Eau Claire in Wisconsin is known for its thriving music scene, hosting Country Jam USA as well as its stunning woodlands and rolling hills. These highlights aren’t the only reasons to pay a visit to this Chippewa Valley city. Read on for our guide to Eau Claire’s best local restaurants.
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Acoustic Café is Eau Claire’s coziest neighborhood hangout, commendable for its support of the area’s artists. Locally made fine art pieces and photographs adorn its walls and regional musicians perform live shows throughout the week. The spot is especially popular among University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students, they and other locals enjoy hearty eats like the thick chili and the savory beer and cheese soup, a rich Dairy State classic that must be tasted to be believed; as well as salads, pastries, and sandwiches (the latter are crafted with fresh, made-from-scratch bread). Stop by for a casual breakfast, lunch or dinner, or get a quick caffeine or sugar fix with a coffee (green coffee beans are all the café uses) or an ice cream treat, respectively.
The Northwoods is a region in northern Wisconsin known for pristine lakes, rivers and small towns pocketed throughout dense forests. The jury’s out on whether the city of Eau Claire is officially considered to be in the Northwoods or not but Albertville Tavern is definitely your quintessential Northwoods haven. Located just off snowmobile trails and near countrysides popular with deer hunters in the fall, it’s here you’ll find outdoorsy Wisconsinites enjoying favorites like succulent prime rib sandwiches, fish fries, chicken dinners, pizzas, build-your-own burgers, steaks and barbeque ribs.
First-rate fare and flair are essential for the ultimate upscale dining experience and Bijou Bistro nails both. Owners Tony Draganowski, the chef, and Katie Borchers Warner, the design/décor guru, emphasize ‘quality and presentation-conscious food’ in their work, according to an article in the Chippewa Valley’s Volume One magazine. This place can be enjoyed by two in one of the restaurant’s intimate booths or at a catered event for several hundred. Bijou Bistro’s menu features contemporary European dishes like pan-roasted halibut, bacon-wrapped tenderloin and pumpkin ravioli with sage that will please meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. For truly special occasions, groups can also opt for the Chef’s Table dining experience in which Chef Draganowski prepares a five-course meal at a private table adjacent to the kitchen.
Mona Lisa’s has, for years, been regarded as the standard for a fantastic gastronomic experience. Situated in the city’s historic Water Street business district, the restaurant is decked out in modern, jewel-toned furnishings accented with mirrors, framed artwork and exposed stone walls and the patio features a fireplace. The menu changes regularly in accordance with the flavors of the season, as well as what’s fresh in the patio garden. Even though the options are switched every week or so, you’ll find that the menu is consistently extensive. Specialty pizzas, steaks and seafood dishes are its forte and wine aficionados will relish looking through the intricate wine list in search of the perfect pairing.
Randy’s Family Restaurant
There’s something to be said about a restaurant that presents you with a complimentary cup of its warm, homemade vanilla pudding as soon as you sit down at a table. Randy’s Family Restaurant, which does just that, is the master of American-style dining and honest comfort food that tastes just like Grandma used to make. Locals are crazy for the restaurant’s hash browns, cooked to the perfect level of crispiness, as well as the hot roast beef sandwich, pies, omelets, chicken dumpling soup and crispy chicken honey mustard salad. All of its heavenly dishes are homemade and come in massive portions, which likely played a bit part in why Randy’s has been recently honored in Volume One magazine’s ‘Best of Chippewa Valley’ poll in the categories of Best Breakfast Spot and Best Comfort Food.
Stella Blues is a portal to the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana. The bar features the city’s largest selection of mojitos, martinis and margaritas, as well as a regularly rotating selection of 21 beers on tap. When you venture into the dining room, an elegant yet rustic space filled with golden-scarlet lighting and accented with framed photographs, posters and mint-condition antiques on the walls, scan the menu for dishes with a dynamic Cajun twist. The way Stella Blues prepares this cuisine is rivaled by few, if any, in the Eau Claire area. You’ll love the blackened catfish, jambalaya and shrimp creole. Live jazz music and an outdoor, European-style patio that’s open to patrons day and night during the warmer months complete the ambiance.
While Tacos Juanita’s appearance is modest, the flavor of its dishes are the exact opposite. Bold, traditional Mexican food and just-tart-enough margaritas await you at this Eau Claire hole-in-the-wall. Cozy into one of its booths and chow down on virtually every Mexican dish you can imagine, including soups, salads, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, tamales, enchiladas, tortas, sopes and desserts like flan and margarita cheesecake that’s actually made with tequila. If you can’t decide on a single entrée, no worries, with such reasonable prices you can afford to go a little hog-wild here. However, since everything is made by hand and not mass-produced, be aware that this place might occasionally run out of some popular favorites before lunchtime.
Tokyo Japanese Restaurant
Going out for dinner and a show with friends is a fun treat; combine these two activities and you’ve got something even better, hibachi. Tokyo Japanese Restaurant is the city’s go-to spot for this highly engaging and entertaining cooking technique. Owned by Yoshi Tsukano, a native of Japan, and Donna Tsukano, this delight is an Eau Claire institution. The skilled, knowledgeable chefs will cook your multi-course meal right in front of you on a large grill built into the table. You can choose from various meats, poultry or seafood, and while you wait for them to grill, enjoy traditional bites like egg drop soup, a chilled green salad, shrimp, mixed vegetables, rice and green tea. You’d be wise to set aside about two hours for a dinner, but if you’d rather come midday, you can expect a shorter meal since hibachi isn’t available during lunch.
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