Big Mouth

The great Mona Lisa's


Photo by Maggie Cipriano


The moment I stepped inside Mona Lisa’s was comparable to a strong embrace by a giant, warm clove of roasted garlic. The yellow, Instagram filter-esque lights were welcoming, making everything seem even more inviting. Already, I was excited to explore the menu.

We were seated quickly and enthusiastically by our waitress, who was wearing all black. Our table was a fishbowl to the snowy outdoors. Our view could have been described as a reverse zoo: we were in the cage, while the Eau Clairians, the penguins, waddle through their ice covered town.

The restaurant was filled with sounds of clinking glass, sizzling food and muted talk and laughter. The music was low, playing the likes of John Mayer and Norah Jones: a fitting combination for the swanky atmosphere.

We sat at a table in the front of the restaurant, surrounded by empty wine bottles and backlit by tiny twinkle lights. My mom and aunt, a comedic duo, accompanied me to this lovely meal.

In this dark corner, my dates could not read the small font menu. After their iPhone flashlights were powered on and aimed at the menu, our waitress sauntered over and presented an old drawer full of reading glasses like a meaningful gift. Which to these two ladies, it was.

We grazed over our dinner options for quite some time: it is rare to want to order every single item on a somewhat extensive menu. Overwhelmed as we were, we took our waitress’s advice and ordered the grilled prawns for our main course. They layed over a bed of saffron risotto pillows beside tufts of mixed greens.

First, out came the roasted beet salad. It comprised yellow and red beets, arugula and apples tossed in a light dressing. This is my personal favorite item on the menu. It was extraordinarily refreshing and simple — a great way to start a meal.

Next, we ordered the spicy tomato chutney complete with crisp flatbread, a triple cream cheese and a seemingly endless garnish of roasted garlic. Bite after bite was different and enticing: both spicy and sweet, crunchy and smooth. The three of us around this dish must have slightly resembled Hungry, Hungry Hippos the way our arms reached to shovel these delicious bites into our wide and watering mouths.

After we devoured our main course of prawns and risotto, we ended the already over-the-top meal with an outrageously decadent flourless chocolate torte. It was crowned with homemade vanilla bean ice cream and sliced by sharp chocolate spears. We collectively scraped the dish clean for this dessert.

Mona Lisa’s is a staple to the Eau Claire food scene. It has a seasonally changing menu and charming waitstaff, and the food is always impeccable.

Although this meal was definitely on the pricey side, every bite, sip and laugh was worth the cost. This restaurant might be most fitting for celebration, special occasion or date-night with its upscale feel.

Nothing is more satisfying than having an absolutely stress-free and ultimately piquant dining experience. Mona Lisa’s goes above and beyond in food, service and experience.