I have to confess, when we first realized we'd be spending a couple of months in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, we had low expectations for food choices. When I asked Paul what he thought we'd be able to eat around here, he and I simultaneously shouted, "Beer in a boot!" Years ago, we had both experienced visits to bars that featured this German tradition, but in Madison and Milwaukee, not in Wisconsin Rapids. Beer in a boot, and cheese curds were our stereotype of Wisconsin food. We anticipated nothing but German comfort food.
We've certainly seen a lot of Wisconsin cheese and had our fair share of beer (although not in a boot), and we've eaten a lot of mediocre chain fare. But we've also found some good food in unexpected places.
Here are our top surprises for good food in and near Wisconsin Rapids:
We happened to be in this area during a terrific time of year for fresh-grown local food. Wisconsin Rapids has a farmer's market every Thursday and Saturday downtown. We had a bounty of fresh tomatoes, corn, eggplants, onions, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, and potatoes. One stand had home-made cookies. Another, tacos and tamales (see below). We indulged ourselves in numerous BLTs and corn on the cob, as well has making lots of stir fries and other fresh meals. The corn and tomatoes alone were worth the trip. Let's hear it for fresh food grown locally!
We've had a lot of good Mexican food here. From Mezcal, with really good Margaritas and satisfying if standard Mexican fare, to La Taqueria, fast-food street tacos and Mexican corn, we have not been disappointed. Those are both local chains, the food seems pretty authenic. Even better, Tommy's - which has a tent at the Farmer's Market on Thursdays and Saturdays near Grand Avenue on the river - makes tacos on the spot. They are fresh corn tortillas with a choice of chorizo or pork. If you get there early enough, you can get hot tamales wrapped in corn husk. Twice, we bought last of the tamales from that day, so you need to get there early! Good Mexican food was our biggest surprise.
Good traditional fare
We visited a few Wisconsin Rapids restaurants that are well-liked by locals. They offered solid, if limited, choices well-prepared. While not our favorite style of cooking, we could see why locals enjoyed them. The Branding Iron Supper Club had good steaks, potatoes, and an above-average salad bar. The bartender made me an excellent Kentucky Mule and the wine was good. We went to Anchor Bay Bar and Grill for the Friday night fish fry. We each ordered seafood bisque, which was tasty if a bit thick and salty. Paul's fried fish was better than my broiled lemon pepper fish. His was crispy and tasted pretty good. The baked potatoes, salted on the outside, were excellent. I had a $3 Mimosa, which was good but made with white wine instead of bubbly, which seemed unusual. Paul had a Guinness on tap. The setting is beautiful. The restaurant is on the river and we were there at sunset. Anchor Bay doesn't take reservations; we got there at 5 and waited 15 minutes, but people who got there at 5:30 had a 45-minute wait.
Fine dining in Steven's Point
We've eaten at two nice restaurants in Stevens Point, which is a 25-minute drive from Wisconsin Rapids. For our anniversary, we went to the Wissota Chophouse and had a good bottle of wine, french onion soup, very good steaks and garlic whipped potatoes. After we finished our meal, our server brought us slice of four-layer chocolate cake on the house for our anniversary. Service was great. Nothing on the menu was unusual or unique, but it was very good.
Our favorite restaurant, also in Stevens Point, was Father Fats Public House. We sat on the outdoor patio, surrounded by fresh tomatoes growing on the vine and other plants. The weather was perfect.
Here, the menu offered unique and unusual fare. Dishes are served tapas style, so we could share several different choices. We started with mixed drinks. I had a bourbon drink with muddle blueberries and Paul daringly ordered the Mysterious Dram of Destiny, which was described as a "concoction shrouded in such secrecy that we don’t know what is in it." Apparently it was whatever the bartender decided to mix up, and Paul's drink was a fruity (but not sweet), lemon, & vodka blend with a smoky element (we think). He liked it. My bourbon drink included bourbon, beer, and the aforementioned muddled blueberries and was delicious.
For our main meal, we had a sampling of Wisconsin cheeses (which we selected from a list), served with herbed croutons and a bit of peach marmalade. We also ordered a kale dish with hushpuppies & smoked oysters, and smoked pork ribs (which we could smell smoking as we entered the patio) with cole slaw in a spicy piripiri sauce. We had wine with our meal. Everything was delicious, and prepared in ways we had not tasted before. There were many more things on the menu we wanted to order, and on any given night there might be other choices as the menu is rotated based on fresh ingredients and the creativity of the chef. Our server was super-friendly and informative.
Finally, we had wonderful dessert - a peach crisp that was fresh and flavorful but not too sweet, and peach ice cream. Highly recommend!
All told, we found some surprisingly good choices during our stay in Wisconsin Rapids.