A week in northern WI
Every year at the end of July we spend a week on Lake Owen outside Cable, WI and this year was no different. We actually cook most of our own meals but do try to get out a few times while we're there.
The trip starts with a journey up the center of the state on I-39/US-51. 51 has been designated a "Blue Star Memorial Highway" and these markers are at the rest area just north of Westfield.
Prior to the development of the modern rest area WI highways featured waysides, park-like areas with very basic facilities like this one on US-8 near Tomahawk, where fresh water has to be manually pumped from the well. Many waysides have been decommissioned and even destroyed but in this part of the state there are still a few around.
Almost there! This marker is at the southern end of Lake Owen, minutes from where we stay.
Our first meal away from the rooms was a late Sunday lunch at The Rivers Eatery in town. It's in the back of the Ideal Market, which specializes in local and organic products and is in a restored building over 100 years old.
The dining area has a very comfortable atmosphere and we had the place almost all to ourselves. Behind the bar is the stone pizza oven, which judging by the flame is probably gas-fired. There's also a nice selection of microbrews ranging from local to national and the owner was generous enough to offer me some free samples (which was a good idea, as they turned into sales of full glasses).
Kathy had a pizza with sausage and mushrooms.
My pepperoni pizza.
These were 2 excellent pizzas and just the right size for lunch. The owners make the crust from scratch and it shows. Since it was a quiet afternoon I was able to talk with him for a bit and he explained how the toppings interact with and affect the crust; for example, he said that no matter what he's tried has hasn't been able to get a pepperoni pizza that looks good while a pizza with different toppings will look much better. A little while later he took a cooked pizza out of the oven and it looked much better than mine had, but it also had more vegetables and the meat wasn't nearly as oily as pepperoni.
After golf on Monday I stopped at the Sawmill Saloon in Seeley, which isn't much more than a wide spot in US-63 about 7 miles southwest of Cable.
The menu offers a number of choices and I decided on the Philly steak sandwich. I'm pretty sure the cheese was mozzarella and I don't know how authentic that is, but the sandwich was fine. I ordered it without peppers and onions but a few little burned bits of onion (maybe left on the flattop from breakfast?) snuck in and added to the flavor...maybe I'll have to specifically request them next time! The fries were hot and crisp even though I suspect they might've come from a bag, and the house seasoning could use just a touch more salt. Not bad, though.
Wednesday afternoon was our next chance to ditch the kids and get away for lunch. We first went to The Brick House Cafe last year and decided to return this year; it's another business in one of the older buildings in town.
My sandwich was roast beef and provolone on marble rye, grilled panini-style. The beef was pretty ordinary but the bread was outstanding, which made all the difference in the world. I wonder if it comes from the bakery in Hayward...I didn't think to ask.
Kathy opted for ham and cheddar with the same results. Ordinary meat, good cheese (duh!), and terrific bread. I'm not much of a potato salad eater so I didn't try it, but she liked it.
The motel/resort where we stay offers its customers the option of reserving the same week from year to year so over time we've become friends with many of the people who stay there, and a few years back a few of us started going to the Loon Saloon on Namekagon Lake on Wednesdays for pizza.
In a different setting the Saloon's pizza might come off as being nothing special but the combination of being made fresh and eaten on vacation with friends ratchets it up a few notches.
My kids like the "pizza fries", which is basically a sauceless pizza.
And this year a chicken pizza with white sauce was on the menu. I didn't try any but it disappeared so it must've been pretty good.
On Thursday the weather was iffy so we took a trip into Hayward. Main Street is definitely tourist-oriented and almost always very crowded, which makes it a place I'd really prefer to avoid.
But at the north end is Hook Stone Winery, which helps make up for it by offering wines made from grapes both native and non-native to WI.
And a block off of Main Street is West's Dairy, a Hayward institution for years.
Saturday was departure day so that meant going out for fish on Friday night. I pushed for the fish fry at the new VFW hall but was outvoted in favor of The Lakewoods, which has been owned and operated by the Rasmussen family since 1908 and is the place where Kathy and her family stayed back in the '60s and '70s. That's not my parking job, BTW...
Kathy chose walleye for her fish fry so I took the cod option and added the excellent garlic mashed potatoes for my side.
This isn't a place where I feel OK about using a flash so I tried to work with the natural light coming in through the windows. The cod was mild and tender like it should be and the batter was light and not at all greasy; one of the better fish fries I've had in some time and better than I remember it from a couple of years ago.
Kathy's walleye. I tried it and it was good, but I liked the cod better.
After dinner we stepped out on the bar's deck to get a final look at Namekagon Lake before heading back and packing for the trip home.
Saturday was a rainy, windy day so the trip home was almost non-stop with no break for food until we got some Chinese carryout once we were back.
I mentioned golf above so I'd be remiss if I didn't put in a plug for northwestern WI as a great place to play. The courses up there have tremendous scenery and during the week are surprisingly uncrowded, so even when I don't play well (and I can do a fine job of that!) it's still a good day.
Teal Wing is east of Hayward on WI-77 and every year it chews me up and spits me out, but last year I got a little revenge by sinking a 33-foot twisting, downhill birdie putt on 13.
Telemark is one of the well-known courses in the area and like many of the courses there are parts where travelling from green to tee involves a trip through the woods, like this bridge between the 8th and 9th.
I've always liked the 14th hole here because it's a chance to recover from the yearly carnage I suffer on 13.
And the 18th beckons with the promise of liquid therapy in the clubhouse. It's no coincidence that the Scots invented both golf and
Only 50 weeks until I get to go back...