Eating Well in Wisconsin Dells

The Wisconsin Dells may be the Water Park Capital of the world but its never been known as a food mecca.  For the most part visitors to the Dells are perfectly content eating uninspired, bland, and unhealthy fare in mass quantities at gimmicky restaurants or chains.  However if you do a little homework there are some gems to be found.  Best of all these places are kid-friendly.
   
The High Rock Cafe (232 Broadway Street) is an oasis amid the chaos of Broadway Street, which is the main drag downtown Dells.  Make your way through the souvenir shops and old time photo studios and you’ll find a great restaurant serving creative, healthy, and most important, tasty food in a modern, classy atmosphere. 
 
My minor quibble could probably be blamed on me but I do fault the server as well. I ordered the “Ahi Tuna” instead of specifying the name of the dish.  I had wanted the “Jack Flats,” which the menu described as a “Pepper berry crusted ahi tuna filet with saffron scented rice and seasonal vegetables and topped with a pineapple salsa.” When my dish came out it looked really small and not what the menu specified.   I asked where the pineapple salsa was and she said there was none.  Then another server realized that I was asking about the entrée.  Our waitress apologized and probably would have exchanged it but when you have an 18 month old its like a ticking time bomb around bedtime.  I told her it was no big deal and enjoyed the delicious Ahi Tuna appetizer, served with a salad with wasabi peas along with wasabi and soy sauces, and nibbled off my wife’s plate.  I guess I foolishly assumed that the waitress would have realized I meant the entrée with Ahi Tuna since my wife also ordered an entrée.  Since its kind of both of our faults, I wouldn’t let that deter you from this excellent restaurant or for that matter, the delicious Ahi Tuna appetizer.
 
My wife had the salmon special which featured perfectly charred salmon and shrimp with a multi-grain quinoa and sautéed seasonal vegetables.  The fish was drizzled with a delicious smoked tomato beurre blanc sauce. Everything on the plate was awesome and it was nice having quinoa instead of traditional starches like rice or potatoes. I really enjoyed having a couple of New Glarus Moon Man Pale Ales with my dinner as well.  On my next trip to the Dells the High Rock will definitely be in the plans.
 
High Rock Cafe
232 Broadway
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(608) 254-5677
 
The Cheese Factory (521 Wisconsin Dells Parkway South) is probably Wisconsin’s most well-known vegetarian restaurant. Opened in the early 90s in a former Cheese Factory (hence the name, which has led some unsuspecting TripAdvisor posters to assume the menu is cheese-centric).  The vibe is sort of retro 50’s diner which oldies playing and a working soda fountain complete with phosphates, milkshakes, and Root beer floats.
I had the Grilled Veggie Boat which featured toasted multi-grain flatbread filled with grilled veggies (broccoli, red pepper, onions) marinated tofu, smoked almonds and Romesco sauce. It was awesome.  The Romesco sauce had a little bit of a kick and the almonds added a nice crunch to the sandwich.  The tofu was well seasoned and delicious.  It was served with some decent shoestring fries.
 
Their grilled cheese has been touted as one of the best around, with Rachel Ray Magazine recommending it in a recent issue. http://www.rachaelraymag.com/every-day-living/trip-advice/food-trip-advice/grilled-cheese.  It was as good as advertised.  A large  double-decker sourdough sandwich layered with four-year-aged Wisconsin sharp cheddar and baby Swiss, a grated Romano, tomatoes and Italian herbs on some nice sourdough bread. It might not be the best grilled cheese I have ever had, but it’s pretty damn tasty.
 
Their house soup pays homage to its former use as a cheese factory and to Wisconsin’s brewing heritage.  The beer cheese soup is outstanding.  It is creamy and bursting with the flavor of its two main ingredients. . The croutons add some crunch rich and creamy soup.  Sadly the house soup is the only beer you’ll find in the restaurant as they do not serve alcohol.  As someone who likes a beer or wine with their dinner, I would probably stick to this place for breakfast and lunch but if you don’t mind skipping a cocktail or some wine, I am certain dinner would be a hit too.  Aside from the alcohol, my only other complaint was the prices.  While they are not terribly high, $10 for a grilled cheese seems a tad excessive. If you want to make their beer cheese soup at home, I found the recipe online.
The Cheese Factory Restaurant
521 Wisconsin Dells Parkway South,
Wisconsin Dells, WI
(608) 253-6065‎
   
Our last stop is somewhere I almost always visit when in the Dells, Moosejaw Pizza & Brewing Co. (110 Wisconsin Dells Parkway South)  but my reason for visiting isn’t the food (which is always pretty good) but rather their delicious selection of house-brewed beers.
 
If you go in the colder months they’ll usually have their Milk Stout, which is probably the best version of this beer I have had. This time around I was able to try two beers I had never seen there before.  The Pale Tourist was an excellent American-style pale ale with loads of hops.  It has a higher alcohol content than most of their other brews but it works well with this style of beer.  It really lets the hops shine. 
 
For my next brew I leaned towards the adventurous side of the menu with Sweet Lou’s Lemongrass Ale.  The lemongrass was brilliant idea and was almost perfectly executed.  While you can smell  the notes of lemongrass as you lift the beer to your nose, the taste is relegated to the background with the most pronounced herbal lemongrass flavor coming as a pleasant aftertaste.  I really loved this beer but I think the beer might have benefited from a little more carbonation, more in line with what you’d get with a Belgian Wit.  That extra effervescence would have really made the lemongrass finish pop.  
 
The beer bread was a good starter but really nothing spectacular on its own.  Add the honey butter and its a different story. Their pizza is pretty good, especially if you go for the thin crust.  Past trips I have had their specialty burger, a delicious 1/2 pound mushroom and Swiss burger. which has these killer sauteed burgundy mushrooms.  Moosejaw manages to strike the perfect balance between a fun place with a definite “Dells” atmosphere with some good food and impressive brews. 
Moosejaw Pizza & Brewing Co
110 Wisconsin Dells Parkway South
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(608) 254-1122
 
I’d love to hear from readers about their favorite Dells (and other Wisconsin tourist area) restaurants are.

6 thoughts on “Eating Well in Wisconsin Dells

  1. Pingback: Heart Of Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar

  2. A strange and wonderful place is A Taste of New Orleans (452 Broadway–as one reviewer described it, “at the a$$ end of downtown Dells”). They are well-hidden in the back of a storefront. I was really aching for some Cajun food, so we drove up from Milwaukee to DLL on a day trip to check them out.
    The chef is a former student of Paul Prudhomme, the server (Barbara–tell her those people from Milwaukee sent you) who served us was a Wisconsin native who’d lived in NOLA since 1955 (but there was no Wisconsin in her accent at all). A solid meal of turtle stew, crawfish bisque, crawfish etoufee, some intriguing appetizer called swamp balls, and a very nice pecan pie. We’ll be back.

  3. Treat your wife to a fantastic meal at DelBar. One of the reasons my girlfriend and I go to the Dells. Very pricey but one of the best. Had two great meals at High Rock, burgers at Monks, downtown, are always good. Was disappointed last year with Fields at Wilderness. Moosejaw was good.

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