There’s that moment on any car trip when hunger shifts from a passing thought to a full-on obsession. Fast-food chains and gas station convenience stores hugging the off-ramps are counting on you to take the easy way out, but it doesn’t always end up that way. Sometimes you luck upon a venerable diner or a roadside café, and you proceed to have the best meal of the year. Why leave it to chance? Minnesota’s byways and thoroughfares are loaded with dining experiences grand enough to set the itinerary, not just accompany it.
Aroma Pie Shoppe, Whalan
Aside from outdoor recreation options, people come to Whalan for “world famous pies” promised and delivered at Aroma Pie Shoppe. Spend the day tubing on the Root River or riding bikes through the bluffs, then make a stop for a slice (or two). They have dozens of options to choose from, so bring some friends and try a few. Don’t miss out on the blackberry and peach.
Ettlin’s Ranchero Supper Club, Webster
Wisconsin may hog credit for Midwest supper club culture, but there’s a German/Swiss-inspired contender just about 30 minutes south of the metro. Opened in 1972, the Ranchero is a throwback destination for steak, meatballs, stroganoff, and schnitzel.
Nosh Scratch Kitchen, Winona
Spending the night in Winona? Nosh is the perfect treat-yo-self dinner spot after a long day of road tripping. Dim lighting, cozy seating, and a well-rounded cocktail menu create the perfect environment to unwind. The seasonally rotating farm-to-table dinner menu offers a taste of the best southeast Minnesota has to offer.
King’s Place Bar & Grill, Miesville
If you’re boasting “more than 100 burgers,” like King’s Place in tiny Miesville, you better nail the core elements. Thankfully, the beloved rural tavern reliably does just that, with far-flung toppings resting atop juicy hand-pattied beef and squished between bakery-fresh buns.
Red Wing Brewery, Red Wing
Red Wing’s namesake brewpub partners with the lauded local Hanisch Bakery to create pizza and calzone dough using brewers’ grains. They pair perfectly with the specialty brews and root beer.
Stacy’s Kitchen, Wabasha
Are there other restaurants in Wabasha? Probably. But it’s hard to stop going to Stacy’s, a cash-only breakfast-and-lunch spot with homemade everything and downhome hospitality to match.