Sometimes you wander into a place not exactly knowing what you'll get. And then it turns out that you're so pleasantly surprised, you'd like to go back again someday. We ran into a place like this in Portage, WI called Tamarack Pizza (see map).
Situated just of U.S Highway 51 and next to the Wisconsin River, we happened upon Tamarack Pizza when we were wandering across the state of Wisconsin during our vacation. We drove by the place, thought it looked interesting, so we turned around and went back to give it a shot.
Tamarack Pizza's bar area is actually enclosed in what is an old railroad freight car. Established in 1973, Tamarack Pizza has since expanded to accommodate about 100 diners in the restaurant. Their pizza is called the best in the Portage area, but they also feature sandwiches, entrees and appetizers.
We got into the restaurant about 6:30 on a Sunday evening. A number of Wisconsin River boaters and partiers were finishing up the weekend with drinks at Tamarack Pizza. We found a table off the bar area to sit at. They were old wooden tables with wooden bench seats. It was kind of cramped and loud in the area, but we managed to get through it all right.
Although the menu showed that they had a pretty good burger, but after seeing the remnants of a thin-crust Tamarack pizza on a nearby table, I wanted to try the pizza. I wasn't overly hungry from our earlier visit to 2 Mits in Elkader, IA, but once I saw the Tamarack pizza I knew that's what I wanted.
Cindy didn't want pizza. She wanted the steak sandwich - a small rib eye steak on a toasted bun and topped with veggies. Steak fries came with the sandwich. I got a small sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza - the standard toppings I use in which to gauge all other pizzas. And they had Point beer in bottles. I liked the place already.
We spent about 20 minutes mapping out where we'd like to wander to while waiting for our food. I like those kinds of trips where you come to an intersection and say, "I wonder what's down this road?" And you take the turn. We knew we were going to have to find a place to stay for the evening at some point. But that wasn't that large of a concern on a Sunday night.
When our food came out, I was ready to dig into the pizza. The crust was crisp and flaky, but it wasn't cracker thin crunchy. The sausage was fresh and it was the big chunks that I like so well. The mushrooms were a little wimpy, but edible. And the pepperoni was plentiful and flavorful. It was a very good pizza.
Cindy really liked her steak sandwich with the steak fries. She had trouble eating the whole thing because she, too, was stuffed from our trip to 2 Mits about 4.5 hours before. The waitress asked if we wanted boxes for our food. Cindy declined a box since we were traveling. I initially said no to getting a box for the remaining three slices of pizza. But Cindy said, "Oh, come on. Bring it with us. We can put it in the cooler until we get to the hotel. Then we'll find a place that has a refrigerator in the room and we'll stick it in there."
Well, it turned out the hotel we found (The Ramada in downtown Fond du Lac) didn't have a refrigerator in the room. Plus we were on the sixth floor and our car was parked in the parking ramp next to the hotel. We had to literally go down the elevators, walk about 50 yards through the lobby, take another elevator up two levels, then walk about 50 yards to our car. I wasn't going to haul the cooler in for one night. The next morning, the ice had melted and the pizza was soggy. It was tossed.
I don't make it up to the Portage area during my business travels all that much, but I would like to stop back in to Tamarack Pizza for another pizza at some point. Maybe I need to try to develop some business up there.