Across Wisconsin, there is plenty to see and do—and great diners to refuel in along the way. More than a quaint and affordable way to eat, they’re an edible snapshot of the communities they serve. These five come highly recommended.

Daddy Maxwell’s

This igloo-shaped, Williams Bay diner (seen above) offers an extensive menu. Entrees pay parenthetical homage to regulars who influenced their development. If it’s crowded, make sure you reserve a slice of pie. We are fond of citrus berry, but they’re all good. Oh, and Daddy’s does not take plastic. Stop at the bank two doors down for cash.

Jen’s Dinky Diner 

As the name clearly states, this Eagle River place is small, seating about 14 people total. But life is better when seating is limited and portions are huge. Previously known as Faye’s, it’s food is fast and the service friendly. The interior is classic diner. The cinnamon rolls are meal unto themselves.

Mickies Dairy Bar

Mickies has been a mom-and-pop diner staple in Madison since 1946. Pop in here for breakfast fuel, and you’ll also get a trip back in time. It’s said to be a favorite of locals and those just passing through, including Lyle Lovett and ESPN broadcast crews. Mickies is open for breakfast and lunch, but takes a day of rest on Monday. The portions are generous and the skillets can best be described as layered. The decor hasn’t changed too much, and don’t let the line on weekends down Monroe Street get you down. This place is worth the wait.
No website, (608) 256-9476.

Ron’s Family Restaurant

On the edge of Plainfield, Wisconsin, a tiny village of 800, is an off-the-beaten path diner that is Heartland through and through. Open seasonally, it offers an array of inventive, down-home food. Fried pickles, chicken and waffle nachos, and burgers every which way (including loose), this humble-on-the-outside-place never disappoints.
No website, (715) 335-4557.

Rosie’s Cafe & Diner

La Crosse’s answer to a classic diner, there’s an everybody-knows-your-name vibe here. In business for the last 34 years, it’s a go-to breakfast, brunch and burgers place for locals. The building is nondescript, but the food is fantastic.
No website, (608) 788-9004.


Lisa Schmelz is an award-winning freelancer writer, whose work has appeared in major daily newspapers, national magazines and books. She lives in Delavan, where she also works as a special education teacher.

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