Gas is nearly $3 a gallon, so if you’re planning a dining day trip, it better be a place where the prices are more 1986 than 2006. How does a one-third–pound grilled Angus burger on a challah bun for $5, stuffed shells with four cheeses, fine herbs, and sweet tomato sauce for $9, or roasted pork tenderloin rubbed with fennel seeds, Dijon mustard, and served with caramelized onions, green apples, a vegetable, and mashed Yukon potatoes for $17 grab you? I thought so. Then wind south on scenic Wisconsin 35 and end up in the Mississippi River town of Alma. There you will find Kate and Gracie’s, a little gem named after the mothers of owners Ed and Laurie. The name might be small-town quaint, but the place is not—warm moss tones, a James Wrayge painting on the wall, and ample booths. The menu, supported by a full bar and well-chosen wines, runs from cheese-stuffed pasta shells with sweet tomato sauce to a toothsome steak with pungent tarragon butter, and ends with scratch desserts, all made by Laurie (raspberry cheesecake, please). Linger over an after-dinner drink and gaze west over the Mississippi at Lock and Dam 4. Once in a while, freight trains go by to remind you that sometimes life really is that simple. For a minute or two, it will make you forget that you have to go back.
215 N. Main St., Alma, Wisconsin, 608-685-4505, kateandgracies.com