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"Stuck" in south central WI - what to do/eat?

I'll be in Madison and Ripon in a couple of weeks with a couple of days off between business obligations.

I'll be far from home, and I'm trying to figure out what to do with that time. The foodie in me would like to do something interesting, perhaps in conjunction with something relaxing/retreaty. Food tours? Farm stays? Anything food-related that's amazing to see/taste?

Any suggestions? I'm willing to drive a reasonable distance, but I don't want to spend an extravagant amount of money, and I think I'd rather not go into Chicago (unless you can convince me otherwise...I'm sure I can have a feast there).

I realize this is a pretty wide open request, but I'm hoping someone can come up with something fun for this foodie!

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  1. Cooking schools at Carr Valley Cheese:
    or L'etoile:

    A winery tour at wollersheim:

    or a cheese tour at cedar grove cheese:

    I have also done something like a day in monroe, wi (home of baumgartner's limberger cheese sandwich, the alp-n-dell (roth kase) cheese store, and a tour of joseph minas (formerly huber) brewery) and new glarus, wi (tour of new glarus brewery and dinner at one of the great swiss restaurants). Here's a good table of links to get you started:


    4 Replies
    1. re: itsbubbles

      Thanks. Feeling a little less "stuck," though I'd love more suggestions from others, too!

      1. re: itsbubbles

        I'd like to hear more about the Swiss restaurants as we'll be in Madison for about a day later this month.

        1. re: msazadi

          New Glarus, WI is a Swiss village here, about 30 miles from Madison. They have several Swiss restaurants, with Glarner Stube being my favorite:

          1. re: itsbubbles

            Thanks...I hope we can get to one. Switzerland w/o the Euro prices would be great. ;-)

      2. If you like beer as well as food, the Tyranena brewery in Lake Mills is a great destination. It is right off of I-94 halfway between Milwaukee and Madison. The tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday: http://www.tyranena.com/brewery/tasti...

        No food is available, but you can bring in food from elsewhere to enjoy with their very fine beer. Whenever we drive that way (I live in St Paul, my parents near Milwaukee), I stop in for a growler.

        1. Well, if you're going to be stuck, Madison's the place to do it! At their Union they have awesome ice cream made by their agriculture students. Also, Ella's is a fun Deli-very cute. Madison has a lot of great food-State Street is a street blocked off to traffic and it is great for eating/shopping. Canterbury Tales is a great bookstore/coffeeshop...we had really good African food this summer-I don't remember the name but it was across from The Chocolate Shoppe ice cream place on State Street (also really good, especially their Elvis Presley flavor (peanut butter and banana). Anyway, that should get you started. New Glarus is also very very cute.

          1. Visit the Mustard Museum in Mt. Horeb! www.mustardmuseum.com

            1. Kohler Design Center in Kohler, Brat Stop at Hwy 50

              1. drive a bit north to the wisconsin dells... while pretty much everything here is absolute tourist crap (and closed in the winter), there's an awesome vegetarian place called the cheese factory (http://www.cookingvegetarian.com/). everything (including dessert) is homemade, and they serve phosphate sodas, which is a neat treat. everything we've had there is silly good.

                if you really don't mind driving (a good 90 minutes), drive to cedarburg and take a tour of the cedar creek winery (http://www.cedarcreekwinery.com/). they'll drag you through some shopping (some kitsch crap, some neat local stuff) but the wine is good. also some neat places on the main road - including an ice cream shoppe and a real honest to goodness butcher.

                1. About 27 miles from Madison is the New Glarus Brewery which offers tours, and has a tasting room of its excellent beers.

                  Mon-Sun 10-4


                  1. A map of all WINERIES in Wisconsin, with links to details:

                    A list of tours of BREWERIES, WINERIES, and CHEESE FACTORIES, with links to their websites:

                    A list of MAJOR BREWERIES, MICROBREWERIES, and BREW PUBS, with links to their websites:

                    A directory of FOOD AND DRINK TOURS:

                    A directory of COOKING CLASSES:

                    A directory of ORCHARDS AND MARKETS:

                    1. Hope the date has not passed.

                      Capital Brewery in Middleton (just west of Madison) has awesome local brew. Amber is their tried and true.

                      I second the Union for ice cream- some of the best in the States.

                      If you want Nepali, Himal Chuli on State Street in Madison is terrific. Some of the best Dal this side of Khatmanu.

                      Harvest and L'Etoile are terrific restaurants using local ingredients. Chef Tory from L'Etoile will be cooking for the big James Beard Dinner in NYC later this spring. And Harvest gets plenty of national recognition as well. Morel mushrooms are a terrific local delicacy and these restaurants have been known to feature dishes with morels in the past.

                      Best of luck and hope the post is not too late.

                      1. Thanks, all, for the suggestions. Soggy weather prevented any interesting travel outside of Madison. But wanted to report back.

                        I usually like unique ethnic eateries, but I was very disappointed with where I ate. I had perhaps the worst service ever at Lao Laan-Xang. The waiter was totally incompetent, bringing the wrong dishes to tables like mine, and after a comedy of other errors, he eventually spilled sauce all over my newspaper. The food was just so-so.

                        I ate the chili chicken at Himal Chuli, and it was so overcooked that it was hard to chew. The servers were cold/unfriendly. And Wah Kee was nothing special, though my expectations were low at that point.

                        Ate lunch at Cafe Soleil today, and enjoyed my roast beef sandwich, side salad, and chocolate dessert. Needing good quality, I ate at L'Etoile tonight, and was also very pleased. Locally sourced ingredients were fabulous, and I liked the care that went into each dish.

                        Lesson learned: I'll stick to the coasts for Asian food, and look for locavoric restaurants in the heartland.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: dimsumfan

                          You ate at a whopping total of two ethnic restaurants in a single small city in Wisconsin, so you've come up with a general rule that applies to everything between the coasts? Methinks you learned the wrong lesson.

                          1. re: Jordan

                            Three, actually. Beyond that, I travel for a living (every week), so I'm constantly eating out. I'd acknowledge that Madison has better choices than most other cities of similar size in the heartland. But except for some places in the larger cities (MSP, Houston, Chicago), I'm comfortable with what I wrote. (Though I'll still hope to find hidden treasures.) Try Burma Superstar in SF, Sripraphai in Queens, or many Chinese restaurants in Richmond, BC and you'll see the difference!

                            1. re: dimsumfan

                              Sorry I missed your post when it would have been more relevant. But just in case anyone comes across this thread in the future...

                              Madison's Asian food is pretty weak, unfortunately.

                              Lao Laan-Xang is one of the better places, but they're pretty casual and a bit inconsistent, with very hit or miss service. Restaurant Muramoto near the capitol is decent Japanese fusion, Chautara is in the same vein as Himul Chuli but a bit better (and less than a block away), and there's some decent cheap Thai, but that's pretty much it.

                              Other things Madison visitors might be interested in are the Fromagination cheese shop for local artisan cheeses (don't let the name turn you off), the Great Dane brewpub for some very good beer, and the Dane County Farmer's Market in the Summer. Cafe Soleil has superb pastries, and Marigold Kitchen does a nice casual breakfast.

                              If you do make it to Mount Horeb for the mustard museum, you should also check out The Grumpy Troll, another very nice brewpub.