The Grate Cheese Curd Adventure: An Aficionado Gives Us the Word On the Curd

Looking for the best place for a plate of squeaky cheese curds? Here's a few to check out

Kellie Williams

GRATEFUL FOR GRATE CURDS. Local food writer Kellie Williams traveled across the Chippewa Valley to find the best cheese curds. Here's what she found.
GRATEFUL FOR GRATE CURDS. Local food writer Kellie Williams traveled across the Chippewa Valley to find the best cheese curds. Here's what she found.

Is there anything more Wisconsin than cheese curds? There’s something so special about the greasy, salty, squeakiness of this snack that surpasses any French fry or mozzarella stick out there.

Cheese curd purists will tell you that the only true cheese curds are the ones eaten within hours of manufacture. Cheese curds are a byproduct of the cheddar-making process, and, the fresher the curd, the better the squeak – which out-of-state visitors don’t quite understand. It’s as unique to Wisconsin as a good Brandy Old Fashioned. If you’re looking to get your hands on some fresh curds, I suggest stopping by Eau Claire Cheese & Deli (1636 Harding Avenue, Eau Claire) to peruse their selection.

However, if you crave the deep-fried version of this beautiful creation, the Chippewa Valley has more restaurants offering cheese curds than Minnesota has lakes, so let me just highlight a few Eau Claire options to satisfy your hankerin’ for those fried golden curds.

The cheese curd appetizer can be split in two categories. First is the more traditional “fair curd.” These are the hand-battered, fried-golden-brown version of the cheddar byproduct that still has a little of that signature squeak. Add a side of lightly battered Ellsworth cheese curds to your Mel burger from Girolamo’s Court’n House (113 W. Grand Ave., Eau Claire) and you won’t be disappointed. Hangar 54 (3800 Starr Ave., Eau Claire) proudly serves LaGrander’s cheese curds from Stanley, lightly breaded and fried to perfection, served with house-made ranch dipping sauce. Or if you’re feeling brave, opt for the jalapeno-infused cheese curds at Mogie’s Pub (436 Water St., Eau Claire). If not, we won’t judge and we support your decision to stick with the traditional option.  Have it your way at Wisco’s EC (1920 S. Hastings Way, Eau Claire) with classic, jalapeno, or garlic cheese curds. You can also have them tossed in any of their house dry rubs including French onion, kickin’ Cajun, or Wisco’s sweet chili lime.

The other curd option, isn’t a curd at all, but a big cube cut from a block of cheese that is battered, fried and offers an ooey gooey extra melty cheesy experience. Dooley’s Pub (442 Water St., Eau Claire) always makes the list in Volume One’s Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll for best cheese curds. I can only imagine this is due to the pure fried perfection of each giant cube. If you haven’t experienced Chippewa Falls’ very own Water’s Edge cheese curds, you are in for a treat at Amber Inn Bar & Grill (840 E Madison St., Eau Claire) These bite-sized morsels are cubes of deliciousness that can only be described as heavenly.

If you’re a true Wisconsin cheese lover, you won’t even try to decide between these two options. Luckily for us, there are some eateries who won’t make you choose. Winner of Volume One’s Best of the Chippewa Valley eight years in a row, Milwaukee Burger Company (2620 E. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire) boasts the best cheese curds, according to poll voters. I highly recommend the curd sampler with giant cubes of classic cheddar, pepper jack, and mozzarella cheese as well as a large helping of their traditional fair curds served with sides of classic ranch, chipotle ranch, and marinara. While Northern Tap House (5020 Keystone Crossing, Eau Claire) offers a large cube curd, they really hit home with the sweet chili sauce served with their State Fair-style Ellsworth cheese curds.

No matter your curd preference, you’re sure to find one that suits your fancy. Enjoy them as an appetizer, side dish, or snack. We won’t judge.