10 restaurants worth the trip (even if it’s for carryout)
Take the drive to explore charming nearby towns and the great dining experiences they have to offer.
One of the best parts about travel is getting to try new restaurants. Take the drive to explore charming nearby towns and the great dining experiences they have to offer.
Baumgartner Cheese Store & Tavern
If you’re a Wisconsinite, you need to order a Limburger sandwich from Baumgartner, Wisconsin’s oldest cheese store, at least once in your life. Since 1931, Baumgartner has served sandwiches consisting of dark rye bread, red onion, mustard and Limburger — one of the world’s stinkiest cheeses. Test your mettle by trying to finish the whole thing (and you can’t pinch your nose; that’s cheating). If Limburger is too frightening, you can grab a hot corned beef sandwich or a smoked brat. As the sign above the door says, “Through this portal you can get the best cheese sandwiches in the world,” and we won’t dispute that. 1023 16th Ave., Monroe, 325-6157, baumgartnercheese.com
Big Sky Restaurant
Big Sky Restaurant proves that fine dining food can carry out. The Stoughton spot led by chef Sean Crowley and wife Nancy Crowley creates a white tablecloth feel in each to-go box. The ribs are such a crowd-pleaser, the owners suggest preordering for when they’re open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. If you have young children, you can try out the kids’ menu, too. 176 E. Main St., Stoughton, 205-6278, bigskyrestaurantwisconsin.website
This farm-to-table restaurant and cidery in Mount Horeb aims to source as much local fare as possible, including from three employees who are farmers. The sausages are made in-house (and they are delectable), but the main standout at Brix Cider is, in fact, its cider. All the apples used to make the cider are sourced from farms within 60 miles of the Mount Horeb taproom. At Brix, you can try small batches that can only be found in the taproom, so better make it a flight. 119 S. Second St., Mount Horeb, 437-2749, brixcider.com
When USA Today ranks your cheese curds among the best in Wisconsin, it’s a big deal. Cheese curds make almost every Wisconsin restaurant menu complete, and Crawfish Junction’s classic rendition ranked seventh on USA Today’s list. Crawfish Junction serves up quintessential Wisco cuisine, including a delectable fish fry that locals rave about. Its fish fry is so good that if you choose to carry out, you might not be able to wait until you get home to dig in. W6376 County Highway A, Johnson Creek, 920-648-3550, crawfishjunction.com
For more than 75 years, The Del-Bar has delivered delicious fare in Wisconsin Dells. Three generations of Wimmers have worked to create a comfortable and cozy atmosphere. Couple a brandy Old-Fashioned sweet with a prime-aged steak dinner for the quintessential supper club experience. While The Del-Bar has increased sanitation procedures, you can also get the same delectable experience to-go through online ordering. 800 Wisconsin Dells Parkway, Wisconsin Dells, 253-1861, del-bar.com
Every time you visit the Driftless Café, you’re bound to find something new, as the menus change every day based on the seasonality of ingredients. Chef Luke Zahm was selected as a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest 2017, and since then he continues to deliver excellent flavors. Zahm also hosts “Wisconsin Foodie” on PBS Wisconsin. The farm-to-table focus and dedication to local producers is what makes Driftless Café worth the nearly two-hour drive from Madison to Viroqua. While you could go just for an amazing meal, it’s worth taking an entire day to see what else Viroqua has to offer. 118 W. Court St., Viroqua, 637-7778, driftlesscafe.com
Located about an hour east of Madison in the Delafield Hotel is I.d. Chef Joe Heppe, a former executive chef at The Edgewater, is at the helm of the kitchen. Heppe still lives in Madison with his family, but he makes the trip to Delafield to serve up innovative dishes using seasonal ingredients. While the restaurant’s accoutrements may change based on seasonality, the pork belly dish is a standout, with tender and flavorful pork belly cooked to perfection. While I.d. mostly offers share plates, you may be tempted to savor each bite for yourself and skip the sharing part. 415 Genesee St., Delafield, 262-404-6308, iddelafield.com
Lark is all about small plates, which means you can try a bunch of dishes if your partner is willing to share. During the pandemic, Lark has been offering three-course prix fixe menus for those who really want to treat themselves to a night out. On a cold day, try the posole made with Berkshire pork, hominy, lime, avocado and cilantro. A couple doors down from Lark is the Lark Market, where you can find heat-and-eat options, pantry staples, cheese, wine and more. 60 S. Main St., Janesville, 563-1801, larkjanesville.com
Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar
When a burger restaurant is named Lucy, you better believe it serves up a darn good Juicy Lucy. At Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar in Beloit, all 10 burgers on the menu are stuffed with cheese in order to satisfy any true Wisconsinite. If you want to reach peak cheesehead status, the mac and cheese burger — stuffed with cheddar cheese and topped with bacon and grilled macaroni and cheese — might be for you. There’s even a vegetarian roasted vegetable and black bean burger packed with cheese and a salmon burger filled with a mix of cream cheese, spinach and crab. Trust us, it’s worth the hour’s drive to explore Beloit and sink your teeth into one of these burgers. 430 E. Grand Ave., Beloit, 312-4477, l7burgerbar.com
Throughout the warm months, Lake Geneva is usually packed with tourists, so a winter excursion to see the Ice Castles and stop at Mars Resort is in order. Mars Resort, a classic supper club first opened in 1923, is nestled on the shores of Walworth County’s Lake Como. It’s a great spot to stare out onto the lake and watch the sunset. You can still get a great view of a beautiful snow-covered lake in the winter while staying nice and warm with the house specialty barbecue ribs and an Old-Fashioned. W4098 S. Shore Drive, Lake Geneva, 262-245-5689, mars-resort.com
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