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WOODWORKING

BY DAVE WOOD

Another fine dining option

Big news in River Falls, so big it made the front page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune last month, which wrote a lengthy story about how The Little River Town That Could was getting itself a new restaurant cum distillery cum event center.

The story continued, explaining that Tattersall was relocating its operations from Minnesota, Where Nothing Is Allowed, to River Falls because— surprise—surprise, more things are allowed here on the banks of the Kinni. Tattersall started in Minneapolis with a distillery and a tasting room that is getting too big for Mill City's britches and can't contain the ambitions of Tattersall management, whose products currently are marketed in 25 states and which was too limited by Minnesota's alcohol production code to fulfill Tattersall's promise. It also turns out that Minnesota doesn't allow distillery-restaurant combinations to sell beer and wine in their dining areas. So it would be tough to offer a gourmet menu without the requisite wine. Unless they moved out.

And its gourmet restaurant opened on Dec. 1! It's heartening to know we won't have to wash down our order of Shrimp de Jonghe with double a martini because of an arcane drinking law in Minnesota.

That's right. A myriad of upscale meals to be offered in what was formerly Shopko, the place where I bought my wife's underwear just a few years ago. And there are even more ambitious plans for the fledgling restaurant. It will be eco-friendly, for Tattersall will recycle used mash from its whiskey-making operation by selling it to a bison ranch, which in turn, will ship its bison cuts back to River Falls in the form of Bison Milanaise, Bison au Cognac and God knows what else. Tattersall will also repurpose the water used for making spirits in its aquaponic garden where the herbs they grow will turn into Pesto ala Bison. This, folks, is a big deal and will mean employment for loads of tattooed servers and chefs. And give us folks another option for dining, which hasn't been too plentiful of late. (Not to mention the guests who will flock across the St. Croix from The State Where Nothing Is Allowed.)

Some folks may fear that our standing restaurants will be hurt by a newcomer. My father was in the business for years and whenever a new competitor popped up, he'd always say “Don't worry. We like to be a town where there are lots of dining opportunities.” So let's hope they all survive and prosper.

My Beautiful Wife and I recently returned from Wisconsin Dells, where we celebrated her birthday by dining out in a place that's full of restaurants. WAIT, WAIT! I don't mean those corny places like Log Cabin Lumberjacks Stack O'Pancakes and Miniature Golf Ranch. Not those. But one of our all-time favorite restaurants in Wisconsin that doesn't bother to advertise or print $10 off coupons to its Authentic Roman Forum Deepdish Pizza and Appian Way Choo-Choo Ghost Ride on the Ducks.

And I don't mean Ishnala on Mirror Lake, so overpriced that even Chicagoans lining the bar are noticeably shuddering.

What I do mean is the Del Bar, in Lake Delton, which is currently celebrating its 78th birthday. No kidding. Who ever heard of a fine dining restaurant lasting for 78 years? Well sure, The Tour d'Argent in Paris and the Casa Botin in Madrid, but here, where restaurants are shortlived?

The Del Bar, operated by the same family for three generations, is already into its fourth quarter and scoring mightily. It's on Lake Delton's main drag, a stunning building designed those years ago by a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright, who made his name in nearby Spring Green. It's something you wouldn't expect to find in the Dells, with its water slides and statued Native Americans jumping from one outcropping to another.

It's a throwback that serves premium beef, lobster, crabmeat, Shrimp DeJongh, which I thought you could only buy in Chicago. The bar is spectacular, and the crowd is full of townies. Friendly people who live and work in this town that sometimes defies the borders of good taste. A Chicago relative once told me, “We've been up in your country for a weekend.”

“Where?” asked it. “Wisconsin Dells.” Talk about a left-handed compliment.

So, my Beautiful Wife requested that we dine at the Del Bar. We drank its signature brandy old fashions, ate fresh asparagus, wolfed down a generous lobster tail with perfect hashed browns for $35 (same price as in River Falls) and sputtered a bit on the beautiful place's most popular steak, a 17-ounce Ribeye.

Like most steaks these days, it was rather tough. We told our kindly waitress and she returned with the manager. I told the gracious manager that poor quality beefsteak has become epidemic and probably the fault of Big Beef (Cargill), not Del Bar.

When our bill came, B.W.’s steak charge was absent. That's another reason the Del Bar is still open after 78 long years. Let's hope our local restaurants last as long.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715426-9554.

December 7, 2021