LA CROSSE, Wisc. (WLAX) — Don’t want to cook tonight? No problem! The La Crosse area is full of small, locally-owned restaurants to try.

According to Yelp, these 10 restaurants are rated the highest in the county.

10. La Crosse Distilling Co.

La Crosse Distilling Co. says it sources its water locally from the region’s glacial aquifers to produce “handcrafted field-to-glass spirits.”

Not only does the restaurant offer its own custom selection of vodka, gin and whiskey, but the food is also made with organic ingredients using a “Farmer Forward” approach. The menu includes several vegan options.

La Crosse Distilling Co. is located on Vine Street in La Crosse and provides outdoor seating and catering options.

9. Il Luigi Italian Cuisine

Il Luigi Italian Restaurant in Onalaska may only have 15 reviews, but they all agree it deserves five stars.

According to the restaurant’s website, owner and head chef Luis Jara was born in Cuenca, Ecuador. He began his culinary career in New York in the 1980s. After more than 20 years of Italian cuisine experience, he opened his first restaurant in 2016 in Rushford Minnesota. 

Il Luigi Italian Cuisine offers a variety of authentic, homemade Italian dishes such as Agnolotti Del Magnifico and Lasagna Alla Bolognese. In addition to individual meals, Il Luigi’s menu also includes family-sized offerings with enough food to feed five to six people. Dine-in, carry-out and delivery are available.

8. Piggy’s Restaurant

Piggy’s Restaurant and Lounge located in the old Pioneer Foundry Building in La Crosse originally opened as a rib shack in the 1980s. Since then, it has evolved to feature hand-cut steaks, seafood, pastas and sandwiches, according to Yelp.

The restaurant still features its signature smoked meats with house-made barbecue sauces.

Diners can choose to eat at the restaurant or get their food to go. Outdoor seating is also available.

7. Crossroads Bar and Grill

Crossroads Bar and Grill in Onalaska is the newest on the list, opening in 2021, but it is already making a name for itself by providing what it calls a “one-of-a-kind culinary establishment with a menu inspired by the idea of simple and honest cooking.”

The menu is filled with traditional American cuisine including a large selection of specialty burgers and sandwiches.

Dine-in and carry-out are available. Orders can also be placed online.

6. Restore Public House

Restore Public House, is a traditional American restaurant with a 4.5-star rating. Located on State Street in La Crosse, the restaurant describes itself as “not a hipster cafe, not quite fine dining” offering “comfort classics with a modern twist.”

Dishes are made with local and seasonal ingredients, keeping the menu small and constantly fresh. Current offerings include pork belly burnt ends, halibut, sablefish and house-made pasta.

Take-out orders and reservations are both accepted online.

5. Fathead Steve’s

Fathead Steve’s is another five-star establishment providing a dine-in bar and grill on Jay Street in La Crosse as well as a food truck and catering options.

The hardest part might be choosing between sandwiches such as the Cubano, wraps like the chorizo burrito or quesadillas like bacon or prime rib Philly.

The Fathead Steve’s food truck offers a similar yet smaller menu.

4. Buzzard Billy’s

La Crosse’s Buzzard Billy’s Flying Carp Café, was the second of four locations to open. It is known for catering to tourists, business travelers and convention-goers.

The restaurant boasts an “authentic New Orleans” cuisine, and popular dishes include the Cajun Combo, jambalaya, blackened catfish and armadillo eggs.

After filling up on food from what one Yelper described as a “gargantuan menu,” head to the second floor to enjoy a martini or single Scotch from The Star Lite Lounge, a 1950s-style cocktail lounge.

3. Red Pines Bar and Grill

Red Pines Bar and Grill, located on the shores of Lake Onalaska, offers the best of life on the lake. Voted La Crosse County’s best fish fry and rural bar, popular dishes include hand-prepared walleye, lake perch and in-house smoked catfish.

If you don’t like fish, try the ribs, half-pound burgers or brisket. Red Pines also offers homemade pizzas, soups, sides and more.

The heated patio area is open year-round and hosts live music on Saturday afternoons during the summer months.

2. Ciatti’s Italian Grill

Ciatti’s Italian Grill in Onalaska is locally owned and operated by Joel Barclay. He describes his establishment as “casual but upscale.”

In addition to freshly prepared Italian entrees, Ciatti’s also offers steak and seafood. And like any good Italian restaurant, the menu includes an extensive wine selection.

Ciatti’s is often recognized as a top restaurant in the area by both Yelp and Trip Advisor. It was also named Best Italian in “Best of La Crosse County” in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

1. River Rats Bar and Grill

The number one spot belongs to River Rats Bar and Grill, a traditional American burger joint and cocktail bar. Not just a clever name, River Rats overlooks the French Slough in La Crosse.

Popular dishes include Captain Jack’s Burger and the Backwaters Burger. Wings, wraps and sandwiches are also available. Try one of the hand-dipped appetizers such as the cheese curds, fried pickles or slough (onion) rings.

Outdoor dining is available, and the patio can also be rented out for special occasions.