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Foodie Adventure on the Backroads

For those who love new taste experiences, take the road less traveled for a little local flavor. There’s something exciting about stumbling upon a hidden bakery, restaurant, market, or shop, that makes the miles (and calories) worthwhile.

In Pierce County you’re close to the farm. Fresh, locally grown, regionally crafted, and small-batch aren’t just buzz words here—it’s part of the culture. To make the most of this itinerary you’re going to need a full day, a big appetite, and a cooler in the backseat.

Explore Farm Fresh Food

If you’re looking for the place the locals go, Sailer’s Food Market in Elmwood is well known. Dating back to 1923, five generations have continued the tradition of award-winning meats. Prepare yourself; you’re about to see more varieties of bratwurst in one place than you even knew existed—they carry 40 different kinds! If you’re looking for something unique, try the UFO Brats. Elmwood is the UFO Capital of Wisconsin and Sailer’s made this tasty brat that is worthy of the designation.

When you step into Spring Valley’s A Butchery Shoppe, you’ll feel as though you’re stepping back to a simpler time. Reminiscent of an old-time grocery store, the shop includes fresh produce, scratch-made broths, soups and other prepared foods, small-batch canned items, homemade dressings, dips, and flavored butters, a selection of hand-mixed seasonings, and a retail meat counter. Foodies on the hunt for new flavor thrills will get lost in the aisles!


Wisconsin's Cheese Curd Capital

For a Midwest delicacy like no other, head to Ellsworth. It’s their local Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery that put the town on the map, earning them the designation of Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin. 180,000 pounds of the delicious squeaky white morsels are produced there daily. Cheese curd fans begin to line up just before 11:00 am to purchase the first of the curds produced that day. Visitors will find 200 more of Wisconsin’s best cheeses in the store, making for a well-rounded cheese-lover experience. Plus, wines and craft beers from the most popular regional wineries and breweries, soft-serve ice cream, take and bake pizzas, and more! During the warm-weather months, their Curd Trailer serves up deep-fried cheese curds in the parking lot. You can’t miss it—just follow your nose!

Craft Beer

If a good craft beer is your style, you’ll be glad to know Pierce County is home to several breweries and taprooms. While in Ellsworth it would be a good time to visit Common Man Tap & Table. True to its name, the establishment is casual and comfortable, reminding you of a man cave with vintage memorabilia decor that will remind you of your dad’s basement bar. Guests enjoy a selection of regional craft beers on tap, along with a full menu of pub style comfort food served in generous common-man-sized portions. They make a mean swanky cocktail, too.

Welcome to Wine Country

For wine lovers, the upper Mississippi River Valley is establishing quite the reputation for viticulture and winemaking. Visitors to the backroads are often surprised to spot south-facing slopes of trellised grape vines. Pierce County is home to two wineries. Pretty as a picture, Forestville Vines, between Ellsworth and River Falls, is nestled in the valley with wooded hillsides as the backdrop. The tasting room is housed in the renovated Forestville one-room schoolhouse (circa 1897). Instead of a wine list, you’ll select your wines from the “Report Card”, where wines take the names of familiar terms from bygone schooldays—Detention, Homework, Recess, Teacher’s Pet, and more! If all the fresh air has whetted your appetite, try a lunch pail of cheese, meats, crackers, and nuts, or order a pizza from the pizza shack. Visitors enjoy live music most days, too.

More beer and wine experiences await just a few short miles ahead in historic River Falls. You’ll find Swinging Bridge Taproom and Brewery in the downtown. An open concept brewery, guests enjoy a pint while admiring the shiny brewing equipment surrounded by fifteen foot walls of native limestone. The brewery is just a short walk from the historic Swinging Bridge, the landmark that is the brewery’s namesake. The bridge spans the south fork of the Kinnickinnic River and if you’re up for a leisurely detour, it’s a lovely stroll.

Unique Establishments

The Garage Bikes + Brews is an unlikely combination that just works. Part bike shop, part tap room, with a little brewing going on in the corner, the space has a funky and casual vibe that makes you feel right at home. Collaborations with local expert homebrewers generate unique brews that are exclusive to The Garage, although you’ll also find several regional craft beers on the menu whose names you’re sure to recognize. Check their website for a schedule of live entertainment and food trucks.

Rush River Brewery is a name craft beer loves will recognize. Rush River’s beers are distributed throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. From their humble beginnings in a barn above Maiden Rock back in 2004, Master Brewer, Nick Anderson and his team have grown the brewery into a full-fledged production facility and their reputation in the craft beer world. The taproom is spacious and friendly and brewery tours are available. Follow along on Facebook to see regular events hosted at the brewery including new brew release parties, Thursday night Farmers Markets in summer, Food Truck Friday, and more.

Your last destination, and Pierce County’s second winery, is Belle Vinez. A visit to this winery feels more like Nappa Valley than Wisconsin. A family-owned and operated winery, the wine selection is a blend of imported and northern climate grapes, bottled and named after favorite family pursuits and memories. You’ve put on a lot of miles and it’s time to relax. Take in a wine tasting, then enjoy a glass of your favorite at a bistro table on the piazza overlooking the vineyard or with an artisan brick oven pizza in the Belle Vinez lounge.