How did we live before wood-fired pizza? If you think about it as a flatbread, it has been around forever. But here in Rock County, it is relatively new. Even newer is the idea of non-traditional toppings. That was the highlight for me at our recent visit to Whiney’s Wine & Beer Haus.
Whiney’s is located at the Fuzzy Pig Antique Boutique in rural Walworth County, not far from Whitewater. When you step out of the car, your senses come alive from the tantalizing scent of the baking pizzas to the sounds of the resident chickens and the visual splendor of all the wood, signs and decor.
Thirty years in the making, owner Dick Kraus hand-built what he refers to as “Fuzzyville.” The old dairy barn provides a winding stroll through shops featuring unique vintage items and lovely household items like rugs, lamps, garden art, clocks and giftware. We spent about 20 minutes perusing the goods.
We were holding back, but Jennifer and I both had to buy one of their beautiful rain gauges. There was a lot to look at, so make sure you budget extra time for browsing if shopping is also on your agenda. And keep in mind that although the boutique is open daily, the restaurant is only open Friday to Sunday.
A couple of other buildings make up the complex, including the one where the wood-fire oven resides, which is separate from the restaurant. Whiney’s is housed in a small, completely gutted old barn-style building. It exudes rustic charm, with original wide-planked wood flooring, shiplap walls, vintage lighting, primitive wood ceiling beams and a small wood-burning fireplace. A cozy bar made of reclaimed bricks seats eight. It is cute and homey.
There were several locals hanging out the Sunday afternoon we arrived and everyone was so friendly. I can imagine that it would get crowded with live music on Friday nights.
There is a good selection of wine, craft beer and a few seasonal cocktails. I tried the Irish cream soda ($8), which was light and refreshing. It consisted of a honey whiskey, club soda and a floater of cream soda. Nikki ordered a ginger beer ($4), a non-alcoholic soda that had a spicy bite. They also have gourmet sodas and traditional Coke products.
The menu features some enticing appetizer baskets, like panko-crusted ravioli, pretzel bites with beer cheese and breaded cheese curds. We opted for the asparagus ($10) when we learned it was hand-breaded in house. The large platter of crispy asparagus spears was served on a bed of greens with a side of lovely lemony dipping sauce. It was outstanding.
It was tough to choose a pizza, but I loved the “pig out” ($15/12-inch). Don’t overreact—it all came out great, but it had shredded pork, pineapple, sauerkraut, maraschino cherries, pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese. The thin, crispy, smoky crust, especially the edges, was firm enough to hold all these toppings. It was pretty, and the cherries and pineapple added a sweetness. It wasn’t overloaded with heavy pork, it had just enough. The sauerkraut was subtle. It was fun and made me look forward to eating it up at lunch the next day.
Jennifer chose the margherita ($15/12-inch). The pie arrived oozing with melted mozzarella. Beneath all the velvety cheese was a robust red sauce, an ample amount of slivered basil, olive oil and fresh parmesan. The Neapolitan-style crust was delightfully chewy and airy with a nice charring in spots which provided a textural crunch. Having plenty of extra pizza to take home, Jennifer relished in the fact that she would be able to enjoy the scrumptious pizza for lunch the following day.
Nikki ordered the Reuben pizza ($15/12-inch). Like its namesake, the pizza had corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. Thousand Island dressing served as the sauce and, for good measure, it also included mozzarella. It was very cheesy. If you like Reubens and haven’t tried a Reuben pizza before, you won’t be disappointed. It was a tasty treat.
Whiney’s offers two nice homemade desserts—cream puffs and hot apple dumplings—but we were too stuffed and will have to go back for that. If you are in the mood for wood-fired pizza—specifically wood-fired pizza with the most unique toppings and combinations, then Whiney’s just outside of Whitewater should be at the top of your list.
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The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.