When you have more than 100 restaurants, confectionaries and specialty food stores to choose from, as you do in Wisconsin Dells, the process can be incredibly satisfying.
Setting out to catalogue some of the “best of” food finds in the Dells was no small task. Locals have their favorites and proved a good starting point for recommendations. Sheer traffic to eateries was another tip-off. Of course, the ultimate critique comes in the taste. Here is a sampling - it’s by no means an exhaustive list, as that would require a book - to help guide your culinary decisions the next time you’re visiting Wisconsin Dells.
Best of Cheese
It’s Wisconsin, so we had no choice but to start the list with cheese.
For fresh cheese curds in all their squeaky goodness, shop Market Square Cheese. For the deep-fried variety, the Sand Bar's version goes great with their homemade hot tomato relish.
Best grilled cheese sandwich goes to the Cheese Factory Restaurant - it was named one of the Top 5 in the country by celebrity chef Rachel Ray.
Best mac and cheese for grown-ups can be found at High Rock Café - they call their rich and creamy entrée Big Kid Mac & Cheese and you can even customize the spiciness of this traditional favorite.
The undisputed winner here is the Original Monk’s Burger at the classic Monk’s Bar & Grill in downtown Dells. This is the burger that started it all, or so it says on the menu. It’s a fresh patty simmered on the seasoned grill. The grill is right at the front of the joint with the aromas piped outside - the original owner called it “aroma marketing.”
House of Embers claims honors in this category. In 1959, Wally Obois decided his new restaurant would be famous for hickory smoked BBQ ribs. And so it came to be. Today his son Mike uses the same technique to make these deliciously tender ribs using a specially designed smoke house and a secret BBQ sauce. And they are.
Best Friday Night Fish Fry
For atmosphere and food, the Friday Night fish fry at River’s Edge Pub & Grub can’t be beat - the cod is broasted and the dining room features a 4,000-gallon aquarium filled with local fish.
Also in contention - the classic Wisconsin fish fry offering at Italian restaurant Sarento’s Restaurant, of all places, and the fish plate at Ravina Bay Bar & Grill, which pairs well with their homemade clam chowder.
Best Deep Dish Pizza
In its menu description, Uno Chicago Grill claims to have invented deep dish pizza. We don’t know about that, but there’s no arguing their pizza, with dough made fresh every day, is delicious. The Wisconsin Dells restaurant is owned by husband/wife team of Mike and Laura Nate.
Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co., Buffalo Phil’s Pizza & Grille, Pizza Ranch of Wisconsin Dells, Pizza Villa and Pizza Pub are shoo-ins in the broader pizza category.
Wisconsin Dells is known for its quintessential Wisconsin supper clubs and at these supper clubs you’ll find the most delicious steaks around. In this category, you won’t go wrong making reservations at Field’s at the Wilderness, Ishnala Supper Club, Del-Bar, Kaminski Bros. Chop House, Copper Oak Steak House or House of Embers.
Best Sweet Treats
For donuts, the Paul Bunyan’s Northwoods Cook Shanty variety served at breakfast and in their bakery is legendary. Holiday Shores Camp-Resort makes theirs homemade and their guests always line up at the counter before the first donuts come out of the fryer.
For desserts, the list is a mile long, but you should, at least once in your life, try any flavor of homemade cheesecake at the CheeseCake Heaven Deli Restaurant, the to-die-for dessert bars at River Moon Café, artisian cakes at the Cheese Factory Restaurant, or a one-of-a-kind flavor creation at Cold Stone Cremery.
For homemade fudge, it’s a tie between Swiss Maid Fudge and Wisconsin Dairyland Fudge, both celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2012.
Wisconsin Cranberry Confections
Did you know Wisconsin is the nation’s largest producer of cranberries? For that reason alone we were compelled to make this a category onto itself. And the winner is Cranberry Connections, where you can indulge in five flavors of cranberry ice cream, all made at a small dairy right in state, cranberry raspberry salt water taffy, white craisin pretzel bark and their #1 seller, craisin cashew crunch. The candy looks especially pretty when served in one of their collectible cranberry glass bowls.