Like so many lucky Wisconsinites, I grew up going to a family cabin Up North. Our was just outside of Lake Tomahawk, very much so a blink and you’ll miss it kind of town. It’s on Highway 47 for what seems like only a few blocks. But there are treasures in them thar blocks – here are three meals we recommend.
The Village Café is a small diner, maybe 12 tables in all, with counter service. They make their own pies, the service is friendly and the coffee is strong, which always reminds me of a smaller and less surrounded-by-the-supernatural version of the Double R Diner in Twin Peaks. On a recent trip, I had a skillet meal, of which there are many to choose from. High points – the mushrooms are fresh, not those plastic-y barely still mushrooms from a can; the potatoes are fresh as well and fried to perfection; it was delicious. Low point – they happened to be out of gluten free bread for my table mate, but the mere offering of this product line was totally unexpected in this diner so we couldn’t be too sad about it. In sum, breakfast was wonderful and set us up for poking around the local flea market and setting off on a hike in the Northern Highland State Forest, which basically surrounds the town.
We had a late lunch at the Korner Drive In, a soft-serve ice cream and burger joint which played a delicious role in my childhood summers. They do malts really well here, and feeling triumphant after our many-miles hike, we split one along with our cheeseburgers. The burgers here are good, exactly what you’d want out of a take-out window from a place that looks frozen (pardon the pun) since the 50s. The fries are also excellent and worth adding to your lunch.
Feeling tired and wanting a quick pick-me-up, we headed to the Butcher’s Wife coffee shop, conveniently located next to the Lake Tomahawk Meat Market (where, not coincidentally, we purchased a couple of primo steaks for the next night’s dinner and a smoked bone for our furry friend). We had a couple of espresso shots and relaxed in the very nostalgically decorated shop while we waited for the caffeine to kick in.
With our appetites miraculously restored after an afternoon spent on the lake, we headed over to the Shamrock Pub. Like so many taverns in Wisconsin, this place has a broaster and they know how to use it (but as a quick aside, what is it with our obsession with broasted meats, Wisconsin? I mean, seriously). The broasted chicken is out of this world good, but before that hit our table we were up for an even better surprise – the salad was a real salad. Like, not the sad, make-a-vegetarian-cry salad of limp greens and pallid tomatoes served in so many restaurants and pubs. But real vegetables, very green greens with nice little tomatoes and fresh veggies with good dressing. The cocktails are good here, as well, and the beer selection isn’t bad with an obvious focus on Wisconsin brews. Add to the mix a nice selection of German heritage-themed sides and you’ve got yourself a fun and delicious dinner adventure.
If you only think of Lake Tomahawk as an on-your-way-to-somewhere-else pass through, give it another thought. It’s a beautiful and humble little town with so much to offer. We hope these three meals get you off to a good start.