Keeping It Classic: Chick-A-Dee’s has new owners dedicated to its throwback vibe

Lauren Fisher, photos by Andrea Paulseth

A DEDICATED CREW.  From left to right: New owners Brent and Dawn Knutson, utility man Kevin Kollwitz, server Marie Gunderson, and cook Mike Peterson.
A DEDICATED CREW. From left to right: New owners Brent and Dawn Knutson, utility man Kevin Kollwitz, server Marie Gunderson, and cook Mike Peterson.

Brent and Dawn Knutson have been dining at Chick-A-Dee’s, the little breakfast and lunch joint at 1928 Third St. in Eau Claire, for their entire marriage. As a lifelong Eau Claire resident, Brent’s been devouring classic breakfast slams from the restaurant since childhood. In May, the duo went from diners to proprietors; they bought Chick-A-Dee’s from the previous owner and set about their grand plan: to change almost absolutely nothing.

“I want it to be ‘the place’ again. You don’t see them little diners anymore. You come down here, you’re getting something that’s handmade for you.”– Brent Knutson, new co-owner of Chick-A-Dee’s

“They made that clear right from the start, that they were going to keep everything the same,” Marie Gunderson, who has waited tables at Chick-A-Dee’s for 10 years, said. She was exhausted from a busy shift the Tuesday after Memorial Day, but she loves working at a mom-and-pop establishment. When regular diners found out there would be a change of ownership, she said, they were worried there would be changes. The Knutsons, however, know a good thing when they see it.

Brent and Dawn walk a fine line to maintain Chick-A-Dee’s classic family restaurant vibe. To that end, the menu, they said, will go unchanged. Almost everything on the extensive-but-classic menu is less than $10, from simple slams to steak and egg breakfasts. The hash browns are house-made from scratch; Kevin Kollwitz, the “dishwasher slash utility slash I-can-do-everything guy,” by Brent’s definition, peels more than 800 pounds of potatoes every week to keep up with customer demand.

“My old faithful is the ham cheese omelet and hash browns, with toast, glass of orange juice with that,” Kollwitz said. “If you eat all of that, you’re good to drink beer for a whole day.” Brent reckons the grease in Chick-A-Dee’s breakfast food is what keeps college students coming back to nurse their hangovers.

The booth seating is another old standard that can’t be changed, Dawn said. However, there are minor updates to make. The exterior could use a fresh coat of paint – though the same teal-and-white as before. Brent spent a recent weekend cleaning and brightening up the entryway. They are trying to decide whether to paint the interior a new color, or the same shade of butter-yellow it’s been for decades.

On a typical weekend during the school year, every booth is full with college students, parents, grandparents, and youngsters. “They like the whole old-school dive kind of feel to it,” Brent said. “Families have just kept going through the years, and then their kids come and bring their kids.”

During the week, the crowd skews older. Regulars grab their favorite spot and sip on coffee while they read the paper or chat with their neighbor. It’s a slower, more social dining experience than your average in-and-out meal. Brent often pops out to the floor to chat with guests.

“I want it to be ‘the place’ again,” Brent said. “You don’t see them little diners anymore.” He bemoaned the use of frozen and reheated food at some chain restaurants; that’s not what he and Dawn are about. “You come down here, you’re getting something that’s handmade for you.”

Chick-A-Dee’s is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week: Monday-Thursday 6am-2pm, Fridays 6am-8pm, and Saturday-Sunday 7am-2pm.

Press and hold the up/down arrows to scroll.