Supporting Eau Claire’s local coffee shops

A discussion on the benefits of experiencing the area’s one-of-a-kind cafes

More stories from Nicole Bellford


Photo by Brittany Farr

ECDC is one of Eau Claire’s finest local coffee shops.

From the moment I took my first sip of a Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino in middle school, I knew I had officially boarded the train of coffee fanatics.

Since then, my palette has certainly advanced to more tasteful caffeine-related options, from a simple vanilla latte to a specialty roast with a hint of cream and sugar (thank goodness).

Nowadays, as a typical college student attending a liberal arts university, I dig deeper than pure taste of beverages to determine my favorite coffee shops. The atmosphere, experience and overall “vibe” of the location is vital to deciding where I deplete my struggling bank account on countless caffeine refills each week.

Growing up in a suburban, commercialized town near Milwaukee, my idea of a coffee shop with “good vibes” prior to attending college was an artsy looking Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts (I know, I am disappointed in myself, too). However, just as my palette has advanced over the years, my eye for a stellar coffee location has grown to sophistication as well.

Going to school in Eau Claire the past couple years, a city filled with deep appreciation for arts, entertainment and local business, I can now confidently assert that attending local coffee shops over business chains is the best case scenario when looking for a place to fill my cup.

Take Eau Claire Downtown Coffee (ECDC), for example. Immediately upon walking into this quaint, modern location, I am filled with a sense of comfort and warmth. The venue offers a sense of sophistication, with full-length glass windows across each wall and a cozy fireplace located in the sitting area. An artistic chalkboard is consistently updated behind the barista’s counter, displaying the permanent menu as well as daily specials.

The menu options range from delicious smoothies, a variety of tea that customers get to steep themselves and, of course, delectable specialty coffees. Lastly, ECDC’s homemade bakery items are unmatched. Whether it be a chocolate chip laden scone or a bundle of their famous macaroons, ordering a sweet treat with your brew is never a bad idea.

Let’s not forget the classic hidden treasure on Water Street, either: Racy De’Lenes Coffee Lounge (Racy’s, for short). Located behind the popular breakfast spot, The Nucleus, Racy’s is the definition of a hipster hangout, if I’ve ever seen one. Filled with old-time furnishings and dimmed lighting, this quiet spot is the perfect place to catch up with and old friend or crank through a pile of homework. Not to mention, the coffee is smooth and rich; And it certainly helps that the baristas are always kind and willing to suggest new beverages and brews to try.

Finally, no one can disregard the artistic beauty that is Acoustic Cafe in downtown Eau Claire. This music oriented location not only contains quality brews and creative drink combinations (the Turtle Mocha is my personal favorite), it also features delicious ice cream alongside local art for sale and the occasional live music performance. Nothing quite beats the unique pairing of a coffee shop and late night hangout, especially when it promotes the success of local artistry.

Overall, it is important to note what these coffee shops all have in common: there isn’t another location anything like them. They are independently owned from the heart of Eau Claire and simply cannot be replicated the same way coffee chains are spread across the interstate.

I’m not saying your area Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts isn’t a comfortably familiar option; If that was true, these chains wouldn’t have attained the success they are known for today. However, when it comes to the overall experience of sipping your cup and enjoying your surroundings, local coffee shops truly can’t be beat.