Nestled near beautiful Lake Winnebago in the tiny village of Stockbridge, population 644, is a hidden treasure, a coffee house and restaurant called Mud Creek Coffee Café.
Locals have enjoyed the sophistication and elegance of a big city coffee shop in this peaceful, rural setting since Julie Parsons opened her café in 2006. But gradually, the secret is getting out to others who travel through this sleepy burg, people who are tired of the chain cafés and are delighted to discover something special.
After experiencing the café’s friendly staff, unique menu items and upscale, yet cozy, ambience, travelers who have stumbled upon this gem describe it as “definitely above average” (Google reviews), “exceptionally clean” with “exceptional food” in a “beautiful setting” (Urbanspoon), with “breakfasts worth driving out of the way for,” “flavorful to the last bite” amidst “upscale décor,” all making it an “unexpected surprise” (Trip Advisor).
The idea of opening a café in Stockbridge came to Julie from a desire to revitalize her hometown of Stockbridge. She had been involved in beautifying the main street of the village and in starting the Stockbridge Area Business Association to advertise the community’s many businesses.
Needed in community
But the community needed something more. It needed a place where people could sit and relax over a cup of coffee, leisurely enjoying the company of friends. A place where they could sit in an over-stuffed easy chair in front of a fireplace, sipping a specialty drink, and work on a computer or sit around an outdoor table on the patio and enjoy the peacefulness of a warm, summer day.
When friends encouraged Julie to go ahead with her dream, she wondered what to call the café, until she remembered the nostalgic days spent fishing and having fun with friends at nearby Mud Creek, a memory that locals had shared for generations.
Perhaps one of the reasons that makes Julie’s Mud Creek Coffee Café a success is because Julie insists on quality ingredients that may cost a little bit more but create a memorable experience that lingers on the palate and lures customers back to experience that homemade sauce just one more time or unique blend of ingredients that creates an almost addictive taste, something they cannot recreate at home or experience anywhere else.
Or, it could be the fact that Julie herself has gathered her ideas from trips with her husband off the beaten path through rural towns and their out-of-the-way cafes or her experience as shop manager in a high-class city mall or her ability to listen attentively to customers as they express their heartfelt desires for various fares.
Then again, it could be what each employee brings to the table, employees who love good food and enjoy working in the café so much that they stay on for years and end up becoming “part of the family.”
Multiple factors make it popular
Actually, it’s probably not one but all of these factors that have put items on the menu like Pesto Mozz (baby spinach, roasted red pepper, tomato, kalamata olives, basil pesto, mozzarella and parmesan cheese with balsamic vinaigrette on the side) or the Chipotle Chicken Panini that has been a favorite from the start (natural grilled chicken breast, chipotle pesto, pepper jack cheese and bacon with chipotle ranch on the side).
The café also features vegetarian selections like the Creamy Artichoke Wrap and gluten free items. Or salads, like the popular Jewel Salad (baby spinach, strawberries, mandarin oranges, pineapple, craisins, red onion, candied almonds and feta cheese with fat free raspberry vinaigrette). And then there are the breakfasts for those who want hearty fare and for others who are especially health conscious. Something for everyone.
Although the majority of her customers choose to enjoy the menu in the elegance of the café, Julie also offers delivery to businesses as far away as Chilton for a small fee. Customers in a hurry are encouraged to call in and then pick up their selections at the drive through.
But perhaps it’s the Alterra coffee, that famous Milwaukee roast, that identifies the café the most. Mud Creek features three coffees daily (mild, strong and decaf) that they serve freshly brewed. They also sell ten whole bean varieties by the bag. Customers soon become spoiled by the robust taste and long to create the same flavor at home.
Traditional drinks, too
Of course, Mud Creek also offers other traditional and specialty drinks as well— mochas, frozen drinks, and chai tea latte, as well as almond, coconut and soy milk in addition to regular milk.
While sipping coffee, customers will notice the unique novelties also sold in the shop, items like Good Earth soy candles, lotions and soaps. Or Abdallah’s sea salt caramels. Or the café’s three shelves of wine varieties from Left Bank Wine Company who sell wines from all over the world. To help her customers become acquainted with the different types of wine, Julie holds wine tastings, paired with select food items served in courses, four times a year.
Though Julie is open for business from 6:30 a. m. to 5 p. m. Monday through Friday and 7:00 a. m. to 3 p. m. on Saturday and Sunday, she opens until 8 p. m. on Thursdays for Mexican night, offering everything from burritos to margaritas.
Julie’s daughter, Taylor, who grew up in the business, is presently pursuing a degree in culinary arts at Fox Valley Tech and will soon be adding her own expertise to the café’s already tantalizing menu.
Nestled on the quiet, less traveled side of the lake, as it is, Mud Creek Coffee Café has managed to escape the notice of some until now, but gradually, the secret is making its way to the general population, people who are charmed by the “Hip Rural,” as some call it—the sophistication of the big city in the friendly atmosphere of a rural setting.