I have been a fan of Paoli for over a year now with its two-block radius, half a dozen restaurants and shops and winding river. The Paoli cafe is one of my favorite places to eat in south central Wisconsin. I had explored most of the other shops in the area, but not the Creamery. The Artisan Gallery and Creamery Cafe is an upscale art gallery and classic cafe housed in an old cream factory along the Sugar River. The gallery is the main attraction with beautiful art displayed alongside the old-school charm of a dairy factory. In the back of the gallery is a small cafe that seats about 20 and serves up an interesting menu with relaxing views of the Sugar River.
The cafe was quiet except for one other person the day we went, but the owner said it’s standing room only once the snow melts. After a tour of the gallery we got to try two of the owner’s favorite options on the menu: a spicy carrot and tomato soup and a spinach and kalamata pesto sandwich.
The spicy carrot and tomato soup had a great flavor. It was spicy and creamy, and had a good texture. Sometimes pureed soup gets too runny, but this soup was thick and had some hearty chunks in it. The one downfall of the soup were the huge chunks of blue cheese on top (mind you, I don’t like blue cheese normally). Once the blue cheese chunks were removed I thoroughly enjoyed the soup.
As for the spinach kalamata pesto sandwich, it was perfectly grilled on tangy sourdough bread. The sandwich had spinach, basil, kalamata olives, walnuts, roasted garlic with sundried tomatoes and fontina cheese. The kalamata olives, walnuts and roasted garlic were made into a type of pesto and spread on the sandwich. The sundried tomatoes were plump and flavorful. Fontina cheese doesn’t have much of a flavor so it didn’t add much. I would prefer a nice slice of cheddar or swiss…something with a little flavor. The sandwich was exceptionally good dipped in the spicy carrot and tomato soup. The sandwich usually comes with a mixed green salad or a seasonal side, but we got it with the rosemary fingerling breakfast potatoes. I’m not a huge fan of rosemary so I’m a bit biased, but they definitely could have used a little extra flavor, like salt.
FOOD NOTES: The Creamery Cafe menu offers upscale salads and sandwiches amidst a big-city art gallery and quaint views of the Sugar River. The soup and salad we tried had unique ingredients and were pretty tasty. The sandwich was a little heavy and the breakfast potatoes were not impressive, but the soup had an exceptionally good flavor. The rest of the menu looks promising, but I’m not sure going through the hassle of looking interested in art would be worth trying the other options.
I found this little gem last summer at a volunteer event for work and have wanted to try their breakfast ever since. Paoli (there’s some dissent among friends and co-workers on whether it is pronounced Paol-e or Paol-i) is a very small unincorporated chunk of buildings 10 minutes south of Fitchburg. It is on the way to Belleville, Albany, New Glaurus, and other small tourist towns in southern Wisconsin but definitely warrants a stop on its own. There are about a dozen little shops along less than a mile stretch of county highway and even less options to eat. All of this centers around a bike trail and scenery along the Sugar River. There are art galleries that have cafes, a cheese shop (which is extremely over priced and not true to Wisconsin cheese makers), a fancier restaurant in the old school house, and the Paoli Pub. I’ve hear good things about all of these options the best place to eat in Paoli is the least talked about, Paoli Local Foods. Paoli Local Foods started out as a Locavore grocery store where the owners sold their organic produce, canned goods, dairy, and meat. The grocery store and cafe focuses on organic and local ingredients with a majority of the produce and meat coming from their farm. I’m not sure when the owners decided to include a small cafe in the back but it was a smart decision.
The building is very deceiving and could pass as a storage shed but when you walk in you are greeted by the smell of coffee, smoked meats, and fresh baked pies. The dining room, with it’s miss-matched tables and chairs, is very small and simple. We were seated and served by the owner who was very nice and was clearly excited about his cafe! He boasted about his amazing Roesti potatoes that are a Swedish side dish and they were amazing. First off, the coffee was amazing. I’m a typical coffee junkie and can drink anything as long as it’s dark and hot but his coffee had a very smooth and unique flavor. I could drink that coffee every day. The breakfast menu looked the most promising with a traditional salad and sandwich lunch menu, and an interesting array of options for dinner. Off the breakfast menu I got the traditional Eggs Benedict with the Roesti potatoes and my mom got the Bacon Cheddar Quiche.
Mom loved the Bacon Cheddar Quiche but my Eggs Benedict with Roesti potatoes was amazing. I’m pretty sure the english muffin was homemade and the hollandaise sauce was somehow extremely light and flavorful at the same time. The Roesti potatoes were hashbrowns mixed with swiss cheese and onions and served extremely crispy. I was expected the potatoes to be greasy but they were the perfect compliment to the light hollandaise sauce on my plate!
In addition to our amazing breakfast my mom decided it was necessary to buy an entire pie. The apple pie sitting in the case when we walked in looked like a small masterpiece with crust decorations and a sprinkling of sugar. I’m not the biggest fan of fruit pies but a good apple pie can definitely change my mind. I generally don’t like apple pies because the apples are mushy and taste like cinnamon and sugar goo. This apple pie’s crust was extremely flaky and buttery but the filing was my favorite. The apples were perfectly cooked because they still had a little crunch. The filling was the perfect balance of sweetness and there wasn’t too much of the goo, which tasted exactly like homemade applesauce. I loved this apple pie and would recommend buying an entire pie because one piece wouldn’t be enough.
FOODNOTES: you have to make the short trek from Madison to Paoli to try their food, I would suggest this place for any of the breakfast options especially the coffee, they take credit but prefer cash, if there’s a pie you’re interested in buy the whole thing and not just one piece.