Cute, country-like and uncommonly friendlyDENNISON — Heading into Dennison I knew the population was only about 200 people so I wasn’t expecting much, but what I ended up seeing was a pleasant surprise.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
DENNISON — Heading into Dennison I knew the population was only about 200 people so I wasn’t expecting much, but what I ended up seeing was a pleasant surprise.
Not all small towns can pull off the “small-town” charm. Some are simply small, with no charm to be found.
But the more time I spent in Dennison, the more charming it became. I could not have picked a better day to visit, because the weather was beyond perfect — chilly and great for sweatshirts. Autumn temperatures and partly cloudy skies made for an excellent setting as I took in the feel of the country town.
Aside from the weather, I was also lucky that I went when I did because I happened to choose the one day of the week that the local farmers market is held. Talking with one of the organizers, I learned just how local this market is — participants must live within 18 miles to sell there.
It’s rare to have a farmers market in such a lightly populated town, but very convenient for Dennison residents. The town lacks a local grocery store, so it’s been helpful for people to have fresh fruits and vegetables available in Dennison City Park every Wednesday night for the past four months.
Plus, the market packs more than food. As I walked over to the small tables and back ends of vehicles with camera and notebook in hand, I didn’t quite fit in with the regulars. Still, I was welcomed as much as anyone else as people gave me friendly smiles and hellos, not hesitating to make conversation.
Between chitchat with rural Dennison residents, both young and old, I perused what they all had to offer. A light breeze blew through the sides of a bright red tablecloth that was held down by lots of goodies, including individually wrapped homemade caramels, baggies of fresh cookies and jars upon jars of jams and jellies — flavors ranging from hot pepper to crab apple to mint.
One table over I saw hand-poured soy candles interspersed with bars of soap, and a few more tables down was an array of knit hats which were perfect for the weather that day.
Of course, a farmers market isn’t complete without some fruits and veggies, of which there were plenty of options — raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, to name a few.
The sight of all that food reminded my stomach that I hadn’t eaten supper yet, so I wandered down the road to the Fireside Lounge and Supper Club.
While I’m personally a big fan of chilly weather, some people like a break from the cold, and I found that a meal at Fireside was a great way to warm up.
The atmosphere was welcoming, with cabin-like wood walls, dim lights and a fireplace in the corner. While I waited for my California burger to cook, I looked around and noticed a large screened-in patio that probably gets plenty of use on warm summer nights.
About half an hour later, after stuffing myself with a hamburger and failing to finish a large serving of fries on the side, I anxiously went back out into the cold.
Unfortunately, the small “downtown” of Dennison didn’t hold a whole lot more to see. There were a few businesses, but none that were shops to wander through.
I was, however, intrigued by a business that had not yet opened.
Two men were remodeling the inside of the soon-to-be Johnny Angel’s Eatery & Pub, and since the door was wide open I walked over to learn more about it. With a tin ceiling from an old bowling alley, a long bar taken out of a Chicago restaurant and a brand new brick façade, the establishment was loaded with classic elements and will probably have more by the time it opens Sept. 24.
As if the anticipation of what the atmosphere will be like at Johnny Angel’s isn’t enough of a reason to visit the homey town again before the end of the month, the friendly people and wide variety of items at the farmers market will have anyone anxious to make the drive to Dennison from miles around.
Getting to know Dennison
Distance from Red Wing: About 37 miles. Head west on Highway 19 through Cannon Falls until you reach Highway 56. Follow 56 south to County 9 Boulevard and continue west on 9 to the far edge of Goodhue County where you’ll run into the tiny town of Dennison.
Dennison place for $15 bite
Fireside Lounge and Supper Club
Where: 37540 Goodhue Ave.
Hours: Opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday-Friday; opens at 9 a.m. Saturday-Sunday; closed Monday
Weekday supper: You can’t go wrong with any of the wide variety of burgers for only about $8 apiece. And if you aren’t feeling very hungry, skipping the fries will knock your price down another $1.50, leaving room in your budget for dessert later on.
More info: 507-645-9992
Where: Vang Lutheran Church, County 49 Boulevard and 20th Avenue, rural Dennison
When: Wednesday Oct. 12
Hours: Reservations taken at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m., and serving continuously from 4-7:30 p.m.
Cost: $16 for adults, $6 for ages 10 and younger, free for preschoolers
More info: 507-789-6727 or 507-789-4643
Dennison primarily lies in Goodhue County, but a small part extends over the border into neighboring Rice County.