Those of you from the area may know Wisconsin Dells as the sometimes cheesy, sometimes beautiful and always interesting waterpark capitol of the world. Several years ago my family started doing group trips to The Dells and as we planned the first event I dreaded eating horrible food for the entire trip. I knew I couldn't go to all the steak houses, pizza joints, ice cream parlors and especially not Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty (a family favorite, probably because of the unlimited donuts and meat). Luckily, I did my research and found that I could eat some fantastic vegan food during my stay! Now I like to visit The Dells every year or so to soak up the (vegan) cheesiness and enjoy the natural beauty.
The first stop on my most recent trip was to the International Crane Foundation. From their mission statement: "The International Crane Foundation (ICF) works worldwide to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds and flyways on which they depend. ICF is dedicated to providing experience, knowledge, and inspiration to involve people in resolving threats to these ecosystems." They care for a collection of cranes from around the world (usually two of each) and are working to expand the population as well as work with the communities where the cranes live to help make them more hospitable.
Another fun vegan-related stop was to Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac--this is just about 30-40 minutes outside of The Dells, but totally worth it. The vineyards and the buildings were beautiful and the people there were extremely nice. This was the first time I visited a winery (I feel so grown up!), but they answered our novice questions and we got to try almost all of their wines. Since it was the off-season, we got to go on a tour all by ourselves! Now, I saw on Barnivore.com that all their wines were vegan, but I also confirmed this with a member of the staff. Guess what else? All their wines are delicious--I bought six bottles!
Another gorgeous place to visit is Mirror Lake State Park. This park is very close to Wisconsin Dells, approximately 15-30 minutes away. During the warmer season you can rent boats or canoes and enjoy the scenery from the water. On our trip, we stuck to the trails (there are many) and felt like we were the only ones there!
If you made it this far, I bet you're wondering...so, where's the vegan food you promised? Well, here it is! My favorite place for vegan vittles in Wisconsin Dells is the all-vegetarian place called The Cheese Factory Restaurant. Don't confuse this with the Cheesecake Factory...it's way different. Yes, they have cheese and dairy ice cream, but they also offer a separate vegan menu with a wide variety of options ranging from salads and sandwiches to mexican, thai, middle eastern and other ethnic offerings. They also have specialty vegan coffee drinks made with soy milk--I had the Black Forest Cafe. Wow. It was amazing. It came with a cute little vegan cookie too :)
My boyfriend and I started off with the Rattlesnake Tofu--seasoned charbroiled tofu with BBQ and black beans--very tasty!
My first entree there was the Chimichanga. Who remembers Chi Chi's back in the day? Well, it has been a long time since I had a Chimichanga, but this one was outstanding! Filled with rice, onions, and chicken flavored (all veg) tofu, they covered it with this amazing Romesco sauce that I could eat by the spoonful!
Of course, the food was so good that we had to visit again. So...my second meal was the Veggie Boat--"Toasted multi-grain flatbread filled with grilled veggies, marinated tofu, smoked almonds and romesco sauce." I was looking for something a little healthier, but still filling. When I looked at the pita I thought, "OK, it's a pita with some veggies and tofu...probably going to be boring." I was totally wrong--the flavors were incredible. I think I tasted some rosemary in there, but otherwise it was hard to say exactly how it was seasoned. The vegetables were so tasty and the tofu done just right. I finished the whole thing so fast, I think I surprised the waiter! P.S. Those fries were the best I've had in as long as I can remember!
My boyfriend has been trying to stick to a mostly vegetarian diet these days and he loved this place. The first night he had Hungarian Goulash with served with pierogis and sauerkraut. He really enjoyed that. On the second visit he had The Big Cheese grilled cheese sandwich apparently made famous by Rachael Ray as noted in the menu. He said this was the best grilled cheese he'd had in a long time. So, I think everyone could find something enjoyable here, even if they're not vegetarian.
We cooked a few things from our condo we rented (thanks, Groupon!), so our third and last meal was Chinese food from Dynasty Restaurant & Lounge. This is a huge Chinese restaurant with a menu to match. There is a "Vegetable" section with several options with or without tofu. I had the Crispy Tofu and it was very good. It came with white rice (not pictured) and was very flavorful!
You see? There's no reason to avoid Wisconsin Dells if you're vegan. There are lots of options including the ones listed here, but also you'll find at least one Sushi place and Subway and some nice grocery stores where you can get supplies to make your own fancy dinner. I'll leave you with one last photo of this beautiful girl I saw on our Ducks tour. :-)