The Old Feed Mill in Mazomanie is, without doubt, one of the culinary and cultural treasures of Dane County. I absolutely love it, as I have since Dan and Nancy Viste first opened the door to diners back in 1995. There is nothing like it in all of southern Wisconsin. I hope it flourishes forever.
Did I mention that I like this place?
Dan and Nancy bought the abandoned 1857 stone flouring mill in 1992. By dint of hard work and guided by clear vision, they created what we enjoy today - an intimate country restaurant that serves outstanding food, noon and night, in the most comfortable country atmosphere you could hope to find anywhere. Best of all, the Vistes accomplished the feat without compromise and with a tasteful restraint that avoids all the phony country gingham-and-lace flourishes found in magazines. This is authentic Wisconsin.
Entering through the porch door, you are greeted by a bakery counter and a service bar, where you can order a drink to enjoy at one of the outdoor tables, while your dinner table is being prepared. The single dining room is spacious, with windows set into thick stone walls, and heavy beams overhead. Decoration is sparse, because this cherished space needs none. There is also a second-floor dining room, popular for special events, and a small gift shop.
The Wisconsin Historical Society honored the Vistes' renovation, and TV's Food Network anointed the Old Feed Mill as an example of "the best of country cuisine." Fact is, it is deceptively easy to go wrong in country cooking, but the Vistes hit the right note. The menu has evolved slowly in the past 11 years, so that the restaurant's signature dishes have reached a rare state of perfection.
Start with the pot roast. I have never had a better pot roast - and in this department, I believe that a number of beef cattle have made the ultimate sacrifice on my behalf over the decades. Ever-so-slowly cooked beef yields easily to the fork. Unsullied by unwanted seasonings but graced by dark, rich, brown pan gravy, this is indeed a pot roast for the gods. Or for me.
The restaurant's other signature dish is cider roast chicken, steeped in apple cider, crusted with fresh herbs and roasted until moist and golden. Again, a dish so perfectly carried out that it needs no gilding with unnecessary ingredients.
The restaurant has combined the pot roast and the chicken to form a family-style meal. Available for parties of six or more, the all-you-can-eat dinner also includes home-baked bread, garlic mashed potatoes (with just the right hint of garlic) and fresh vegetables. This is the epitome of family dining: dish after dish brought to the table, with seconds and thirds if you just can't stop eating.
Other dinner entrees include meatloaf spiced with Italian sausage, walleye pike and roasted salmon. The pork loin, one of my other favorites, is hickory-smoked in the restaurant's own smoker, and served with raisin-apple chutney and those garlic mashed potatoes.
There is a full lunch menu, featuring grilled German-style sausages and stuffed portabella mushrooms. I do love the Old Feed Mill's luncheon chicken pot pie, made with a rich, creamy sauce, diced chicken breast, and vegetables under a golden flaky crust.
If you have room for dessert, there are usually wonderful home-baked fruit pies, and the bread pudding is outstanding. There also are a children's menu (yes, kids are welcome), special senior prices for the family-style dinner and a sumptuous Sunday brunch.
The Old Feed Mill is a perfect destination for dinner on the way to American Players Theatre, for a weekend jaunt in the country (brunch followed by a visit to Taliesin?), or for a special trip anytime.
Comfort food in the heartland - the perfect summer tonic.
The Old Feed Mill
114 Cramer St., Mazomanie, 608-795-4909
11 am-9 pm Mon.-Thurs., 11 am-10 pm Fri.-Sat.; Sunday brunch 10 am-2:30 pm, dinner 4-8 pm. Dinners $12-20; lunch $6-8. Parking. Wheelchair accessible. Full bar. Non-smoking.