A Guide to the Best Coffee Shops in the Northland: Heading South

Here’s a fun scenario for you: Back in your hometown after having spent an incredible 9 months trampling through Southeast Alaska, what do you do when you just need to take a break? For me I hop in my trusty old hatchback, still in working order after being abandoned to a summer stuck in the yard, and head south. Or North. Or really anywhere. But for this post, it’s south. About 30 minutes outside of my hometown, a breezy drive down the highway lies the shopping mecca of Rice Lake, Wisconsin. This is the town with the Walmart, this is the town with a movie theater that has more than two screens, this is the town with the  restaurants and now it has a Hobby Lobby. It’s a happening place. So today I got in the car and drove to Rice Lake to spend a quiet afternoon at one of my favorite coffee shops in the area.

With so many awesome coffee options in Spooner, why would I drive 20 minutes away from Spooner just to be a coffee shop cliche? Sometimes you just need a road trip for no reason, and sometimes it’s nice to go somewhere where you aren’t a local. But still get the warm welcome of one. Rice Lake boasts several coffee shops, each catering to something different. My personal favorite is Cabin Coffee. This funky little cafe takes the cabin feel to the next level. But instead of cabin by the lake, you’re at the ranch. The places oozes cowboy but it never takes itself too seriously. There’s a cozy fireplace and cozy furniture. It’s a small franchise. I like to consider myself I bit of a coffee snob, so I try and shy away from the chains but Cabin Coffee’s brew is as homey and warm as its atmosphere.

Sometimes though a half hour isn’t enough of a drive to really get the feel like I’m “getting away from it all”, even just for a day. If you decide to nix the exits of Rice Lake and keep on heading down the highway you will not be sorry in coffee trip terms. No trip down 53 would be complete without stamping your coffee passport in Chippewa Falls at the 4:30 am Coffee Shop. Despite what its name suggests, the shop opens at 6:00 am and is a staple for Chippewa Falls residents. I’ll let one of my friends who used to work there tell you more about it.

“It is a very small town coffee shop feel. A lot of retired folks in the morning and school and local business people eat lunch there. As well as a lot of high school kids. They do offer free wifi with purchase. The owners and workers are really good about being entertaining. Coffee shops are the new bars and the baristas there really have to have that fun personality that keeps people coming back. It definitely has that Cheers vibe, where the baristas will memorize your order and have it ready when they see you coming.”


And just a few more miles past Chippewa Falls you will come to Eau Claire. Talk about mecca. This city hosts the University of Wisconsin-Eau claire, one of the larger UW campuses. To say it’s a college town is putting it mildly. Nestled in the heart of downtown is one of the hippest coffee shops I know. And I was a barista at a  vegan and vegetarian Cafe in Chicago. Racy’s in Eau Claire is the quintessential coffee shop.  From the worn mismatched furniture right out of your first apt to the tattoo and bearded baristas. It’s the perfect place for deep discussions, a caffeinated study session, catching up, or just grabbing some delicious cold press on the go.


Where will my coffee adventures take me next? Check back to find out.


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