Keepin' it local: Ellsworth: More than the cheese curdsELLSWORTH -- I'd been to Ellsworth once before on a quest to find out what my coworkers meant by "squeaky" cheese curds.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
ELLSWORTH -- I'd been to Ellsworth once before on a quest to find out what my coworkers meant by "squeaky" cheese curds.
I wasn't sure I wanted my food to squeak, as I was told good, fresh curds do, but I made the trek to the creamery nevertheless and was instantly addicted to the salty snacks.
That was months ago, but on a trip this week I wanted to see what else Pierce County's seat had to offer. Of course, I did head to the creamery - who could resist fresh cheese curds so close by? - but I wanted to get to know the rest of the village.
After a relatively easy drive from Red Wing, I decided to stretch my legs in one of the town's parks, which I later found out was East End Park. A couple enjoyed the warming day while some kids played on the playground and a bird pecked the tall white birdhouse in the park.
The heat started to get to me quickly, though, so I made my way downtown for lunch and, taking the advice of a creamery employee, settled on the Rock 'N Roll Café.
Shiny chrome, black-and-white checked tile floors and red vinyl booths welcome visitors as they enter the diner. Pictures of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, James Dean and Patsy Kline adorn the walls, as do old records and movie posters.
The all-American diner offers a local twist on a classic meal - the cheese curd burger, made with salty, melted Ellsworth cheese curds and served with golden crispy fries and a Coke.
The burger is a favorite with locals, the waitress told me, as are the onion rings.
Owner Cheryl Johnson said she had always wanted to open a 1950s style restaurant and has enjoyed her time in Ellsworth so far. Although it has only been open since January, the restaurant is already a neighborhood staple.
Refreshed from lunch, I wandered around Ellsworth's main downtown. With this year marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, it is interesting to note that the town is named after a Civil War colonel credited as the first major casualty of the war, Elmer E. Ellsworth.
A war memorial with names dating back to that war flanks the front of the Pierce County Courthouse, guarded by a small cannon and flagpoles. Casting a long shadow on the sunny day, the Courthouse is an architectural homage to times gone by.
The rest of town offers a subtler nod to history, with new businesses cozily settling into well-worn brick storefronts. Plenty of flowers adorn the town, sandwiched by churches and sprawling farms.
As I made my way through the main downtown, I saw a sign for East Ellsworth's business district. The history is stronger there, with old storefronts that looked like they were bursting with secrets of the past to tell.
A small group was gathered at the East End Market, so I made my way there. The store offers an eclectic mix of products, from records to paperback novels, suits to groceries and fishing poles to dishes. Digging through the shop is sure to produce a treasure of some sort.
Ready for some more sun, I decided to explore Summit Park, home to amateur baseball team the Hubbers's field. The park was quiet on the sunny weekday afternoon. An empty swing swayed in the refreshing breeze and a trail snaked lazily through the grass.
Near the field, where sunflower shells speckled the concrete under bleachers, I could almost hear the crowds enjoying the sun and a baseball game.
Making my way through the streets, local kids free from school biked through the town and families visited the local library. Plenty of people also had flocked to Ellsworth's community pool, cooling off from the ever-increasing heat in the bright blue water.
I began to leave town late in the afternoon, but was stalled by the understated beauty of rural Ellsworth. The rolling fields were especially picturesque in the sunny day, the blue sky peppered with puffy white clouds.
Even after I headed back home, I was left with the sense of history of Ellsworth, the close-knit, eclectic life the locals have built in the Wisconsin town.