Worth the Drive: Chain O’ Lakes 

Waupaca is located 40 miles west of the Fox Cities and is home to just over 6,000 people. The 22 spring-fed, crystal clear, natural Chain O’ Lakes make the Waupaca area a prime tourist destination during the summer season. However, it is a beautiful area to visit all year round for those who seek adventure, good company and picture-worthy scenery.

The community is the epitome of what a small town should be; locals who are welcoming with a quiet serenity that makes you never want to return to the big city. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a foodie or a shopaholic, Waupaca has something to offer everyone who visits, and it is no wonder why visitors keep coming back year after year. 

Dining To-Do List 

These eateries will keep you fueled morning to night

Breakfast: Start your morning at Little Fat Gretchen’s; the name is just as charming as the diner itself. Open at 6 a.m. daily, unique specials are available for those who want to stray from the average breakfast. Specialty coffee is also available for a reasonable price, and if you visit enough times, the servers will know your order by heart. Even though you may be there for breakfast, grab a slice of their homemade pie for the road; you will not regret it! For a hometown classic, try Waupaca Woods where you will not go hungry due to the massive portions (seriously, one pancake is bigger than your head). Arguably “the best food in town,” their food is always served with a smile. Breakfast is served all day, so have no fear late risers! Come as hungry as you can and still expect leftovers.

Lunch: The Clear Water Harbor is located on the shore of Taylor Lake. Enjoy breathtaking views of the water either as you order from your boat, the deck or patio. The restaurant includes gluten-free options — even dessert. If you have a taste for adventure, visit The Freckled Frogg. Book a reservation; this tiny restaurant has very limited seating and is always hopping. They have a chalkboard menu, always changing based on local, fresh produce. You can also check out their menu on Facebook and Instagram. All items on the menu are Instagram worthy and taste even better than they look. For some yummy, deli-styled food, stop at Sulten Belly. Sulten, in Danish, means hungry — translating to hungry belly. They use fresh, seasonal and local ingredients to create their paninis, salads, sandwiches and soups. It is a great spot to stop for a quick bite, but you can also take their food to-go. Be sure to look at their daily “cravings” which usually include pasta dishes with a twist. The Secret Garden Cafe is a part of the Green Fountain Inn. They are open for lunch, but are planning to start serving Friday night lavish dinners this summer. All of their food is made from scratch — even their dressing. The Cafe prides itself on having gluten-free and other healthy options; all entrees are below 700 calories. 

Dinner: After a long day on the lakes, head to The Wheelhouse for a warm and inviting place to eat. The restaurant is completed with a ship-shaped deck for visitors to sit on. Open year round, this should hit the top of the list when looking for a place to eat pizza. The restaurant also hosts various events throughout the summer, such as a corn roast and rib-o-rama. If you’re looking for a spot away from the water, Chain O’ Lakes Bar and Grill offers ample indoor and outdoor seating in the quiet community of King. The menu is quite extensive, ranging from gyros to a New York strip. One of the best parts of the restaurant is you can order online for delivery. Weasels is a tavern and restaurant located on the Waupaca town square. Everyone can find something to eat on the menu, which is why all types of people — old, young, Waupaca native, tourist — all come here. They are best known for their pizza and anything to do with lamb: gyros, lamb chops, lamb shish kabob and lamburger. 

Drinks: Located on the Chain, the Indian Crossing Casino is your go-to destination for a cold drink and live entertainment on the weekend. Built in 1925, the Casino has recently been revamped while keeping the nostalgic feel. Some big name entertainers have graced the historic entertainment venue’s stage. Grammy winner Leann Rimes is set to perform at the Indian Crossing Casino on August 18 at 7 p.m. Audience members must be at least 21 years old. Joining the Waupaca community later this summer is 22 Lakes Brewing Co. The brewery will offer four craft beers along with homemade soda, and the family-owned business hopes to have a food truck in the future. The doors will be open year round,Thursday to Sunday. Grab a beer at this chill new spot and embrace the Wisconsin beer culture. 

Dessert: Scoopers Ice Cream takes the term “treat yourself” to a whole new level. Make sure you have plenty of room in your stomach to scarf down their Cedar Crest ice cream in one of their homemade waffle cones. Another solid choice is their ice cream sandwiches made with two large cookies. Although a triple scoop is offered, a single or even a kid’s scoop will suffice due to the enormous portion sizes. They only accept cash, so be sure to have some to avoid an ATM transaction fee.

Meal You’ll Remember: T-Dubs Public House

T-dubs is an Irish-pub and offers an intimate dining experience. It is located in downtown Waupaca, right by the Waupaca River. Not only does the food speak for itself, but the building’s history and charm do as well. The Jens Hansen Building was built in 1868, and the restaurant features key historical elements such as stone walls and exposed beams. Try to snatch a spot at the bar; the bartenders are some of the friendliest people in town. However, if you can’t find a spot, the owners will walk up to your table and personally make sure everything tastes alright. Between the delicious appetizers, like stuffed mushrooms and ahi tuna, and decadent entrees such as bacon-wrapped pork loin and chicken vesuvio, do not forget to ask about their dessert menu of the day; you will not be disappointed. 

If You’re Doing Your Own Cooking

Step back in time at Niemuth’s Steak & Chop Shop, a specialty fresh meat market and the largest in the area where orders are totaled with pen and paper, not a machine. If you wish to grill out, this is the perfect place to stock up on the necessities. People drive from hours away for Niemuth’s famous hot dogs, which are fresh at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Another picnic staple is Niemuth’s homemade potato salad – the shop goes through 3,000 pounds of it a week! 

New Arrivals 

The local dining scene will see some new additions this summer. Magdalene’s Italian Restaurant planned to open July 1. This Italian restaurant serves Waupaca and the surrounding communities need for authentic Italian food; there is no longer a need to drive out of town for pasta. The family friendly establishment serves lunch and dinner. Waupaca’s newest brewery, H.H. Hinder Brewing Co., is planning to open in late August. Owner Mike Stroik is working with his niece’s husband Brandon Oltmann to launch the brewery which will offer about 10 beers, a munchies menu of appetizers and pizzas and outdoor patio seating. Oltmann will serve as head brewer and plans to brew beers in various styles as well as seasonal and speciality brews. Stroik says the H.H. in the brewery’s name stands for his father, Howard, and father-in-law, Harold. Renovations are currently underway on the building which was formerly the Waupaca Family Center clothing and shoe store. “A lot of people were in here as kids getting shoes, but they will not recognize the place,” Stroik says.

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Worth the Drive

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