The 14 Must Stops along Lake Pepin for Extraordinary Foodie Experiences
The Great River Road along Lake Pepin has been known for its scenic drives, soaring bluffs and quaint villages. The stretch from Bay City to Pepin is lovingly referred to as “The West Coast of Wisconsin”, with its majestic vistas and charming, almost maritime feel of its villages. There has long been a few well-known dining stops along the beautiful roadway, but it has now become a serious foodie destination with world class, award winning spots that make the trip worth a few days of gastronomic exploration. Start at the top of Lake Pepin and work your way down for truly exquisite foodie experiences. The start of the trail is approx. 60 miles from Minneapolis on one of the most beautiful stretches of the Mississippi River along the shores of Lake Pepin.
The gateway to Lake Pepin the village of Bay City is a quaint, quiet spot with a stunning location on the Great River with the first trail destination.
1. Chef Shack
Tucked off WI Hwy 35 in Bay City you will find Chef Shack. Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson crafted this delightful “Ranch Rustic Country French” inspired weekend dining spot to entertain guests with exquisite food, influenced by their travels, but always based in extraordinary French based technique. The wine list is top notch, as are the cocktails. And do not miss the desserts, all handcrafted in house by Chef Carrie. Chef Lisa has been a multi-year Semifinalist for the James Beard Award. Chef Shack has been named one of the 50 best Minneapolis restaurants by Mpls. St Paul Magazine and is a Travel and Leisure favorite.
6379 Main St, Bay City, WI 54723
2. Sunrise Coffee on 35
To many of us great coffee is the most important thing needed to start the day off right! Fortunately, we have Sunrise Coffee to help with that. They know what they are doing with that espresso, but have lots of other beverages like spritzers, frappes and tea drinks. They also offer locally made pastries to help get things going in the morning. Sunrise also has sweet little menu of build your own breakfast sandwiches and wraps. They open early, like 5:30 am early on weekdays and a manageable 8 am on weekends. They even have a drive thru!
Check out their website at https://sunrisecoffeeon35.com
W6442 Hwy 35, Bay City WI 54723
Down river from Bay city is the Village of Maiden Rock. Barely two streets wide, it clings to the bluffs on the shores of the lake. Best known for its bars and bakery it has become alive with new shops and galleries and the second trail destination.
3. Smiling Pelican Bake Shop
The Smiling Pelican Bake Shop, Sandra Thielman’s Smiling Pelican is a small but immensely popular bakery. Their made from scratch treats are crafted with care in small batches, are well known throughout the area. They have a devoted following that you can find lined up at the door, anticipating the delights about to be consumed. The bread is world class. The Lavender Ginger cookies are things to dream of and the fine pastries are stellar.
W3556 WI-35, Maiden Rock, WI 54750
Six miles past Maiden Rock you will find yourself in Stockholm, a tiny village of 66 permanent residents but packs a huge amount into its two streets of shops and eateries and is well known as a famous day trip destination, a Midwest Living “Best of” and includes three spectacular foodie trail destinations.
4. Stockholm Pie & General Store
On the main corner of the Great River Road and Spring Street in this extremely popular destination village you will find the famous and deeply loved Stockholm Pie & General Store. The shop is known for its made from scratch, just like grandma made food, especially the pie… lots of pie, really good pie. Typically, you will find 20+ different handmade pies on the menu. In addition to the pie the shop is loved for its delicious food – sandwiches, salads, pot pies and savory pies. River Travel Magazine named Stockholm Pie and General Store Best Café, Best Dessert and Best Pie on the Mississippi River. USA Today named it one of the 18 legendary pie shops in the US. Lines can be sizable on weekends but oh so worth the wait. While your there, check out Stockholm General with its selection of chocolates, vintage candy and fun gifts and toys and their new “Föda @ Stockholm General” featuring a taste of Scandinavia and the best of Wisconsin food, wine and beer along with a charming bookstore. Best to call ahead and pre order whole pies and if you have your heart set on a particular slice. Beautiful garden seating in addition to inside the classic building.
N2030 Spring St, Stockholm WI 54769
5. The Palate
The Palate is best known as a charming French inspired kitchen store and cooking school where you will find delectable house baked goodies. They have recently added delightful outdoor seating in the back garden and sidewalk café style seating in the front gardens and are featuring a truly exceptional selection of repast in the form of beautifully curated cheese platters with selections of world class wines from the store. Open into the evening, it is a gentle, lovely way to end your visit to Stockholm.
W12102 WI-35, Stockholm, WI 54769
6. Hop, Dish and Vine & Little Lark Bakery
Tucked in a beautiful courtyard garden. The menu will is a lighthearted fun seasonal menu based loosely on street food fare (hand cut fries, street tacos, falafel, poutine, Vegan and GF options), with a few more substantial options based on locally grown produce whenever possible to support the burgeoning young growers in the area. New this year is the adjacent Little Lark Bakery. All this in a chill gastro beer garden vibe including regional beer, fine wines, and live music.
N2047 Spring St. Stockholm, WI.
Six more miles downriver is the Village of Pepin. Pepin is the largest of the four villages on the lake with almost 900 folks! Known for its beautiful marina, and as the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder, it is even better known now for its foodie destinations.
7. Harbor View Café
Harbor View Café is the grand dame of the foodie destinations along the trail. Now in its 41st year, the iconic café has long set the standard in the Midwest for destination dining. Classically inspired dishes with that Harbor View twist – and the famous house made bread that comes with every meal. The most famous dish is probably the Halibut with Black Butter Caper Sauce, followed by the Sautéed Chicken Breasts with roasted garlic chipotle sauce, to name just a few. The café sources locally and has a highly regarded wine cellar. As suggested by the name, the café sits on the beautiful marina in Pepin – a stunning place to watch the sailboats and sunsets. The café does not take reservations and the wait can be substantial on busy summer weekends, but get a glass of wine, sit outside, listen to music and watch the Great River meander by. Bring a cooler for leftovers as the portions are as famous as the food.
314 1st St, Pepin, WI 54759
8. Homemade Café
Charming does not begin to capture it. It is one of those places that makes you feel like you might be one of the locals of the sweet little village it sits in – always friendly and comforting. The classic roadside café is famous for its delicious breakfasts and lunches. The owner, Patty, never fails to charm with her simple, beautifully crafted food and delightful baked goods. Then there is the Friday fish fry. Friday fish fries are a staple in small town Wisconsin, but this one stands out. Fried or sautéed with Patty’s signature tartar sauce, it can’t be beat.
809 3rd St, Pepin, WI 54759
9. Villa Bellezz
Villa Bellezza is best known for its award-winning wines and its breathtaking Italian village like campus – it really does feel like you have escaped to Italy without the flight. Even the chef is a true Italian original. Antonio Cecconi leads the kitchen at the winery’s Country Italian restaurant, Il Forno. Wood fired pizza, pasta and panini make up the menu. Their cheese and meat plates are heavenly and pair so beautifully from the large range of truly exquisite wines from their own cellars. All of this is best experienced on “La Piazza Bellezza”, it’s like a small Italian town. It is a great place to watch people while enjoying your wine and food. In summer al fresco dining lasts into the evening under café lights above. In winter, al fresco dining is under heated porticos with chairs covered in furs to help stay warm. Quite the delicious experience. You may also want to explore their cooking school La Scuola, a participation cooking school taught by chef Antonio Cecconi. This year you will be able to experience their new outdoor kitchens for the school and dining.
1420 3rd St, Pepin, WI 54759
RiverTime is a new edition to the foodie scene in Pepin. Wine and beer are the main focus at RiverTime. You will find a great selection of wines and beers along with simple snacks. The space is a delight, with a nautical/river vibe that captures the local well. Out back is a funky outdoor space that is typically filled with live music from the area’s plethora of amazing talent.
Find out information at https://www.facebook.com/RiverTimePepin
418 2nd Street. Pepin Wi 54769
The village of Nelson lies at the crossroads of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Take a left, and you keep going down the Wisconsin Great River Road. Keep going forward and you find yourself in Minnesota. Nelson is home to some venerable foodie stops.
11. J&J Barbeque
Classic, delicious, and fun describe J&J BBQ. This family-owned joint smokes up some of the best ribs, chicken, and brisket you will find anywhere on the Mississippi. Their bar is famous for the Bloody Mary, and you will find live entertainment at times also. Its worth the wait for the amazing food!
Check Facebook or their website for hours and details http://www.jandjbbq.com
208 N Main St, Nelson, WI 54756.
12. Nelson Cheese Factory
An area favorite. Once a cheese factory now a delightful gourmet & wine shop featuring tasty sandwiches and pizza along with ice cream cones from a top-notch regional ice cream company. Don’t miss the fireside wine tasting room and outdoor, dog friendly patio.
Check out their website for details http://nelsoncheese.com
S237 State Road 35 S, Nelson,WI
13. Stone Barn Pizza
The Stone Barn is a family-friendly, down-to-earth farm that has artisan wood-fired pizza, a wedding barn, wine, ice cream, and goats. What more could you want! Visit their slice of rustic paradise to catch all the relaxing, peaceful feels and world class pizza. The flavors can range from classic – like the Margarita or very inventive like the Thai, with its peanut sauce base or the Alaskan with smoked salmon, onions, dill, & capers on a cream cheese base. The cracker thin crust is loaded with exquisite ingredients then wood fired to perfection. Located on winding country backroads in beautiful Buffalo County, just outside of Nelson Wisconsin, you’ll certainly love your drive here. Stone Barn is seasonal and weekends only, be sure to check their website for hours. It can be very busy on weekends with quite the wait, but visit the goats, shop a little, drink some wine or craft beer and enjoy the beauty of Wisconsin, you wont regret it.
S685 County Road KK, Nelson, WI 54756
Durand Wisconsin is the county seat of the smallest county in Wisconsin – Pepin County, in which most of our trail locations reside. Not typically known for its culinary locations, a new spot has made it a detour off the beaten path of the West Coast of Wisconsin Foodie Trail.
Kingfisher is the lovechild of chef Rebecca Boulger, a Harborview alum. They have taken an old bar and restaurant and breathed new life into it with an almost supper clubby kind of feel but with big city new American food. The bar, with its creative craft cocktails, upon entering is a step back in time and the dining room is unpretentious but with beautiful views of the Chippewa River. The small, carefully crafted menu is what makes it worth the trip. Don’t miss the the mushroom risotto, with wildcrafted mushrooms from co-owner Gary Egger. The Honey Chili Brussels put that veggie in a whole new category… do not miss …but all of the items are delectable and don’t skip dessert.
214 w Main Street Durand, WI 54736