For those who are looking to hop in the car, open the sunroof, and go for a Sunday drive this season, buckle up! We're taking you along to the area's most charming small towns with restaurants, coffee shops, and dreamy outdoor spaces that you just can't find in the hustle & bustle of downtown Eau Claire. These are the places where recipes go back decades and love is poured into every slice. It's the places that are a little off the beaten path but are totally worth the adventure. So, hop in! Join us as we share some of the best small town hidden gems near Eau Claire, and get an inside look at the businesses beyond the city!

Slices of award-winning pie served at Norske Nook in Osseo

Norske Nook | Osseo, WI

We're getting right to the sweet treats! The famous Norske Nook Restaurant and Cafe may be a hidden gem to the average visitor, but Norske Nook's biggest fans beg to differ. The award-winning, seasonal, homemade pies at Norske Nook is one of Osseo's most popular items, and once you get a taste of their specialty pies, you'll understand why visitors keep coming back for more! The restaurant serves home-style, Norwegian foods that "taste like Grandma's," and these comfort foods fill the soul no matter what season. Experience this charming spot in the small town of Osseo, WI, just a 30 minute drive from Eau Claire!

Vino Cappuccino | Elk Mound, WI

Vino Cappuccino is an artisan bistro where you can experience Western Wisconsin food, wine, coffee, and art. This stunning property is located in Elk Mound, WI, right off of Highway 29, Highway 12, and I-94. Here, you'll be greeted by a grand farmhouse with beautiful landscaping, a friendly staff, and welcoming atmosphere. Fill up on wood-fired pizzas, paninis, soups, salads, and desserts, and take in art, music, and history in the Chippewa Valley. Vino Cappuccino is open seasonally with mostly outdoor seating from May through September.

Chicken wings served at River Inn in Town of Wheaton

River Inn Bar & Grill | Town of Wheaton, WI

You won't find chicken wings any bigger than the ones at River Inn Bar & Grill in the Town of Wheaton! This bar may be small, but the wings are JUMBO! Literally. On Monday - Friday, get all-you-can-eat jumbo chicken wings with various dipping sauces, and many locals would claim that these are the best wings in the area. If your mouth is watering for these wings, check out our blog, Critically Eau-Claimed Eats, where we highlight iconic foods in the Eau Claire area, and see the Instagram Reel where we break down the River Inn experience!

The Nostalgic Bean | Altoona, WI

Okay, back to the sweet treats... The Nostalgic Bean is a French-inspired bakery in Altoona, WI, serving fresh, made-daily pastries, cookies, quiche, macarons, tarts, and many more desserts. The shop also brews up fresh coffee drinks that reflect the personalities of the baristas and that fit the seasons & holidays throughout the year. This hidden gem is located located next to other notable businesses in Altoona including Rump's Butcher Shoppe, Golden Spike Bar & Grill, as well as ColorBlock murals in Altoona. Grab a coffee and treat at this adorable little shop in Altoona, and check out more ways to experience Altoona on a day trip!

A photo inside Scatterbrain Cafe

Scatterbrain Cafe | Downsville, WI

Another historic, artsy little cafe that serves up incredible brunch and funky coffee drinks is Scatterbrain Cafe in Downsville, WI. You can add this breakfast spot to your day trip itinerary to Menomonie, WI, and fill up on delicious waffles, omelettes, bowls, sandwiches, smoothies, and baked goods. Scatterbrain is located right along the Red Cedar State Trail for the perfect bike & brunch adventure. Experience the various coffee bean flavors, nutritious meals, and cozy vibes at this small town hidden gem in Downsville!

Panther Drive-In | Durand, WI

This old-school, drive-in style ice cream parlor is worth a summer day trip to Durand, WI. The Panther Drive-In can't be missed as it's purple and gold exterior, representing the Durand Panthers, sits right at the intersection of Highway 85 and Highway 10. Here, you'll find various ice cream desserts including flavored twist cones, cyclones with various candies, snow cones, milkshakes, ice cream cookie sandwiches, and more. You can also order a variety of classic drive-in foods including burgers, corndogs, cheese curds, and many more appetizers. The Panther Drive-In is open from early April through September and is the perfect place to end the day on the Chippewa River or Chippewa River State Trail!

Pizza farm at Farm to Fork at Dancing Yarrow

Farm to Fork at Dancing Yarrow | Mondovi, WI

Home to wood-fired pizza in the rolling hills of Buffalo County, Dancing Yarrow is a rustic event space that hosts live music and handmade pizza throughout the summer. Take a 30 minute drive to the country side of Mondovi, WI on Thursday and Saturday evenings, and pull into this private oasis for a truly hidden gem! The pizza is delicious, the beer is cold, and the hospitality is incomparable to anywhere else. Farm to Fork Pizza Nights make everyone feel welcome and at home on the farm with their lawn seating arrangements and live music performers. 

Bemis Bluff Winery | Eleva, WI

Bemis Bluff is a family-run winery in Eleva, WI, about 20 minutes south of Eau Claire. This winery is located amongst the hills in Eleva with a scenic pond, as well as a next-door blueberry patch and apple orchard. Sip on seasonal, sweet, or dry wines at the winery with flights, by the glass, or by the bottle, and live music and food trucks on site. Wine tastings are available on Friday-Sunday, blueberries are in season to pick in late July, and apples make their appearance in September! Take a drive to Eleva to indulge in tasty wine and the beautiful countryside of the Chippewa Valley.

A photo of donuts and baked goods on a table at August Bakery

Augusta Bakery | Augusta, WI

If you're taking a day trip to Augusta, be sure to stop at the Augusta Bakery for a quick breakfast treat first! This bakery and coffee shop prepares fresh baked breads, rolls, donuts, pastries, and cakes for every occasion. Get a taste of impressive, decorative desserts for every holiday, and find traditional, long-time-favorite recipes for the holiday season. These sweet treats will be the perfect way to start a day trip to Augusta!

Chicken Chaser's Bar & Grill | Fall Creek, WI

Of course, a small town bar with a classic, American menu had to make the list! Head over to Chicken Chaser's in Fall Creek for widely-loved chicken, fish, steaks, appetizers, and drinks. The chicken menu includes a half chicken, quarter chicken, grilled chicken breast, chicken wings, and chicken strips, but the regular customers love the legendary ribs and potato salad that's been served for over 40 years. Chicken Chaser's also offers burgers, sandwiches, salads, shrimp, and much more!

Grab a Glass Along the Way