By Martha Keeffe  

The moment we walked through the door of David Reay’s Modern Diner + Tavern, my husband and I knew we were about to experience dining that was out of the ordinary. “I like to say that we took a modern spin and combined it with the feel of an old-school diner,” says Matt Boshcka, who owns the business. He gave it an updated retro look by using refurbished barn wood, black subway tiles, Edison lighting and historic photographs of downtown Onalaska.

“I wanted to create a look that’s contemporary but hangs on to a bit of nostalgia.”

Immediately greeted by the hostess, we were offered the choice of patio seating (heated during the offseason and equipped with an automatic retractable roof and windows), tabletop or booth seating. We chose a booth since we wanted to get a feel for the restaurant, and, despite being in the midst of all the activity, we were actually able to hold a conversation. “That’s something I paid careful attention to,” explains Boshcka of the acoustics. “Talk doesn’t have to compete with the music and general noise of a restaurant.”

Once seated we each ordered a beer. At the suggestion of our server, we started with walleye sliders, otherwise known as a delectable stack of batter-fried walleye, bacon, lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce on a brioche bun. Light and crispy without a hint of grease or fishiness, we were extremely satisfied with our choice, even as we eyed the golf ball-sized fried cheese curds that were delivered to another table. 

Anxious to try more, we were tempted by a menu full of enticing food options ranging from popular comfort food entrees like meatloaf to all-day brunch items, including chicken and waffles. Consulting our server, we chose the slow-cooker Mississippi Crack Chicken sandwich made on a garlic black sesame seed bun and served with fresh sautéed vegetables, along with The Dash Dog on a soft pretzel bun served with crispy brew city fries. Particularly tender and juicy, the Mississippi Crack Chicken was a perfect balance of shredded chicken blended with cream cheese and ranch dressing. Topped with savory bacon and banana peppers for a hint of heat, it delivered on flavor. Not to be outdone, The Dash Dog—a 100 percent kosher all-beef, all-natural Hebrew National hot dog wrapped in bacon and topped with house sauce, caramelized onions and cheese curds—managed to pack in a lot of complementary flavors without being overwhelming. Both were delicious!

To close the evening, we enjoyed a gratifying slice of New York Cheesecake while we discussed plans for our next visit. Looking forward to an evening on the patio, we determined that this would be a perfect place to bring friends, especially those eager to try an Old Fashioned, classic cocktail or refreshing mojito. 

“It’s the perfect blend of homestyle cooking and a lively tavern,” says Boshcka when asked why people should give the restaurant a try. “We’re all about family and friends coming together and having fun.”

For more information about David Reay’s Modern Diner + Tavern, located at 214 Main St. in Onalaska, visit
www.davidreays.com or call (608) 519-9203.