The big buzz in Red Wing, Minn., is the impending opening of Norton's Downtown & Lucky Cat Lounge (307 Main St., 1-651-388-2711, www.thenortonsrestaurant.com). After five years of cooking 5 miles east of the city, owners Greg and Sarah Norton are reopening smack dab in the middle of town with a lunch-dinner-lounge format. Cannon River Trail pedalers should stop by the cheery Smokey Row Cafe & Bakery (1926 W. Old Main St., 1-651-388-6025, jennylindbakery.net) for hearty sandwiches and soups as well as baker Ruth Raich's tried-and-true sweets.
Cross the Mississippi into America's Dairyland and keep on the lookout for the unassuming Hager Heights Drive-In (Hwys. 63 and 35, Hager City, Wis., 1-715-792-2118), an anti-McDonald's pit stop for quick burgers, fries, shakes and fried chicken.
Once on the Wisconsin side, cruise-control south on Hwy. 35 into sleepy Maiden Rock, where well-informed tourists brake for the Smiling Pelican Bakeshop (W3556 Hwy. 35, Maiden Rock, Wis., 1-715-448-3807). Owner Sandra Thielman, a one-woman baking machine, artfully fills her case with all-American beauties: blue-ribbon-worthy pies, layer cakes, quiches and her trademark lavender-ginger sugar cookies. Maiden Rock's other foodie landmark is Rush River Produce (W4098 200th Av., 1-715-594-3648, rushriverproduce.com), the Cuddy family's extraordinarily picturesque blueberry U-pick farm.
Speaking of scenery, the winding road south to tiny Stockholm, Wis., is a landscape painter's dream. The village's best bet is the Bogus Creek Cafe & Bakery (N2049 Spring St., 1-715-442-5017), the place for plus-size breakfasts and lunches and a lovely patio. Pies, and lots of them, are what's in store at the bantam-sized Stockholm Pie Co. (N2030 Spring St., 1-715-442-5505).
The Stockholm area's worst-kept secret is A to Z Produce (N2956 Anker Lane, 1-715-448-4802), an utterly enchanting farmstead pizza operation open Tuesday nights only. It's strictly BYOE (Bring Your Own Everything, including beverages and utensils), and be warned: Slavishly devoted locals show up for the glorious wood-fired pizza in droves, so expect a long -- emphasis on long -- wait.
Neighboring Pepin, Wis., is home to the granddaddy of all daytripping restaurants, the Harbor View Cafe (314 1st St., 1-715-442-3893, www.harborviewpepin.com), where new ownership hasn't altered its warmth, its seasonally focused chalkboard menu or its popularity.
The star of Nelson, Wis., is the Nelson Cheese and Creamery (S. Hwy. 35, 1-715-673-4725, www.nelsoncheese.com), stocked with gourmet foodstuffs, wines, a wine bar, a pizza/sandwich counter and tall, super-cheap ($1 and $2) ice cream cones, which explains the near-constant line of customers.
Cross the river back to Minnesota, turn right, go north to Lake City and Nosh Restaurant & Bar, where chef/owner Greg Jaworski treats locally sourced ingredients with respect and flair; the lake views aren't too shabby, either.