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May 18, 2010 01:35 PM

Eating in Viroqua, WI?

Any suggestions? I'll be staying in Viroqua one night and Soldier's Grove the other. I've read some good things about Viroqua's Public Market -- what are the best places to eat? We're interested in all types of food (but the place must have some veggie/pesce options).

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  1. Post-trip, in case anyone's wondering. Viroqua doesn't have a lot but there is a vibrant locavore community, and they have a wonderful farmer's market with beautiful and surprisingly cheap (compared to the urban prices I have to pay) produce. For food though we ate at the Co-op once -- it's truly one of the best co-ops I've seen, and I brake for co-ops. We also ate at a place called the Driftless Cafe, and the pizza was amazing and so were the salads. All local -- meat, veggies, cheese, beer. Wine is not so local but that's a blessing. Sadly though there's a rumor that the Driftless Cafe is planning to close, so if you can get there before they do, I recommend it highly.

    Driftless Cafe
    118 W Court St, Viroqua, WI 54665

    1 Reply
    1. re: BeckyAndTheBeanstock

      Well, let's start with the good news: The Driftless Cafe is in no danger of closing. I spoke last night at some length with the owner and after five years, the restaurant is going strong, even if the ownership has changed in the last year (one of the original partners left). At 7:00 pm on a Saturday night, the place was packed with a broad range of happy customers - families with small children were strong in numbers as were the 65 and better gang. Most ordered the pizzas - as did we. Our pick was a Greek pizza on a cracker crust ($20 for a large). It was good, too light on the local organic feta to be great, but well-seasoned with a crisp, but not dry, crust. Many opted for the focaccio crust - this takes about 10 minutes more, so we made our decision on time. The great majority of ingredients are local, with all of the pleasures and perils thereto pertaining (think: regular supply). DH liked the local IPAs (there were two on offer) and also had a beautifully composed fresh salad, with a decent balsamic dressing. The sourdough whole-wheat bread was very fresh and served cut into quarters - although with very little butter. We ended up giving ours to an adjoining table with three children under the age of four who were nearing meltdown. The owner assured us that he usually serves bread to children without asking, but it appeared to be shift change when we - and the family - arrived. I can't comment on the dessert - we didn't make it that far. Pies looked homemade and some younger patrons were enjoying ice cream and cookies along with a game of chess.

      The vibe is friendly and very local - these two things don't always go together in rural Wisconsin and other patrons greeted us at our booth as they came in (with the exception of the former owner of Hungry Mind in St. Paul - a non-local). As indicated, service was slightly scattered at first, but caught on quickly with three waitstaff and the owner. Definitely worth a visit if you are remotely in the area. Westby and Richland Center seem to be in culinary and artistic decline, but Viroqua is picking up the slack. Visit this iconoclastic, locavore restaurant if you have the chance. Hours, etc. can be found on their website:

      Driftless Cafe
      118 W Court St, Viroqua, WI 54665

    2. Just wanted to throw my new restaurant into the Viroqua locavore mix. We opened Optimo last Summer (of 2010) are are proud to be part of the foodie scene in fabulous Viroqua. I'd also like to give props to the other places mentioned in this thread. I'm a regular @ the Viroqua Food Coop and a big fan of the Driftless Cafe as well... and appreciate what each is doing to further the cause of good food.

      At Optimo, we're about near 100% local, fresh, seasonal cooking, with a superb executive chef and professional servers. Our ingredients are hand delivered by our farmer friends. Come to the kitchen on delivery day and you literally might see our Amish neighbors bantering with the chefs. You get the idea. We try to make everything on the table from scratch... ketchup to apple sauce.

      Our cuisine is eclectic ... American and international classic dishes. Burgers, pizza, steaks, salads, asian noodle bowls, pasta, fresh, local fish, vegan wraps, brunch, awesome desserts, beer and wine. We have a nice selection of vegan and gluten-free options too.

      The ambiance is friendly, warm, welcoming, cozy yet sophisticated.

      Optimo features live, local musicians several nights a week and limited-seat culinary special events. See our website for more info.

      We're eager to have you break bread with us and hope to have you in soon.

      Optimo Farm Market Restaurant & Cafe
      215 South Main St, Viroqua, WI 54665