Friday, September 27, 2013

Southwest Wisconsin Adventure

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
-Eating and Exploring the Rolling Hills of Wisconsin

Last year I spent a couple weekends around the SW area of the Cheese and Dairy state and thought that it be best I to get this one up with the weather turning. As this is a great place to visit during the Fall with the changing of the colors and some great festivals and all. It's a really beautiful area of Wisconsin and of course like most everywhere else in state theres some good eats and drink to be had.

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Exploring SW Wisconsin

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Lets see whats up...

Today's trip starts in Madison because if you're going to head out on a journey its best to get a good breakfast in to start the day. Gotham Bagels is a place I've been to a few times now. I think it's as good if not better than everything we have in Chicagoland including NYB&B. But I only eat so many bagels a year so what do I know.

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Madison, WI

I haven't had anything but the 'Brighton Beach' which comes from the signature sandwiches menu and that's because its a great way to start the day, especially when you're feeling a little woozy after a night of drinking, which tends to happen in Madison.

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Brighton Beach: Smoked Alaskan salmon, caper cream cheese, watercress, red onion & tomato

Off to the suburb of Middleton which is the home to the National Mustard Museum. Formerly of Mount Horeb the shrine to the yellow seed now resides here in nice new digs. I went to the old one during my college days but had never been to this new place until this past spring so I thought I would throw it in with the rest of whats coming.

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Middleton, WI

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As we enter

If your on team yellow like me than I suspect you'll get a kick out of this place. As you can see from the picture above the top floor is basically retail. They sell mustard from all over the world and have many American made regional jars and bottles for those looking to expand their kitchen cabinet collection. Downstairs is where you'll find some cool displays and learn more about the history of this fine condiment.

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Some views inside

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Obviously not a born and bred Chicagoan...

This isn't a museum worth driving a few hours for like those along the lake here in Chicago but it was a fun way to spend a half hour. Canada produces more mustard than any other country by far. They had old mustard cans on display and arranged current and former brands state by state. The best part about this place though is that you can sample any of the 100's upon 100's of mustard's they offer. Just ask and they'll let you try them at the tasting station. Pretzel stix are free but even better, mini brats are a buck. There was no entry fee although I think I remember there being a donation box and throwing a few dollars in it. I thought it was well worth it.

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Gotta love Wisconsin...

We head off into Black Earth which is about 30 minutes west of Madison. The Shoe Box is the Midwest's largest shoe store and it's quite a place if you like shoes. I'm not the biggest shoe guy in the world but I cant ever leave here without a pair, usually a few.

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Black Earth, WI

They got it all. Were talking everything from a fresh pair of Nike Airs to workingman's boots and everything in between. Sports fans may remember it was involved in a scandal surrounding the University of Wisconsin football team back when Barry Alvarez was coach.

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A peak inside

This was the place I shopped for my new shoes in college usually after a day at Devils Lake. They have a great selection of shoes but that's not all they do. There's cheese if you need and on nice westhered weekends you can get a fantastic locally made "brat fry" from one of the local nonprofit service organizations.

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Cheese curds for sale while you shop for shoes...

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...and brat's for sale as you leave, this is Wisconsin after all

Up the road from the Shoe Box is one of the more upscale Wisconsin taverns I have ever been into called Rookies. When I say upscale and tavern this means that it's still your basic sports bar with a Wisconsin tavern atmosphere but it's really nice inside.

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#RandomWisconsinTaverns (Mazomanie, WI)

It's very well decorated with all sorts of sports memorabilia and the wood jobs done throughout the large space are great. There was obviously alot of work and care put into making this place.

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A peak inside

I've been in here a couple times now as I was always intrigued by the large wiffle ball field in back. Not only did the beautiful small scaled stadium stand out whenever I would ride by but it had St. Louis Cardinal's logos everywhere. As it turns out the owner of Rookie's also owns the Shoe Box and the Madison Mallard's minor league baseball team. I still haven't eaten here but the beer selection is abundant and served ice cold.

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The Wiffle Ball Field in back of the bar

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Overlooking SW Wisconsin

There's another sports related tavern in the region called the Coach's Club. It's similar to Rookie's in the atmosphere and menu. Having eaten here I can recommend them for their famous steak cap sandwich which I had on my visit last Fall. I remember the menu saying that this sandwich was in limited supply each day because it consists of the top two inches of each end piece from the prime ribs that they cook.

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Coaches Club Bar & Grill in Cross Plains, WI

I also remember them telling me they had few ready as the Packers were getting ready to kick off the 2011/12 NFL season against the Saints later that day. They marinate the end pieces for 48 hours and then cook them on the grill. The sandwich comes served with choice of cheese, grilled onions and sauteed portabello or button mushrooms and is served with a side of hash browns. This was a very good sports bar sandwich although pricier than most. The French Onion Soup and other food ordered by that whom was with me ranged from bad to just ok though.

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Steak Cap Sandwich w/ cheesy hash browns

Spring Green is about 20 miles east of Black Earth and it too a great little town. It's alot about the arts as there's a local theater that's supposed to put on some really good plays as well as this area being the summertime home of Frank Lloyd Wright. However like many others, they never tell you about the not so good about people revered in history and the residents of Spring Green weren't exactly big fans of his. Not after he left his wife and family in Oak Park, IL and headed there with a clients wife who was later murdered with her children by a killer little is still known about today.

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Spring Green, WI

Seen above there's a great little general store in town to eat at before going around and exploring the beautiful architecture and natural beauty that's abundant around here.

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A peak inside

I never got the chance to eat at the General Store but the home-style menu is locally focused with some ethnic options and they have special coffees, micro brews, gourmet groceries and an original selection of candles, soaps, jewelry etc... I stopped in a few times because they had a great build your own six pack selection from the cooler featuring some beers not available outside Wisconsin other than just New Glarus. I'm a big fan of both Lake Louie and now Furthermore whom I became familiar with sampling beers of theirs bought at the General Store. Both breweries are in the area.

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Some of my most refreshing beer bounty from the Spring Green General Store

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Some sights from the road

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#RandomWisconsinTaverns (Gotham, WI)

Another great little town in this region is Mineral Point. It's about 40 minutes south of Spring Green. This is one of the states oldest cities settled in 1827 and during the 19th and 20th centuries it became one of the top areas for lead and zinc mining. These days the mining is no more but because of the historical presence and preservation of the town with its old school character its a popular place to visit. The Main street and surrounding area reminded me a little bit of Deadwood another old mining town turned popular tourist place to pass thru.

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Mineral Point, WI

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The Red Rooster Cafe on High Street

The Red Rooster Cafe came recommended for their hearty breakfasts which include Cornish pasties, a popular snack amongst miners back in the day. It had that classic Wisconsin breakfast cafe vibe going on the day we ate there.

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A peak inside - their most excellent hash browns with cheese and onions

I've had quite a few pasties in my time and have never been amazed by them yet I continue to try them so I guess they got something going on. "When in Rome" and these are what miners brought into the caves to eat as their lunch each day for work. Just like every other pastie I've ever had this one was ok but seemed like it could benefit from some sort of sauce or seasoning. Same song, same dance. We stopped into the Brewery Creek Brewpub also in town for some of their micro brewed beers and what they called frites but I just call extra crisp fries. The beers were good, the fries served their purpose as a bar snack.

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House Pasty from the Red Rooster

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Brewery Creek Brewpub and their house frites

Later that evening for dinner we went over to a place that had caught out eye as we strolled around High Street which is mineral point's Main Street. Cafe 4 Restaurant I literally just found out as I typed it into google has closed. That's too bad as we had a really nice meal there and I would of happily stopped in again had I had the chance to do so. They had a nice locally focused small menu and the pasta and chicken pot pie we had were both great as we sat outside in their garden with hummingbirds passing by. Oh well I'll leave the pictures up anyway as I've been slowly adding stuff onto this post for a while now.

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Cafe 4 Restaurant in Mineral Point (Closed)

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Wood Fired Oven

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Some pics from dinner

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Pasta (Made in House) Carbonara

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#RandomWisconsinTaverns (Belmont, WI)

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I love the riding the rustic roads...

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Say Cheese!!!!

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#RandomWisconsinTaverns (Dickeyville, WI) - For sale as of last year

Located along the Great River Road in Potosi is another great stop with a museum worth checking out. The Potosi Brewing Company was originally started up in 1906 and for over 60 years they made "Good Old Potosi" which was shipped out on the river in its early years. It shut down in 1972 but reopened in 2008 with some beer geeks taking over. It was chosen by the American Breweriana Association to be the home to its national museum beating out St. Louis and Milwaukee. More on this place in the Great River Road thread when I get the chance.

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Potosi Brewing Company (Potosi, WI)

Of course no trip thru Southwest Wisconsin is complete without a stop at Baumgartner's. The famous cheese shop and drinking establishment in Monroe is a favorite of mine and has been mentioned by many on this board. Its known all over the globe. As is mentioned in Monroe's own thread HERE it's annual Cheese Days festival is near.

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Monroe, WI

Monroe in itself is another great little town in this region to visit. Its the heart of cheese land and theres beer being brewed at Minhas which is said to be the oldest brewery in the Midwest. As far as Baumgartner's goes its been around since 1931 and they seem to always be busy whenever I stop in. I like their Reuben sandwich and also the hard salami but am not a fan of the Braunschweiger liverwurst sandwich. The first time will be the last time I try it.

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Reuben Sandwich (Top) and a Hard Salami with a bottle of Staghorn is a very nice lunch

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Liverwurst Sandwich

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See ya next time...

Gotham Bagels
112 East Mifflin Street
Madison, WI 53704
(608) 467-7642

National Mustard Museum
7477 Hubbard Avenue
Middleton, WI 53562
(608) 831-2222

The Shoe Box
1314 Canal Street
Black Earth, WI 53515
(608) 767-3447

Rookies Food and Spirits
10267 U.S. 14
Mazomanie, WI 53560
(608) 767-5555

Coaches Club Sports Bar
1200 Main Street
Cross Plains, WI 53528
(608) 413-0400

Spring Green General Store
137 South Albany Street
Spring Green, WI 53588
(608) 588-7070

Red Rooster Cafe
158 High Street
Mineral Point, WI 53565
(608) 987-9936

Brewery Creek Inn B&b & Brewpub
23 Commerce Street
Mineral Point, WI 53565
(608) 987-3298

Cafe Four
CLOSED

Potosi Brewing Company
209 South Main Street
Potosi, WI 53820
(608) 763-4002

Baumgartner's
1023 16th Avenue
Monroe, WI 53566
(608) 325-6157

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The liverwurst looked like it could use some mustard.
Nice read.

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