The Great River Road

2011/03/01 23:00:47

Hello to all again at Roadfood. This is a trip report from a journey I took last summer up along the Mighty Mississippi from WI to MN. I will be traveling along the Great River Road more this upcoming spring/summer/fall of 2011 and will use this thread to share my experiences and collect must stop eating spots to put on my list. You can check out some other good stuff from foodventures of mine from around Chicago and the Midwest HERE. I'm a fan of travel along the Mississippi so I was happy to start my 2010 Great Lakes journey north with a stop at Pete's Hamburgers which is located in Prairie Du Chien which is the largest river community in Wisconsin along the Mississippi and the 2nd oldest town in Wisconsin. Pete's Hamburger Stand was the gold medal winner on the trip for me so that in itself makes this drive worthy of some good chow spots. We started the Great River Road drive at Pete's and headed North from there where we would continue north to Duluth, Minnesota.

Highway 35 along the Mississippi

I did a little web browsing of places worth stopping and another place getting alot of love like Pete's which had just captivated us was a place not but a five minute walk from the hamburger stand. Valley Fish & Cheese specialized in smoked meats and fish amongst many other things. It was a really cool looking shop from the outside and something you can expect to see a few of on this trip.

Pete's Hamburger Stand (Prairie Du Chien, WI) Click HERE for more on this CLASSIC burger

Valley Fish & Cheese: a treasure along the river (Prairie Du Chien, WI)

This is a place that's been open for over 25 years now but owned by a family that's been commercial fishing, trapping and hunting their entire lives. They do a unique combination of things including hickory smoked catfish, smoked buffalo fish, snapping turtle jerky, catfish jerky, smoked frog legs, dried beef, buffalo meat, fresh cheese curds, hickory smoked string cheese, mustard's of a wide variety, aged cheddar's, pickled river chub and a bunch of other unique Wisconsin canned and bottled products. You can also get all sorts of gear and items for fishing and hunting along with wooden carved decorations for your yard and all that other good stuff. I thought this place was phenomenal and the jerky was as good as it gets and tasted more like steak than jerky. I thought the smoked carp was unique and interesting and loved the turtle beer stix and carp jerky as well. I wish I had left with alot more than I did. I got some pic's to share and if you want to check out this video I just found on google, its a look into the place with the owner.

Great selection at this shop

frog and duck legs to the left, pickled prawns in the middle and pickled perch to the right

assorted jerky's

They smoke it all...

Never seen that until I saw it there

The fact that Valley Fish & Cheese is also in Prairie Du Chien along with Pete's and some other places I didn't make it too like an old fashioned soda fountain make it a fun stop on the River Road route and one I would highly recommend.

Onward north we went, there were many historical markers and sites along the way

Our next stop was in Lynxville at a place that popped up and caught my eye so I pulled in since I at least needed a drink since I was thirsty. It was a little fair food stand bragging about their hot dogs and catfish and looked like a place to get a nice snack even though I wasn't hungry.

"World Famous Dogs" and fresh fried Mississippi catfish

It wasn't over an hour since I devoured four burgers from Pete's and had plenty of smoked fish and jerky for dessert so I didn't try a dog and they didn't seem to appealing anyway but I did get some catfish and a draft of 1919 Root Beer brewed in New Ulm, MN.

The view from The Dawg Houses parking lot

The expertly fresh fried catfish nuggets were great loaded with hot sauce and the root beer was really good and I'm a fan of draft beer and drink it when I see it and this was a nice brew. Good stuff along the river.

and on we pushed northbound...

I think about the halfway point was La Crosse which is the home to City Brewing Company and has been to the home to many different brewers over the years such as G. Heileman Brewing Company. It's also the home to the worlds largest six pack and a cool place to stop and stretch the legs. Only in Wisconsin does your first stop have an abundant smell of onions everywhere and then the next there's the smell of beer in the air. On this particular trip I didn't go to any of these places in the La Crosse area except the Coney Joint seen below (which was closed on my last visit) but I went here for Labor Day weekend last year and had a good time and enjoyed the area. Perrot State Park located just outside of here along the Mississippi was beautiful and a great place to spend the day bbq'ing or biking or canoeing or doing whatever your thing is.

World's Largest Six Pack

Beer has always been abundant in these parts

The King of Beers

So many a breweries on a trip thru WI

and so many more bars & taverns

Pictured in the collage above are Bodega Brew Pub which is is downtown La Crosse and has a great selection of beer and the same look and feel of Map Room but alot bigger. Next to that pic is Beedle's a typically appealing looking authentic Wisconsin tavern. Both stops were visited last summer and I loved the both of them. The river taverns play an important role along the Mississippi and there are too many to visit all of them but you'll see some uniquely looking and oddly named taverns with great personality on the outside and in. On my 2009 Labor Day visit we went to Bodega on a Sunday and enjoyed some great local microbrews and next door was a local Coney Island joint that I wanted to try but was not open on Sundays. This trip around up the river I managed to stop since it was on the route and an easy in and out.

La Crosses local Coney Island  hot dog stop

I will usually stop in for a Coney Dog whenever I see a place on the road while traveling and this stop was the first of a few on my journey North this summer. Usually these stands have been around for a long time time and this one said they've been doing them since 1922. I also always get mine with cheese. I wasn't really thrilled by this Coney but I'm sure they're different if you grow up on them. What I should have done was make the stop at Beedle's Tavern seen up thread which is a place I stopped at on the way home from Perott State Park last summer in between there and La Crosse. It's got the classic Wisconsin tavern feel and has some great food to go with the atmosphere. It's also has the best fried appetizer combo I have had anywhere and its called the Coulee combo and it includes fresh dipped cheese curds, mushrooms & onion rings. I also had a great Reuben sandwich on my only visit. More on that visit HERE if you want to check it out.

Coulee Combo from Beedle's Tavern

Perrot State Park is located about 30 minutes up the river from La Crosse in Trempealeau, WI and I had read last year when I visited that it along with Devil's Lake are two of Wisconsin's better state parks. Since I know how great Devil's Lake is having hung out there when I was in Madison for school, I knew that Perrot would be pretty panoramic and a great place to spend a summers day exploring, grilling and enjoying some brews and it was. I would rec a visit there for some exploration and relaxation.

Perrot State Park

and on we push...many great little towns to cruise thru for 10-15 minutes

The next stop was the end of the Great Wisconsin River Road in Presscott, WI and the end of our journey up the Mississippi. It was done in a few hours and we made a few stops so a weekend excursion out of it would be very much possible. I'd like to one day ride up the other side and go thru IA and MN. I had a few spots on my radar in Presscott and since we just drove a couple hours we wanted to take in some sun and get a snack and a brew or two and stopped into the Point St. Croix Marina's Bar overlooking the river to do so.

Prescott, WI

Still my favorite summertime beer anywhere...and only available in WI  :(

the marina bar's jumbo grilled shrimps are $1.65/each

I had read the marina bar does a good jumbo grilled shrimp that go great with a cold one while sitting in the sun looking over the river. They weren't bad and came served with melted butter and cocktail sauce but weren't great either, just Vietnamese jumbo shrimp coated with Louisiana seasoning and grilled. I liked them for what they were. The next stop was to a place called Enrique's that I had read put out a mean burger (handmade and stuffed with pico and queso) and also did deep fried tacos. I had to pass on the burger since it was a monster and we were just 15/20 minutes from Minny/St. Paul and were going to stop for dinner there and get a Juicy Lucy before we pushed onward to Duluth. So I went with the deep fried taco and we all split some fresh fried tortilla chips coated with cinnamon sugar.

a Mexican/American grill in Prescott, WI

What the fried tacos lacked in spice and flavor the chips did not and were great

So this is where we end the tour up River Road thru WI

So on we drove to Minneapolis/St. Paul...

Pete's Hamburger Stand (seasonal and wkds only)
118 W Blackhawk Ave
Prairie du Chien, WI 53821

Valley Fish & Cheese
304 South Prairie Street
Prairie Du Chien, WI 53821
(608) 326-4719

The Dawg house (seasonal & wkds only)
Located on Highway 35 near the boat landing
Lynxville, WI

City Brewery Tour Center
1111 3rd St
La Crosse, WI 54601-4412
(608) 785-4283

Bodega Brew Pub
122 4th Street
LaCrosse, WI 54601
(608) 782-0677

Coney Island Hot Dogs
114 4th Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
(608) 782-6314

Beedle's Bar & Restaurant
W24966 State Rd 54/93
Galesville, WI 54630-8242
(608) 539-2251

Perrot State Park
W26247 Sullivan Rd Off Rte 1
Trempealeau, WI 54661
(608) 534-6409‎

Point St Croix Marina
101 Front Street
Prescott, WI 54021-1619
(715) 262-3161

Enrique's Mexican and American
310 Lake Street North
Prescott, WI 54021-1766
(715) 262-5566
Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/02 00:17:34
Loved the pics. Great looking food - and Beer!!! Must - go - to - Wisconsin!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/02 05:35:40
Very nice write and colorful pics.  I have traveled that same road several times from the quad cities to the twin cities.  I made several of the same stops that you did.
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/02 07:35:05
Nice report and great pictures. Thanks for sharing.
Filet Mignon
Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/02 10:59:47
Man, you aren't kidding when you say they smoke everything!  Things it would never have occurred to me to smoke!  Now I want some snapping turtle jerky. :)
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/02 11:07:20
Thanks for clarifying was smoked "cat" was.  I would go broke eating just the shrimp.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/02 11:18:24
Great pictures I would OD on the shrimp alone.
Filet Mignon
Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/02 12:28:06
Definitely a trip I'd like to take. Nice report, KingT!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/02 12:47:55
Excellent report with great photos!  This is a trip I would love to take someday.  The one place that wasn't mentioned that should be added to any list of where to go is the Stockholm Pie Company.
NC Cheesehead
Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/02 14:25:07
Makes me miss home..... 
Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/02 15:23:00
Always a pleasure to read your reports.  I wish you'd post as much here as you do in your alter ego as "Da Beef" over at LTHForum.  I also wish you'd join us at some of our Chicago/Milwaukee Contingent events--I think we'd all greatly enjoy each others company.  I'm working on a soon-to-be-announced Chicago Spring Tour that I hope you'll be able to attend.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/02 23:50:39
I was in this area last August.  It's everything Buddy says it is.  I didn't take any notes on this trip, but there are lots of good things to eat in these parts.  I may go here again this year or next and explore some more.

Re:The Great River Road 2011/03/03 07:18:25
Thanks for showing me a great part of the country. Really enjoyed your report!!