Local Low-Key Lunch Spots
A curated list of local restaurants near EPIC’s new building, for when you’re ready for your next meal.
Lunchtime is like a pause button on the middle of the day—you stop what you’re doing and take an energy break. It’s easy to fall back on your usual go-to spot for a quick fix, but the same food every day gets boring. Plus, choosing local over chain restaurants is better for our community. As our office expanded into a second building near West Bend’s downtown area, I took on the challenge to curate a list of off-the-grid, low-key lunch spots beyond the ordinary. Here are my top three local favorites for this fall.
Idle Hour Cafe
Speaking of slowing down, the Idle Hour Cafe will take you back in time to the early 1900s. Built in 1890 as a stationery shop, you walk in to find a half-done puzzle waiting for you to search out the next piece that fits. Each table is decorated with different tablecloths, cups, plates, silverware and chairs. You’ll see the original tin ceiling and hardwood floors, and a skylight in the back room. The patio is open in the summertime. The cafe serves locally sourced soups, sandwiches and drinks from Wisconsin companies. All of the beef, pork, chicken and turkey are roasted in-house, and the soups are made from scratch. The bread is sourced from a local breadsmith, and the cheeses come directly from the cheesemakers. All of their drinks are proudly Wisconsin-made, too, with coffee and Rishi tea from Milwaukee, and beer and wines from local breweries and wineries. This is a local version of your Panera fix that is cute, cozy and just a casual walk a few blocks down 6th Avenue. They accept cash or check only. Check out their website to learn more.
La Mexicana Grocery Store
Try swapping out Qdoba with La Mexicana Grocery Store. Located a little bit north of Highway 33 on North Main Street, you’ll find the restaurant tucked away in the back of a simple grocery store. They have all of your supermarket needs, from tortillas to salsa and fresh vegetables like garlic, peppers and onions. Walk to the back of the store and you’ll see the tables and a little counter. The menu includes a variety of traditional Mexican dishes like chimichangas, enchiladas, burritos, tacos and more, with your choice of 13 meat options from barbacoa to pork to homemade chorizo. They were out of a few meat options when I was there, but the chorizo was in stock to make a nice burrito, which I ordered. In talking with the server and the chef, I found out that their grandpa made the sausage from scratch! My coworker ordered the chicken quesadillas. I asked for a bottle of Coke, which I grabbed from the drink case, not realizing it didn’t have a twist-off cap. They have old, wooden bottle openers built into the wall—which I noticed after I asked our server for help—but he was an authentic gentleman about it, making us smile and laugh in a way that made us feel like we were old neighbors. His kind service was refreshing. About 10 minutes later, our food came out in little red baskets, served with salsa from a squirt bottle. We were in Heaven! This was by far the best burrito I’ve ever eaten. The spices from the chorizo were so flavorful, I didn’t need the salsa, but it was a good addition anyway. You pay at the counter on the way out (they do take credit/debit cards). I asked if they accept tips, and the young guy said, “The greatest tip is seeing you walk away with a smile.” My coworker and I replied that he would see us coming back smiling for more! Learn more about their menu selection on Facebook.
New to the block, The Hub is a local coffee shop run by volunteers from the Volunteer Center of Washington County. Located on the roundabout at 303 Water Street, The Hub shares a building with the Gallery of Wisconsin Art. It is truly a hub, connecting the community with local nonprofits through coffee. Partnering with local roaster Stone Creek Coffee, The Hub serves Stone Creek’s fair trade coffee and locally made bakery. Aside from the sweet treats, The Hub offers two new soups daily from the Wisconsin Soup Company, served with a side of bread (gluten-free options available). Their signature drinks are made with fresh Sassy Cow milk from Engelhardt Dairy. They also serve a wide array of non-coffee beverages including smoothies, fresh juices, kombucha and a variety of Rishi Teas. Their honey comes from Thill’s Honey Garden. Be sure to grab a punch card so your tenth drink is free. Not only does your weekly caffeine fix support the Volunteer Center, but the tip jar beneficiary is changed weekly to feature and benefit a different nonprofit. Since opening in February 2018, over $20,000 has been donated to local nonprofits, and their volunteer baristas have logged over 5,500 volunteer hours. Start the day feeling good, knowing you’re supporting the community at The Hub. EPIC is a proud supporter of The Hub, having helped design the cafe space and contributing copywriting, design and strategy for their marketing and merchandise materials. Learn more about their menu and volunteer opportunities at socialgoodbrews.org.