New Foodie Tour Offers History, Culinary Specialties in Downtown Eau Claire

Tom Giffey

EATING UP HIS WORDS. Participants on a recent Downtown Eau Claire Food and History Tour listened before sampling at The Informalist, 205 S. Barstow St.
EATING UP HIS WORDS. Participants on a recent Downtown Eau Claire Food and History Tour listened before sampling at The Informalist, 205 S. Barstow St.

‘So, where should we eat?”

That perennial question – whether spoken by a couple on a date or a group of friends planning a night on the town – has a new answer in Eau Claire: Let’s eat everywhere.

OK, not exactly everywhere – but at least at six different places in one afternoon, and all without breaking the bank (or getting the granddaddy of all stomachaches). This culinary breakthrough comes courtesy of Chippewa Valley Tours, which promises to get you out of your dining rut and into the fresh air via the brand-new Downtown Eau Claire Food and History Tour. The dozen participants on each weekly tour visit six establishments to sample food and drinks, hear from those who created the dishes, and enjoy a narrated stroll highlighting the culture and history of downtown Eau Claire.

“There’s nothing like it right here – to be able to showcase the food scene and culture of downtown Eau Claire. It’s something visitors and locals are interested in.” – Nick White, one of the founders of Chippewa Valley Tours

The tour, which launched this month, is the brainchild of Eau Claire entrepreneurs Michelle Lien, Amanda Olson, and Nick White. Lien and Olson are sisters, and during their travels they’ve participated in numerous food tours in other cities. When they struck upon the idea of creating a similar experience to showcase Eau Claire’s growing number of unique eateries, they reached out to White, a friend of Amanda’s who previously was director of sales and marketing for a local restaurant.

“There’s nothing like it right here – to be able to showcase the food scene and culture of downtown Eau Claire,” White explained. “It’s something visitors and local are interested in.”

Last December, the business – Three Foodies LLC – won the $5,000 grand prize in the Idea Challenge, an annual contest for local entrepreneurs sponsored by the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp.

After several test runs, the tour officially opened to the public on Saturday, May 5. A few days earlier, Chippewa Valley Tours celebrated a ribbon cutting with local dignitaries and friends.

Linda John, executive director of Visit Eau Claire, praised the tour for providing an experience that Eau Clairites and visitors alike will enjoy. “We always say if the locals like it, that’s the best thing, because they’re going to tell their friends and family,” she said.

HAVE A SIP! The Rev, 204 S. Barstow St., a new downtown wine bar, is part of the tour.
HAVE A SIP! The Rev, 204 S. Barstow St., a new downtown wine bar, is part of the tour.

The three-hour tour begins at 1:30pm each Saturday at The Local Store, and then crosses the street to The Lakely, 516 Galloway St., the farm-to-table restaurant inside the Oxbow Hotel. From there the tour makes it way to Northbound Supply Co., 215 N. Barstow St., a coffee shop and men’s outfitter, and to The Informalist, 205 S. Barstow St., the eatery at The Lismore Hotel. Next, the tour makes its way to brand-new wine bar, The Rev, 204 S. Barstow St.; to Houligans, 415 S. Barstow St.; and ends at Ramone’s Ice Cream Parlor, 503 Galloway St. Participants spend 20 to 25 minutes at each location, where they will sample food (or drinks) and learn about the establishment. In between, participants walk through downtown Eau Claire, learning about local history and culture, from the story of the landmark building that houses the Stones Throw to the renaissance that brought about Phoenix Park and its farmers market. In total, the tour covers about 1.2 miles and includes about one full meal’s worth of food.

White said the tours should appeal to everyone from young professionals to retirees, whether they live in the Chippewa Valley or are visiting. The menu won’t always be the same, he said, explaining that during the tour’s test runs some chefs have taken the opportunity to try out new dishes on tour participants. The tour will call attention to the many other businesses in downtown Eau Claire: Each participant will receive a packet of information and coupons from downtown retailers.

While the downtown tour just launched, plans are already afoot for additional tours. First up will be a summertime Tailgate Tour that will include visits to a number of Water Street watering holes followed by an Eau Claire Express baseball game at Carson Park. In the future, Chippewa Valley Tours’ founders may launch a tour of haunted sites as well as a Chippewa Falls restaurant tour.

Wherever it rambles, Chippewa Valley Tours promises to inform brains while it fills bellies.

Chippewa Valley Tours • downtown Eau Claire food and history tour • three-hour tour begins at 1:30pm each Saturday at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St. • $65 per person • (715) 256-7898 • Fine it on Facebook • chippewavalleytours.com

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