You can thank a Spanish king, Alfonso X of Castile to be specific, for the little gem of a restaurant tucked away at 100 Harborview Plaza on the Mississippi. The story goes that while Alfonso was recovering from an unknown illness, the royal indulged in wine with small snacks between his daily meals. Convinced that his diet helped in his recovery, the king decreed that taverns within Castile would not be allowed to serve wine to their patrons unless accompanied by a “tapa,” or light snack.
It is that spirit that 4 Sisters embodies in our little corner of Wisconsin. Located in a nondescript office building originally intended for cubicles, the owners have completely renovated the space they have to work with. Upon entering the restaurant you really get a feel for the openness of the dining area. No part of the dining area is separated from any other part of the room except the kitchen. The colors are muted but warm, with splashes of black for class. Simple tables and chairs take up most of the dining space but along one half of the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the river are several comfortable couches and armchairs that are perfect for sitting (or slouching), talking, drinking and eating. But what about the food? After all, 4 Sisters is a restaurant and without good food all the chic design principles and squishy armchairs in the world wouldn’t bring customers back.
The food, I am delighted to say, certainly trumps the interior decorating. Diverse to the point of overwhelming, the menu offered a little bit of something for every taste bud. When I sat down with the menu, I simply could not settle on one or two items to try, so I ordered four. The first dishes to arrive were the Special X tacos and the empanada najel, along with a 1554 Black Ale by New Belgium to wash it down. Small in stature but stout in flavor, the tacos were my favorite of the two lead-in dishes. They came out of the kitchen warm and skewered on a very long toothpick to keep them at attention. Each small tortilla, roughly a little larger than the bottom of a wine bottle, was filled with juicy pulled pork and just the right amount of cilantro and lime for flavor, which complimented the queso drizzled on top quite well. Next up were the empanadas, a small, puffy pastry filled with shredded beef, gruyere, diced onions and peppers and topped with a creamy homemade buttermilk sauce. Though a bit heavy on the dough, these small pastries were a sumptuous alternative to the typical boring appetizer involving something breaded and deep fried.
I then moved onto the two small sandwiches ordered from the lunch menu, both of which came with a small cup of delicious chili topped with a dollop of Fritos. My guest and I (you didn’t think I ate all of this by myself I hope), split the sandwiches, one a panini with roast beef, cheddar cheese and banana peppers, the other a cold chicken club with diced pancetta and a house caesar sauce. Both sandwiches favored their respective meats, but not to the point of overstuffing. Though delicious, the panini was fairly standard when it comes to paninis. Not your standard restaurant chain debacle but not overly special. The cold chicken on LaBacci bread was more inventive, with a variation on the standard caesar sauce that I have not tasted anywhere else.
So if you have the time and some extra money in your pocket in these lean days, I ask you to rethink your monthly visit to Outback or Red Lobster and head downtown. 4 Sisters is the perfect place to take a date this Valentines or to meet up with friends after work. With its chic design, European sensibilities and delicious food, it is exactly the kind of refreshing change the city of La Crosse needs from the usual franchise fare.
Name: Traci Weber
Thank you so much for the great review. Totally unexpected but much appreciated. Next time you are in make sure you say HI to the Sisters. We would love to meet you!!!! Not to mention we have NEW food items on the menu...spanish meatballs, spanish potatoes, jerk chicken and ponsit! See you at the sisters!
Name: cris marish Wirtz Bev
Great article, had a great time last night!
Name: Carrie P. McKevitt
Name: Ann Berg
Great gluten free options, with great care taken in the kitchen, and presentation!