The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    No frills, but a good meal

    My first impression upon entering Altoona Family Restaurant was that it didn’t look like anything special. It looked like your typical family diner, with white walls and a few random pictures, and smelled faintly of broccoli.

    But the place has garnered its share of down-home indie cred. This year, it earned the Leader-Telegram’s Readers’ Choice Award for best breakfast at a family restaurant and was the No. 2 readers’ pick in Volume One magazine for the best restaurant for comfort food. It took two Leader-Telegram awards in 2006 as well, for best family restaurant and for best new restaurant in 2005. Curiously, some of those certificates hang on the back wall above a picture of the pope.

    The restaurant deserves all those accolades for a few simple reasons – good food, friendly service and huge portions at reasonable prices. With few frills, it gives you everything you’d expect from a family restaurant and does it well.

    Two friends and I stopped in around 6 p.m. on Monday.

    Story continues below advertisement

    We were seated immediately, and about a minute after I ordered I had coffee in front of me. A server refilled my coffee several times before the cup was even empty. Quality-wise, the coffee was about average, weak enough for me to drink black.

    Altoona Family Restaurant offers a wide variety of entrées and platters, such as half-pound burgers, all-day breakfast, salads and stir-fry. Most entrees cost between $6 and $9.

    The server brought my friends’ soup and salad to the table almost instantly, and our main courses came quickly thereafter.

    I chose the house omelette, made with bacon, sausage, onions and green peppers ($6.95). It came with a generous helping of hash browns and two sizable pancakes. It was enough food to stuff myself and have plenty left over. And it all tasted amazing. My friends enjoyed their food, but if you want two meals for the price of one I’d definitely go with breakfast.

    One of my friends ordered a grilled teriyaki chicken sandwich ($6.69), which came with peppers, onions, mozzarella cheese, teriyaki sauce and a larger-than-average side salad. She said both were delicious.

    My other dining companion ordered the grilled alpine chicken sandwich ($6.99), made with sautéed mushrooms, swiss cheese, bacon and mayo. Her side order of chicken dumpling soup was the exception to the big-portion rule.

    “It was exceptional – all three bites of it,” she said.

    The restaurant is open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. If you take Clairemont Avenue about three miles out of Eau Claire, you’ll be able to see it on your left.

    Most Midwestern towns have at least one no-frills family restaurant, but I found this one a cut above most others in variety and in portion size. There are plenty of places to sit down for a cheap plate of greasy, salty food, but few in my experience that do it with speed, consistent quality and good service. And a good mom-and-pop shop beats a replaceable corporate chain restaurant anytime.

    Leave a Comment
    More to Discover

    Comments (0)

    The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
    All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Activate Search
    No frills, but a good meal