Café Wren and Nearby Trails in Luck, WI
Friday Favorites: April 30, 2021
Situated between WI Hwy 35 and the Gandy Dancer State Trail just north of Luck, Wisconsin is the incredible Café Wren. Located in a lovely historic house, the Café has been offering locally-sourced, hand-crafted food and drink for 18 years. The space is beautiful and they’ve created a wonderful variety of take-away meals, beverages, and their retail shop will have you wanting one of everything.
The owner, Stephanie, has a wonderful eye for aesthetics and her retail section is stunning. From jewelry to candles and stickers, local syrups and apothecary goods, there are wonderful items to choose from. They also offer Siren Shrub ciders and shrubs in a variety of flavors (Stephanie tells me their Tart Cherry Shrub mixed with Morley’s Bourbon Maple Syrup and rye whiskey is to-die-for). And that mural painted by Colleen O’Connor, I mean, c’mon! They also rotate a selection of featured local artists’ work around the café: pottery, paintings, and more.
After you’ve explored the beautiful space, take a look at their great selection of breakfast and lunch options, delicious baked goods, take-and-bake items, soups, and many coffee, tea, and other drink options. My favorites are the Sweet & Savory Latte (coriander, vanilla and black Hawaiian sea salt), the cold press with oat milk (omg it’s good), the Gardener’s Bagel sandwich, and the chicken salad. Café Wren sources most of their food locally and everything is made by hand, even the mayo on their sandwiches!
Once you’ve put in your order you can take your items to go, sit in their socially distanced Common Room, or outside. The Common Room is modernly appointed with local art and a variety of seating options; the furniture is spaced to promote social distancing. I’ve met many friends for coffee in the Common Room and it is a lovely space to converse. There’s an area for recycling and garbage, and masks are required when not at your table. Café Wren is currently offering online ordering and pick-up, as well as in-house dining.
If the weather’s right for outdoor dining you can sit on their large patio, under the covered pergola/shelter, or even on the lawn (we’ve brought a blanket more than once for a picnic). There is a rear parking lot along the Gandy Dancer State Trail, with a pollinator-friendly-garden lined stairway leading up to the Café. Many people traveling on the Gandy Dancer State Trail (which is also the Ice Age National Scenic Trail along this section) will take a break at Café Wren before continuing down the trail.
The proximity of Café Wren to the Gandy Dancer State Trail and other local trails make Luck, Wisconsin the perfect place for a day trip! Plus, there’s much more to explore in Luck (which I’ll feature in another blog post soon!) like Morley’s Maple Syrup, the Natural Alternative Food Co-op, Bon Ton Tavern, the Luck Golf Course, and Big Butternut Lake!
Learn more about local trails below!
Gandy Dancer State Trail
At the back of Café Wren is a parking area along the Gandy Dancer State Trail, southern segment, which travels 47 miles between St. Croix Falls and Danbury. This scenic trail is surfaced with crushed limestone and is perfect for hiking, biking, geocaching and wildlife viewing. A WI State Trail pass is required for bicycling (you can purchase an annual or daily pass at the Café). The Friends of Gandy Dancer State Trail are always looking for members and volunteers to help maintain and promote this silent-sport recreational trail. The southern segment of the Gandy Dancer follows the route of WI State Highway 35 and is accessible from many places, like the Polk County Information Center and Café Wren!
The Gandy Dancer and Ice Age National Scenic Trail share several miles between Centuria and Frederic. Café Wren is well known for offering Ice Age Trail hikers respite and shelter!
From the WI DNR website: Built on a former railroad corridor, the trail is named for the work crews who laid the railroad tracks. The crews used tools made by the Gandy Tool Company of Chicago and were known to work by keeping their voices, feet and tools in harmony, leading them to be called “Gandy Dancers.”
Ice Age Trail thru-hiker (and total badass) Emily Ford, the first known woman and Black person to hike all 1,200 miles of the trail (in winter, no less), made a stop at the Café for food, drink, water, and laid out her gear to dry on their patio!
Straight Lake State Park
If you’ve followed me for a while you know how much I love Straight Lake State Park! Within its 2,000 acres are hiking trails galore (we love the Rainbow Lake Trail), 10 beautiful walk-in campsites, carry-in boat launches, and a picnic area with reservable shelter that overlooks Rainbow Lake.
Wisconsin’s newest state park is open year-round from 6am to 11pm and a WI Vehicle admission sticker is required. Fishing and hunting is allowed with a license. A premier segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail meanders through the state park, and it should be added to your list of places to visit!
From the WI DNR website: Past owners of the Straight Lake State Park property included Dewitt Wallace, the founder of Reader’s Digest magazine. It was then owned by the Boy Scouts of America and used as a camp for scouts from the Mankato and Albert Lee, Minnesota area. The property was to be developed as a golf-equestrian community, but when that failed, the land was purchased again for timber. In 2005, the property was sold to the State of Wisconsin and became Straight Lake State Park and Wildlife Area.