From the 15th to the 18th, I was in La Crosse for the NCUR conference. While there I enjoyed dinners at three local restaurants, two of them fully reimbursed (I lost the receipt for one of them).
The first place we ate was Piggy's. This probably qualifies as "fine dining" in La Crosse, as evidenced by the nice decor, "sophisticated" menu, and business casual dress observed throughout the dining hall. I started off with the Tomato Bisque (incl. with entree), which was excellent with the complementary table bread.
For the entree I ordered "Smoked salmon in tequila - lime chipotle sauce" (about $17). The salmon was rather bland and did not taste particularly smoked, even though the waitress explained to us at the beginning of the meal that Piggy's was traditionally a smoke house. The accompanying sauce was quite good - certainly a "different" flavor, but it complemented the bland salmon well, though I wish there was more of it. The entree was very nicely presented along with some vegetables and a tiny dollop of mashed potatoes. Perhaps this place is trying to copy the pretentiousness of "big city" / "nouvelle cuisine" restaurants with their emphasis on presentation, sometimes with minimalist portions.
The main course was acceptably good, but the dessert was excellent. I picked the creme brulee cheesecake (about $5). Imagine a cross between cheesecake and creme brulee together, and that's about what I got. It was rich, sweet, and delicious - definitely a winner.
The second evening, after a riverboat cruise which featured (shriek) Domino's pizza, three of us decided to head downtown to find somewhere to eat. We ran across an inviting locale called "Fayze's", and put our names down for a thirty-minute wait. I'm guessing it was extra-busy due to the conference.
When we finally got seated, we ordered - and then "enjoyed" a wait that seemed to last an hour. My "cajun burger" was not anything special. The "cajun sauce" all seemed to be concentrated on one side of the patty, which the rest was rather bland by comparison. For the rice I ordered as a side, I seemed to get wild rice with very little seasoning. The total of my burger was a little under $9. The soft drink I ordered did not appear on the receipt; I assumed it was comped for the very long wait.
The third night our entire group (the seven of us) went to Yoko's House, a Japanese restaurant also in downtown. Compared to our local Zen House, the menu was quite limited - sushi (admittedly a good variety), hibachi, teppenyaki, gyoza, miso, and edamame were about all there was. We ordered edamame and gyoza for appetizers, and then moved on to the sushi, ordering as a group a good variety of rolls. The ones I remember were the Spicy Tuna Roll, California Roll, Boston Roll, Philadelphia Roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll, and Spicy Tuna temaki (for me). The quality was good, but the sushi seemed to be served a little warmer than I'm used to.
Almost all of the rolls were served in the somewhat inauthentic "inside-out" fashion: the nori was surrounded by an additional wall of rice.
My enjoyment was reduced by the fact that I got nervous and could barely use my chopsticks when all others at the table were using them, undermining my "chow cred". Also, I accidentally poured the low-sodium soy sauce into my little saucer. Our advisor was showing those in the group with no sushi experience to put your wasabi into the little saucer, and then the soy sauce; in the past, I've almost always eaten sushi in a take-out box, and I usually keep the two completely separate, preferring to choose the proportion of both for each piece.
Many of the rolls had a dollop of a spicy orangish sauce over the center (this is how they were served), which I have seen before but not actually on the sushi. As for the temaki, it was my first time trying this giant pyramid-shaped concoctions; I will say it was quite good.
Vegetable rolls were cheap at $3.95; most standard maki were between $5.95 and $6.95, while the specialty rolls were priced at about $11 and up.
I usually don't pay as much attention to the decor or interior of the restaurants I visit, but for some reason I really liked the design of Yoko's. We sat up in something of a balcony above the lower level, where every so often there would be an entertaining flame show from the teppanyaki or whatever that table-side preparation technique is called.
Afterwards, we ate at a VERY busy ice cream parlor, where I had a sundae that was again good, but I don't remember it as particularly fabulous.
Piggy's Restaurant & Blues
501 Front St S, La Crosse, WI 54601
135 4th St S, La Crosse, WI 54601
200 Main St Ste 100, La Crosse, WI 54601
Pearl Ice Cream Parlor & Confectionery
207 Pearl St, La Crosse, WI 54601