I don’t know if you’ve noticed but cartoon Glen and Di are getting more robust with each post I write. That’s what happens when you spend a week feasting on Wisconsin’s savory fare and specialty brew.
No calories there whatsoever.
As we navigate our way up the Great River Road, each Mississippi town has been as quaint as the next and we’ve met some super nice people. Trempealeau and Fountain City are especially distinct.
Hands down, our best meal has been dinner at the historic Trempealeau Hotel and Restaurant, overlooking the river and this beautiful sunset. Besides serving Spaten, my husband’s favorite Oktoberfest beer (which we won’t discuss because it’s a German import), the restaurant has an obvious appreciation of its vintage atmosphere and local farmers. My husband had the walleye with a heavenly kale-bacon-whatever sauté. I had a shrimp skewer drenched in butter and lightly crusted with a blend of herbs.
Getting hungry? I am, just reminiscing.
To work this off, the next day we hiked through Perrot State Park, another beautiful area with killer-bluffs overlooking the river. Actually, hiking the bluffs isn’t that hard, but be mindful that this week real Glen and Di are not a tight stretch from cartoon Glen and Di. At the top of one bluff, we met a lovely family with young boys whose infectious enthusiasm for nature reminded us of how blessed we all really are.
Further up the Mississippi we lunched at the Monarch Public House, a food and drink destination since 1894. We had fish because it was Friday and in Wisconsin you have fish on Fridays, even if the Monarch calls it fish ‘n chips, which it does because it’s Irish. It’s just what we do (along with run-on sentences).
Our server explained their heritage style of baking the fish at 600+ degrees instead of deep frying. It was delicious!
Isn’t this bar stunning? Our server said it’s original to the building. The pressed tin ceiling is also original and easily 16-feet high, if not more. The Monarch’s website shares an interesting history of the building—be sure to scroll all the way down.
In addition to being the longest running tavern in Wisconsin, the Monarch has also resurrected Fountain City Brewing Company. Long part of the community’s heritage, this brewery originated in 1862. When it closed in 1965 and the building later demolished, it seemed the local flavor would be lost forever.
That is, until 1997.
By then John Harrington owned the Monarch tavern and was guiding it through a loving restoration. One day a nearly 90-year-old, retired assistant brewmaster named Wilbert Schmitt came forward with the original recipes he had saved all these years. Harrington and Schmitty, as he’s known, collaborated and reintroduced Fountain City’s beloved brew.
Fascinating story, eh? The Monarch tells it in greater detail here. Again, be sure to scroll completely down the page.
Next year, according to our server, the Monarch will break ground for a brewery building right next to the tavern. Bucket list: Go back to Fountain City in two years and check it out!
While wandering Main Street, we met John Campbell of Gasoline Alley. One compliment on his car parked outside and he proudly brought us inside to see his latest work.
I like his business logo!
John shared fun stories of Fountain City. He also pointed out how the buildings on the town’s main streets are all veered to match the angle of the river. None of them were built square to the street. Intriguing!
Fountain City doesn’t brew an Oktoberfest but we enjoyed their signature styles nonetheless. My husband had an Irish Valley Spring Bock and I went all historical with the original recipe Fountain Brew. Both were great!
Need I say more? I loved this building and its meticulous restoration.
My husband had fish ‘n chips. I had a Caesar salad. We shared and were extremely happy travelers!
An endearing little river town, where life seems slow and peaceful. With this list of things to do, we could have stayed longer than the one afternoon we did. Next time!
Copy & Design
The Monarch has a great story to tell and does so very well on it’s website. It’s Facebook page shares the same enthusiasm and friendliness our server did. I’m looking forward to the promotions it puts out when they build the brewery.
Our next, and final, stop: Reads Landing Brewing Company, Reads Landing, Minnesota
4 thoughts on “Day #6: Trempealeau Food, Fountain City Brew and Good Company”
I’m enjoying your travels, Di. You’re up there in my dad’s old neck of the woods. Did you get a chance to sneak across the river into cute little Winona, MN? We used to go to a fish place over across the bridge just south of Fountain City on the main drag but I can’t remember the name of it. Just another one of those great Wisconsin eateries with awesome food. Have fun!
Thanks, Rhonda. For a week I’ve felt like you, although certainly not as road-skilled!
LOVE this area! I’ve completed several of the wineries on the Great River Road – (I’d like to read your blog on that one day – or go with you!). I visit St. Michael’s Assisted Living in Fountain city and amazing Christian ladies in Trempealeau who make fleece blankets for residents! NOW – I have to have fish N chips at Monarch House next time! Both the manager at the “Fountain City Motel” – a lovely themed room face the river motel for about $50 a night: clean and quaint, and manager, or one of them, at Monarch House also work at St. Michael’s Assisted Living! Cool, huh!
Deb, we loved this area too. We stopped at the Elmaro Vineyard, outside of Trempealeau, and it was so busy! And my goodness, there are so many wineries along the way! A winery tour is next in order. Yes, very cool that Monarch House’s manager also works at St. Michael’s. Pass along our compliments!