By Martha Keeffe  

Owner Troy Wing of the newly opened Backwaters Grill and The Dam Bar, located at 324 Jay St. in downtown La Crosse, aims to offer his customers a relaxed atmosphere where they can find good food, good beer and fun right in the heart of downtown La Crosse. “I just want people to feel comfortable,” says Wing, who has been in the restaurant business for over 25 years. “If you give your customers quality products and provide them with a little bit of entertainment, the rest takes care of itself.”

Recently renovated, the establishment has a clean, open space with pool tables, electronic darts and enough room to accommodate up to 70 people. There is also a bar with 14 seasonal taps, wine and signature mixed drinks. Efforts are underway to open an outdoor beer garden as well. “Once we get our beer garden open, it’ll be a great place to hang out. We’ll have bean bag games, ladder golf and bands.”

Hoping to become a “go-to” spot for wings, Wing has perfected his method of oven roasting the wings (boneless or bone-in) to serve up a tender yet crispy appetizer that is hearty enough to be a meal. Served with your choice of sauce, ranging from Korean pepper or mango habanero to Sriracha bourbon, wing aficionados won’t walk away hungry. “There’s just enough heat on the wings to pair well with darker beers,” says Wing. “But any beer goes well with wings.”

If you’re in the mood for a meaty, juicy hamburger, try the Cattleman Burger made with a 1/3-pound Black Angus Cloud Burger patty, cheddar cheese, bacon, onion rings and Cattleman BBQ sauce.

Full of that right-off-the-backyard-grill flavor, this sandwich satisfies any cravings you might have for good bar food. “We get our Cloud Burgers (known for their homemade taste and look) from Rochester Meats,” says Wing. “I’ve found you just can’t beat their quality and flavor. Topped with Cattleman BBQ sauce and served with steak fries (crispy, tender and seasoned with a house blend of spices), it’s become one of our most popular items.” Wing suggests pairing this burger with a pint of Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout for “some well-rounded flavor.” 

Additional menu items include a variety of chicken sandwiches and burgers, Reubens, wraps, salads, and pasta dishes like the “Rasta Pasta,” made with jerk-seasoned chicken, sautéed peppers, onions, mushrooms and tossed with Asiago Alfredo sauce that is made in-house. “The jerk seasoning is authentically Jamaican,” Wing says, noting that he works hard to create dishes with just the right amount of heat without overwhelming your palette. “My focus is my food. I want it to be enjoyable.”

Asked what he thinks will make Backwaters Grill worth the visit, Wing was quick to mention the quality of food and beer, mixed with a casual atmosphere. “And our Friday Fish Fry,” he said, adding that his Friday menu includes perch, tilapia, walleye and salmon. “I think our customers will be surprised.”

For more information, find Backwaters Grill and The Dam Bar on Facebook.