An Edible Afternoon in Sun Prairie
By Francie Szostak Dekker | Photos By Francie Szostak Dekker 0
Sometimes the best adventures and treasures are in your own backyard. This summer, we’re setting off to discover local producers, food business and fun things to do in our foodshed that stretches from Madison to the Mississippi River. Today we’re spending an afternoon in the Sun Prairie Area, one of the many smaller communities that compose and support the dynamic local food movement here in Southern Wisconsin.
Located just 15 minutes from the heart of Madison, Sun Prairie is a mid-sized community of 30,000 residents with a historic downtown area that is surrounded by farmland and natural areas. While currently best known as the birthplace of painter Georgia O’Keefe, Sun Prairie is poised to recognized as a hub for local food. With its proximity and connection to Wisconsin farms and the culinary scene in Madison, Sun Prairie is definitely a welcoming home to growers and business that value creating quality, locally-made products.
Sassy Cow Creamery
Before heading into downtown Sun Prairie, we took a well-worth-it detour seven miles north to the Sassy Cow Creamery. This charming farmstead houses Sassy Cow’s milk bottling and ice cream production, which visitors can watch through windows in their retail shop. Sassy Cow offers both traditional and organic products, and all their cows are free from bovine growth hormone (rBGH). The full line of Sassy Cow products is available in the creamery’s retail shop that also offers a variety of other Wisconsin foodstuffs including cheese and sweets. Since every food adventure should start off with something sweet, we ordered scoops of Sassy Cow’s Blueberry Pie and Sweet n’ Salty ice cream to enjoy outside in their picnic area while their barnyard animals looked on with pride.
Heading south into Sun Prairie, we stopped to stretch our legs for a quick 20-minute walk at the Patrick Marsh. The 145-acre conservancy is owned and managed by the Wisconsin DNR, Dane County, and Natural Heritage Land Trust and has a walking trail and observation platforms along the marsh.
Beans ‘N Cream
Needing an afternoon pick-me-up, we stopped at Beans ‘N Cream Coffeehouse for a little caffeine. In addition to a large drink menu, this welcoming café offers breakfast and lunch featuring locally sourced milk, ice cream, produce, meats and cheeses. We visited on a weekday, but I’m told Beans ‘N Cream’s crepes are the talk of the Saturday Sun Prairie Farmers Market.
We sipped our drinks while strolling over to the Sun Prairie Historical Museum and Library to take a peek at the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit. The museum is free but has limited hours and is closed in winter, so be sure to investigate before you go.
Salvatore’s Tomato Pies
Feeling hungry again, we headed over to Salvatore’s Tomato Pies for dinner. Don’t be fooled by the unassuming exterior. Once inside, Sal’s feels like a cooler, modern version of the pizza joint you went to for slices in college—and the flavor and quality of ingredients are definitely an upgrade too. With a commitment to fresh, local ingredients, Salvatore’s proudly displays a list of their purveyors on the pizzeria wall. In addition to their tomato pies (their name for pizza) made with fermented and handcrafted dough, Sal’s has a great choice of appetizers and tacos. They also offer a lunch special if you stop by earlier in the day—pick two of their slices of the day and a drink for $6.
Market Street Diner
Needing something sweet after dinner, we stopped by the Market Street Diner for a slice of their famous pie. We selected strawberry rhubarb a la mode, which we enjoyed while sitting at the counter on this 1940s-esque joint. In addition to their desserts, Market Street Diner offers a full menu of modern takes on diner classics and breakfast all day. Market Street is also a member of the Food Fight Restaurant Group, an organization that prides itself on giving back to the Madison-area community.
Heading west on 151 back to Madison, we made one last stop at the Karben4 Brewery. While technically located within the Madison City limits, Karben4 proved to be a great addition to our day’s exploration. We tried a flight of beers: Fantasy Factory, Tokyo Sauna, Dragon Flute and Idiot Farm. All were outstanding, but Idiot Farm, a seasonal offering, was our favorite. The brewery’s taproom is a cool space in it’s own right, adorned by vivid paintings done by local artist, Tom Kowalke, that represent each of their brews. Karben4 also offers a great looking menu of bar snacks to mains to brunch, something to remember for next time, as we were way too full from our day in Sun Prairie to take another bite.