The dining scene has definitely evolved and changed a lot in Wisconsin over the past few decades, but for restaurants that are truly amazing, the passage of time hasn’t changed much. These Wisconsin restaurants are the ones we remember going to when we were younger. They were the spots of celebratory meals and special treats. They were spots for on vacation and spots for a standard weekend. They’re the iconic, nostalgic spots you can easily close your eyes and picture – as well as taste – from your most treasured childhood memories. Here are 15 spots we all remember enjoying when we were growing up:
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Al Johnson's - Sister Bay
No Door County vacation is complete without a meal at Al Johnson's. We all remember being in awe of the goats on the roof and the miles of whipped cream you could get on your breakfast and in your hot chocolate. Located at 10698 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234.
2. Tom's - Multiple Fox Valley Locations
Tom's now have locations all over Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Little Chute and even in Sheboygan. But it's always been a classic burger joint you'd beg your parents to go to. They enjoyed the flame-broiled burgers, you just wanted the ice cream, but it's a special part of life in Fox Valley that most everyone remembers.
3. Pete's Hamburger Stand - Prairie du Chien
Summer's in the western part of the state meant standing in line for the delicious burgers from this tiny spot that's been around for more than 100 years. I never could wrap my mind around putting food that good out of such a tiny spot. Waiting in line was hard when you were little, but the payoff was so, so good. Located at 118 W Blackhawk Ave, Prairie du Chien, WI 53821.
4. Elegant Farmer - Mukwonago
Your mom might have been in it for the apple pie, but there were plenty of other sweets to make a trip here worthwhile for a kid. Add in the railroad ride and this was basically heaven. Located at 1545 Main St, Mukwonago, WI 53149
5. Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty - Wisconsin Dells and Minocqua
No trip to the Dells felt right until you'd stuffed yourself with every type of breakfast food imaginable at Paul Bunyan's. It felt like a summertime right of passage. Located at 411 State Hwy 13, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965.
6. Kopps Custard - Multiple Milwaukee-area locations
Everyone in southeastern Wisconsin has their frozen custard allegiances and I grew up by a Kopps, so I'm taking that privilege to put them on this list. Other kids might have scrounged at home for change to go to Dairy Queen or the like, I begged my mom to leave money for a bike ride to Kopps. And when we also got the treat of having dinner there? The burgers were bigger than my head and the onion rings are the things dreams are made of.
7. Hoggie Doggie's - Woodruff
The food is quite good, but guaranteed the line outside this small, seasonal spot is for the ice cream - the sundaes in particular. You might head somewhere else for dinner, but a good Northwoods night ends with a stop at Hoggie Doggie's. Located at 8803 WI-47, Woodruff, WI 54568.
8. Mickey Lu's BBQ - Marinette
This retro spot was always a treat. There was something so cool about getting to watch them cook the burgers right there in the open in what basically looked like grandma's fireplace.
Located at 1710 Marinette Ave, Marinette, WI 54143.
9. Dick's Drive-In - Kaukana
Drive-ins were nostalgic for one generation and just an unusual but fun outing for the next, but something about heading to Dick's Drive-In was always a treat. Located at 1718 Crooks Ave, Kaukauna, WI 54130.
10. Wedl's Hamburger Stand - Jefferson
I love that here in Wisconsin we have two of these absolutely tiny but awesome seasonal hamburger stands. Located at 200 E Racine St, Jefferson, WI 53549.
11. Apple Holler - Sturtevant
The spot for all kinds of amazing fall fun, Apple Holler is actually a great place to take your kids year-round. The goats are a hoot, there's fresh produce and baked goods and the restaurant serves the kind of filling and cozy meals that made parents ok with taking their kids back for more. Located at 5006 S Sylvania Ave, Sturtevant, WI 53177
12. Kroll's East - Green Bay
There are other good burger spots in Green Bay, but Kroll's is the institution. When the parents said you were going here, you knew you'd done something right or they were in a good mood. Located at 1658 Main St, Green Bay, WI 54302.
13. Wilson's Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor - Ephraim
Lots has changed in Door County over the generations, but a melty, delicious summer treat at Wilson's never seems to change. Generations of folks have summer dates, delicious treats and a wonderful time here. Located at 9990 Water St S, Ephraim, WI 54211.
14. Ardy and Ed's - Oshkosh
I always loved the cars and the carhops here the most. Even for a kid, the food and ice cream came second to getting to feel like I was living in a movie. Located at 2413 S Main St, Oshkosh, WI 54902.
15. Monty's Blue Plate Diner - Madison
There are a couple of old-standard breakfast spots in Madison, but Monty's is also the gold-standard. It's just classic and delicious and nostalgic and fun. The food is always good and I remember many a meal here. Located at 2089 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI 53704.
What other spots do you remember eating at as a kid that you can still visit now? Let us know in the comments!