Food Matters: On the road and eating well

Food Matters: On the road and eating well
The Dunn County News
July 17, 2013 By CRYSTAL HALVORSON

It’s time to get away—the days are long and beautiful, and adventures await you all over our area, whether you are planning a day trip or a long weekend.

onthemenuatdeltadiner

On the menu at the Delta Diner

My first thought at leaving the house always is “what will I eat?!” With a combination of planning and openness to spontaneity, you can avoid unhealthy eating while travelling, but also take advantage of culinary treats along the countryside.

Keep healthy road snacks at home or even in the car, so that when you hit the road you will be less inclined to cut your trip short for hunger or eat a heavy drive-through meal that you regret later. Bottled waters and juices, dry trail mixes, string cheese, meal replacement bars, and apples are all healthy but not too messy. Keep a small container that has napkins, wet wipes, bottled water, and a trash bag in the car to help clean up after meals on the go.

Keep a cooler in your car! A small soft-sided cooler can come in very handy if you see a veggie stand on the side of the road, a cheese factory offering a tour, eggs for sale at the end of a farm driveway, or a farmer’s market in full swing. These little attractions can be the highlight of a day in the car, allowing for a chance to stretch your legs, meet a farmer, and take home a treat. Summer is a time to forget the schedule, and experience what the countryside can offer.

My family and I enjoy camping in northern Wisconsin, and as much as I love cooking over a fire and thinking of creative ways to make a gourmet meal with two bowls and one pan, whenever my husband suggests a campsite, my only question is. “How close is it to the Delta Diner?”

I believe that the Delta Diner is the best restaurant in the state of Wisconsin. Located all alone on County Highway H nearest the town of Delta, it is a gem. You know they are doing something right when on a Saturday morning in the summer, it can easily be a two-hour wait, even though you are nowhere near a population center of any kind.

Todd and Nina Bucher started the place in 2003 after purchasing a completely renovated 1940 Silk City Diner, delivered in one piece on a flatbed trailer. The building is beautiful, immaculate, cozy and makes you feel like you are in 1940. Their hours are seasonal, and they are only open for breakfast and lunch. There are no menus, just the little white letter boards from diners past — and if it is your first time there, you will be confused.

But then you get service. And I mean real customer service the way it should be everywhere. A friendly person will tell you everything you need to know about the menu, help you pick what’s right for you, and serve you quickly without making you feel rushed. Every person working there, starting with Todd himself behind the counter at the grill, seems truly happy to be at work — and is working hard. The atmosphere is fast and fun, and the mix of first-time tourists and locals makes for interesting counter talk. But even with the unique building and stellar service, it is the food that shines.

Delta Diner has clearly focused on quality, taste, and community when developing its menu and choosing its ingredients. Every menu item is a diner classic with a local and “today” twist. Their meats come from Sixth Street Market in Ashland, they feature local gems on their menu, such as Jalepena Nina’s Spicy Pickled Garlic. All their breads and mile-high delicious pies are made in house by their baker, Krista. When I am seated in a booth there, I am immediately wistful that I will only be able to order one plate of food.

And now I’ve taken to suggesting that our camping trips end on Mondays, because Delta Diner does burgers only on Mondays — they have to ditch the rest of their menu to focus because they will only make a perfect burger. They bake scratch New York hard rolls that morning, and they grind a combination of steak and chuck themselves to ensure a perfectly seasoned, light burger patty that is not overworked, and contains only what they want. You just have to choose which of a limited number of toppings you want, and they are all the one you want!

I’m glad to see this place so busy every time I go. It is nice to see people rewarding quality and service. There are places like this tucked here and there and seeking out and supporting these local independent places can be a great way to support the communities that you travel through this summer.

I will patiently wait for a place in my own neighborhood that I can brag up in the way I do the Delta Diner. Until then, I will dream about our next trip north, and whether I want the gravity-defying Dutch Baby pancake, or that Mexican omelette with the perfect jalapeno-cream sauce. Check them out at www.deltadiner.com or find a place along a road that has just what you are looking for this summer.

Crystal Halvorson is the General Manager of Menomonie Market Food Co-op. She lives with her husband, Bill, and son, Frank, south of Menomonie. She can be reached at crystal@mmfc.coop