By Mac Cherry  

When people use the phrase, “It’s worth the drive,” the implication is that the drive might detract from the overall experience. If you’re traveling to The Stone Barn outside of Nelson, Wisconsin, the drive is just the beginning of a completely enjoyable “Wisconsin Only” experience.

Whether you’re coming from the north or south, you’ll likely spend some time on one of the most scenic drives in the country, Highway 35—the Great River Road. Then you’ll proceed to wind your way through pastoral valleys of the Driftless Area until you reach your destination.

“Wisconsin has a supper club tradition where people drive to the middle of nowhere for a place with good food in a beautiful spot,” says co-owner Matt Smith. “We’re like a pizza supper club.”

Matt and his wife Marcy worked at The Stone Barn before purchasing it from the retiring owners three years ago, and they are determined to maintain the quality of experience patrons have come to expect over the years.     

As Marcy says, “It’s a great spot for kids, the whole family or date night. Everyone enjoys the peaceful country setting as well as really good pizza.”

Their pizza choices range from the conventional to the adventurous. Whether it’s the supreme with the works or one of several other options, including Thai, Muffuletta and Southwest, all the meats are locally sourced and the herbs are organically grown in one of the gardens that is tastefully landscaped into one of several dining areas. 

I chose the Greek pizza, and it arrived piping hot out of the wood-fired oven. The thin, crispy crust was the perfect bed for lamb, sweet onion, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, feta cheese and oregano on a garlic olive oil base. It was light, fresh and savory, and I ate more than I should have. (The cheery waitress boxed up the leftovers, and I had them for dinner later that night. My wife then finished them off at lunch the next day.)

Before I left, Marcy showed me around the grounds. We toured the 120-year-old barn that’s been renovated and modernized just enough to accommodate weddings and special events. The deck off the barn overlooks the gazebo and pond, and just down the hill sits the granary that serves as a gift shop where you can purchase maple syrup, T-shirts or an expanding collection of regional art.

By the time our walk was over, I felt I’d burned off enough calories to justify a cup of Chocolate Shop ice cream back at the restaurant. I said goodbye to Marcy and waved to Matt as he climbed back on his lawnmower. As I finished my ice cream and headed off on the country road home, I was reminded of another well-worn saying: “It’s not the destination … it’s the journey.” The Stone Barn is both.

For more information on The Stone Barn, located at S685 County Road KK in Nelson, Wisconsin, visit www.thenelsonstonebarn.com or www.facebook.com/thenelsonstonebarn. Seasonal hours are 5-9 p.m. on Fridays, 4-9 p.m. on Saturdays, and 12-8 p.m. on Sundays. 

 Mac Cherry and his family live in the deep country of Buffalo County. He’s an area musician and host of The Big River Radio Wave.