Here’s another reason why weekends can’t come fast enough: Food truckers-turned-restaurateurs Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer are cooking Friday through Sunday, bricks-and-mortar-style, within a stone’s throw of Lake Pepin.
On a recent Sunday brunch visit, their Chef Shack Bay City turned out to be just what this day tripper was hoping to encounter. The mood is unhurried and welcoming, and the limited, handwritten menu changes daily, reflecting Carlson’s mood and ingredient availability (she shorthands her cooking to “ranch rustic country French,” and it’s a suitable label).
I reveled in an exceptional pulled-pork sandwich, the generously seasoned and fall-apart-tender meat piled high on a toasted brioche bun and topped with crunchy purple cabbage slaw. There was also a beautifully prepared sausage-goat cheese quiche, its crust tender and flaky, its rich custard filling brimming with a hearty sausage and pops of tangy goat cheese.
Where others might be tempted to toss off a pickle, or a side salad, Carlson gives them her undivided attention; the crisp pickles had a teasing vinegary bite, and the salad was bursting with a spring-is-finally-here mix of flavorful lettuces and herbs and cool Green Goddess-style dressing.
Brunch prices hovered in the low teens, and dinner (a curry dish with rice and vegetables; pappardelle tossed with basil pesto and grilled quail; a grass-fed flat iron steak with horseradish mashed potatoes) fell in the $12-to-$24 range.
Summer is responsible for the unassuming desserts. We encountered luscious examples of crème brûlée and chocolate pot de crème, both served in vintage jam jars. She’s also the one with the keen collector’s eye, which she puts to good use in the rambling, ultra-charming space, right down to a wall of weathered barn wood salvaged from the Summer family’s southern Minnesota farm.
The handsome bar shakes up a tempting selection of craft cocktails, and there’s a sweet patio, too.
W6379 Main St., Bay City, Wis., 1-715-594-3060, www.chefshack.org. Open 5-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun.