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  • Writer's pictureRobin Alexander

Grab your ax, lumberjack (and have some of the best pancakes in the Midwest)!

Paul Bunyan's Cooking Shanty Sign Wisconsin Dells

One of my favorite memories as a kid was all the traveling my family used to do. While we lived in Burlington, WI, the Wisconsin Dells was one of our go-to's. I LOVED it there. So when some friends moved back to that area and we decided to visit, I couldn't wait to check out the Dells and see what had changed and what had stayed the same. The first place on my list was Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty.

As a kid, every trip to the Dells meant a stop at Paul Bunyan's for breakfast. Looking back now, I don't know for sure if it was the food, the experience of feeling like I was inside a log cabin a long time ago, or the gift shop with plenty of stuffed toys to choose from (probably the gift shop, HA!). Whatever it was, the restaurant held a lot of fun memories for me. But would I like it now? Would my kids? We were about to find out.

The Restaurant

Located at 411 State Hwy 13 in Wisconsin Dells, Paul Bunyan's is located near I-90 and Hwy 12. Not too far off the highway, it is perfectly situated for a visit. Like I said, Paul Bunyan's has been there a while - I was seven or eight the last time I was there, and now I'm dating myself (eww), but that was ... a while ago (we're talking probably early '80s). But according to their website, they've been in the Dells for more than sixty-five years, opened by two families in 1958. This heavily themed restaurant is family-style, with guests sitting at picnic tables inside a giant log cabin that easily transports you to the 1890s when lumberjacks populated the northern woods, living in logging camps and cutting down millions of trees. To give you that authentic feeling, there are artifacts EVERYWHERE inside, and while you wouldn't want to walk around and disturb diners, it would be an interesting thing to do if the restaurant wasn't crowded.

We went later in the day (arrived around 1030), and it was still off-season for the Dells, so the restaurant wasn't too packed. We had a group of seven, and we were seated almost immediately. But even if you're there in the heart of the summer, don't shy away. Paul Bunyan's has plenty of parking, and the restaurant is larger than you might think, so even if it looks crowded from the road, don't be afraid to pull in and follow the parking lot to the back.

Welcome to Paul Bunyan's Cooking Shanty Wisconsin Dells

Once parked, it's hard to miss the entrance - just head past the giant blue ox and the even larger Paul Bunyan to the blue-awned walkway. Now, be warned: as soon as you walk in, you're going to be in the gift shop with plenty of fun stuff to look at. Thankfully, the majority of the kids' stuff is in the back corner now (I think it was in front when I was a kid), so unless you go looking for it, you should be able to get to breakfast without the kiddos campaigning for something new.

The restaurant is open for breakfast between 7am-1230pm. During the peak months (beginning mid-May to mid-August), Paul Bunyan's is also open for lunch and dinner, and already I'm planning a trip back to try their fried chicken and ribs.

We were seated in the back dining room at a table that had more than enough elbow room to seat our large party comfortably.

Table at Paul Bunyan's Cooking Shanty
Table at Paul Bunyan's Cooking Shanty

Lights, pans, and tin cups - anyone feel like a chuck wagon breakfast?

The Food

So what's on the menu? All-you-can-eat, family-style "lumberjack" breakfast complete with scrambled eggs, sausage, ham, pancakes, buttermilk biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes, and sugar donuts. Orange juice, milk, apple juice, hot tea, and coffee are also included in the price.

Sugar donuts Paul Bunyan's Cooking Shanty - Wisconsin Dells
Sugary, melt-in-your-mouth donuts - all you can eat!

Everyone in our group had a different favorite: My kiddos liked the ham and the donuts; a friend of ours enjoyed biscuits and gravy, we ended up requesting a refill on the eggs, pancakes, and donuts - I think it goes without saying we all loved it. The food was hot and fresh (even the donuts were warm), and the service was very good. No one left the table even the slightest bit hungry.

Value for the money? Approximately $22 per person, so it is a little on the high side, especially when you're feeding a family. But this is all you can eat, and there's truly someone for everyone, so it's definitely worth the cost. And if you are someone who is trying to keep the costs down a little, you can do Paul Bunyan's for brunch and it will be enough food to hold you over until dinner time.

Quality of food? Excellent. In our family of four, we cover the gambit: my husband isn't picky AT ALL while my youngest ... well, let's just say that even at 12 years old, she has her preferences and doesn't stray much from them. My oldest and I fall somewhere in between them. I said all that to say that, even though this was a pre-fixe menu, there is something here for everyone. And as I said, it's hot and fresh when it comes to the table. The donuts practically melt in your mouth, the pancakes are golden yumminess, and the scrambled eggs aren't over- or undercooked.

Will or would we return: Absolutely! For breakfast, but I'm also planning to dig into their dinner (ribs and fried chicken? Yes, please!)



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