A good place to stop for lunch between Minneapolis and Chicago?
August 16, 2014 5:56 AM   Subscribe

We're driving this route with our two kids and are looking for something better than the fly-ridden service centers and truckstops.

We'll be driving this in one day, and we're looking for hidden gems roughly halfway through. We've got two five-year olds. They are adventuresome eaters, but kid-friendly is certainly better than not. Relatively fast is good too. I know there is good stuff in Madison WI but I'd rather not get off I94 very far and Madison might be a little late for lunch anyways. Thanks!
posted by werkzeuger to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Just to be clear, I'm looking for restaurants. I should add that non-chain options are preferred, but not essential.
posted by werkzeuger at 5:57 AM on August 16, 2014

Response by poster: A few minutes with Google maps seems to show lunchtime ending up between the WI Dells and Madison. This jives with last time we did this trip, where we stopped in a dismal rest stop in Dekorra WI.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:00 AM on August 16, 2014

If you're going through the Dells, check out The Cheese Factory. I haven't eaten there (it was closed the day I drove through the Dells), but quite a few friends have recommended it for the next time we pass that way.
posted by belladonna at 6:22 AM on August 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Maybe Buffalo Phil's in Lake Delton? It's sit-down dining so it won't be super fast, but should be more amusing for the littles than Denny's or Bob Evans if you're willing to take an hour to relax and eat.
posted by drlith at 6:26 AM on August 16, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, these are exactly the kind of suggestions I'm looking for! Keep 'em coming!
posted by werkzeuger at 6:40 AM on August 16, 2014

Response by poster: BTW sit-down is fine, we're just not looking for fine dining or unusually long waits.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:46 AM on August 16, 2014

Unless it's too early, I might consider stopping in the Norske Nook in Osseo. Food is decent Norwegian-tinged diner food, but the pies are the real standout, famous for hundreds of miles around.

If you can make it all the way to Madison, one great option without going very far off 94 is Pat O'Malley's Jet Room, which is in the general aviation terminal of the airport, with big glass windows opening right on the tarmac so you can watch the small planes taking off and landing. My kids are crazy about this place. Standard diner food.

The easiest option, of course, is Culver's, of which there'll be plenty right off the highway -- a chain, yes, but a pretty good chain. Basically, the fast-food burger that's as good as In-N-Out but isn't as famous as In-N-Out because it's only in the midwest.
posted by escabeche at 6:59 AM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ate at the Norske Nook last month on that same trip, and the pies are definitely worth it. FYI there's the old Nook (seats 10) on one side of the street and the newer Nook (seats 80) on the other. Nice salads!

Neither Nook nor Culver's can serve you a gluten free meal, sadly.
posted by Jesse the K at 8:19 AM on August 16, 2014

Roadfood recommends Monks in the Wisconsin Dells.
posted by brujita at 8:53 AM on August 16, 2014

If you can hold out until Madison, Ella's Deli ! Their food is pretty good, but the atmosphere is something else - vintage toys crammed into every nook and cranny (and multiple ones whizzing on tightropes above your head), and a carousel outside. I would highly, highly encourage a stop for ice cream at the least.
posted by Fig at 10:08 AM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding Ella's Deli! It's not that far off 94, they have killer reubens, and the kids will love it.
posted by chaoticgood at 10:40 AM on August 16, 2014

In this Madisonian's view, Ella's may be an institution, but the food is dire.
posted by escabeche at 12:43 PM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's some great Nepali food in Madison. Have it and go have a beer on the Union Terrace on the lake. Paradise!
posted by persona au gratin at 2:38 AM on August 17, 2014

If you stop in Madison, get ice cream at the UW creamery.
posted by brujita at 5:28 PM on August 17, 2014

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