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A Bite of the North: Birchwood LodgeSubmitted: 11/15/2012

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RHINELANDER - You’ve probably heard the saying “music is food for the soul.” At the Birchwood Lodge in Rhinelander, live music and open mic sessions will fill up your soul. And there’s also plenty on the menu to fill your stomach.

James and Billy Heath grew up in Chicago. They went to summer camp in the Northwoods….and decided to come back for good.

"We love this area," James said. "We're all outdoorsy people too, we like snowmobiling and playing in the snow and it just fits."

"We moved up here, and I met the love of my life after we got here, and then James and Mary Elise came up here and it's just been a blast," Billy said.

The brothers now call Birchwood Bar their home, along with their girlfriends Mickey Buell and Mary Elise Cher.

"James and I definitely do the majority of the cooking, and the girls do the majority of the bartending," Billy said. "That's sort of how it breaks down by… by choice and well, they're just better-looking than us."

The brothers mix it up in the kitchen.

"We live here and work here, so we eat here," James said. "We've gotta get creative and come up with new stuff. We make sure everything is good."

Good food, good drinks and a good place to hang out.

"We just tried to create an atmosphere up here that welcomes everybody," Billy said.

"It speaks to our pace of life," James said. "We're all very low-key and lovers of life and music (004-5)

"We try and make everybody feel at home, whether they're from town or out of town," Billy said.

No matter where they're from, people seem to stay awhile once the music starts.

"Besides running the bar, that's the passion," Billy said. "We just love to play and sing."

"We're musicians with a bad bar habit," James said. "We learned how to play with family and sitting around campfires."

Campfires, symphony orchestras….and now, Friday nights at the Birchwood.

"When it's the four of them together, it's such great energy," Mary Elise said.

"The later the evening gets, the more we're practicing," James said. "The smaller the crowd, the more adventurous we get."

They also get adventurous with local bands and monthly open mic sessions.

"There are some really talented people out there," Mary Elise said. "There's definitely an audience for it. Tons of people come out and it's just a lot of fun."

Story By: Lex Gray & Ryan Michaels

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