtle," Anding says.
Some compare it to roast beef, others say chicken or pork. For Catholics concerned about meeting religious eating requirements don't worry, it's Bishop approved.
"Our priest kind of talked to him and said yep, it passes," Maier-Frey says.
In a small predominantly Catholic town, the Friday alternative to fish fries is simply a part of local culture. Strangers may shrivel at the thought of eating turtle, but for Catholics who come from the church across the street, it's just another Friday.
"After you taste it it's actually really good. It's something unique that you don't see everyday," Breunig says.
Owners say the turtles they use are actually snapping turtles commercially caught from the Mississippi River. They come frozen and cleaned, but cooks have to spend 20-30 minutes removing the bones from the meat.
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