SEPTEMBER 30, 2015 • FREE it doesn’t get any better than this
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ISSUE NO. 290 SEPTEMBER 30, 2015 WWW.VOLUMEONE.ORG MAG INFO OFFICES 205 N. Dewey St. Eau Claire, WI 54703 CONTACT
Phone: (715) 552-0457 Inter-web: www.VolumeOne.org Email: email@example.com Facsimile: (715) 552-0457 (call ahead)
PUBLISHER / EDITOR / ETC Nick Meyer MANAGING EDITORS Eric Christenson + Tom Giffey ONLINE EDITOR Mike Paulus RESOURCE & LISTINGS EDITOR Tyler Griggs
08 Chomping and Chugging
ADVERTISING REPS Neil Hodorowski + Chase Kunkel DESIGNERS Serena Wagner + Janae Breunig WEB DEVELOPMENT Don Ross
Media and Information
Ranting and Raving
Nightlife and Taverns
ADVERTISING MANAGER Brian Maki
STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Andrea Paulseth LOCAL STORE Lindsey Quinnies + Paul Brandt + Colin Carey + Jen Schultz + Justin Andersen + Susan Santee-Buenger + Jadyn Devine + Alex Tronson DISTRIBUTION Tom Jannusch, Cam Carlson, John Rohde, and Barb Nelson. FOUNDERS Dale Karls + Nick Meyer
34 Arts and Entertainment
60 Now Hanging
46 Action and Leisure
50 Shopping and Spending
Here and There
61 Cinema Listings
64 Event Calendars
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR Every year this thing gets bigger – more categories, more votes, and more fun. This issue is tied for our biggest ever at a whopping 88 pages! It’s the results of the Volume One Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll. You’ll notice this issue looks a little different NICK MEYER than usual. That’s because we’ve ditched much of the usual content in favor of immortalizing the top three vote getters in more than 150 different categories from food to entertainment to hotly debated issues. It’s all organized into eight sections that run the gamut of local life, giving a snapshot of what you Chippewa Vallians are currently loving, hating, or just sitting around thinking about. All the event calendars and listings for the next couple of weeks are still here, tucked in the back where you usually find them, so no worries there. Log on to VolumeOne.org and make some comments on the poll or let us know how it could be done better. We love the input. Thanks!
BASIC INFO Volume One is locally owned, locally operated, and locally focused. We distribute 14,000 copies to 360+ locations in Eau Claire, Menomonie, and Chippewa Falls, and other area communities every other Thursday. Though it started small, the magazine has been available in some form since March of 2002.
86 Rear End
ARTWORK THROUGHOUT THE ISSUE “Best of the Chippewa Valley”
by Asahi Nagata Asahi Nagata is a Japanese designer who has been focusing on corporate branding, Web design, and illustrations. In her home office in Minneapolis, she works with her husband and office manager, who is also her cat Jounrie Tunamelt, on new and existing projects. For the last three years, Asahi has worked as a Seb designer for Gear8 DESIGN Inc. in Sapporo, Japan. She is currently a graphic design intern at Charles S. Anderson Design. Illustrations for this issue are part of a custom piece, created based on the relaxing, cozy feeling of Eau Claire.
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ADVERTISING INFO Volume One is the most costeffective and dynamic print advertising option in the Chippewa Valley. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information about ad rates & sizes, distribution locations, and more. Or call (715) 552-0457. You’ll be glad you did.
CONTRIBUTORS & SUBMISSIONS Volume One relies on the work of local creatives to keep the flow of ideas and information going. If you’d like to become an occasional or regular contributor, please contact us to learn how. We also welcome the submission of ideas or completed works from the community for publication consideration. LETTERS Volume One prints letters to the editor on subjects relating to the community or our publication. Submissions must be less than 250 words and include your name, and for verification purposes only, your address and telephone number. Letters are not guaranteed to be published, and may be edited for content, clarity, or length. SUBSCRIPTIONS Support Volume One with a one year subscription. 26 issues are available for $64. Send a check to the address listed above. Or, you can view the V1 Membership options at www.volumeone.org or by calling (715) 552-0457. INTERNSHIPS Unpaid internships are available for a number of exciting and interesting positions including writing/editing, photography, sales/marketing, business development, illustration, and more. PRINTED BY Page 1 Printers, on recycled paper. © 2015 Volume One The writing, artwork, and photography in Volume One remain the property of the authors, artists, & photographers. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the publication or its advertisers.
50% RECYCLED PAPER
alex tronson has this stay-at-home dad
asahi nagata is a Japanese designer who
* mike paulus thought “Super Harvest Blood
barbara arnold is practicing her long jump ... before the entire Water Street bridge comes down.
mike seitz feels that this heat needs to go.
spirited in high school. Since she is in school no longer, she feels as though her life is dull and void of meaning.
janae breunig has a whole cupboard dedi-
ed hudgins wakes in the morning and he
TABULATIONTRON 5000 loves being
chase kunkel is listening to the new Deafheaven album.
yia lor cooked up two batches of butternut squash soup that she wishes she liked. WRITER
dusted off and plugged in once a year just to find out where you like to eat chicken.
steps outside, takes a deep breath and he gets real high, and he screams from the tops of his lungs, “What’s going on?!”
neil hodorowski either has moles or very tiny graboids in his backyard. His son’s pogo tick is staying in the garage until he’s sure.
bonni knight is traveling to places that will LOCAL STORE
kylie lato is California Dreamin’.
brian maki marvels at the fact that electricity is just organized lightning.
tom giffey voted for you for Best Friend. MANAGING ED
cated to plastic bags.
lindsey quinnies is going to have the best
make you jealous.
colin carey wakes up every morning like this. LOCAL STORE
literally the best of times.
scott morfitt once won third place in a Scott
paul brandt thinks this issue cycle is quite
jordan duroe really, really enjoys pizza.
superdelegate. Extra-garish convention party costumes, perhaps?
thing BOCV (Best of Chippewa Valley) it portends, in the best way, that we have the same importance as Roman numerals and Olympic Games. (Though B & O don’t apply, I digress).
Morfitt look-alike contest. The first and second place finishers were never heard from again...
luc anthony wants to know how to become a
eric rasmussen’s favorite part of being a squirrel would be the smugness they feel when they watch those stupid chipmunks pretend they have any idea what it’s like to struggle in the modern world ... and the jumping.
rob reid has somehow found himself on
+ amanda foxcroft enjoys a stinky picnic.
don ross is ready for action. WRITER
Sex: Male Looking for: Something to dip in this cup of ranch
Horokeeper crumpled up in the corner. I can hear his soft choked-up wheezes. Seems he made it through the night. Poor guy. There, in another latticed pen beside mine, ...
laura lash believes if we start calling this
serena wagner was voted most school
tyler griggs ... from the coast. The
There’s flannel to be worn!
now lives in Minneapolis with her husband and office manager/cat, Jounrie Tunamelt.
Moon Eclipse” was some kind of Twilight sequel. ARTIST
andrea paulseth could eat Manny’s fish
tacos every day!
LOCAL PEOPLE, LOCAL TALENT, LOCAL IDEAS
+ First-time contributors!
THANKS: Timothy Mather, Luong Huynh, Zach Oliphant, and all the voters! VolumeOne.org 5 Sept. 30, 2015
* Bio of the Fortnight
the Best Of poll:
here’s to you, readers! THE 9TH ANNUAL BEST OF THE CHIPPEWA VALLEY READERS' POLL RESULTS ARE HERE, AND THEY'RE ALL YOURS
or the last nine years, we’ve turned to our readers – you guys – to chime in and speak up about your favorite places to eat, favorite bands in the area, favorite spots, and favorite dishes at favorite restaurants in our Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll 2015 (or BOTCVRP2K15, if you like abbreviations). This thing is always huge: This issue is tied for our biggest ever (last year’s Best Of issue was 88 pages as well). However, in these 88 pages (88 pages!), we’ve eschewed the bulk of our regular editorial content, covering all the latest events, music, books, art, eats, and Chippewa Valley happenings (don’t worry – it’ll all be back in two weeks!) in order to get the poll results out there in print. This year’s poll saw perennial winners continue to dominate (The Joynt, Girolamo’s Court’n House), plus some exciting newcomers shaking things up (Eaux Claires Festival, The Classic Garage). www.Volume One.org
is. If you wish something were better, this poll shines a light on that thing and gets us all thinking of ways to make it better. That’s the goal here: To make the Chippewa Valley a better place to live through the voices and votes of those who live here. Because really, the best burger joints or the best parks aren’t going to be the reason this is a great place to live. It’s the people here who populate those places and try new things and genuinely care about making their home great. After all, this is your home. Your neighbors are your neighbors. It’s up to both of you – not one or the other – to make this place great. There’s something kinda beautiful in that. So to the thousands of voters who took the time to give their opinions, thank you for letting us and your community know what you think. Because really what’s the use of having a best burger without anyone special to eat it? As you peruse these results, keep in mind ways to take advantage of them. If you see a great thing SEPTEMBE
R 30, 2015 • FREE the best of the midwest
It’s you guys. It’s you all getting into it and voicing your opinions about the place you live. If you think something’s great, this poll celebrates how great that thing is. If you wish something were better, this poll shines a light on that thing and gets us all thinking of ways to make it better. But like every year, we have no idea how this thing is gonna shake out. This poll is completely driven by Chippewa Valley folk who are passionate to support (and if not support, weigh in on) every tiny facet of this community they love. That makes this a very, very special issue. To us, this poll is an incredible thing, and that’s not to pat ourselves on the back. It’s you guys. It’s you all getting into it and voicing your opinions about the place you live. If you think something’s great, this poll celebrates how great that thing
you haven’t tried, go try it! If something you disagree with disappoints you, let people know! We should all be striving to celebrate the things we have, and work on the things we don’t. That’s how places and people grow in harmony together. This is big deal to us and – we believe – to this community. It starts with being active and engaged, trying things, going places, interacting with both your neighbors and your friends. So without further ado, here are the best of best. Maybe we can start here.
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Best Of Hall of Fame
and here it is...
YEAR IN AND YEAR OUT, CHIPPEWA VALLEY VOTERS RANK THESE WINNERS AS THE CREAM OF THE CROP IN OUR POLL. HERE ARE THE PEOPLE, PLACES, AND THINGS THAT HAVE WON THEIR CATEGORIES SIX OR MORE STRAIGHT YEARS!
NINE YEAR WINNERS since 2007
SIX YEAR WINNERS since 2010
F A M O U S D A V E ’ S .................................................................................Best Barbecue
A LT O O N A F A M I LY R E S TA U R A N T ............ Best Restaurant for Comfort Food Best Restaurant for Good Wait Staff
D R A G A N E T T I ’ S . ................................................................................ Best Italian Food T H E J O Y N T .......................................................................................... Best Bar for Talkin’ S C O O T E R S . ............................................................................................ Best Dance Floor M I C H A E L P E R R Y . ...........................................................................Favorite Local Author S A V E R S ..........................................................................................Best Place for Used Clothing B U F F A L O W I L D W I N G S ................................................................ Best Sports Bar C O O N F O R K . ...........................................................................................Best Place to Camp
G I R O L A M O ’ S C O U R T ’ N H O U S E .............................................. Best Burger Best Fish Fry Best Bar Food T H E J O Y N T .................................................................................... Best Happy Hour Spot T E X A S R O A D H O U S E ............................................................................ Best Steak H A P P Y H O L L O W . ............................................................. Best Bar for Indoor Games
EIGHT YEAR WINNERS since 2008
P H O E N I X P A R K .................................................................. Best Place for Live Music
C A N C U N M E X I C A N G R I L L ................................................. Best Mexican Food
T R A D E R J O E ’ S ......................................... Structure We Want to See Locally Erected
M O J O B L U E S B A N D ........................................................................Best Blues Band
U W - E A U C L A I R E J A Z Z I ......................................................... Best Jazz Band
E A U C L A I R E D O G P A R K .............................................. Best Place to Take a Pet
E V E R G R E E N G R A S S B A N D .......................................... Best Bluegrass Band
SEVEN YEAR WINNERS since 2009
B R E N T D O U G L A S . .................................................................................. Best Florist
M C K A Y A N D D O N U T S .................................................................Best Radio Show
L O O P Y ’ S .........................................................Best Bar for Outdoor Games/ League Sports T H E L I V E R Y ............................................................... Best Restaurant for Outdoor Dining T H E G I ’ S D E L U S I O N ................................................................Best Specialty Drink
M I C H A E L S . .............................................................................. Best Arts and Crafts Store G O R D Y ’ S V A L L E Y S P I R I T S . ................................ Best Place to Buy Alcohol
I R V I N E P A R K Z O O .......................................................Best Place to Take Your Kids
W A G N E R ’ S L A N E S .................................................................... Best Bowling Alley
B I G F A L L S C O U N T Y P A R K ............................................................ Best Beach
L E I N I E L O D G E .......................................... Best Place to Impress Out-of-Town Guests
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BEST ALL-AROUND DESSERT
1st Place: Olson’s Ice Cream 2nd Place: Culver’s 3rd Place: Cold Stone Creamery
1st Place: Sue’s Deluxe Bake Shop 2nd Place: Great Harvest Bread Company 3rd Place: Bohemian Ovens
Boasting more than 80 flavors since 1944, it’s no wonder that Olson’s Ice Cream (611 N. Bridge St., Chippewa Falls) was voted best all-around dessert by a landslide! With more than 25 flavors available at any one time, there’s sure to be something for everyone at this iconic Chippewa Falls ice cream parlor, which won this category for the sixth time. Culver’s (five Chippewa Valley locations) has the monopoly on delicious frozen custard and comes in at No. 2 according to our voters. Cold Stone Creamery (4613 Keystone Crossing, Eau Claire), voted No. 3, makes its ice cream fresh every day. A frozen granite stone is the secret to combining all those delicious mix-ins without the ice cream melting. –Kylie Lato
It’s really hard to be in a bad mood while visiting a bakery. Whether you need a sweet treat or some fresh bread, a bakery not only smells amazing but it also just feels like a great place to be. Sue’s Deluxe Bake Shop (1319 Birch St., Eau Claire) has been using the same recipes for more than 40 years, and people still love them. Offering custard angel foods, decorated cakes, and plenty of other baked products, they’ve got your baking needs covered. Where bread is concerned, Great Harvest Bread Company (4324 Southtowne Place, Eau Claire) offers wholesome and delicious bread using the same methods for more than 30 years. Bohemian Ovens (905 Martin Road, Bloomer) is another great option; using an authentic brick oven to create European-style hard-crusted bread. Yummy! –Mike Seitz
BEST APPETIZER (NON-CHEESE CURDS) 1st Place: Egg Roll Plus egg rolls 2nd Place: Mogie’s Pub Spuds O’Plenty 3rd Place: Cancun Mexican Grill chips, salsa, and cheese dip Sometimes, when we’re feeling crazy, we just make a whole meal out of appetizers. Isn’t that wild? Oh, we pay for it later, but that’s why they make Tums. At the top of the Valley’s appetizer list are those incredible egg rolls from Egg Roll Plus (1611 Bellinger St., Eau Claire). Mogie’s Pub (436 Water St., Eau Claire) serves Spuds O’Plenty, which is the magical offspring of a tater tot and cheese. In third place, Cancun Mexican Grill will keep bringing you chips and salsa at all of their Valley locations – and (for a small charge) cheese dip, which you will eat until you just can’t even believe you ordered a whole meal. But, hey, those fajitas will reheat. Keep those chips coming! –Eric Rasmussen
BEST ASIAN FOOD 1st Place: Egg Roll Plus 2nd Place: Shanghai Bistro 3rd Place: Mahli Thai Asian Cuisine Taking the lead in this hotly contested race is Egg Roll Plus (1611 Bellinger St., Eau Claire), offering a mix of Asian cuisine from perfectly seasoned pho to the crispiest egg rolls. Second place Shanghai Bistro (2930 Craig Road, Eau Claire) has a wonderful selection of sushi and stir-fries. Don’t forget the takoyaki, a Japanese street food that’s crispy, gooey, and delicious. Third place Mahli Thai Asian Cuisine (212 N. Bridge St., Chippewa Falls), known for its pad Thai, uses the freshest ingredients served in a Zen-type atmosphere. Check out these winners the next time you’re looking for great Asian cuisine. –Yia Lor
BEST BARBECUE 1st Place: Famous Dave’s 2nd Place: Dickey’s Barbecue Pit 3rd Place: Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill Voted No. 1 for barbecue in the Chippewa Valley for the ninth consecutive year, Famous Dave’s (2911 Mall Drive, Eau Claire) serves wood-smoked meats and delectable sides. With 13 different kinds of barbecue sauce to choose from, there is sure to be something that is finger-lickin’ good for everyone! Voted No. 2, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit (311 E. Clairemont Ave, Eau Claire) offers not only amazing home-style barbecue, but free ice cream every day and free food for kids on Sundays. The baby back ribs from Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill & Steaks (4890 Golf Road, Eau Claire) come in at No. 3. They’re cooked for hours and basted in a house-made barbecue sauce. –Kylie Lato
BEST BREAKFAST SPOT 1st Place: The Nucleus 2nd Place: Altoona Family Restaurant 3rd Place: Randy’s Family Restaurant While waiting for your “Housewives of E.C.” egg dish, check out the newlyremodeled Nucleus (405 Water St., Eau Claire) where you can people-watch out of the Water Street windows or baldeagle-watch out of the riverside windows. Or you can head over to the ever-popular Altoona Family Restaurant (2000 N. Hillcrest Parkway, Altoona) where carloads of faithful omelet and pancake eaters descend. Randy’s Family Restaurant (1132 W. MacArthur Ave., Eau Claire) also has a faithful following of regulars who appreciate good food, fair prices,
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and friendly staff. Additionally, Randy’s gives a 10 percent discount to UW-Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley Technical College students. –Rob Reid
BEST BURGER 1st Place: Girolamo’s Court’n House 2nd Place: Milwaukee Burger Co. 3rd Place: Mogie’s Pub Girolamo’s Court’n House (113 W. Grand Ave., Eau Claire) takes first place for the sixth year running in the Best Burger category. They offer some of the juiciest burgers, with an unbeatable two-for-one deal on Thursdays, making them a popular destination. Second-place Milwaukee Burger Co. (2620 E. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire) has a unique selection of combos, offering hand-pattied specialty burgers like the Wisconsin sourdough or the popular cheese curd burger, which is exactly what it sounds like. Taking third is Mogie’s Pub (436 Water St. Eau Claire), known for mouth-watering chargrilled burgers made with certified Angus beef. If you’re looking to chow down on the best, these winners have you covered. –Yia Lor
BEST CAFÉ/COFFEEHOUSE 1st Place: Acoustic Café (Eau Claire) 2nd Place: Racy D’lene’s Coffee Lounge 3rd Place: Coffee Grounds With delightful coffee and specialty drinks, famous hoagie sandwiches, and regular live music performances, Eau Claire’s Acoustic Café (505 S. Barstow St.) can now say it was voted the best café in the Valley. Racy D’lene’s Coffee Lounge (404 Riverside Ave., Eau Claire) has long been atop this category – since the beginning of this poll’s existence, actually – but this year the Acoustic Café bested the reigning champ by a single vote. At any rate, Racy’s still has the same incredibly warm atmosphere and good (strong) coffee that made it a perennial winner. The Coffee Grounds (4212 Southtowne Drive, Eau Claire) lands in third place and offers a big, inviting space full of coffee, wine, beer, and even cigars if that’s what you’re looking for. –Mike Seitz
BEST CHICKEN 1st Place: Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill 2nd Place: Bresina’s Carry Out 3rd Place: Mega Co-op Humans domesticated chickens about 10,000 years ago, so it’s weird that it took so long to perfect the preparation of the bird. This year, we nailed it. Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill & Steaks (4890 Golf Road, Eau Claire) roasts the birds over a wood fire, delivering a tantalizing smokiness. Bresina’s Carry Out (10 Jefferson Ave., Chippewa Falls) serves delectable chicken from what we like to call Chippewa’s “sweet spot” – close to
Leinie’s Brewery, Irvine Park, and the fairgrounds. In third, Mega! Co-op puts a special spin on the rotisserie chicken, with a blend of spices that elevates the humble prepared meal option to mouthwatering levels. The chicken is a blank canvas, and the Valley offers more than a few masterpieces. –Eric Rasmussen
BEST COFFEE 1st Place: Caribou Coffee 3nd Place: Racy D’lene’s Coffee Lounge 3rd Place: Coffee Grounds Hey! Hey! Who has the best Joe? Java? (And I’m not talking about Mud or Battery Acid.) Well? Well? You – the jittery, amped-up mocha-lovers that you are – chose Caribou Coffee as your favorite! Rather quickly, too! Next, down the hatch with some brew from Racy D’lene’s Coffee Lounge (404 Riverside Ave., Eau Claire), a favorite of many locals and some canine regulars as well. And if you need that third cup of leaded (or a first cup of un-leaded might be wiser) head over to Coffee Grounds (4212 Southtowne Drive, Eau Claire) in its still relatively new, fun, and spacious south-side location to enjoy their specialty and seasonal blends like pumpkin spice and roasted chestnut. Crash! Bang! Goodnight. –Rob Reid
BEST COMFORT FOOD 1st Place: Altoona Family Restaurant 2nd Place: Randy’s Family Restaurant 3rd Place: Cancun Mexican Grill Serving the finest comfort food – from fluffy pancakes and loaded omelets to home-style country fried steak and pork chops – Altoona Family Restaurant (2000 N. Hillcrest Parkway, Altoona) was voted No. 1 for the sixth year in a row. It’s no surprise to see a line to the door on Saturdays at Randy’s Family Restaurant (1132 W. MacArthur Ave., Eau Claire), which came in at No. 1. Randy’s serves breakfast all day and offers classic favorites such as French toast, loaded potato skins, and homemade chicken dumpling soup. At No. 3 is Cancun Mexican Grill (four Chippewa Valley locations), which is known for complimentary chips and salsa and impeccably fast service. Whether it’s the classic flavor of chicken fajitas or the authentic flavors of the Carne Asada you’re craving, be sure to wash it down with 99-cent margaritas on Mondays and Tuesdays. –Kylie Lato
BEST FISH FRY 1st Place: Girolamo’s Court’n House 2nd Place: Albertville Tavern 3rd Place: Smith’s Country Inn A healthy, well-balanced Wisconsin diet includes Friday night fish fries. Right? Girolamo’s Court’n House (113 W. Grand Ave., Eau Claire) wins first place in this category for like the
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VolumeOne.org 11 Sept. 30, 2015
billionth time in a row, so you know they have a loyal following who will patiently hug the walls and wait their turn before diving into the goods. Albertville Tavern (8114 35th St., Colfax) also has a loyal following, including a hound dog who sits in the middle of the street (at least he was there last time I drove north for some delicious fish). Another short rural drive with the reward of fried fish and all the fixins at the end is waiting for you south of Eau Claire at Smith’s Country Inn (S5786 Highway 37, Eau Claire). –Rob Reid
BEST FRIED CHEESE CURDS 1st Place: Milwaukee Burger Co. 2nd Place: Dooley’s Pub 3rd Place: Fill Inn Station What’s not to love about cheese curds? Take something that Wisconsinites cherish, cover it in batter and fry it ‘til it’s golden brown, and we give you edible perfection. Milwaukee Burger Co. (2620 Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire) is one of the best when it comes to cheese curds. I mean, these things are the size of your head and they come in three different kinds of cheese. It’s no wonder Milwaukee Burger came in first. The cheese curds at Dooley’s Pub (442 Water St., Eau Claire) pack a big, cheesy punch, filling the bellies of late night Water Street revelers whenever they are needed. In third place, the delectable curds at the Fill Inn Station (104 W. Columbia St., Chippewa Falls) are battered in Leinenkugel’s Original beer. Boom! Two Chippewa classics in one! What more could you ask for? –Mike Seitz
BEST ITALIAN FOOD 1st Place: Draganetti’s Ristorante 2nd Place: Mona Lisa’s Restaurant 3rd Place: Olive Garden Since 1982, Draganetti’s Ristorante (3120 Hillcrest Parkway, Altoona) has been serving up authentic home-style Italian cuisine, including Godfather spaghetti with smoked sausage and homemade lasagna with fresh ricotta, so it’s no surprise that it has won this category for nine straight years. Coming in at No. 2, Mona Lisa’s Restaurant (428 Water St., Eau Claire), is a modern Italian eatery with a menu that changes weekly featuring creative Mediterranean dishes. Olive Garden (4920 Golf Road, Eau Claire) came in at No. 3 and offers a wide variety of classic dishes ranging from chicken marsala to the Tour of Italy featuring chicken parmigiana, lasagna classico, and fettuccine alfredo. Just don’t forget to save room for the tiramisu. –Kylie Lato
BEST LOCAL BREWERY 1st Place: Leinenkugel’s 2nd Place: Lazy Monk Brewing 3rd Place: The Brewing Projekt Trying to narrow down the best local brewery is kind of like trying to narrow down the best band ever. Sure, there’s great things you love from one but others you like from another ... and then there’s things you kind of like but say you love so your friends think you are cool. That being said, we have great breweries here and you weren’t shy about telling us that, this category had a huge amount of total votes! Coming in third is the new brewery that could, The Brewing Projekt, which opened earlier this year and has already created dozens of unique and experimental brews. Next up is their soon-to-be neighbor, Lazy Monk Brewing, which specializes in Bohemian-style brews. Topping the list for the third straight year is the pride of Chippewa Falls, Leinenkugel’s. –Scott Morfitt
BEST LOCALLY PRODUCED FOODSTUFF 1st Place: Silver Spring mustard/horseradish 2nd Place: Rump’s Butcher Shoppe meat 3rd Place: Chip Magnet Salsa Did you know Eau Claire is one of the largest horseradish producers in the UNIVERSE? More of this spicy root comes from our area than almost anywhere else, thanks to Silver Spring growing and producing it for decades. Their beer and brat mustard is so good we brush our teeth with it. In second place, Rump’s Butcher Shoppe in Altoona serves up all manner of meats and homemade sausages with a traditional, local, mom-and-pop sort of vibe. In third place, Chip Magnet Salsa, out of Banbury Place, produces GMO-free (get this) chips and salsas to the delight of area snackers. –Eric Rasmussen
BEST MEXICAN FOOD 1st Place: Cancun Mexican Grill 2nd Place: Azul Tequila 3rd Place: Tacos Juanita When you get a hankering for some Mexican food, there are many good restaurants to choose from in the Chippewa Valley. You can’t go wrong with Cancun Mexican Grill (four Chippewa Valley locations), which takes top honors in this category for the eighth year in a row. With a huge selection and one of the largest, most affordable lunch menus you’ll find in the Valley, there’s a reason Cancun is consistently so good. Azul Tequila (2503 London Road, Eau Claire) is another great option. With a nice atmosphere and some innovative dishes, there are plenty of entrée options that
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The Classic Garage, Best New Restaurant and Most Inspired Restaurant Atmosphere
will fill your belly. If you’re feeling like something a bit more authentic, Tacos Juanita (2823 E. Hamilton Ave., Eau Claire) in one of Eau Claire’s hidden gems, serving up real Mexican food packed with flavor. Pro tip: They do breakfast as well. –Mike Seitz
BEST NEW RESTAURANT 1st Place: The Classic Garage 2nd Place: Sakura Japanese Cuisine 3rd Place: The French Press Those with an appetite for new restaurants won’t be disappointed by The Classic Garage (2111 Third St., Eau Claire), which took first place by a landslide. Where else can you eat a burger made with local ingredients while sitting in a classic ’50s-style diner and admiring a vintage Cadillac? Second place Sakura Japanese Cuisine (360 Chippewa Mall Drive, Chippewa Falls) offers a variety of authentic Japanese dishes, from fresh sushi to bento boxes, all beautifully arranged. Also joining the best is The French Press (2823 London
Road, Eau Claire), which creates breakfast delicacies, sandwiches, and pastries from scratch using the freshest ingredients. –Yia Lor
BEST PIZZA 1st Place: Pizza Del Re 2nd Place: Sammy’s Pizza Restaurant & Pub 3rd Place: The Plus According to Chippewa Valley voters, Pizza Del Re (911 N. Hastings Way, Eau Claire) has the best pizza pie for the third year in a row. Well known for lunch and dinner buffets, Pizza Del Re offers unlimited pizza, garlic bread, soup, and salad at a reasonable price. Sammy’s Pizza Restaurant & Pub (2812 London Road, Eau Claire) came in at No. 2 and has an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet at lunchtime as well as a pizza special for every day of the week. The Plus (208 S. Barstow St., Eau Claire) was voted No. 3 for its out-of-this-world hand-rolled pizza. Nestled in the heart of downtown, this restaurant also features a great outdoor patio. –Kylie Lato
BOLDEST URL Geno’s Pizza
A URL is a potential customer’s window into your business, a portal to your business’ web presence. Do you want that URL to be simple? Yes. Should your web address be catchy? Absolutely. Boring? No. Leave to Eau Claire’s Geno’s Pizza, purveyors of both slice and ice (they have fresh ‘za and an all-year outdoor ice rink) since 2014, to blast out of the gate with a URL that is brash, confident, and our staff pick for the Valley’s Boldest URL: www. eauclairesbestpizza.com. Does Geno’s actually have Eau Claire’s best pizza? Well, there’s no real definitive answer to that. Certainly, they have very good pizza with quality cheese, sauce that kicks, and they even do skin-on pepperoni (the kind the curls up around the edges, forming a tiny flavor pool of delicious grease and saltiness in the center of the pepperoni). But does Geno’s have the boldest URL? No question. Perhaps their own confidence in their pizza is enough to convince skeptics to try it for themselves. –Eric Christenson
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BEST QUICK LUNCH 1st Place: Acoustic Café (Eau Claire) 2nd Place: Nelson Cheese Factory 3rd Place: Mega! Co-Op Acoustic Café (505 S. Barstow St., Eau Claire) came in at No. 1 for the best quick lunch in the Valley. Featuring made-to-order hoagies and pitas with fresh soups, salads, muffins, cookies, and Betty bars, it’s hard not to find something to love about this downtown eatery. Nelson Cheese Factory (1636 Harding Ave., Eau Claire), the No. 2 choice, more than 15 made-to-order deli sandwiches including the best reuben in town. Grab one of their frequent customer cards, and your 13th sandwich is free! Mega! Co-op (1201 S Hastings Way and 2615 N. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire) came in at No. 3 for its signature sandwiches and wraps, farm-fresh salads, and handmade sushi. –Kylie Lato
BEST RESTAURANT FOR GOOD WAIT STAFF 1st Place: Altoona Family Restaurant 2nd Place: Cancun Mexican Grill 3rd Place: Chippewa Family Restaurant
BEST RESTAURANT FOR OUTDOOR DINING 1st Place: The Livery 2nd Place: The View 3rd Place: The Edge Pub & Eatery The Livery (316 Wisconsin St., Eau Claire) features a rustic outdoor seating area with wrought iron furniture and a huge fire pit. Pair that with amazing food and creative libations, and it’s no wonder this place was voted No. 1 for outdoor dining for the seventh consecutive year. The View (17779 Highway X, Chippewa Falls) comes in at No. 2 for its picturesque view of Lake Wissota, classic pub fare, and awesome outdoor deck. The Edge Pub & Eatery (9504 Highway S., Chippewa Falls) rounds out the list with its amazing view of Lake Wissota and its pub fare with a twist, including pasta primavera and Saturday night prime rib. –Kylie Lato
BEST RESTAURANT FOR UPSCALE DINING 1st Place: Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse 2nd Place: Mona Lisa’s Restaurant 3rd Place: Houligans Steak & Seafood Pub
The moment you enter the confines of the Altoona Family Restaurant (2000 N. Hillcrest Parkway, Altoona), you are greeted with a smile by whoever is free from the hustle of serving their hordes of diners – whether it’s the owners, the wait staff, or the person who fills the bird feeders outside the dining windows. Cancun Mexican Grill (four Chippewa Valley locations) gets more popular each year, due, in large part, to the friendly staff bringing your baskets of chips, salsa, strawberry margaritas, and chimichangas. The Chippewa Family Restaurant (1701 Kennedy Road, Chippewa Falls) has close ties to the Altoona establishment and practices the same philosophy of treating customers well. Did you get the best service? Then add that 20 percent. –Rob Reid
The fanciness of a restaurant can be calculated using a simple formula. Quality and artistry of food, minus the likelihood that other patrons are wearing clothing featuring sports teams, times the dimness of the lights. Do the math, and Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse (4751 Owen Ayres Court, Eau Claire) comes out on top, with its juicy cuts of meat and an out-of-this-world dimness score. Mona Lisa’s Restaurant (428 Water St., Eau Claire) finds second place with its succulent Italian fare, and Houligans Steak & Seafood Pub (415 S. Barstow St., Eau Claire) also builds a delicious reputation on hunks of meat and the type of seafood one doesn’t often see in middle America. –Eric Rasmussen
BEST RESTAURANT FOR LATE-NIGHT NOSHING
BEST RESTAURANT IN CHIPPEWA FALLS
1st Place: Perkins 2nd Place: Toppers Pizza 3rd Place: The Plus
1st Place: Duncan Creek Wine Bar & Grille 2nd Place: Mahli Thai Asian Cuisine 3rd Place: Casa Mexicana
No matter our level of responsibility preceding the witching hour, we’ve all been hungry on a Friday at midnight. When you have a case of the late-night munchies you need to address them with the perfect mix of comfort food and something you won’t regret (too badly) in the morning. Coming in third in this category is downtown’s spot for late night grub, The Plus (208 S. Barstow St., Eau Claire). In second is that voice on the other end of the line at 1am, Toppers Pizza (three Valley locations). The No. 1 spot goes to the home of the Tremendous Twelve, Perkins (2025 Highland Ave., Eau Claire, and 1720 N. Broadway, Menomonie). –Scott Morfitt
Contrary to what the best local brewery says on its cans, Chippewa Falls has many things to take pride in. One of them is an increasing mix of interesting restaurants running the gamut from amazing bar food to epicurean delights. In third place is Casa Mexicana (324 N. Bridge St.), a lively south-of-theborder eatery. In second is perhaps my favorite Thai place in the state, Mahli Thai Asian Cuisine (212 N. Bridge St.). And taking the top prize for the third year in a row is a local destination for fine steak, seafood, and pasta, Duncan Creek Wine Bar & Grille (213 Bridge St.). –Scott Morfitt
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BEST RESTAURANT IN EAU CLAIRE 1st Place: Mona Lisa’s Restaurant 2nd Place: Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse 3rd Place: The Livery While the Valley offers scores of eateries, nothing beats Mona Lisa’s Restaurant’s (428 Water St., Eau Claire) ever-changing Italian and Mediterranean menu of delicious delights. Enjoy a slice of Sicilian mobster pizza and a plate of seasonal pasta while sipping some wine. Taking second, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse (4751 Owen Ayres Court, Eau Claire) offers dining with class where you’re sure to feast on the best steak in the Valley. Third place The Livery (316 Wisconsin St., Eau Claire) proves that you can never go wrong with comfort food, from juicy burgers and sureto-please-you sandwiches to steaks to soups and salads. –Yia Lor
BEST RESTAURANT IN MENOMONIE 1st Place: Zanzibar Restaurant & Pub 2nd Place: Jake’s Supper Club 3rd Place: Stout Ale House Menomonie is a cool town, with plenty of culture and a great food scene. These are a few of your favorite restaurants in UW-Stout territory. Zanzibar Restaurant & Pub (228 Main. St. E) was opened to not only offer a unique menu, but create a welcoming atmosphere where people can spend quality time with friends and family. That, along with a menu that is bursting with culture, puts them at the top of this list. Jake’s Supper Club (E5690 Highway D) has been an excellent supper club for years, offering hand-cut steaks, pastas, and their famous prime rib, all from a choice spot on Tainter Lake. Finally there’s the Stout Ale House (1501 N. Broadway St.), which offers a full menu of steaks, ribs, sandwiches, and appetizers, plus 16 beers on tap. –Mike Seitz
BEST SANDWICH (NON-BURGER) 1st Place: Acoustic Café (Eau Claire) 2nd Place: Mancino’s Grinders & Pizza 3rd Place: Nelson Cheese Factory Sorry, Acoustic Café (505 S. Barstow St., Eau Claire). We’re going to ruin the secret to your delicious hoagies. Everybody, write this down. It’s not the homemade bread, the high-quality ingredients, or the pairing with some of the best soups out there. It’s … banana peppers. They’re yellow, and they’re amazing. Mancino’s Grinders & Pizza (809 W. Clairemont Ave. and 4056 Commonwealth Ave., Eau Claire) wins second place for delectable grinders that come in dozens of forms. If you haven’t had a Flavor Train, then you haven’t yet understood what it’s like to enjoy food.
In third is the little outpost of cheese and sandwiches on the Eastside Hill, Nelson Cheese Factory (1636 Harding Ave., Eau Claire). Please don’t go there, because then we’ll have to wait longer for our lunches. –Eric Rasmussen
BEST STEAK 1st Place: Texas Roadhouse 2nd Place: Houligans Steak & Seafood Pub 3rd Place: Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse For the sixth consecutive year, Texas Roadhouse (5019 Keystone Crossing, Eau Claire) gets top honors with a menu that includes the classics such as bone-in ribeye and T-bone, as well as uniquely named steaks like “Road Kill.” Houligans Steak & Seafood Pub (415 S. Barstow St., Eau Claire) has amazing signature combinations like the prosciutto filet, Irish whiskey tenderloin tips, and candied garlic New York strip, as well as Saturday night smoked prime rib. Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse (4751 Owen Ayres Court, Eau Claire) is one of the newest additions to the steak scene, and they’ve come prepared. Their menu includes twists on the classics, such as Parmesan-crusted New York strip, the chubby cut top sirloin, as well as dishes like filet Oscar (steak topped with crab cake and béarnaise sauce), drunken steak, and Johnny’s steak deburgo. – Amanda Foxcroft
BEST VEGETARIAN MENU 1st Place: Water Street Deli 2nd Place: The Nucleus 3rd Place: Mahli Thai Asian Cuisine If you’ve ever had a serious craving for traditional baba ghanouj or needed a falafel fix, Water Street Deli (628 Water St., Eau Claire) will never disappoint. You can even find these guys at the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market, and a bunch of stores around town stock their famous hummus and pita chips. But if Mediterranean fare is not your fancy, walk a couple of blocks down to The Nucleus (405 Water St., Eau Claire). They offer a ton of vegetarian and gluten-free breakfast and lunch options, and any vegetarian will feel at ease. Traveling a bit north, Mahli Thai Asian Cuisine (212 N. Bridge St., Chippewa Falls) offers many seasonal vegetarian and gluten-free dishes that are sure to please your adventurous taste buds. – Serena Wagner
BEST WINEMAKER 1st Place: River Bend Vineyard & Winery 2nd Place: Autumn Harvest Winery 3rd Place: Infinity Beverages True wine fans know two things: One is that people will always ask them their opinion of the movie Sideways, and the other is that a good local wine is some-
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Acoustic Café, Best Café/Coffeehouse, Best Quick Lunch, and Best Sandwich
thing to brag about. Chippewa Valley vineyards have been making some great wine for years and the scene only seems to be growing. In third place is the expanding Infinity Beverages Winery & Distillery (930 Galloway St., Suite 4, Eau Claire). Second is Chippewa Falls’ Autumn Harvest Winery (19947 Highway J, Chippewa Falls). The winner – in a landslide –is a vintner of everything from dry whites to desserty reds, River Bend Vineyard & Winery (10439 33rd Ave., Chippewa Falls). –Scott Morfitt
KIND OF EATERY / BAR WE MOST NEED 1st Place: Riverfront restaurant 2nd Place: Food trucks 3rd Place: IHOP Our most-wanted eatery dream is about to become reality! The old Huebsch laundry building (100 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire) is being renovated into a 140seat bar and restaurant with deck seating overlooking the Eau Claire River. Current Eau Claire city ordinances state food trucks can only operate on private property with the owner’s permission as well as in a handful of city parks. But city leaders are considering expanding this to include more parks as well as city streets. You can show your food truck love by visiting Gordo’s mobile Latin cuisine, which operates at Rick’s Service Center and emBARK dog day
care. Check their Facebook page for the schedule.) And Chippewa Valley residents want IHOP (The International House of Pancakes)! The good news is, this restaurant chain is actually a franchise, so we just need a hero – er, entrepreneur – to take the leap and bring us that sweet, sweet, double-dipped French toast. –Amanda Foxcroft
MOST INSPIRED / INTERESTING RESTAURANT ATMOSPHERE 1st Place: The Classic Garage 2nd Place: The Livery 3rd Place: Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse The Classic Garage (2111 Third St., Eau Claire), one of Eau Claire’s newest (and best) restaurants takes you back to the 1950s with the vintage ads, retro décor, and ever-changing display of super shiny classic cars parked out front (and inside). It’s a dream come true for gearheads and burger enthusiasts alike. The Livery (316 Wisconsin St., Eau Claire) continues to inspire conversation with the horse heads and large cowboy prints on the walls, as well as the brick bonfire pit on the spacious and comfortable patio. Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse (4751 Owen Ayres Court, Eau Claire) is another new-ish kid in town. Knock back martinis in swanky blue bar lighting or gaze lovingly at your pasta at a candlelit table, under soft chandelier lights in the dining room. –Amanda Foxcroft
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BEST BAR DJ 1st Place: Micah at The Pickle 2nd Place: Joel at Scooters 3rd Place: Nick Arnold at The Wigwam Being a great bar DJ requires many talents. You must constantly read the room, making sure that the crowd is enjoying itself while fielding requests from people who are pretty sure they know what the name of the song “if you just read off the names of some songs that are popular right now.” In Eau Claire several heroes have been doing their best to do this, letting the needle drop on the newest Beyoncé jam at just the right moment. In third place is perennial contender Nick Arnold of The Wigwam; in second is two-time champ Joel at Scooters; and your favorite bar DJ of 2015 is Micah at the Pickle. –Scott Morfitt
BEST BAR FOOD 1st Place: Girolamo’s Court’n House 2nd Place: The Livery 3rd Place: Dooley’s Pub Girolamo’s Court’n House (113 W. Grand Ave., Eau Claire) has been a local favorite for classic bar food for six years running. It’s easy to see why, with a special every night of the week (including their popular two-for-one burgers on Thursdays) and great selection. From waffle fries and shrimp baskets to mini tacos and a Friday night fish fry, the Court’n House serves it all. Secondplace winner, The Livery (316 Wisconsin St., Eau Claire) defines the saying, “It’s more fun to eat in a bar than drink in a restaurant.” The chef changes the menu regularly – creating appetizers, sandwiches, entrees and desserts that focus on seasonal ingredients. If you’re looking for the comfort of the Emerald Isle, Dooley’s Pub (422 Water St., Eau Claire) offers traditional Irish fare and more. Whether you’re longing for Sulach Pratal (fries smothered in Guinness gravy) or fish and chips, Dooley’s Pub has got you covered. –Amanda Foxcroft
BEST BAR FOR DRINKIN’ 1st Place: The Fire House 2nd Place: The Joynt 3rd Place: The Livery
(316 Wisconsin St., Eau Claire), with an incredible environment, a fire pit out back, and a strong selection of drinks. This is the perfect place to hang out and have a few drinks with your friends. – Mike Seitz
BEST BAR FOR INDOOR GAMES 1st Place: Happy Hollow Tavern 2nd Place: The Livery (aka Cowtown Saloon) 3rd Place: The Mousetrap With a whole lotta winter here, we need watering holes with games and camaraderie. Happy Hollow Tavern (1628 N. Hillcrest Parkway, Altoona) wins out with Texas Hold ’Em Poker on Mondays as well as any-day-of-the-week Buzztime Trivia and Poker, Around the World Darts (which literally lets you play against competitors around the world), seven pool tables, and arcade games like Buck Hunter, Key Game, or Golden Tee Live. The Livery (316 Wisconsin St., Eau Claire) has a specific game room with pool tables, darts, and more – plus mounted big game heads on the walls. The Mousetrap (311 S. Barstow St., Eau Claire) is a favorite for its two pool tables, darts, poker machines, and fall dart league. –Laura Lash
BEST BAR FOR LAST CALL 1st Place: She-Nannigans & Lucky’s 2nd Place: Scooters 3rd Place: The Mousetrap She-Nannigans & Lucky’s (415 Water St., Eau Claire), with its digital tickertape announcements rolling by out front, entices you at any hour of the night to get your groove on and get those last sips in. Scooters (411 Galloway St., Eau Claire) is inviting you over for Drag Bingo every other Tuesday 9:30pm-1am – stay for last call, winner! And The Mousetrap (311 S. Barstow St., Eau Claire) is open late for ramblers and those who enjoy the Sunday night open mic with its variety of talented local acts. –Laura Lash
BEST BAR FOR OUTDOOR / LEAGUE SPORTS 1st Place: Loopy’s Saloon 2nd Place: Wagner’s Sand Bar 3rd Place: The Depot (Wigwam)
When you need to wet your whistle, there are plenty of spots in the Chippewa Valley to get a drink. Just barely squeaking into first place by one vote was The Fire House (202 Gibson St., Eau Claire). With a massive selection of beer and a great environment, this is a good bar to have a drink after a long day. Right behind The Fire House is local legend The Joynt (322 Water St., Eau Claire). This small, chill bar has several great beers on tap and is one of the most affordable spots to get a drink, with domestic taps only costing a buck. Finally there’s The Livery
Loopy’s Saloon, Grill, & Event Dome (10691 Highway X, Chippewa Falls) does outdoorsy right: Alongside the Chippewa River, Loopy’s has volleyball leagues year round (three outdoor courts and an enclosed dome for winter fun) as well a tube launch with shuttle service, canoe and kayak rentals, and a tiki bar, fire pit, and new shower facilities to complete your outdoor adventure experience. A new volleyball dome at Wagner’s Sand Bar (2159 Brackett Ave., Eau Claire) is under construction; in the meantime, partake in bean bag leagues, volleyball leagues, and even the Valley’s only vol-
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ley pong league! And right downtown we’ve got The Depot (222 E. Madison St., Eau Claire) with its full bar and menu alongside outdoor fun such as beer pong, volleyball, and bean bag toss. A hot dog eating contest happens annually during Wamfest in August – that counts as a sport, right? –Laura Lash
BEST BAR FOR TALKIN’
with the classic pickle and olive garnish. Big T’s Saloon (2007 Third St., Eau Claire) has Bloody Marys during the week, but on Sundays they pull out all the stops with their Ultimate Bloody Mary: It’s 16-ounce with 26 available garnishes such as minisandwiches, shrimp, bacon and Laffy Taffy. And they open at 6am every day so you can start your Sunday Funday like a boss. –Amanda Foxcroft
BEST HAPPY HOUR SPOT
1st Place: The Joynt 2nd Place: The Fire House 3rd Place: The Livery Have any of you heard of this place, The Joynt (322 Water St.)? It’s great, so full of character and history … Seriously, giving The Joynt more awards is like talking about how much Wisconsin loves the Packers. They’re great; we get it (they’ve won this category every year since the poll’s inception). But as far as hangout bars go, it is the tops. The Fire House (202 Gibson St., Eau Claire) and its dream-like beer selection also provides a great atmosphere for conversation, while The Livery (316 Wisconsin St., Eau Claire) in the trendy North Barstow area allows patrons to chew the rag in a building from old town Eau Claire. You can almost smell the horses that used to be housed there. –Eric Rasmussen
BEST BEER SELECTION 1st Place: The Fire House 2nd Place: Milwaukee Burger Co. 3rd Place: Tomahawk Room Every bar needs a good selection of beer, but some take it to the next level, which is why The Fire House (202 Gibson St., Eau Claire) is No. 1 on this list. Winning by a landslide, The Fire House offers almost four dozen different craft beers, which are continuously rotating in and out. There’s no way you won’t find something to quench your thirst. Milwaukee Burger Co. (2620 E. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire) has a strong selection of 32 craft and premium beers on tap – great for any beer enthusiast. Also boasting a fine list of craft brews is the Tomahawk Room (306 N. Bridge St., Chippewa Falls). This classic Chippewa bar is a great place to kick back and have a cold one. –Mike Seitz
1st Place: The Joynt 2nd Place: Bug Eyed Betty’s 3rd Place: The Plus The best happy hour in town is at The Joynt (322 Water St., Eau Claire), where seven days a week, 5-7pm you can get a glass of domestic tap beer for just 50 cents or $3.75 for a whole pitcher. Craft beers are deeply discounted as well; prices vary depending on the brew. Happy hour at Bug Eyed Betty’s (1920 S. Hastings Way, Eau Claire) runs seven days a week, from 3-6pm, late-night from 9pm-close and all day Sundays. You get half-priced bottles and taps of beer, wine, appetizers AND you can play bar trivia! Six days a week (excluding Saturdays) The Plus (208 S. Barstow St., Eau Claire) rocks its happy hour from 3-6pm and again from 10pm-midnight (and from 9pm to midnight during Tuesday’s open mic), where you’ll find a delightful assortment of half-priced tap beer and appetizers. Is it Friday yet? –Amanda Foxcroft
BEST KARAOKE SPOT 1st Place: Five O’Clock Club 2nd Place: The Wigwam 3rd Place: Scooters RIP Sea Horse Inn: You were a friend I visited annually, and you would have been second in this category this year had your candle not blown out. Well … now that the eulogy is out of the way, let’s look at the great spots we still have where you can sing your heart out on a weekly basis. In third place is Scooter’s (411 Galloway St., Eau Claire); in second place is The Wigwam (314 E. Madison St., Eau Claire); and first place goes to your late-night karaoke spot – The Five O’Clock Club (2240 Fenwick Ave., Eau Claire). –Scott Morfitt
BEST BLOODY MARY 1st Place: Milwaukee Burger Co. 2nd Place: Girolamo’s Court’n House 3rd Place: Big T’s Saloon Milwaukee Burger Co. (2620 E. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire) comes in first with six kinds of Bloody Marys, including the Big Mil Bloody, garnished with a mini-cheeseburger, bacon, and cheddar cheese. At Girolamo’s Court’n House (113 W. Grand Ave., Eau Claire) you can count on a consistently delicious, comfort-in-a-glass, 16-ounce Bloody Mary
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The Fire House, Best Bar for Drinkin’ and Best Beer Selection
BEST PLACE FOR DANCING 1st Place: Scooters 2nd Place: She-Nannigans 3rd Place: O’Leary’s Pub
BEST SPORTS BAR (PLACE TO WATCH THE BIG GAME) 1st Place: Buffalo Wild Wings 2nd Place: Milwaukee Burger Co. 3rd Place: Dooley’s Pub
Outfitted with a wall of mirrors, disco balls, and some of the hottest drag queens in the Midwest, Scooters (411 Galloway St., Eau Claire) is a veteran when it comes to shakin’ your booty. Amidst all the right ambience and the funkiest dance DJs, anyone will feel like a queen on their dance floor. Another Eau Claire dance venue that doesn’t shy away from turnin’ it up is, of course, SheNannigans (415 Water St., Eau Claire). Shenans’ mighty dance floor features rotating DJs and black lights, all making for a good time – especially the closer and closer you get to bar close. And just up the State Street hill lays O’Leary’s Pub (809 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire), offering live music and a serious (and enormous) dance floor that is sure to get your booty off your chair and shaking. –Serena Wagner
Buffalo Wild Wings (4612 Keystone Crossing, Eau Claire) comes in No. 1 with 80 TVs in the joint, all turned to football when it’s on. Any game you want to watch, you can find here. Milwaukee Burger Co. (2620 E. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire) runs specials during all NFL and Badger games. NFL game specials include $5 boneless wings and cheese curds, a full order of cheese curds with two 16-ounce Leinie’s for $10, and Miller beer for $2, $3, or $4 (16, 22, or 34 ounces, respectively). During Badgers games you can get mugs of Bud Lite and Michelob Golden Light for the same $2, $3, or $4. Dooley’s Pub (422 Water St., Eau Claire) is your place for football swag and Irish snackums; they raffle off hats and jerseys while you drink pints of Guinness and watch the big game on one of the 20 TVs. –Amanda Foxcroft
BEST SPECIALTY DRINK
BEST WINE SELECTION
1st Place: The Grand Illusion’s Delusion 2nd Place: The Livery’s Prickly Pear Margarita 3rd Place: Manny’s Ultimate Perfect Margarita
1st Place: Mona Lisa’s Restaurant 2nd Place: From the Vine Wine Room 3rd Place: River Bend Vineyard & Winery
The Grand Illusion’s (418 Water St., Eau Claire) long-standing 21st-birthday staple, the Delusion, is a 14-ounce plastic cup filled with a secret recipe. The G.I.’s specialty is sweeter than a Long Island Iced Tea and, if heavily consumed, delivers on its implied promise to anyone looking to get deluded. Downtown hotspot The Livery (316 Wisconsin St., Eau Claire) serves up its unique margarita with tequila, prickly pear cactus juice, triple sec, and sour. Choose from strawberry, yuzu, pineapple, raspberry, or mango. Manny’s Cocina (4207 Oakwood Hills Parkway, Eau Claire) has a huge selection of margaritas available in different sizes, and the Ultimate Perfect margarita isn’t just a tricky name – it’s true. Made with Tequila 1800 Reposado, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and lime juice on the rocks, this sweet an delectable treat’s at once classic and fancy. –Amanda Foxcroft
If you’re looking to imbibe and let your taste buds travel the globe, take a good read through the wine list at Mona Lisa’s Restaurant (328 Water St., Eau Claire). This book of options for wines by the glass and bottle has flavor, geographical, and body descriptions to help you find the right sip to savor. At From the Vine Wine Room (2526 Golf Road, Eau Claire), wines are well-charted on the menu to easily make a choice based on your mood and favorite flavors. Enjoy your wine with complimentary cheese and crackers and indulge in Take It Home Tuesdays, when you can get a 20 percent discount on all bottles to-go. And even if you haven’t been there, you will recognize the minimalist graphic labels from River Bend Vineyard & Winery (10439 33rd Ave, Chippewa Falls). River Bend’s creations are ever-present at local events and often share the names of our favorite essences in the Valley, like Moonlight and Sunset. –Laura Lash
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BEST COMMUNITY ADVOCATE 1st Place: Volume One 2nd Place: Zach Halmstad 3rd Place: Justin Vernon Volume One took first place in this category, and no, the ballot box was not stuffed. Since its inception in 2002, Volume One has been an unabashed advocate for causes and policies that support the arts, expand the economy, and improve the Chippewa Valley’s quality of life. V1 founder Nick Meyer, along with JAMF Software co-founder Zach Halmstad and musician Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver and Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival fame) have combined forces to transform downtown Eau Claire into a true arts and entertainment destination with their support of the Confluence Project, the Lismore Hotel (Halmstad’s Pablo Properties) and the upcoming renovation of the Green Tree Inn (all three). The three thirtysomethings have put their own skin in the game of community development, and that’s outstanding. –Barbara Arnold
BEST COMMUNITY BUSINESS LEADER 1st Place: Zach Halmstad 2nd Place: Mike Buck 3rd Place: Denny Volbrecht Zach Halmstad, co-founder and public face of JAMF Software, won this category by a landslide. Halmstad – a grad of Eau Claire North and UW-Eau Claire – is grateful for the opportunities he was given by the community, and he has given back to it through business ventures (building his fast-growing company’s 70,000-square-foot office downtown, investing in two hotel renovations) and philanthropy (the Confluence Project). Mike Buck, president and CEO of Mega Co-op, which operates grocery and convenience stores across the region, came in second. Two years ago, Buck won the Excellence in Operations Award from the Wisconsin Grocers Association, and he serves on numerous local boards. No. 3 in the balloting was Denny Volbrecht of building-material maker Midwest Manufacturing. –Barbara Arnold
BEST LOCAL IDEA THAT WORKED LAST YEAR 1st Place: Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival 2nd Place: The Lismore 3rd Place: Confluence funds in state budget Another landslide vote: The inaugural Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival won first place with more than three times as many votes as the next contender. The big new fest, curated by hometown hero Justin Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dresser, drew a crowd of 40,000 people to hear dozens of diverse musical acts and revel in one-of-a-kind art on a steamy July weekend. Second place went to the renovation of the former Ramada
Inn. Zach Halmstad’s Pablo Properties is transforming that hotel into The Lismore, which will soon open to provide accommodations, fine dining, and convention space to downtown Eau Claire. Third place went to the inclusion of $15 million in Confluence Project funding in the state budget, which was a cliffhanger to say the least. After being unceremoniously cut from the budget in early May, the money was reinserted after a vigorous effort by supporters. –Barbara Arnold
BEST USE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS LAST YEAR 1st Place: Confluence funds in state budget 2nd Place: Public schools and universities 3rd Place: Police and fire When it comes to spending their hardearned tax dollars, our readers say they are most happy with the $15 million included in the 2015-17 state budget for the performing arts portion of the Confluence Project. Second place went to spending on public schools and universities – the former received a small boost in the state budget, while the latter got a big cut. The budget allocates $6.15 billion annually for K-12 education (that’s about 55 percent of K-12 costs; the rest comes from local property tax payers). Meanwhile, the state budget included just over $1 billion in tax dollars for the UW System, which is divvied up among its 26 campuses and the statewide UW-Extension. (The rest of the UW System’s funding comes from tuition, grants, and program revenue.) Third place on our most-appreciated list are police and fire services, which are generally funded at the local level. The city of Eau Claire’s 2015 budget allocates $27.2 million for public safety, or about 44 percent of the city’s general fund. –Barbara Arnold
BEST VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITY 1st Place: The Community Table 2nd Place: EC County Humane Association 3rd Place: Bob’s House for Dogs There are hundreds of worthy organizations in the Chippewa Valley where those with time, talent, or treasure can volunteer. Our readers voted The Community Table, which nourishes hungry bodies and spirits in Eau Claire, as the number one opportunity. The Community Tables serves one meal each day, 365 days a year, and is a collaboration among local churches, the area food bank, and many concerned individuals, businesses, and civic and social groups. The Eau Claire County Humane Association came in at No. 2; their volunteer opportunities range from hands-on animal care to fundraising. Third is Bob’s House for Dogs, a canine foster care and adoption facility, whose tag line is “From Kennel to Couch–Where Love Has No Age Limit.” Bob’s House matches strays, senior dogs, and special needs dogs with their happily-ever-after homes. –Barbara Arnold
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BIGGEST THING WE SHOULD MAKE HAPPEN SOON 1st Place: Restaurant on the river in Eau Claire 2nd Place: The Confluence Project 3rd Place: Attract higher-paying jobs Your wish is our command! The Huebsch building may be our first opportunity to dine in a restaurant on the river, once a chef and investor step in to lease the to-be-created restaurant space there. The Confluence Project? Well, it’s hummin’ along. The retaining wall has been repaired but the bands haven’t pulled in yet. So we’re in a purgatory, but it’s happening, soon – promise. JAMF is hiring, the new hotels and restaurants will need to be well-staffed, and our eye is on the prize as to how to attract entrepreneurs offering higher-paying jobs in the Chippewa Valley. Stay tuned! –Laura Lash
MOST BIZARRE LOCAL NEWS STORY 1st Place: Valleybrook pastor fiasco 2nd Place: Moose on the loose 3rd Place: Church offers free beer Over the past year, a numbers of news stories in the Valley have been memorable because of their unique, zany, or downright disturbing nature. You may remember hearing about the pastoral scandal at Valleybrook Church, which came to public attention in April. Even after Rev. Doug Lebsack stepped out of the picture after allegations of spiritual abuse and misuse of power, families in the area are still feeling the effects. On a more light-hearted note, the Chippewa Valley had an unusual visitor last November. A wandering moose, thought to have traveled all the way from Minnesota, was spotted hanging out around the Eau Claire/Chippewa
County line. Finally, a new religious institution, Renew Covenant Church, decided to recruit members with an oldfashioned Wisconsin method: offer them free beer! –Mike Seitz
MOST DISAPPOINTING FAILURE IN THE PAST YEAR 1st Place: Wisconsin state government 2nd Place: UW System budget cuts 3rd Place: Packers lose to the Seahawks This past year has been far from dismal, but Wisconsin didn’t get through it without a few failures that got under people’s skin. The Wisconsin state government was voted as our top disappointment this year. Gov. Scott Walker has made some radical policy decisions since taking office, so it’s no surprise that those who disagree with him would find our state’s leaders disappointing. Along with this subject were the major cuts to the UW System budget, which led many university faculty members to take buyouts. Finally, nothing hurts quite like a heartbreaking Packers loss. Last year, the NFC Championship game – which would have taken the Packers to the Super Bowl – ended in a gut-wrenching and upsetting defeat to the Seahawks. –Mike Seitz
MOST MEMORABLE HAPPENING IN THE PAST YEAR 1st Place: Eaux Claires debuts 2nd Place: Badgers make Final Four 3rd Place: Arrest of the former Eau Claire County treasurer and deputy treasurer on embezzlement charges People who don’t usually attend big music festivals bought tickets to Eaux Claires, because, well, it was happening, it was huge, and we all wanted to be a part of it. People who don’t usually watch bas-
ketball were glued to the screen these past two Marches because the Wisconsin Badgers were schooling other universities in the NCAA Final Four. And people who normally show up to work to support a local municipality were (allegedly) caught red-handed embezzling funds from Eau Claire County. Two of our three winners in this category had great ingenuity. Two of these three contenders we’d love to have happen again. –Laura Lash
MOST OVERRATED THING IN OR ABOUT THE VALLEY 1st Place: Bon Iver 2nd Place: Chain restaurants 3rd Place: Confluence Project If you want a good night on the town with these voters, please do not offer to take
them to Applebee’s before the secret Bon Iver show at the new Confluence arts center. It’s hard to say whether people think Bon Iver is overrated in a “Eh, they’re not that great” way or in a “We talk about their greatness far too frequently” way. As for chain restaurants – a close secondplace in the poll – we’ve got a lot of ’em. And maybe they’re overrated because we are ready to bust out with new eateries on the dining scene. That new Hardees is comin’ in on Golf Road, but maybe these voters are looking toward a slew of new eateries in the offing downtown (stay tuned). And the Confluence Project has made headlines for years now, so perhaps the news is overdone and we simply have our eyes on the completion and an end to the neighborly debate about whether or not it should be happening. –Laura Lash
The one in the Chippewa River
When it comes to aquatic obstructions, islands get all the love: Think palm trees, sea breezes, and Hawaiian pizza. Sandbars, on the other hand, are ignored. They are quite literally overlooked – until someone runs into one, prompting derisive criticism (at best) or retributive dredging (at worst). Rarely does a sandbar do anything noteworthy, let alone heroic. That all changed Labor Day, when high water caused a barge holding a construction crane to come loose from its moorings at the Confluence Project site along the Eau Claire River in downtown Eau Claire. Free from its constraints, the barge drifted downstream to the Chippewa River, then toward the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge, where a costly, cataclysmic crash seemed imminent. It was then that the valiant but anonymous sandbar stood its watery ground and stopped the runaway barge, likely sacrificing some of its own sand in the process. As police kept pedestrians off the bridge, contractors tugged the barge back to shore, where it soon returned to work. Sandbar, for your bravery in the face of oncoming riverine construction equipment, we salute you! –Tom Giffey Editor’s note: Second place in this one-of-a-kind category goes to the SandBar & Grill on Lake Wissota, which we hear has a pretty good fish fry.
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MOST UNDERRATED THING IN OR ABOUT THE VALLEY 1st Place: How a city this size keeps a small-town vibe 2nd Place: Parks 3rd Place: Our reasonable cost of living Let’s take a moment to pause and soak up the quality of life we experience being residents of the Chippewa Valley. Eau Claire is a city, sure, but a small one that keeps a small-town vibe. And we have our common interests that help to shrink our population of 67,000 into neat pockets of community. Considering we’ve got more than 1,000 acres of parks and a reasonable cost of living plus ample opportunities for university and family-style fun, we are living robust Midwestern lives here in the Valley. –Laura Lash
POLL CATEGORY WE SHOULD ADD NEXT YEAR 1st Place: Best Teacher/Professor 2nd Place: Biggest Rip-Off 3rd Place: Best Non-Profit Not only do we leave the voting up to our readers, but for the last two years we’ve let you guys pick the categories, too! Last year, you told us you wanted the categories Best Volunteering Opportunity, Worst Pothole, and Best Free Entertainment Option added to our poll. Because your wish is our command, you’ll find responses to those categories on these pages. For next year, voters have asked that we add a category for Best High School Teacher/College Professor – although that sounds like two categories, come to think of it. Nearly as many of you apparently cast your skepti-
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cal eyes about and requested that we add Biggest Rip-Off to the poll. Finally, with a nod toward the profusion of helping-hand agencies in our midst, you want us to quiz the public on the Best Non-Profit. Tune in next year for the results! –Tom Giffey
THINGS THE CHIPPEWA VALLEY IS BAD AT 1st Place: Attracting good-paying jobs 2nd Place: Snow removal 3rd Place: Using a roundabout As much as we may love it, the Chippewa Valley can’t claim to be perfect, and these are the top three flaws our readers pinpointed. The biggest struggle is the lack of good-paying jobs, which seem to be harder and harder to find these days. And many of us think that snow removal – especially on our community’s side streets – is simply awful. Roundabouts … well, nobody knows how to properly navigate those things. Are you supposed to have your blinker on, or what? –Mike Seitz
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THINGS THE CHIPPEWA VALLEY IS GOOD AT 1st Place: Music Festivals 2nd Place: Farmers Markets 3rd Place: Drinking The Chippewa Valley has a robust and growing music scene, and is now the home of two major new music festivals: Blue Ox and Eaux Claires. Along with Country Fest, Country Jam, and Rock Fest, these festivals bring in thousands and thousands of people every year, providing high-caliber entertainment and a significant booster to the local economy. In addition, we have wonderful farmers markets all over the Valley, including those in Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, and Menomonie. Now, a brand-new market – the Centennial Campus Market – is bringing farm-grown produce to the UW-Eau Claire campus. And finally, whether you like a quiet, laid-back atmosphere or something more lively, you can always find the right place to sit down and have a drink. It’s Wisconsin, after all. –Mike Seitz
WORST USE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS 1st Place: Scott Walker 2nd Place: Confluence Project 3rd Place: Brick pavers for crosswalks Many of you would like a refund on the salary of the not-recalled Gov. Scott Walker. Sorry: Although he’s no longer a presidential candidate, he’ll be governor until at
least 2019. The Confluence Project is both highly favored and bitterly disliked in many of our poll categories. When voters say the Confluence is a bad use of taxpayer dollars, does it mean they’re against the project or simply that they don’t think we should use taxpayer money on it? That’s further discussion at your next dinner party. Finally, many of our voters are still disappointed about the brick pavers used in crosswalks in the downtown and Phoenix Park areas. They see these aesthetic touches as a waste of tax dollars. –Laura Lash
YOUR FAVORITE LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIAL 1st Place: Kathleen Vinehout 2nd Place: Catherine Emmanuelle 3rd Place: Dana Wachs For the third consecutive year, dairy farmer, former college professor, and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, wins this category for the way she is able to honor the hard work of our local citizens and advocate for them in Madison. A local face and stellar updater of her Facebook page is Eau Claire City Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle, our grassroots friend and neighbor whose thorough explanations of her voting decisions make her a clear winner in this category. And rounding out the winners is state Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, who gives us the straight story from Madison on the open records law, health care, incarceration, and other heavy topics that need to be in the forefront of our citizen knowledge. –Laura Lash
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A portion of Volume One's 2015 Best of the Chippewa Valley 2015 reader poll results issue.