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Worth the Drive: Shawano 

Shawano County is known as “Wisconsin’s Playground” due to its abundance of outdoor recreational options. Just a scenic 60-minute drive north of the Fox Cities along Highway 47, Shawano is where many residents consider Wisconsin’s “up north” begins. 

From snowmobiling and ice fishing in the winter to boating and hiking in the summer, Shawano offers visitors ample opportunities to experience pristine nature up close. The crown jewel of the community is Shawano Lake. Covering more than nine square miles, the lake is considered to be one of the best fishing spots in the state. 

Shawano’s 9,000 residents also enjoy shopping, dining and cultural events, and love to share them with visitors to the area. Ask locals for their recommendations and they will happily supply them.

Dining To-Do List

These eateries will keep you fueled morning to night

Breakfast: Breakfast is served all day at Farm ‘Inn on Main Restaurant & Bakery. Locals love the restaurant’s farmhouse decor, generous portions and, of course, the homemade pies (who says you can’t order dessert at breakfast?). Try the On Wisconsin skillet – scrambled eggs with kielbasa and onions, served over American fries smothered with Swiss cheese sauce. Over at The Gathering, Shawano’s largest banquet facility, brunch is served buffet-style every Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. From fried chicken and potatoes to pancakes and bacon, the options are endless. The dessert table alone is worth a visit. Located inside Shawano Four Seasons Resort is another beloved breakfast joint, Seasons Restaurant & Lounge. Here breakfast is served from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday brunch is offered from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The menu includes delicacies like a crab and asparagus omelette and country fried steak and eggs. 

Lunch: For some Texas-style barbecue smoked in-house, try Bubba’s BBQ Co. which opened in downtown Shawano in 2014. The menu includes brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, sausage and chicken served by the platter or in a sandwich. Side items include favorites like macaroni and cheese, barbecue beans, coleslaw and cornbread. Pair your meal with a hand-muddled Old Fashioned, Bubba’s signature drink. For a casual lunch al fresco, visit jDoggs on Main Street. The seasonal food truck offers Vienna beef hot dogs, chili dogs topped with jDoggs’ award-winning chili, burgers and sides like french fries and onion rings. It’s the perfect quick stop, with picnic table seating and plenty of room for kids to roam. Brothers’ Pub is a great option when you are looking for a juicy burger in a casual atmosphere. Whether you need a spot to watch the game or are in search of an outdoor patio overlooking Shawano Lake, Brothers’ has both covered. 

Dinner: For traditional supper club fare, head to Cotton Patch Supper Club. From signature steaks and seafood to Friday fish and Saturday prime rib, Cotton Patch offers the best of Wisconsin’s favorite cuisine. For dinner with a view, sit on the outdoor patio overlooking a private pond. Spice things up at Luigi’s Pasta & Pizza where you’ll find both classic and modern Italian dishes. The romantic outdoor patio makes a great date night spot. Another noteworthy dinner spot is Classic’s Restaurant & Lounge which combines fine dining with rock and roll music. The menu includes steaks, seafood, sandwiches and pastas. On Tuesday nights during the summer, Fred Beyer “The Piano Man” performs in the piano bar and musical acts from around the state take the stage every Friday and Saturday night. You won’t be able to resist cutting a rug on the dance floor made from album covers. 

Meal You’ll Remember: Anello’s Torch Lite 

This local landmark has a storied history that’s as juicy as their USDA Choice steaks. The restaurant is said to have been a notorious hangout of gangster Al Capone in the 1920s. After being destroyed by a fire in 2014, the Torch Lite was rebuilt and opened again in 2016. Adding this restaurant to your Shawano dining itinerary is required. Start your meal with one of the restaurant’s creative appetizers like the sweet potato crab cakes with mango coulis or clam chowder poutine. Select an entree from the massive menu featuring American and Italian specialties. The shaded veranda is a lovely spot to sip a cocktail before, after or during dinner. The food alone is pretty memorable, but the real memory maker is the onsite petting zoo. Here you can meet Humphrey the camel and other exotic animals like Ringo the lemur and Tallulah the kangaroo, as well as miniature donkeys, alpacas and skunks. Stop by before or after dinner; admission is free. 

Boatside Dining 

During a day spent on the water, hunger is sure to strike. Luckily, there are great waterfront restaurants to float over to. On the south shore of Shawano Lake is Bamboo Bar, a local favorite whether arriving by boat, car or snowmobile. The bar is known for their homemade pizzas, burgers and daily specials like Thursday wings and Friday fish fry. Make sure to stop by for karaoke every Saturday night as well as live music offered weekly. The Lighthouse Sports Bar & Grill on the Shawano Lake channel is another favorite dining spot of boaters. The award-winning bar and grill has been voted Best Fish Fry, Best Happy Hour and Best Night Spot in the Wolf River Region by readers of The Shawano Leader. Take the boat to happy hour, which runs 3 to 6 p.m. every week day or stop by on Sunday for broasted chicken and live music performed dockside. 

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Worth the Drive

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