Off the eaten path
Students tend to gravitate toward Water Street and Oakwood Mall, but Eau Claire has much more to offer for those looking to venture outside the typical areas.
Be brave, readers of The Spectator, and test your culinary boundaries.
800 Wisconsin St., Suite 223
If you’re really looking to get off the grid, head on over to Banbury Place, which actually has a variety of stores and offices, including BetterLife Café. A newer addition to the Eau Claire coffee scene, BetterLife dramatically departs from the traditional industrial feel of Banbury Place with bright lighting, smooth jazz tracks and a modern-meets-antique-chic decor. With hot and cold sandwich offerings as well as handmade cannoli (pictured) and cheesecakes, you can’t go wrong here.
BetterLife offers an array of organic coffee, espresso and specialty drinks, with the addition of a very accommodating staff (I asked for Mexican spiced hot chocolate — not on the menu — and they happily obliged). As evidenced by the sound equipment set up in the space, BetterLife offers live music some weekends. In my opinion, BetterLife Café has the potential to turn into the next artsy-hipster hot spot.
Kim Chi Café
2823 London Rd., Suite 5
Kim Chi Café, located off London Road, serves up a wide array of Korean dishes. Korean food tends to be spicy, but if you think you can handle the heat, I recommend checking it out. The restaurant’s namesake comes from the traditional Korean side dish kim chi, which is a fermented spicy cabbage served with most Korean meals.
Grass thatch overhangs, mood lighting and traditional Korean decorative elements give this restaurant a unique appeal. The only drawback for Kim Chi Café is that it can be a little on the pricey side at an average of $10-13 a plate, but rest assured — you can’t get Korean fare this great anywhere else in town.
My recommendation: the chicken bok-kum stir fry or the mul man-doo Korean-style dumplings. If you’re up for an adventure, try the bi-bam-bop: a half cooked egg served on an assortment of vegetables and beef. Once stirred in, the egg will make snapping noises as it continues to cook in the heated stone bowl.
306 East Madison St.
To round out the tour, I thought it best to include a place perfect for a date or taking your parents. Downtown Eau Claire has several unique eateries and coffee shops, but just beyond Phoenix Park is Stella Blues. Stella Blues offers outdoor veranda seating (pictured), which can be an added draw for students looking to have a classier dining experience in the warmer months.
An added perk, Stella Blues boasts an extensive mixed drink and beer selection. As for ambiance, it offers a relaxed and inviting atmosphere with exposed brick walls, antique accents and soft lighting. For the ever-frugal college student, Stella Blues can be a little on the pricier side, but the food is worth it.
For the New Orleans enthusiast, I recommend the spicy Cajun etouffee or jambalaya. I’ve also heard great things about their catfish entrees and cornbread. The restaurant also offers an array of burgers, sandwiches and other Southern-influence dishes. Fun fact: Stella Blues is the sister of both Mogie’s Pub and Mona Lisa’s Restaurant located
on Water St.