Owners of FireHaus BBQ have mastered craft over time
by Hannah Tetzlaff
Green Lake Reporter
Igniting people’s taste-buds and lighting a fire in their hearts for barbecue, Dan Prill has come a long way since his failed first attempt at barbecuing 14 years ago.
What started out as a hobby for Dan, and his wife Rhonda, so many years ago, soon began to evolve as the couple competed in Kansas City Barbecuing Society competitions and were hired to cater events such as graduation parties.
After buying what was originally a fabric shop, their passion finally culminated into a small barbecue eatery called FireHaus BBQ, located on 47 E. John Street in Markesan.
Their hobby began more than a decade ago, when Dan and Rhonda bought a grill.
Dan, along with a friend decided to try barbecuing for the first time. Their first attempt didn’t go so well.
“I would rather eat my shoe to be honest with you,” Dan said. “It was a very big learning experience. It was talking to a lot of people that do barbecue and getting pieces of the puzzle from them. I just ended up putting it all together to learn how to do this and it took a while.”
Dan and Rhonda Prill proudly display their signature dish: the pulled pork sandwich along with their new creation, the FireHaus Meatball. Hannah Tetzlaff photo
After talking to many experienced grillers and learning trade secrets, Dan has developed his own method and skill for barbecuing and smoking meat.
“I make my own rubs for the meat,” he said. “I make four different barbecue sauces: chicken BBQ, sweet and tangy, the bourbon and the FireHaus.”
Dan revealed that he uses hickory wood for all the meat he smokes and depending on which smoker he uses out of the six that they own, he may use charcoal as well.
While the signature dishes include the pulled pork sandwiches, ribs and the smoked haddock, the owner noted he is willing to take suggestions from customers on new barbecue dishes.
“We’ll try anything,” he said. “If it relates to this and how I make it, then we’ll try anything really. Customers told us they wanted ice cream sandwiches; we got them. People said they wanted us to do fish; we ended up doing fish.”
Just as the menu is continually evolving and changing so too is the building.
When Dan and Rhonda bought the structure last year, they had a lot of work ahead of them to change the former fabric shop into the eatery they envisioned.
“We wanted to make it look like a southern barbecue joint, just a hole in the wall, nothing fancy, no frills and that’s what you got here,” Dan said.
To fulfill its vision, the couple had to add in a wall divider for the kitchen, rip up the carpeting and bring in the furniture and décor.
“It is still growing and it’s still building,” Dan said. “We’re adding more stuff to the walls, we’re adding to the menu, taking stuff off the menu; whatever works, that’s what we’re doing.”
The barbecue joint draws inspiration from its German name.
The Prills wanted a name that displayed their Wisconsin pride and also made one think of barbecue, but didn’t want to use a name like smokehouse since it is so common.
After searching around the internet, they came across “firehouse;” however they wanted to make it unique. Dan looked it up in reference to German Wisconsin cheese and, because they own a German short-haired dog, they decided to spell it “Haus.”
“Plus, they’re on the fire department, so we’re like, ‘Well, let’s try and rope it all together,’” Rhonda said, alluding to her husband’s and two son’s standing in the fire department.
When FireHaus BBQ opened in the winter of last year, the Prills never imagined the amount of people they would end up serving.
“There is a lot of community support, I do have to say that,” Dan said. “I didn’t think we would get this number of people through the door this soon.”
Dan explained they opened their eatery on opening day of deer hunting and only advertised by word of mouth.
The turnout amazed the Prills since winter can be a hard time to open a restaurant.
After many years of trial and error, Dan has perfected his barbecuing and smoking technique and along with Rhonda, hopes that the restaurant continues to thrive and support the community.