Minnesota - Wadena County or thereabouts
Will be visiting the area on a writers' residency. I'm from NYC. Wondering if there are any interesting restaurants. Not sure what season I'll be visiting. I hear it's not far from Brainard and was thinking of driving to the Dakotas (one or the other). If anyone has any suggestions, other than going fishing myself and whipping up some trout sushi, let me know. Quirky is good, doesn't have to be one of those gourmet joints. I know nothing of the area, I'm a city gal and looking forward to exploring. Looks like almost all of the people there are of German and Nordic ancestry.
I'm going to be making several trips to Wadena for work this summer and would also like any recommendations for the area.
On my last trip there we ate dinner at the Ice House in the Holiday Inn in Detroit Lakes - I had a steak and very, very cheesy & rich au gratin potatoes. It was better than I expected for the area, and only $10 (early bird special - it also included a salad bar). I had lunch at the next day on Jefferson Street in Wadena at the Boondocks Cafe. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and cup of soup, but neither was memorable.
How long will you be there and will you be staying in Wadena itself, or somewhere else in the county?
I ask because the northern edge of the county is close to Park Rapids, Nevis, Akeley and Walker -- there are some decent places up in those towns. I drive through and around Wadena county but haven't found anything noteworthy myself.
I'll be staying in Wadena itself, just for two weeks. But if the towns up north are worth visiting, for food or otherwise, maybe I can take a drive up there. For example, would going to Fargo be a good day trip? I get the feeling the area is pretty quiet on the whole, but am looking forward to it. Sometimes you'll stumble onto some great greasy spoon places, so as I said, it doesn't have to be one of those "fine dining" establishments.
Fargo wouldn't be much of a day trip for chow and I'm not really up on the cultural aspect aside from minor league baseball (Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks). If you like baseball, that's a fun experience. Whenever I'm in that area, I'm basically just passing through or visiting family in Moorhead. HoDo in the Hotel Donaldson downtown Fargo is a legitimate finer dining option though.
Walker and Park Rapids are neat small towns. Chow-wise, they also have some appeal. In PR, there's the Great Northern which is a small-town greasy spoon breakfast place -- a tradition for me after an early morning of deer hunting or fishing. Between PR and Walker are a couple of smaller towns along Highway 34. Just outside of Nevis is the Velvet Antler which is a log cabiny bar and burger spot. In Akeley is Em's, which is a really tiny place with a good burger. Just east of Akeley is the Brahaus which has some excellent German food. In Walker, Boulder's is an upscale place by small town standards and pretty good for that part of the country. The attraction to Walker is Leech Lake, which is somewhere between the third and fifth largest lake in the state depending on whether or not you count Lake Superior and the Canada border lakes.
As someone else asked, I'm curious what kind of writing work brings a person to Wadena. Whatever it is, enjoy the project!
Used to go to Perham MN on fishing vacations, not far from Wadena, and delighted in the 2 bakeries on the main drag. Had to get there before 10 or they'd be sold out-kind of places. A cafe next to one of the bakeries dished out marvelous sour cream raisin pie. Been a while, though, hope they're still there.
Hope that your visit is not in January.
Wadena is in sort of a sweet spot for summer activities. But winter season many of the better Chowish places close for the season. Here's a few nearby that you can try that are open year 'round that we, or our friends in the area, enjoy.
Ottertail City: 20+ miles west. Betty's Bakery. Breakfast and lunch spot.
Fergus Falls: 50 miles south and west. The Jazzy Fox, Lincoln Ave, downtown. Friends speak highly of this place.
West end of Ottertail Lake: Graystone Lodge. Eclectic.
I think that you would enjoy HoDo in Fargo, as mentioned previously
And if you are there before Oct 1, Stub's in Battle Lake, is great for steaks and walleye. I was there two weeks ago, and it was great.
But if you are there at the right time, you might be able to find a church serving lutefisk, a Scandinavian delicacy. This is best sampled in a church basement at long tables.
There is a large Finnish population in the Wadena area, and local restos might serve Finnish delicacies from time to time, (whatever it may be).
You're about midway between Park Rapids, Alexandria, Brainerd, Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls. If you are there during the winter, best check with locals for dining options.
As I mentioned, things start to close down resto-wise after Labor Day, and at the end of deer season (Nov), the choices become sparse as the snowbirds go elsewhere.. You won't find anything comparable to NYC, but MN cuisine is comfort food. Summertime, there are many midwestern, steak, chicken and fish places. Most are pretty good.
And forget about sushi 'til back in NYC.
Enjoy your stay.
Thanks a lot for some great info! The likelihood is I'll be going in November, either the first two weeks or the last two weeks. But based upon your info. maybe the first two would be better. Actually, my precise location will be New York Mills, which is a much smaller town. Have you ever been there? I suppose it will be pretty cold in November, but I guess I'll just bundle up! Don't worry, I'll wait on the sushi. What about Duluth, anything fun there? I still don't know if going to Fargo is worth the effort, and no, I don't like baseball at all. I've always wanted to go to S.D. and the badlands, but perhaps that's a summer destination.