It’s winter in Wisconsin, and when the snow is falling and the temperatures are low, it can be tempting to stay in, cook a warm meal and hunker down in a cozy home. It can also be just as relaxing to head out and leave the cooking to someone else. Here are a few Wisconsin dishes — and restaurants — worth bundling up for.
This hearty stew is a popular dish at The Weary, as it’s called by locals. Beef tenderloin tips, Yukon potatoes, carrots, and celery combine with caraway seeds and spicy Hungarian paprika to create comfort food heaven. The recipe is also as authentic as it can get, as it’s adapted from a Hungarian grandmother. Order a bowl and spend a few hours playing board, dice or card games while the snow falls.
With its bright pink exterior and flamingo-focused decor, Maggie’s may seem like a summer destination. All the more reason to visit in winter, where the cheery interior, cozy atmosphere, and friendly staff are the antidote to chilly Lake Superior temperatures. Try the Superior Sandwich — lake trout or whitefish served on a toasted brioche bun with lettuce, red onion, and tartar sauce. Don’t forget an order of the crispy, parmesan-dusted Garlic Polenta Fries.
Tucked away in Ephraim’s Shorewood Village shops is Czarnuska’s Soup Bar. Owner/Chef Paul Wanish took inspiration from the cafeterias he frequented while living in Poland, and the result is a tiny, bright shop with a simple, delicious menu of soups and sandwiches. The Bohemian Potato Chowder, Czarnuska’s house soup, is a tangy, hearty vegetarian option that will satisfy even the most loyal meat-eater.
You’ll find plenty of nourishing food at The Old Feed Mill, but the Pot Roast is a staple. Slow-roasted, fork-tender beef and veggies are served two ways — over homemade honey wheat bread with coleslaw for lunch, or with mashed potatoes for dinner. The restaurant’s location is especially notable: a restored 1857 grain mill.
Warm and generous: Two words that accurately describe the waitstaff, vibe and food at the County Claire Inn. There are several nourishing standouts on the menu, one being the Inn’s famous Shepherd’s Pie. The dish — seared lamb simmered with carrots, celery, onion, and peas in a hearty broth, topped with homemade mashed potatoes and baked to a golden brown — can also be made vegetarian with delicious vegetable stew.
Interested in a little Southern comfort? Owner Natasha Banks missed her mom’s cooking and social gatherings with family and friends and set out to recreate that feeling of community in her restaurant. The “Big Jess” platter — one of the many platters on the menu — is heaped with smoked sausage, pulled pork, coleslaw, and BBQ sauce. Additional sides like mac n’ cheese, collard greens, red beans and rice and candied yams ensures everyone leaves with a full belly.
Even salad can be comfort food, especially if you’re digging into Farm Table’s winter variation with wild rice pilaf, winter squash, toasted hazelnut, shiitake mushrooms and dried tart cherries. The restaurant’s menu changes seasonally, with over 80% of their produce and proteins sourced from organic and sustainably focused farms located within 40 miles. If you want to eat local and seasonal, this is the place to go.
For a comfort food favorite that's a Wisconsin specialty, check out these five restaurants with grown-up grilled cheese!