Marshland is the surprising home to a restaurant that has been a local favorite for fish and seafood for a century and a half.
Arriving in Town
If you got lost in Centerville, don’t worry; Marshland has only road you need concern yourself with, and it’s the one you are on (State Highway 35).
Marshland began as a railroad town, its growth fueled by the commerce generated from two rail lines and its proximity to the railroad bridge to Winona; fish and fur were two items that shipped in large quantities. The town’s name rightly suggests that the area once had extensive marshes, but these were drained in the early 1900s. During Prohibition, the Marshland Hotel was an important supply station for bootleggers; local folks made the alcohol that the bootleggers sold. Like the marshes, the town’s population has been drained away and today Marshland is a small, unincorporated community.
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The Hillside Fish House (W124 State Highway 35; 608.687.6141) offers consistently good, if unspectacular, fish and seafood entrées in an unlikely rural location far from the salty seas. The restaurant opened in 1855 as the Marshland Hotel to serve railroad workers and passengers when Marshland was a (relatively) important junction. In 1900, the new owners renamed it the Hillside Tavern and ran it for nearly a century. The fish tradition began when local Native Americans brought in freshly-caught fish to trade for goods. Among the fish and seafood entrées, walleye is a popular choice. Consider a combo meal, opting for the modest cod and shrimp or scallops or the luxurious New York Strip with lobster tail; reservations are a good idea on weekend nights.
Heading upriver? Check out Bluff Siding.
Heading downriver? Check out Centerville.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2011