By Craig Marx, Editor
Before 1985, you would have been hard pressed to find a cozy sandwich lounge on what would be the “Main Street” of downtown Antigo. Thanks to Sue Stanton and her 5th Avenue Restaurant, Antigonians have had just such an establishment available for the past 31 years.
Opening its doors on June 5, 1985, 5th Avenue was the undertaking and development of Stanton’s lifelong work in restaurants. Hailing from the Ourada family, Sue spent her high school and college days home working for her family at the Dixie Lunch, Antigo’s extremely popular diner and dinner spot.
Earning a degree in food service management at the technical college in Eau Claire, Stanton went on to work at multiple restaurants before finally landing her own place on Antigo’s main drag, adjacent to her family’s longtime diner endeavor.
What is now 5th Avenue used to be Thorne’s Bookstore, utilizing the same long and narrow building space that is now Stanton’s restaurant. After buying the store from the retiring Dick Thorne in 1978, the Ourada family demolished the old structure and erected a new building that became the Antigo Liquor and Bookstore.
The literary liquor store lasted for six years and closed once the local need for dedicated booze shops went by the wayside when convenience stores and gas stations received their intoxicant sales licenses in the early 1980s.
“We felt there was a need for this type of restaurant in the city and we decided to close the liquor store that really wasn’t making it anymore,” Stanton said. “There really was nothing else like this place at that time, not just downtown, but in the entire city.”
The then-25-year-old soon-to-be restaurateur set out to create her downtown lounge, with the bar, tables, and chairs being designed in Marshfield while her brother, Gus, and Stanton went to work on the original menu. Aesthetically, the young owner knew from the beginning she wanted her restaurant to be Antigo centric.
“When we opened the restaurant, the only real theme I had was maroon. The color was right there from the get go, with the stools and chairs. We really wanted to show our support of the Antigo High School sports and activities,” Stanton added.
The decision to make 5th Avenue into a source of Red Robin pride worked out well. The restaurant continues to support Antigo activities and athletics, and in return the business has been rewarded with a faithful following of fans and philharmonic patrons.
“Sports, the theater, and all the activities are a huge part of our business,” Stanton said. “Fall and winter tend to be our busier times of the year because of all the local events that are going on.”
Friday night, as most restaurants in Antigo and Northern Wisconsin will attest to, is 5th Avenue’s busiest night of the week, offering fish fry and other specials. Thursday evenings have become synonymous with the restaurant’s Mexican Night, featuring chimichangas and other South of the Border favorites along with discounted margaritas.
Some of the more exotic specials that were held in the past included all-you-can-eat crab legs on Friday nights – a decision that Stanton is happy to have discarded – along with Chinese Night and an interesting Bohemian Buffet. More recently, 5th Avenue has offered occasional evenings with made-to-order roast duck that has become quite popular with Stanton’s clientele.
Key menu items that are most popular include the Southwestern chicken salad and any of the lounge’s broiler-grilled specialty burgers. In addition to the restaurant itself, Stanton also provides catering and workplace lunches for the community.
“I’d like to thank all of the area businesses that support us and continue to come back to us as customers,” Stanton said.
With more competition now than 31 years ago, 5th Avenue Restaurant and its adjoining Dixie Lunch have stood the test of time. Stanton has a passion for her patrons and is dedicated to providing the best experience for her customers whenever they walk in the front or back door.
“I think we have great, friendly service. I say it all the time – it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here it’s all about the customer,” Stanton said in closing. “The Ourada family is proud to be a part of this community. We’re happy to be here and happy to serve our customers.”
5th Avenue Restaurant is located at 714 5th Avenue in downtown Antigo. Street parking is available out front or there is plenty of parking in the rear of the building with back door access to the restaurant.
For restaurant or tavern owners interested in being interviewed for the Dining & Nightlife feature, please contact Craig at the Antigo Times at (715) 623-5081 or firstname.lastname@example.org.