Harbor View Cafe
First & Main Street, Pepin, WI 54759
Phone (715) 442-3893
|Thursday||11-2:30, 5-9 (April through mid October)|
|Sunday||12-7:30 (Fri.-Sun. early Mar. until Thanksgiving)|
|Monday||11-2:30, 5-8 (Memorial Day through Labor Day)|
|Closed Tuesday & Wednesday|
NOTE: No credit cards. Cash or personal checks accepted.
GPS coordinates (N44º 26.318′ W092º08.837′)
by Kevin Wynn
Have you been spending enough time with your sweetheart lately? Through this riding season, have there been too many days when you’ve left your wife/girlfriend or husband/boyfriend to go riding with your friends, leaving the love of your life to fend for her/his self. You’ve left her to mow the lawn, paint the living room, and take care of the kids on a nice summers day. He wanted you to help clean out the basement and then go to the beach, but you told him you were going riding instead.
Our riding season passes so quickly, and there is so much to do that before you know it weeks have gone by without time for the two of you. Well here is a great way to make things right.
The Harbor View Café is not a typical “ride to eat” destination. It’s a casual atmosphere with an upscale menu. It’s a romantic, classy little restaurant, with a great view of Lake Pepin out the big front windows. And it’s what your special someone deserves for putting up with your absence all those perfect spring afternoons.
You may not realize how close you’ve been to fine dining while you’ve been ripping up the Wisconsin back roads or wandering down Hwy 35 with your friends.
Most of the joints we frequent are more obvious as we pass by, not tucked down on the waterfront. In fact, except for the crowd of people outside waiting for their name to be called, you still might not see it at first, shaded as it is by trees on the boulevard.
This summer’s evening the air was still and warm, the sky was clear. My wife, Denise, and I arrived in Pepin and put our names on the waiting list, which is typically a 1-2 hour wait for dinner. There is a fine bar, and many of the waiting diners outside were sipping something as they lolled in the shade and laughed with their friends and family. Others were shopping the art gallery next door and the upscale gift shop a few doors away. We chose to take a walk along the river, out along the breakwater surrounding the protected harbor. We picked a park bench to watch the boats, have a real conversation and reconnect in a way that doesn’t happen nearly often enough. We returned just in time to hear our name called on the front steps.
The Harbor View menu is written on a chalkboard because it changes constantly; at least a few items, twice each day. All the seafood is brought in from the airport in Minneapolis in the morning, the vegetables picked or purchased as fresh as possible each day. The menu changes are a reflection of what is available and up to the chef’s standards, which are very high, as we were to find out.
We tried as much as we could with two people, and were accommodated with ? orders of a couple dishes so we could sample a larger share of the menu. We started with Eggplant and Zucchini Fritters w/Salsa, normally an entrée but served as an appetizer on our request, and were rewarded with wonderfully fresh flavors. Denise’s meatless Lasagna Raguzzi w/Cheeses, Basil & Tomato and my Roast Pork Loin w/Sour Cherry Sauce were fantastic in ? orders. The cherries were from trees within walking distance of where we were eating them. I couldn’t resist the Fresh Alaskan Halibut with Black Bean Butter Caper Sauce. I selected Gazpacho for my soup and was amazed at the flavor. This is truly state of the art.
We had Cassis Cheesecake and Chocolate Butter Crème Pie for dessert and wished we had room for more.
Keeping in mind that that menu changes, expect selections like Maiden Rock Pheasant, Fresh Hawaiian Ahi, Sitka Sound Trolled King Salmon, Saffron Braised Chicken, Frikadaellar Pork & Veal Pan fried Dumplings and Stuffed Mushrooms on Linguine. The menu is boggling; the food is as good as it gets anywhere. Five star food in a casual and romantic atmosphere.
Keep in mind; they don’t take American Express, or any other credit card for that matter. It’s cash or check only. I’m guessing that the policy catches more than a few patrons off guard but with the crowds this place attracts, and the quality of food and atmosphere they can afford to be a little quirky in that respect. The owners have been doing it this way since they started in 1980, and it seems to work for them.
If you spend any time riding, you’ve experienced the roads and river views this area offers. But you’ve also learned that the time spent riding is usually time away from the most important person in your life. Treat them, and yourself, to the Harbor View Café.
Eat well. Ride well.