For looks alone, Beerntsen’s is worth a detour. A charming 1930s-vintage candy shop and soda fountain with a striped awning out front and handsome dark woodwork inside, it has mesmerizing confectionery shelves up front and a cozy dining area in back, the two spaces separated by an elaborately carved archway.
A wide array of traditional and modern sandwiches compose the lunch menu, among the latter a Pretzel Dip (prime rib & juice on a pretzel roll), Grown-Up Grilled Cheese (with jalapenos), and a Tuscan Chicken Panini; and the Brat Plate is a Wisconsin classic. But the prime target of Beerntsen’s is a sweet tooth. Some of the favorite ice cream fancies are a Sweetheart (caramel, vanilla ice cream, marshmallow, crushed nuts) and a Sunset (strawberry and vanilla ice cream, pineapple, marshmallow, crushed nuts). Even the “ordinary” hot fudge sundaes and banana splits are memorable.
Up front are more than a hundred kinds of hand-dipped candy including a chocolate cosmetology set (brush, mirror, hair dryer), smoochies (like Hershey’s kisses, but bigger), raspberry and vanilla seafoam dainties and – piece de resistance – a bon bon known as fairy food, which is a two inch square of brittle spun sugar shrouded in chocolate, either creamy milk or intoxicating dark.