Opening Up Food+Drink Expansion

‘This Is Not a Restaurant.’ Live Great Food Team Opens WILD: A Feral Kitchen

farm-to-table favorite now has a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Eau Claire

McKenna Scherer, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

CAN'T BE TAMED. The Live Great Food team has embarked on a new chapter, opening a kitchen in Banbury Place.
CAN'T BE TAMED. The Live Great Food team has embarked on a new chapter, opening a kitchen in Banbury Place.

About a month ago, at the end of April, I was doing what most would expect from any other 20-something-year-old: I was scrolling voraciously through feeds across a handful of social media apps. It’s definitely a tool for this job, connecting me to locals and businesses and groups in the area that I likely wouldn’t run across out in the world. But it’s also an indulgent thing, and as a self-described local foodie, I’m always looking for the next hot dish, drink, or other delicious thing on the scene.

My right thumb ceases to tire – I’ve had about a decade of scrolling practice, coming into my teen years during the iPhone era – but I halted seeing a multi-paragraph Facebook post with an image attached to it reading, “WILD: A feral kitchen by LiveGreatFood.”

A feral kitchen? What the hell does that mean? But Live Great Food posted it, so I read it. (Thanks to its grub, the wildly popular local food truck is known to reel in a consistent crowd no matter where it parks in town). “Hey There, All You Wild Things! Please allow us to address the meaning behind a ‘Feral Kitchen…’ ” it began. A few paragraphs later, I learned that the Live Great Food team was opening up a kitchen space – an announcement made somewhat prematurely. They apologized and said they were awaiting official approval from “The Man” to open.

Finally on Wednesday, May 12, systems were a go. WILD: A feral kitchen, opened up shop on the second floor of Banbury Place in Suite 210. It wasn’t until days later that the Live Great Food social medias posted any menu or food sneak peeks, but when they did, it was almost offensive – offensively mouthwatering. Something called the “Spring Goddess” topped the menu followed by Live Great Food’s staple cheese curds and more. Color me intrigued.

Tempura Cheese Curds.
Tempura Cheese Curds.

“Selfishly, we wanted a space for flexibility and to bolster what we do on the truck,” owner and chef Tony Chavez said during my visit to WILD. Live Great Food caters weddings and other events, though most customer encounters happen when its yellow food truck is parked at the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market. As one can imagine, space is limited in the truck both for ingredients and kitchen gear, let alone people.

The team is tight: Joshua Dreysser, Tyler Thelen, and Chavez, plus Chavez's kiddos frequently taking orders at the truck's register. Their spot in Banbury Place is significantly larger than the truck, allowing for more physical room for the team, customers, and delicious creations. But it’s not a restaurant.

“We did not want to open a restaurant. This is not a restaurant,” Chavez said, adamantly. “… There are no waiters, no hosts. It’s very much a grab-and-go, (with) space you can sit down to eat.”

A restaurant, no? I thought. I kept listening – Chavez was explaining his background. Having worked in numerous kitchens during his career, experience has taught him that a traditional kitchen atmosphere is exactly what he doesn’t want.

“(In standard restaurant kitchens), what breeds success is consistency. … There is no question: There is one singular way to do things,” he said. “Here, where we’re working with seasonal food, there’s no room for that. You’re guided by the fresh, quality items you can get from your farmer or at the market.”

Live Great's take on Eggs Benedict. Served with Wheatfield Organics asparagus.
Live Great's take on Eggs Benedict, served with Wheatfield Organics asparagus.
Sourdough Pancakes.
Sourdough Pancakes.

Live Great Food focuses on farm-to-table, from-scratch dishes. With the food truck, they’re able to bring some seriously well-crafted grub to the streets, stuff that you almost can’t believe is being made from a literal truck (except for the fact it’s in your mouth and all over your hands because you’re shoving it into your face, skipping the fork entirely – or maybe that’s just me?).

WILD follows suit: farm-to-table, from-scratch cuisine, but with all the flexibility that just can’t logistically happen in the truck. It’s a little bit different and offers a little bit more.

Now let's get to the name. What’s a “feral kitchen”?

“I think there’s a gap between what people think of as a ‘wild’ diet, and what we’re given at grocery stores. That gap in the middle is ginormous and we want to introduce those wild ideas in a way people are willing to receive them,” Chavez said. “The menu (will always be) different. Part of that untamed part of ‘feral kitchen’ is the flexibility. ... We have a lot of different ideas, different concepts, and it can get wild sometimes. I want to take those chances.”

That approach likely would not work for many other eateries or restaurants – not that I’m calling WILD a restaurant, of course – but there is a unique understanding between Live Great Food and its customers: Things on the menu might give you pause, but nine times out of 10, they’re going to be everything you didn’t know you wanted.

Live Great Food has also become known for vegan and gluten-friendly options, though that wasn’t an intentional move, Chavez said. In playing with different recipes and pushing to see what could be done to dress up an ingredient or dish, their food ends up frequently falling into those categories. But to be clear, they are not a vegan or gluten-free restaurant kitchen. It’s just great food.

Carrot Coconut Curry pictured at center.
Carrot Coconut Curry pictured at center.
Help-yourself drink and utensils station.
Help-yourself drink and utensils station.

I had the pleasure of trying out several things on the menu the day I stopped in: Tempura Cheese Curds, Carrot Coconut Curry Soup (dreamt up by Thelen), the Dyro (like a gyro but with venison and other goodies), Sourdough Pancakes (courtesy of Dreysser’s own sourdough starter), and their twist on Eggs Benedict, which included sourdough toast, chèvre, and asparagus on the side. I recommend it all.

Suite 210 will be familiar to many. Its last tenant, Covizza (now going by Leona's), is on the list of many other joints that called the rentable kitchen home for varying amounts of time. In my opinion, WILD has dressed up the space in a way that makes it feel purposeful and more permanent. Greenery adorns most empty space, window sills, and even parts of the ceiling. Doilies and flowers in mason jars sit atop some tables, animal skulls and awards are on the walls, and a freestanding octagon structure marks a photo-op and seating area. Near the register stands some shelving with help-yourself water, coffee, and tea, a backdrop of birch tree pieces and more greenery set up. It feels fresh, and as Chavez put it, “Secret Garden forest-y.”

Open Monday-Friday from 8am-2pm – the usual brunch window – folks have consistent opportunities to check it out and see what’s on the menu that week. There is no official WILD website or social media accounts, so you’ll just need to stop by. You may be surprised by what’s offered, but you will never be disappointed.

The dream team. Left to right: Joshua Dreysser, Tyler Thelen, and Tony Chavez
The dream team. Left to right: Joshua Dreysser, Tyler Thelen, and Tony Chavez.

Visit WILD: A feral kitchen at Banbury Place (800 Wisconsin St., Eau Claire) in Suite 210, open Monday-Friday from 8am-2pm • Keep up with Live Great Food on Facebook