Central Wisconsin, Chowishness in General
Central Wisconsin ('CW') - Very Roughly Wausau, Stevens Point, points about 30 miles north, south, east, and west.
Where many people from the south and west pass through on their way to vacation in northern Wisconsin and the U.P. Where many reluctantly have to come for business trips.
I've had the honor of working in Wausau and Stevens Point for roughly two years (about three years ago so my info might be slightly outdated). I've posted a few times a couple of years ago and just now had a little fun and read what the hounds think of the area. I've lived in Chicago and New York since then and have had my fair share of good food.
OK - remember that you're 100+ miles away from a major city. People in Central Wisconsin are value conscious - the don't eat out that often and when they do they want a meal for five that costs less than $30, with the kids HEAVILY encouraged to not get drinks. In Wausau, for instance, it's going to be like the freakin' rapture when and if a Red Lobster opens its doors. That being said, CW is not without culture or money - there is a large university in Stevens Point, the area is home to four or five large insurance companies, and there are a number of prosperous manufacturing outfits that provide well paying jobs. It is by no means a dying region or the absolute hinterlands. Still, most people go to church, and you will be hard-pressed to find a lot of stuff open on Sunday or the streets jam-packed after 5:00 on any day of the week.
The diatribe above was meant to help crystallize the following - don't expect 'exotic' food. There is a large Asian population in the area but, for a variety of social and political reasons keep pretty quiet. No “real” Mexican restaurants, not even a Chi-Chis. No Sushi, no little Vietnamese sandwiches. No bagels or deli. This is Midwest meat and potatoes cheese lovin’ country.
Perhaps a bigger question - what is cowishness? I've seen this used and have used it myself. I know it as 'seeking good food, and a really nice, authentic experience.' I would love to see other's take on the term because I'm sure it is different for alot of people.
So, you can have a dynamite dining experience keeping in mind where you are and what the people are all about. That being said, here are my two-cents regarding Central Wisconsin.
1) The Wagon Wheel Supper Club - Wausau. Truly, one of the best dining experiences on earth (in my opinion). The restaurant has been around for 40+ years. The current owners' parents opened it, and the current owners worked there as children. When you go in you'll probably be the only one there. There will be three people working - Gary is the bar man, and I don't recall the others' names. It is a traditional steakouse. They have a fabulous wine list with many hard-to-find bottles (I think they have a side E-Bay business). Gary was friends with the guy who started wine spectator when it was just a leaflet. The restaurant is relativley pricey (not by 'big city' standards) but he told me that "we can't compete in this kind of town if we go for volume."
2) Stay away from any and all Italian restaurants in the area. They all suck. Mino's in particular. The one exception is Wausau’s abundance of reasonable thin crust pizza.
3) Lucci's Back When Cafe (Downtown) - I loved eating here for lunch (sandwiches and salads with a fresh gourmet twist). Never tried their dinner but my friends have given it great reviews and there are a few Chowhound posts about it as well.
4) Stay away from Asian restaurants. There is NO REASONABLE THAI OR JAPANESE in the area. Please let me know otherwise. It is mostly fast-food style Chinese, the Peking downtown, however, is acceptable but five out of ten at best. If you are into fast food Chinese CW is golden.
5) Freddy's Club Orlow (Amherst, 10 miles east of Steven's Point) - Great bar. Everyone is extremely nice, Freddy, especially. No food except his signature hot beefs (I think they are $1), and he even has a variety of horseradishes to go along with it.
6) The Mint Cafe (Downtown Wausau) - This is a breakfast spot. I used to go here before work with my boss. We'd grab some coffee and bullsh*t with the stream of people who would continually come in and out. Breakfast is solid, it's the scene that’s the best.
7) Frank's (Wausau, Stewart Avenue just off I-39) - 60s style breakfast / lunch joint. The food is good and very cheap. Recently come under ownership of some younger people who are trying to do some more creative things with the menu. I had a smoked barbecue beef sandwich that was made using a small smoker you could see outside of the dining room menu.
8) The Silver Coach (Stevens Point) - on Highway 10 about halfway between the interstate and downtown. It is a 'fine dining' place, and the food is really good. The bar is great...great drinks, great bartenders, and is in the dining car of an old train (hence the silver coach). Ask what the specials are and they are usually good.
9) Tomorrow River Supper Club (Amherst) - I have never been here, but people tell me that the prime rib is great, and it's a great Wisconsin old-fashioned supper club.
10) The Royal Cafe (Coloma) - If you are on I-39, you will see the Coloma Exit. The place is just off the interstate. Another true small town breakfast spot. Nothing fancy, very cheap, very good. The building is partially new construction, the rest of it is an original 1930s bungalow that was actually moved from the southern end of town about 15 years ago (we used to eat there on family vacations when I was younger).
11) Wausau Mine Company – I don’t remember where it is. The pizza is good (great spot for the kids) but the kicker is that restaurant was designed to look like the inside of a mine complete with Styrofoam stalagties-stalagmites and a mannequin miner bar patron. Kitsch value.
12) Michael’s – This place might not be open any more – it’s on the southerninsh end of Wausau by the Best Buy, etc. Great bar with good drinks and appetizers. Dinner is so-so. Once again, Kitsch value joint as the bar is done in 80s style complete with elevator music and faux grey-leather swivel chairs with rollers.
I had a great time up there. Hope you guys try some of these spots and that my recommendations were remotely helpful. Feel free to throw your two cents in.
We'll be in Wausau tomorrow night. And will be getting back there occasionally. So I'm going over these recommendations and thoughts. But am wondering if there is any new experience to add? Any new places or recent visits to any of the places in Wausau or nearby.
We don't care what kind of food. Can be casual or fancy. Just so it's good.
Things have changed since 2006, even in Wausau. I'm planning to buzz through the Big W soon, and have been researching food possibilities. I found this hopeful article on HeavyTable:
In addition, my "extensive" web research has turned up the following places that might show promise (note that I haven't tried any):
Please report back - we need more info on good Wausau eats!
Redeye and great dane have pretty good food--we visit red eye more 'cause the beer is better! Ei Tequila Salsa is our favorite 'mexican' place in central Wiscsonsin--good chips/salsa--like their carnitas--chile relleno maybe better than average plus a big selection of good tequilas
If you want just a bar with a decent burger try the brisket burger at Luckys Eastside pub--darn tasty
You will need to make the short drive to Steven's Point to find a good, sophisticated meal. The two best places are Christian's Bistro and Father Fats......both light years better than anything else within a hundred miles. For Japanese Matsu Ya is pretty good....good sushi, pretty good Katsu Don, excellent saba shioyaki (mackeral) but only fair tempura. Silver Coach is dreadful....nothing like real creole or cajun food. Michelle's in Steven's Point is pretty good for "mainstream" Wisconsin food.
What the heck? As I was saying, my wife and I went to Father Fats with another couple last Friday. We shared 8 wonderful small plates, mostly Asian or Mediterranean is nature, plus 4 good desserts and multiple drinks. Particularly liked the mussels, the firecracker shrimp, the carpaccia and the lettuce rolls. Really fun and interesting meal.
We returned to Christian's Bistro last night and had yet another excellent dinner, including apps of chicken flautas and eggplant fries, and mains of the seafood pan roast (scallops, wahoo, and swordfish) and halibut with pasta. Everything was really good. Here are two tips. One, the menu of daily specials can be as lengthy as the regular menu (it consists largely of VERY fresh seafood, which is why they vary depending on the catch). Two, if you really enjoy scallops when they're full of sweet flavor and properly cooked, but you avoid ordering them because they're often not, Christian's is THE place to get scallops. Theirs are superb. (They were on the menu as a main as well as part of the pan roast, and if we had known how good they would be, we would have ordered the scallop entree instead.)
We had a family get together in Tomahawk last weekend. Each family is in charge of one meal. I went to the Wausau farmer's market on Saturday morning and prepared almost the entire meal for 11 adults and 4 kids from the goods at the market. I must say that it was a very nice farmer's market, proably about 40 vendors in mid-June is great. Mostly veggies with some strawberries but also a few grass-fed/free range meat/egg, cheese, honey, and bakery vendors.
In case anyone has not heard, Christian of Christian's Bistro is opening a new place in downtown SP called "Father Fats". It features small plates, is multi-ethnic in approach, will not be open for lunch, but will serve Sunday brunch. Supposed to open this month.
Also lunch at Christian's Bistro was EXCELLENT today. We shared a fried green tomato salad with shrimp, shredded spinach and roumelade sauce as an appy. I had creole beef tips with a fried grit cake with melted cheese inside it. My wife had a flounder poor boy. There is no food like this withing 100 miles. Wonderful!
We’re visiting Stevens Point again this weekend. We just had dinner at @1800, and we liked it a lot!
The first thing that struck us is the unusual setting of the restaurant. It’s inside the Sentry Insurance headquarters building. You drive into their parking garage (there are signs pointing the way) and then walk past numerous work-related entrances and exhibits to get to the restaurant.
The restaurant itself is absolutely GORGEOUS, one of the most beautiful restaurants you’ll encounter anywhere. The room is very spacious, so you’ll have plenty of privacy. One side of the room consists of full-length glass, looking out over landscaped lawns and woods. (There’s also outdoor seating for drinks and I think you can order food from there as well.) Inside the room is just as stunning as the view – everything from the curved wood-plank ceiling, to the signed/numbered lithographs on the wall by artists including Chagall, Dali, and Picasso. The entire experience at @1800 is very elegant, making it more suitable for a special occasion than the more casual places around town (e.g. Christian’s). Incidentally, attire is apparently “anything goes”; we saw everything from sportjackets to blue jeans.
Much of the food was excellent, and the appetizers were especially noteworthy. They brought us a complimentary amuse bouche of salmon mousse on a cucumber chip, which was very good. We ordered two appetizers. The seared foie gras with maple-poached pear, apple-chestnut toast, bacon, bleu cheese and cider glaze ($18) was excellent, but the real star of the meal was the jalapeno prawns ($14). There were two large prawns, accompanied by a really amazing (and VERY piquant-spicy) sauce, sort of a blend of remoulade, barbecue sauce, a little mustard, and other goodies, mixed together for maximum yum.
We followed this with two salads, a Caesar salad ($5) and a seasonal salad of greens, bacon, dates, pear and warm hazelnut vinaigrette ($7). Both were very good.
Our entrees were interesting and fairly good, but not as amazing as the apps. We had the chipotle-glazed bison ($36), which was a bit over the top with the chipotle seasoning and also not quite as tender as some I’ve had (not tough, either, but I’ve had better). We also had a daily special of butter-poached monkfish ($22) that was pretty good, especially for those who prefer a bit less seasoning to their food.
For dessert, we had a rum cake ($7) which was very nice, a relatively simple preparation with lemon overtones served over lime curd. That was followed by complimentary chocolate-walnut truffles as mignardises.
All in all, the menu was very creative. While there were hits and misses, there were enough hits that it was an enjoyable and worthwhile meal.
I suspect that this is the most expensive restaurant in Stevens Point, so it’s worth commenting a bit on the value. I thought it provides a worthwhile value, in its own way, for various reasons. For one thing, all of the portion sizes were quite generous, even those involving premium ingredients (e.g. foie gras). The appetizers were somewhat expensive but fairly priced in light of the portion sizes, the salads were a bargain, and the entrees were all over the map (about half were in the thirties, and the cedar planked salmon was $21). They also had a wine bargain,with “18 for 18”, 18 different wines for $18 a bottle (or $4.75 a glass), including some impressive offerings (e.g. the LaPostolle Carmenere which often sells for close to $18 in wine stores). Add that to the outstanding service and the beautiful room and setting, and it’s a fair price to pay.
So to sum it up, we enjoyed our dinner at @1800. It’s a fine restaurant and if you’re looking for a delicious upscale dinner, it’s a great destination.
1800 North Point Drive
Stevens Point WI
1800 Northpoint Dr, Stevens Point, WI 54481
We had breakfast this morning at Brunch Kitchen, a new restaurant located in a former IHOP in Plover, right near Christian's Bistro. (They have a second location in Wausau.) It was very good - maybe not all that unusual, but they did both savory dishes (eggs) and sweet dishes (pancakes) well. I like the way they give you an option for the side with your egg dish, a choice of pancakes or salad, so you don't have to have a sweet side if you don't want. Oh yeah, it's worth mentioning that there was no waiting at all at 10:30 on a Sunday morning, which you don't find at any good breakfast place in the big city.
3025 Village Park Dr.
Plover, WI 54467
Hours 6:00 am - 8:00 pm, 7 days
We ate at Christian’s Bistro in Plover (just south of Stevens Point) this past Saturday night, and loved it! Thanks to those Chowhounds who have recommended it.
We had phoned a few days in advance to make a reservation. When we arrived, we were offered our choice of seating in the main dining room (in a booth or table, or at the bar) or outside, and chose a booth in the main dining room. The room is large, with high ceilings; although it has mostly hard surfaces, it is spacious, and the distance between tables is so ample that it is not overly noisy.
After ordering drinks from the nicely-selected wine and beer lists, we placed our food order. Mini sourdough ciabbata was brought to the table. We started with two appetizers: “Southwest Shrimp Soup” and “Crispy Anson Mills Polenta Fries, with Dipping Sauce Trio: Herb Crema, Garlic Aioli & Red Pepper Coulis”. Both were excellent; I especially loved the polenta fries. We were then brought a nice amuse bouche of ground chicken and rice with Chinese mustard sauce.
Our two mains consisted of “Pan-Seared Maine Skate Wing, Baked Seafood-Stuffed Local Squash, Shoestring Potatoes and Ground Cherry Butter Sauce”, and “Grilled Massachusetts Striped Bass with Kohlrabi-Potato Gratin, Bacon-Wilted Swiss Chard and Onion Reduction”. Both were excellent, especially the butter sauce with the skate wing, which added a rich, citrus-y, slightly sweet taste; it was also accompanied by four ground cherries. (For those who are not familiar with them, ground cherries – sometimes called cape gooseberries - are a sweet yellow fruit, seedless, round, and much smaller than regular cherries, maybe dime-sized; when you see them at farmers markets, they come inside a paper-like husk.)
We split a dessert of “Cinnamon Pots du Crème with apple jelly and shortbread cookies” and this too was excellent; I especially loved how the contrasting textures and flavors went well together, with the thin sweet apple jelly topping the thick rich pots de crème, complemented by the slight saltiness of the shortbread.
Our smiling, friendly server, Lauren, was very helpful. She filled us in on how Christian, who was working the line, was trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and then worked under Emeril Lagasse, where he met his wife who was also working there and is now working in the front of the house at Christian’s. They decided to open their own place in the Stevens Point area where she grew up.
Christian’s Bistro is a world-class contemporary American bistro, and we look forward to returning to eat there in future visits to the Stevens Point area.
3066 Village Park Dr, Plover, WI 54467
Due to the timing of our visit, we were unable to check out Zest Bakery in Stevens Point, which closes at 3 on Saturdays and is closed Sundays. However, on our way home yesterday, we made three food-related stops in the small town of Amherst, 13 miles east of Stevens Point. We went to New Village Bakery, which is normally closed on Sundays but in which a boy of 10 was there and was able to tell us all about their baked goods; we bought several interesting breads as well as pastries. We also had lunch at Morning Star Coffee and Bistro, where the sandwiches were very good. And we stopped at Tomorrow River Gallery, an excellent gallery of handcrafted gifts, where we bought maple syrup made by the owners.
i am now living in central Wisconsin after living in Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, etc. over the course of my working life. It is not great food wise, but getting better.
Totally agree on Christians.....best, most creative, most interesting food in CW.
Matsu Ya is a nice spot, good sushi, and very good hot entrees.
Lor's is an amazing Vietnamese spot....inexpensive, great spring rolls, excellent pho, good noodle dishes.....very worth while.
Happy Wok is good for a cross section of Thai, Chinese and Japanese dishes. Bamboo house is mostly Chinese, but with a pan-Asian menu.
Do not like Silver Coach or @1800 very much.
Nothing of note in Wisconsin Rapids.....
Best of the Dells in the High Rock Cafe....pretty interesting menu, high quality, good drinks. Kaminski Bros. is good steaks at Chicago prices. Don't think much of Fields. Have had good luck at Del-Bar if i am looking 'upscale"
Other than that, we drive 2 hours to Madison......a very good food town.
5725 Windy Dr, Stevens Point, WI 54482
thats the place--that location hasn't done well for anybody for a long time hopefully Ryan and Amy will succeed!! They have been a catering only business for a long time and needed a base--have been there a few times and like a lunch place other then taverns in the area--and the desserts usually rock!!
agree absolutely---Kathy's drive in has good burgers--Baker Street Grill has changed hands I believe and haven't been there in a couple months--lots of sometime good tavern grub around but most are hit or miss!! Otherwise just average Wisconsin Supper Club food--haven't been to the Mead lately to check it out since all the changes We don't go out in this area much but do take road trips for most anything on a day off--just had very good 'street' tacos from a taco truck in Sparta
An old friend has opened a place in rosholt--the brick pit iirc--solid pub grub--fresh bbq on weekends that should be ok since that he learned on my team<lol>
Would love to find a consistently good place for a slice of pie in the area---gets kinda far to go to The Pie Lady(Stockholm,Wi) or Main Street Cafe in Bloomer for a fix
Hacienda Santa Rosa
3535 Calumet Ave, Manitowoc, WI 54220
After toofat's recommendation, we made our way to lunch at Great Expectations in Wisconsin Rapids today. I was happy to see that the parking lot was full....and almost every table in the restaurant and bar were full at 12 pm. The decor was mostly unchanged from when it was "The Cellar Door".....taupe and dark plum walls, some art, etc. Much better than average for the area. The special was a pork chop with cranberry and squash, which sounded...and looked.....great, but to much. I chose a tossed salad and the Wisconsin chili, along with very good, homemade iced tea. The salad was excellent, the chili was full of big chunks of meat and beans and served with onions, cheese and sour cream on the side, plus a chunk of baguette to dip with. It would have been excellent if it had been really hot, but it was just warm. The server took it back, and quickly had it heated until steaming, and it was an excellent lunch. My wife had one of the daily soups.....white bean with ham, and the Wisconsin burger.....we have been dieting, and she was hungry for meat. It was a good burger, and came with homemade chips. I saw a couple of other lunches that looked good, as did a couple of desserts....they are known for their desserts. I will go back and dig into the menu a little more.
It is nice to look back and see what has changed since this thread started! I just wanted to add that probably the best restaraunt lunch in Wausau is being served at Allister Deacons. They make some baked fries with a delicious aioli that they serve with their sandwiches and entrees. I had a really nice BLT with Neuske's bacon a couple of weeks ago, and their beet salad is good as well.They source a lot of their ingredients from local farmers and it is a nice change for this area.
Another newish place is Pho 76 where they serve some respectable Vietnamese food. In general though, we still pay a premium in this area for largely mediocre food.
Last year we spent the night in Wausau, and had dinner at The Wagon Wheel. Overall, we were glad we went - the owner is a hoot, the wine list is fabulous though difficult to penetrate (pages and pages of labels), the food quite good. As you say, expensive though. I took myself to breakfast at Mint that Saturday morning - just loved the vibe of the regular patrons - chatting, helping themselves to coffee, etc. - and my breakfast was delicious.
Stevens Point has great sushi ! Just off I 39 on the north side of town, you will happily satisfy your cravings for great sushi and fantastic hibachi at Tokyo Steak House. This is my favorite restaurant in town and it never disappoints. Another favorite on the south end of town in Plover is The Sky Club. It has been there forever and has your typical supper club type food which is exceptionally good. But the salad bar there is the star ! Many choices including spinach salad with hot bacon dressing. For good Mexican food try El Mezcal. If you are up north, make a special trip to Riverstone in downtown Eagle River Wisc. The wine list alone will knock your socks off. This one is a truly special place.. a unique dining experience. The food is crazy good.!
I have to add "Two's Company" in downtown Mosinee. Unpretentious looking, but Craig, the proprietor, has an inside line to some really terrific steaks and chops! The "Craig's Favorite" filet with gorgonzola, onions and mushrooms is to die for, and is consistently as good a cut of meat as I have had at the Wagon Wheel, with better toppings. That particular entree is $24.95 with salad, soup, and choice of potato. Top that! Great burgers, and specials like a double pork-chop. Go, and enjoy the small-town ambiance...you won't be disappointed!
Went to Silver Coach two weeks ago. Ordered pira pira tuna...blackened yellow fin on pasta with just the right amount of herbs and spices with a touch of olive oil. This fairly simple dish vaulted to my top ten list. The pre meal bread was served with a baked head of garlic that was a first for me and as a garlic lover I was very pleased. This gem in a rather rural area is a must visit should you travel to Central Wisconsin.
Scott, you found the best restaurant in Stevens Point and ordered my favorite dish - although I order it with the blistering-hot Los Alamos sauce, which isn't on the menu. And it shouldn't be, because this is way too hot for all but the freakiest 5% of the nation's top chiliheads. Even on the regular menu, the Silver Coach doesn't bland-down its food to local standards, yet it's continously busy in its, like, 60th year in business. If anyone knows another place as fun or as good in Wausau, or anywhere else in the state north of Madison or west of Green Bay, let me know.
I hope you saved room for dessert and that they were offering the key lime cannoli with raspberry sauce. This is the one dessert I'd order if I was so full that I'd risk the ugly situation at the end of Monty Python's Meaning of Life. It would be worth it.
I am working and living large in Marshfield. I ate at the El Jalapeno Mexican Restaurant last night. It wasn't bad at all. I had the enchilada platter with pork and it was nicely done, not overloaded with sloppy cheese, fresh tasting tortillas, nicely seasoned pork, and homemade tasting salsa. The atmosphere is casual, cafeteria style, bright, clean, and pleasant. It has the standard Tex-Mex sort of menu (enchiladas, chimichangas, burritos, tacos, flautas, nothing very exotic), but I'll be back.
Chain go to the Texas Roadhouse the Ribs are excellent.I have had the Texas Roadhouse ribs a couple.just OK. Maybe the Roadhouse you went to was better than the Texas Roadhouse. I found the service at Corkys was to that of the Roadhouse.
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I gotta second/third/tenth the recommendation for the Wagon Wheel in Wausau - the Wagon Wheel looks half like a very dark and very old bar and half like an old-fashioned Wisconsin Supper Club. But, you don't come for the atmosphere. You come for the best steak you will ever have. They dry age their own beef in a huge freezer in the middle of the kitchen. The local Wisconsin beef is wrapped in fat, and the chef discards a whole steak off the side of the beef before carving off your portion. This is an expensive restaurant - which makes it hard to stay in business in Wausau. But, it is well worth the trip. The wild rice soup is a house specialty, and the chef won't tell you what is in his homemade blue cheese dressing - so mild that you will want to eat it from a bowl with a spoon. The Brandenburg family has run the Wagon Wheel for two generations, but they say the next generation just may not be interested. You better go now. The Central Wisconsin Airport is a 45 minute flight from Chicago.
You do a good job of describing the area - as it was six years ago. It still is much the same in that people here want great food, 3lbs of the very best you can buy - for $4.95. This of course creates a culinary challenge. The good news is, it is getting better.
As for your restaurant reviews . . . many may have been accurate at one time. Most are not now. There are many good Italian restaurants. Many Sushi places and many Asian and Mexican places. Good ones too. the thing is, Wausau is like 5 years behind the real world so, while you wrote what you found to be true at the time (and it was), it is now six years later, and many of the things you write are now completely false.
While Mino's may be overpriced, especially by Wausau's standards, it does not "suck". Mino is a true Italian and has come into his own.
Steven's Point does have a 4 year college but, that is what they have, Supper Clubs and college food. It Suck's.
Wausau is building a 4 year college, has built another Hospital and is in the middle of a major interstate upgrade project. Wausau is finally growing in leaps and bounds. The Wausau Metro area is 100K+ and rapidly growing. Still, major chains ignore us.
Competition is creating a better dining experience. With the arrival of the City Grille, the bar has been raised. Back When Cafe`, an already greatly under appreciated gem, is even better. The Wright place on 6th showed up with a higher end cuisine and raised the bar some more. Now the "Supper Club" places like Pinewood, Palm's and Wagon Wheel are in need of a fresh presentation or risk extinction.
How can you say there is no good Asian? The Peking has been offering a classy and quality dining experience for years. Granted, not wiggly creature cooking authentic but, good.
Yau's is the newest offering good Chinese with AWESOME sushi. As fresh as any I have ever had. Excellent.
Kobe's offers Tepakani and Good Sushi. Chang Garden has great Sushi and Chinese. There is also Khamchan's and a Tai place on the north end.
El Mezcal offers good Mexican. El Tapitio - not bad.
Michael's is still here and better than ever. They offer the dishes most others are afraid to try in this steak town.
Hereford and Hop's is fun - fun to watch everyone else cremate their steak.
Of course, Texas Roadhouse is wildly popular. As is Applebee's. Two of the few national chains that are smart enough to build here. Apparently, everyone out there thinks we eat fish fry's 24 / 7 here. Your right about Red Lobster. People here would go into 5 days of celebration if it were to ever happen. For some reason, Red Lobster doesn't think anyone would eat at their restaurant on Friday nights so they will never come.
Mickey's billiards has a young chef that is on his way up. He apparently specializes in seafood and he had a Red Snapper Calce` that was to die for.
Whatever . . . my fingers are tired. I love you out of town types that review all the restaurants you know nothing of. Especially when you make it sound like there is NOTHING here. It is the typical Chicago syndrome. "We're much more sophisticated than you lowly WI people." I'll be the first to admit, we need more quality and diversity but, it is getting better. We just need to let this meat and potatoes palate develop a little first..
I'm glad this topic came back up, as there is a place in Central Wisco that is a must visit when we drive through the area lately.
Central Waters Brewpub in Marshfield has some outstanding beers (the Imperial Stout is one of the best I've had, the Y2K Ale is excellent, and the bourbon barrel stout is a perfect foil to a battered onion. ) and even better pub food. I highly recommend the Reuben. The more I think about it, the more I realize it might be the best Reuben I've ever had. The corned beef is perfect. Not rubbery or gelatinous, more like a corned pot roast. Good wings. Wife liked the burger. One thing that could make it better would be fresh fries, but everyone needs room for improvement.
EDIT: Just realized I posted about this previously. Well, now you have a link and more detail!
Finally tried the Wright Place on 6th. The atmosphere is lovely, but the food and service were dismal. The neon Miller sign in the window was nearly a deal breaker. The waiter had no idea what he was talking about. Very limited wine by the glass. My companion had a chicken Caesar salad that was drowning in bland dressing. She couldn't even get through half of it. Other companion had lamb stew which he loved. My scallops in wasabi were bland – now that takes talent – making wasabi bland. Wausau is desperate for decent dining options. I hope they step it up.
In other news, there is a group of investors wanting to reopen the Wausau Club.
Lisa - I just had a friend tell me that she had the same dish (scallops) and she said the exact same thing. We postulated that perhaps they had toned it down because local diners wanted it milder. (Quite the problem here in Wausau. I had a local coffee house owner tell me he had to increase the coffee-to-water ratio 2 times from the roaster's recommendation because people complained about how strong it was.)
Other people I have talked to liked the soups at TWP. . . I imagine it would be hard to have a good wine-by-the-glass selection when you don't have a great deal of turnover. I am sorry to hear that it isn't good though. . .we have been holding out hope.
Lisa S. did a great job summarizing the restaurants up here. Things are getting better, and I haven't heard people whining for a Red Lobster in a long time. I'm from the Cleveland suburbs orginally, where Red Lobster and Chilis and Applebees are on every corner, and I never understood the desire for that type of restaurant!
The new Freddy's downtown in Washington Square is great...hopefully it will be the one restaurant that survives in that location. They've not only improved on the food, but the decor is much better as well. I no longer feel like I'm dining in a dungeon as I did when it was Tavern on the Square and Larry Raymonds.
Regarding Wausau's "casualness"...Yes, it is a casual town, but you can dress up and not feel out of place.
So, although we don't have the exotic places other big cities have, I feel that many of our restrauteurs (SP?)try very hard to give the public what it wants.
>>>>>So, although we don't have the exotic places other big cities have, I feel that many of our restrauteurs (SP?)try very hard to give the public what it wants.<<<<<
Maybe that's the problem. The last poll the Daily Herald did, Hooters and Cracker Barrell were the top vote getters for most wanted chain restaurants.
I haven't gone to Freddy's downtown yet. I've been to the one in Hatley and was quite dissapointed. I geuss I was expecting Mexican food. The ingrediants did seem really fresh though.
I eat frequently at many of Wausau's restaurants. My favorite restaurant by far is Back When. You don't need to have a love fest with the owner to consider the experience a success. Yes, sometimes they can be slow but most of the time they are perfect in their timing. I suggest you don't go there if you're in a hurry. Go there as often as you can. It's excellent dining.
There's no other place in the country like Wagon Wheel. Love it for what it is. There is no other restaurant where the host will try a glass of your wine.
I NEVER go to 2510, Wausau Mine, or Freddy's. I like Peking and Chang Garden. The Pu Pu platter and two drinks makes a great dinner.
Downtown Grocery.com is the best addition to the downtown. Check it out if you haven't.
I agree that there is cause for hope in Wausau. And speaking of downtowngrocery, I had some really spectacular pumpkin soup in there last week. And, of course, the brownies they carry are sublime. I really appreciate the small-town, friendly but knowledgeable demeanor of the staff as well. I hope you guys are around for the long-haul and that all of your dreams are realized. I spread the word; I really do.
We have had similar experiences to that of LisaS in both Back When and Something's Brewing. Part of the dining experience for us is being in a place where people are excited about food (and wine if applicable), and by what they do. Just being able to grill a steak or spell gorgonzola doesn't cut it. I could start a whole 'nother thread about the service in Wausau, but maybe for another time.
And finally -- double yes needing better asian food options. I did eat this week at Super Oriental Mart, and had some good Thai snacks, but I would kill for some good Japanese or Thai food.
I moved to CW from a large metro-area a little over 4 years. My thoughts:
Noodles & Co. was a pleasant addition although I am usually hungry an hour or so after I eat there.
I can't wait to try the Wright House.
The Mint is good for breakfast or lunch. The staff and owners are great. Good place for people watching.
The Loading Zone does Fish Tacos (very well) during the week. Typical WI bar food otherwise.
Gelato Caffe on Jefferson Street has a nice vegetarian panini.
I really like the Hiawatha. They make a yummy beef tenderloin with gorgonzola.
La Prima is a favorite. I just wish they were open longer hours. Sicilian. The owner only uses the freshest ingredients.
City Grille is hit or miss (soggy panini, suspect tuna).
I like the food at Little Italy but the service is spotty. I was there once when a fight broke out in the kitchen and another time a wait staff forgot to order my kids food.
Back When is slow and the (male) owner is arrogant. My husband won't set foot in there because we were snubbed more than once. Same with Something's Brewing.
The downtown market has good soups and dished for lunch take-out.
Freddy's is just okay. In my opinion, El Mezcal is much better.
We walked into Michael's once and had to leave because it smelled like an ashtray.
Mickeys has a tasty white pizza with kraut and brautwurst. Sounds reather gross, but it's subtle.
I wish there were more ethnic and vegetarian offerings (Indian, Vietnamese, etc.). I'm tired of the heavy-gravy Americanized Chinese.
We went to Iozzo's for our anniversary and were very disappointed. I have heard Carmello's is the best Italian in town, but we haven't made it there yet.
Wausau is a casual town. Nobody dresses up for dinner (or religious services, funerals, etc.).
Mickey's Billiards has a new menu that looks quite promising. My wife had the lobster ravioli and she said it was pretty godd. THe actual ravioli ws okay, but the dish came with lots of fresh veggies and those were delicious. I had the green olive burger and that was very good. A lot of the new stuff on the menu looked very tasty. It's too bad that place has such a crappy dining area.
LaBaguette Bakery in Minocqua is such a great place. It's the first place we stop when we go up NOrth and the place we stop to stock up on bread on our way back home to Chicago. We are so glad to see it still in buisness. The owners are from Paris and are always at the bakery, willing to help and discuss their products. Their pastry's are great too, but the bread is def. the star. Great that they are shipping their breads to Wausau area, now only if they would sell to a store in my area!
Love this post! Just moved to CW two years ago from the Portland, OR area, and had food culture shock in a big way. I agree with the original post on most things, but some things have changed for the better here recently.
1.) Chang Garden has moved and now has a sushi bar. It started out mediocre, but I think has really improved -- or else I have been here too long! The chinese part seems like run of the mill stuff.
2.) All of the pizza here stinks; you have to come to my house to get the good stuff! And what is with cutting pizza in squares? It is a mystery to me.
3.) We got a new little downtown grocery store (called downtown grocery.com for some inexplicable reason) that carries mostly organic produce, meats (frozen) and excellent bread from La Baguette in Minocqua. They also have some decent soups and entrees daily.
This is like a beacon of hope in what is pretty much a culinary wasteland.
4.) There is a new upscale place in a cool old house on 6th called The Wright Place on 6th, or something similar. I haven't been there yet, but the menu looks promising.
5.) Finally, find Prima Deli on Fulton near downtown. Pretty good sandwiches and Italian take-out.
So I ate at the Wagon Wheel this week and I'd have to give it a 7 out of 10. People here said it was slow, but I didn't know that they literally meant slow. As in the entire staff is old and they can barely move. I think that there was one cook, one bartender and one server. All of them old and slow. Aside from that, I think I had the best rack of lamb ever. The menu was very limited and didn't involve much creativity, but everything at the table was cooked perfectly. My wife's scallops were excellent as well. Not sure if I'd go back however. It was quite pricey and normally I like to pay those prices for something that involves a little more creativity that simply grilling it. Also, everything is a la carte. ANother dissapointment with those prices.
Forgot to mention in my last post that damissus and I also went to the Roxy in Oshkosh. First time back in three years or so. Remodeled interior, same great menu. Also the owners bought the building next door and are adding a separate smoking bar for those that choose to indulge.
The remodeling includes a new exterior, and on our first drive past we thought that the old Roxy was gone, but it still is going strong. Use the back door.
It still is a good value and great food. Midwestern steak house type, but a varying menu that promises more as they get organized.
Just back from a cross WS trip on WS 29. Lunch at the Abby
Cafe in Abbotsford, 30 +/- miles west of Wausau. On the way over to Door County from MSP, had a great small town lunch at the Abby Cafe. Meatloaf w/ chunky mashed pot. Not gourmet fare, but good midwestern small town home cooking. Looked for the 2510, and saw the sign, but a bridge over the freeway had just collapsed, and traffic was brutish, and couldn't find a way to get there with the construction. Next trip.
Back toward MSP the following Friday, and just happened to be at the Abby Cafe again for lunch. Walleye special, $9 for two filets, Potato pancakes, just like mother used to make, cole slaw, fresh baked roll. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Good!.
Add this to your list of good value in Central Wisconsin.
OK, so I grew up in New Orleans, where I think the food beats pretty much any other place, but I do live in Wausau now. I'm wondering why you didn't check out or comment on Kobe (where you can get pretty decent Sushi, including their Rib Mountain roll - the "soul food" of Sushi), or Chang Garden (sushi here, too), Pinewood Supper Club, Carmelo's...and the recently opened Wright Place. In this little town, I'll agree, the choices are quite limited, but there are a couple of decent places, if you really look. Oh, and fascination up here with 2510 escapes me...glorified hospital cafeteria food.
I moved to the area a little over two years ago and I too, do not understand the obsession with 2510. To be honest, most of the restaurants are pretty bad in Wausau. Places like the Wagon Wheel , Back When, City Grill are all pretty good, but it's hard to find a place to go on the cheap. Guiseppes Little Italy has pretty bad service, but the prices are good and the food is great. Chatterbox has great burgers. Noodles and Company is a great stand by, as is Green Mill. Chang Garden has a lot better sushi than Kobe and the lo mein is great - Egg Rolls are subpar. Here is a list of places to stay away from:
Chico's - probably the worst food ever.
Tri-City Family restaurant - okay, maybe this place has the worst food ever. I think everything they serve comes out of a can.
Freddy's Mexican and More - Some people love this place, but I 'm not a big fan. The ingredients are high quality, but it should be called Freddy's Barely Mexican and More. At least I wouldn't be expecting Mexican food.
Pinewood - Another place that people swear by, but I just think their expectations are too low.
Any fish fry - I'm getting really sick of fried food. If you fry anything, it tastes good. That doesn't translate to quality food. Why not just eat a bowl of grease.
The problem with Wausau is that it offers restaurants for the high brow and the low brow without much in between.
Simpson's in Waupaca has delicious roasted garlic you slather on bread & wonderful pickled mushrooms that they put in drinks (that was new to me, being born & bred in California - I thought celery & olives & onions were the only veggies you put in drinks - boy, was I wrong!) - I just eat them on their own - they also sell them.
I spent my first two years of college in Wausau (1979-80). There used to be Chinese restaurant in town that required a 24 hour advance notice for squid. I also got a nice case of food poisoning from their moo goo gai pan. lol! None of the places you mentioned except the WW ring any bells, but Wausau always brings a smile to my face.
To the poster who mentioned Oshkosh and the downtown restaurant that served surf & turf Oscar style. There used to be/maybe still is a place South of town on Lake Winnebago called Oscar's. It was always my go to place for "important" dates. ;)
That’s a good list. And brought back some memories. (I’m in California now.)
But what? No, 2510? This seemed to be the must go to birthday/anniversary/prom/special occasion spot. Honestly, pretty average food looking back but some goodies. Our family had been going there since back when it was a Mr. Steak probably 25 years ago before several remodels.
Michael’s used to be a grocery store – thus the reason for the look of the dinning room. That was a little before my time – probably was an IGA until they moved across the street. This too was a celebratory dinner spot. Hadn’t heard that it may have closed.
Agree on the good foods in the Mine Company and the space is great. It’s been like that for at least 20 years. I remember someone telling me it used to be a disco. Another good spot for pizza is Sam’s. Long time Wausau mainstay.
If you go back, I’ve heard a restaurant called the City Grill has opened in the new hotel downtown. And if Larry Raymond opens a restaurant you’ll want to look for that. He ran the restaurant for a time in the 90’s at the Greenwood Hills golf course east of Wausau and then had one for a short time downstairs in the Washington Square Building.
Residents would love to get a *insert any national chain* but it is slow going – just not quite large enough. I did like Tony Roma’s a whole lot.
2510 does deserve a mention - it's probably the definitive institution in town. Had a few meetings there as well. I remember the food being pretty good but nothing memorable at all. It's like a homegrown version of Country Kitchen or maybe even Applebee's.
The interstate was recently reconstructed and I think they may have had to relocate as they are close to the interchange, but once again I am not sure.
Now that I think of Applebee's, I remember a funny tidbit about my time in Wausau. One night I really couldn't think of anything to eat so I just decided to go to Applebee's and get it all over with. It it was a little after 8 on like a Tuesday or Wednesday night. Line out the door...people waiting on the benches outside...reception area packed. The hostess told me that it was at least an hour-and-a-half wait. She even told me that they might not be able to get me in before they closed! Maybe Red Lobster should open in Wausau.
Another place I forgot to mention - Hudson's Grill. It's actually right across from Applebees off of Stewart Avenune right by the freeway. Really neat decor - it's a small national chain of 50s style diners, but with a garage (hence Hudson) theme. Food is a solid 7/10 - pretty standard (burgers, etc.), alot like Chilis. There are only like 10 in the US. Good place to take the kids for a pit stop when heading north.
I forgot to mention Hereford and Hops - a pretty good steakhouse/brewpub. They make beer on site and have huge grills fer grillin' yer own steak. Fun with a group if you like sweating over a grill (kidding - actually exhaust fans and A/C keep it comfortable) while downing a beer with the guys. Of course, the kitchen will prepare any of the meat or fish you'd want too. And they have awesome fried cheese curds. Yum. The space is great.
Heard from family that 2510 and Michael's have not been torn down. I'll be back for a few days next week so I may have an additional report.
Nope - Green Lake is not close to Wausau. However:
1) The Roxy in Oshkosh is a friendly supper club right downtown. The food is delicious but pretty standard - their specialty is steak. Their surf and turf (Oscar style) is one of my personal favorites. Probably about 45 mins to 1 hr from you depending on where you are.
2) The 'Harbor Bar' (Clearwater Harbor) in Waupaca serves great bar food outdoors with a beautiful view of the lake and the sunset. I love their grilled tuna sandwich. Pretty much standard bar food (albiet good), so only go there if you are in the area as it is a little ways away.
Amherst (the home of Club Orlow an the Tomorrow River Supper Club) is only 15 mins. north.
3) I hear there is a restaurant in Omro that is located in a renovated bank and is supposedly really good. I have never been there, but that info is about a year old so who knows if it is still around.
4) Montello is another town for food but I have not been there in years!
re: Michael Florey
We have a summer cottage in Green Lake and, unfortunately, the good restaurant selection gets smaller and smaller every year with more restaurants closing. The locals really don't go to the more upscale creative places and, if they do go out, like the above poster said they go to the fish frys or supper clubs which are cheap and offer fish frys and poor quality steaks or prime rib. That said, Mimi's in Princeton is one of our favorites. The Grey Rock at Heidel House has a new chef and menu and our meal there a couple of weeks ago was outstanding. Very creative. Two Chez in Green Lake is also good although when we were there a few weeks ago the prices seemed higher and the portions smaller. Harbor Lights in Green Lake is popular. I don't like it but my husband does. It has a salad bar and fish. Best ice cream in town is at Bayview. The sub place in Green Lake is great for lunch. Two Chez also has a very reasonable, very good sandwich or salads for lunch. Also, Blue Moon in Princeton for lunch. The Pizza Factory in Princeton has good pizza although it can take a long time to get it. We also like to share their salad while waiting for the pizza. The Republican House in Ripon has good Chinese. Lots of people go to Nortons in Green Lake. We think the view is much better than the food. Hope this helps.