Harbor View Cafe

New American
Worth driving from anywhere!

First, a warning: you cannot make a reservation at the Harbor View Café, and if you plan to eat at any normal mealtime, weekends in particular, you will wait for a table. The good news is that the town of Pepin is a charmer and has many interesting stores in which to shop for antiques while you wait.

The even-better news is that the wait is worth it. This modest café by the wide spot in the Mississippi River known as Lake Pepin is a gem. One of our eating pals who regularly treks south from the Twin Cities across the river laughingly describes its cuisine as “Norwegian with a Mediterranean accent,” meaning that the specialties are profoundly soulful renditions of northern European fare that epicures usually consider bland.

Norwegian meatballs, for instance, are rugged spheres of meat served in a sour cream sauce infused with an eye-opening measure of cardamom and sided by pickly red cabbage. Cod fish cakes are known here as “The Bishop’s Fish Pudding,” after proprietor Paul Hinderlie’s grandfather, who was, in fact, a Norwegian Bishop. They are spiced whitefish discs sautéed until faintly crisp, crowned with sheaves of smoked salmon, then gilded with a creamy-sweet shrimp sauce laced with dill and sided by a ramekin of cranberries.

There’s hot, crusty bread to start the meal; there are excellent salads and a dessert list to die for, including strawberry-rhubarb pie as good as any.

The place itself is charming: tables set with blue-checked cloths and walls lined with a fascinating collection of vintage books. Alas, none of the books are for sale (although there is a real bookstore adjacent to the dining room), but they help create an appropriately civilized ambiance for a memorable meal along the banks of the northern Mississippi River.

Note: the Harbor View Cafe is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Hours in Spring and Fall are limited.

What to Eat
Harbor View Cafe, Bishop’s Fish Pudding
Bishop’s Fish Pudding
The Bishop's Fish Pudding: one of the great upper Midwest meals
Harbor View Cafe, Norwegian Meat Balls
Norwegian Meat Balls
Soulful Norwegian meatballs
Directions and Hours
closed now
Sunday11:45am - 7:30pm
Monday5pm - 8pm
Thursday5pm - 8pm
Friday5pm - 9pm
Saturday4:45pm - 9pm
Summer, Fall, Spring
Meals Served
Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
Alcohol Served
Outdoor Seating

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