Foodie Finds: 3 Best Places to Eat - and a Coffeeshop! - in the Wisconsin Dells

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
May 26, 2009 / 8 comments

When we were visiting the Wisconsin Dells a few weeks ago, we were surprised at the vast array of food offered to visitors. However, upon closer inspection, much of this food seemed more chain-restaurants and old-time diners. We were lucky enough to find three great restaurants - and a coffee shop! - that espouse fresh, organic ingredients, great service, local suppliers, and more.

Here's our Foodie Finds and restaurant recommendations for the Wisconsin Dells...

Carvelli's Pizza and Pasta House
Truly Gourmet Pasta, freshly made. Carvelli's boasts an incredible menu of fresh, gourmet pasta, authentic Italian food, and handmade meals. We were stunned to discover the freshness of the pasta and the deliciousness of the dishes we ordered! They do have a buffet in the warmer months. We WILL go back.

fresh gourmet pasta, carvelli's, wisconsin dells


fresh gourmet pasta, carvelli's, wisconsin dells

fresh gourmet pasta, carvelli's, wisconsin dells

fresh gourmet pasta, carvelli's, wisconsin dells

505 Broadway
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(608) 254-6156


High Rock Cafe
NOT handicap accessible (alas), this restaurant is truly a local's favorite, a hidden gem. This restaurant serves fantastic creative modern American cuisine. One look at their menu (including several rhubarb creations for a local seasonal spring menu) will make you glad you came. From the BEST monte cristo sandwich I have ever eaten to a coleslaw-laden pulled pork sandwich, the menu is both fresh and extraordinarily delicious. There's a fun kids menu, too. After traveling (and eating out at mostly ethnic restaurants) for two weeks, our 6-year old daughter was pleased to get REAL kraft macaroni and cheese, along with LOTS of fresh fruit.

monte cristo sandwich, high rock cafe, wisconsin dells

pulled pork sandwich, high rock cafe, wisconsin dells

high rock cafe, wisconsin dells

232 Broadway, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965


Cheese Factory
Housed in an historic cheese factory, this vegetarian restaurant gets rave reviews all over the internet. We stopped in for a late breakfast and were pleased with the omelettes, croissants, home fries, and more. Thumbs up! Note: They do have (and sell) a very popular cookbook. YUM! Call ahead for hours.

vegetarian restaurant, cheese factory, wisconsin dells


521 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy S, Wisconsin Dells, WI, 53965



AND, my new favorite coffeeshop:
- NOW CLOSED! (alas)

Fair trade, organic coffee. A welcoming environment. Art by local artists adorning the walls. Created by one of the Dells' own, Bianca Richards, the evening menu adds regional microbrews, specialty wines, light appetizers, live music and an open mic. Look for a feature article on pause here, soon. 

pause free trade organic coffeeshop, wisconsin dells




Comments (8)

  • Kerry Dexter

    14 years 11 months ago

    i've yet to visit the Wisconsin Dells, but these places alone sound reason enough to go. great story and photos -- looking forward to learnng more about the pause coffeeshop, too.

    Kerry Dexter

    Music Editor,

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    14 years 11 months ago

    kerry - you'd LOVE pause. in fact, i should introduce you to bianca, the owner. she is really cool. 


    what i was surprised at in the midst of all the honky tonk stuff in the Dells was the pureness of these organic yummy community restaurants. LOVELY!


    Jessie Voigts, PhD


  • Julie Royce

    14 years 10 months ago

    My husband and I have driven through the Dells but never spent any real time there. Next time we're passing through I'll remember Biana and this posting and make time to stop at pause.  I'm a crepe lover too.  We've found a fabulous little spot in the Mission District of San Francisco that serves the best savory and sweet crepes I've had anywhere.  But I have a hunch that if Biana undertakes crepes she will do them first class!  I'm also a tea drinker (from early morning to late night) and it sounds like she has some impressive teas.  Thanks for sharing.

  • Rachel Cotterill

    14 years 9 months ago

    I absolutely love fresh pasta. And rhubarb. And veggie breakfasts and coffee shops. Yup, all good stuff!

  • Fairah Epple

    12 years 9 months ago

    Thank you for posting this article, Dr. Voigts! After reading your review, I had such high hopes for High Rock. Unfortunately, my experience was nothing like the one you described, so I wanted to let others know and hopefully save them from the same disappointment.

    On a spontaneous four-day vacation to the Dells with my four-year-old son, I was hard-pressed to find anything healthy (non-processed, organic, fresh, local, etc.) to eat. A visit to the only grocery store in town drew strange looks when I inquired about organic produce. In fairness, they did offer bagged organic salad and unofficially organic mushrooms ... But we were hungry for a meal. Desperately Googling with search terms "organic food Wisconsin Dells" for a decent place to eat I found your post, and it gave me hope. Quickly I found High Rock's website and was delighted to see a menu.

    I read the description of the Esmerelda Shrimp Salad and was transported back to the Yucatan. (Nevermind the "cheddar cheese" -- I guess this is Wisconsin -- and I could ask them to hold it.) The description of the homemade cilantro lime dressing made my mouth water ... I immediately added High Rock to the itinerary with anticipation.

    I'll give them props for ambiance. It feels cleaner, better, than the low-brow carnival atmosphere just outside the doors. The servers look tidy and professional. But the veil soon lifted.

    When I inquired about the chicken on the menu ("What kind of chicken?") the waitress answered "White meat". "No, sorry," I explained ... "Is it organic? Local? How was it grown?" She looked at me like I was from Mars. "It's the same chicken you get at the grocery store," she answered. That was all I had to hear to lock in the Esmerelda salad. If you've seen the documentary Food, Inc., you understand.

    Nevermind that we also ordered the calamari. How can anyone screw that up?, I thought. Yet it came to the table burnt and somehow uncooked in places, greasy batter glopped around rubbery squid. The marmalade dressing was slopped over the pile of goo, further adding to the soggy mess. What I imagine had once been a perfectly healthy bed of organic greens lay flat, soggy and drowning underneath it all.


The Esmerelda Salad, however, I had been tasting since reading its description online. When it finally arrived, I was distressed to find the cilantro lime dressing nothing more than a caesar, and a thickly slathered one at that. With no detectable taste of either cilantro or lime. The black beans? Soggy and tasteless! The corn? Canned! The shrimp, which otherwise were perfectly cooked, were so salty I could barely swallow them. I questioned the server: was it a mistake? Why did my salad have caesar instead of the cilantro lime? A manager came out to assure me that it WAS their cilantro lime dressing. I told her I could taste neither. She offered to fix it by bringing me MORE dressing ...

    We also visited the Cheese Factory. I ordered the Thai Noodles which were billed as "Seriously Scrumptious". The pineapples, cabbage, noodles and assorted vegetables in coconut-Thai peanut sauce and topped with cashews and green onion packed good flavor. But to my knowledge nothing was organic, and again with the thick heavy sauce! The walnut brownie, billed as "celestial", I found less than stellar. To really impress me, I need a commitment to healthy ingredients. The restaurant boasts a vegan/vegetarian menu. What about organic? Local? Responsible? Humane? The questions go unanswered, like the pile of saucy limp noodles on my plate. I don't want to ask uncomfortable questions and get that look each time. I want to see restaurants brag in big bold letters how responsible they are.

    As for the lovely coffeeshop you mentioned (pause), I can only assume it is gone. The link goes to a GoDaddy page where the domain is up for grabs.

    Fortunately we had brought some of our own organic snacks, since our hotel room was not equipped to allow us to prepare anything fancier than cereal. After two days of noshing on raw cashews and PB&J, I was ready to settle for an organic grocery and restock the depleting fruit supply. Any guesses how many co-ops exist in this town? Zero. The front desk at the hotel knew of one in Baraboo, 20 minutes away. I happily made the drive to the Grainery and bought up a stash of Fuji apples and pears. Other than some squishy oranges, that was about it for the fruit they had to offer.

    Our vacation to the Dells has tested my resolve not to put poison and garbage into our bodies. My advice to families who want to eat well while having fun in the Dells is to bring coolers, plan tasty meals you can make with minimal mess/equipment, and do not expect to have healthy choices here. You'll save money, you'll eat better, and you'll have more energy to do the things the Dells IS good for: having fun!

    Fairah Epple

    food and life enthusiast

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    12 years 9 months ago

    Fairah - i am so very sorry you had this experience. I hope that you write to them, as well as put a review up on tripadvisor. we had NOTHING Like that at all, in our experiences there. 


    Jessie Voigts, PhD


  • Fairah Epple

    12 years 8 months ago

    Thanks for letting me have my rant. Nothing personal! I have only recently been awakened to the startling truths about how unhealthy are almost all of the things we have traditionally believed to be good for us. I wish everyone would watch a few eye-opening documentaries (Foodmatters and Food Inc., and The World According to Monsanto, in that order). All are available free on YouTube.Wisconsin Dells may be the worst example I have seen for finding healthy food to eat but it is by no means unique. Currently the mainstream demands large slabs of beef and potatoes. The larger the slab, and the saltier/greasier/cheesier the potato, the better. Nevermind that the cow never ate a blade of grass or set foot in a pasture.If people only knew what they were eating and what it was doing to them, they would demand healthy choices and the market would rise to the challenge. This is why Walmart now carries milk w/o hormones (a good start but by no means enough) and why I fill out comment cards everywhere I can, and encourage others to do the same.Fairah Epple
    food and life enthusiast

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    12 years 8 months ago

    You're welcome, Fairah. We try to eat as healthily and organically as possible - it makes a HUGE difference. And, it is really hard to find, on the road. Your experiences are important, and good to share!


    Jessie Voigts, PhD


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