A Weekend in Chippewa Falls, Wis.

We celebrated my niece Kayla’s 18th birthday Saturday in our hometown of Chippewa Falls, Wis.

I actually only lived in Chippewa (which residents pronounce CHIP-wa) for about ten years, but I did finish high school there, and most of my immediate family still resides in the vicinity. It’s a pretty town grown from a lumbering community, and it is probably best known for its hometown brewery, Leinenkugels, and the brief mention it had in the movie Titanic as Jack Dawson’s home town.

However, there’s plenty in Chippewa to enjoy. I realized at the end of our day Saturday that we’d had pretty much the quintessential Chippewa experience for the day, missing only the brewery tour, which I recommend for the of-drinking-age set.

After a hearty breakfast at my parents’ home, we took our three-year-olds to Irvine Park, established in 1906 by the William Irvine family. Over the years, the park has grown to encompass 318 acres of natural woods and cultivated spaces, making it the place for residents and their guests to linger year-round. A zoo in the middle of the park includes a variety of guests, including tigers, hyenas, and bears, as well as a farm animal petting zoo that our girls adored.

Numerous families were taking advantage of the fine weather to picnic at the park, and we counted birthday balloons at five different pavilions on our way in. Our girls also enjoyed playing on the playground equipment that was just their size, across the main park road from the zoo.

When we were tired out and ready for lunch, I called Bresina’s Carry Out. Bresina’s doesn’t have a web page, and as the proprietor informed me when I went into the storefront on the edge of the park, he never intends to get one. A quick web search will turn up the phone number and the Facebook page that features their menu.

Bresina’s has been serving fresh broasted chicken and fried fish, sandwiches, jo-jos, and assorted other local favorite foods for decades. There’s no true seating area at the storefront, because the locals know to call ahead and come and pick up their food to take home or into Irvine for a picnic. We got fish and chicken, jo-jos (fried wedge potatoes), and cole slaw.

From the time I called within the park until the time we got children loaded up and to Bresina’s, fifteen minutes, our food was ready. It smelled absolutely delicious, and I decided to add a dessert that is also a quintessential Chippewa experience: Olson’s Ice Cream.

Olson’s employees make ice cream on site daily, and we stopped by on our way back to my parents’ for a quart of chocolate and a quart of black raspberry to share. If we’d been in less of a rush to eat our chicken, we’d have gone in to get a waffle cone filled with one of the daily flavors in the ice cream “bar” at the front of the restaurant.

We had our chicken for lunch, and for dessert, we chose to fill a bowl with a scoop each of the chocolate and the black raspberry, and as the girls said, it was “yummy.”

We finished our day with a bowling and pizza party at Ojibwa Golf and Bowl, another classic Chippewa spot. There are numerous golf courses in the area, and at least one other bowling alley, but this one hits all the nostalgic notes. I bowled a 76. It’s not my best sport.

If you’re ever in the area, just off the I-94 and I-29 junction in northwest central Wisconsin, stop in. It’s worth the trip.

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