Steve Cahalan: La Crosse restaurant Rice N Spice offers several kinds of Asian cuisine

Steve Cahalan: La Crosse restaurant Rice N Spice offers several kinds of Asian cuisine

Its permanent sign went up a few weeks ago above the entrance to Rice N Spice Cuisine at 1908 Campbell Road in La Crosse, where Simon and Kayla Lee are offering a variety of Asian food such as Thai, Hmong, Laotian and Chinese.

Steve Cahalan

The Hmong couple purchased the former Yummi’s Cuisine restaurant business, renamed it and have been operating it since June. They bought it from Zong Lor and his wife, Yang Mee Thao, who now operate Mini Boba & Deli, which opened in March at 988 12th Ave. S. in Onalaska. Yummi’s had opened in January 2021 with a mix of Hmong and Thai cuisine.

Business has been good at Rice N Spice Cuisine, said Kayla Lee, who moved from Laos to America in 1989, at the age of 10. Simon moved from Laos to America in 1991 at the age of 15. They were married in 1996 in St. Paul and have lived in La Crosse since 2008. Both have worked in a number of restaurants over the years.

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Simon said he was interested in operating the La Crosse restaurant because “I like cooking and I wanted to share my recipes with the community.”

“I wanted to do something that I like,” Kayla said. “Cooking is one thing that I like about this.”

Rice N Spice photo 1

Simon and Kayla Lee operate the Rice N Spice Cuisine restaurant at 1908 Campbell Road, across from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus. The restaurant offers Asian cuisine such as Thai, Hmong, Laotian and Chinese. The Lees bought the former Yummi’s Cuisine restaurant business and renamed it.

The restaurant draws customers from throughout the La Crosse area, from communities as far away as Viroqua and Black River Falls, and has had some customers who live in other states who were traveling.

Customers can dine in or take out food. The restaurant also has a hot food bar, featuring several items that are already cooked, from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. That’s popular with customers who are in a hurry.

Some of the restaurant’s most popular menu items are Thai spicy noodles, pad Thai, pork belly with sticky rice, pork belly pad kra pow, red curry, green curry, spicy chicken wings, spring rolls, papaya salad and pho. Rice N Spice Cuisine also offers milk teas, blended teas, fruit teas, specialty drinks and other beverages.

The restaurant’s hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and closed Sunday and Monday. For more information, call 608-519-1524 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Kwik Trip Inc. has applied to the city for a conditional use permit so it can demolish the former America’s Best Value Inn hotel at 2622 Rose St. in La Crosse for future development of a new, larger Kwik Trip.

The common council’s Judiciary & Administration Committee will hold a public hearing on the application at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, in the council chambers at City Hall. The full council is expected to vote on the company’s request on Dec. 14.

Kwik Trip bought the hotel property in September. It plans to raze the hotel and the Kwik Trip store next door at 1133 W. George St. so it can build a new, much larger Kwik Trip.

Kwik Trip is “tentatively looking” to build the new store in 2025, according to a letter from a company official that accompanied the application. The hotel buildings pose a safety and liability concern if they are to remain standing, the letter said.

Skogen’s Festival Foods on Thursday announced the grand opening of a new Caribou Coffee location, next to the bakery inside the Festival Foods store at 123 Hale Drive in Holmen.

It’s the seventh Caribou Coffee location within a Festival Foods, and is the first to showcase the brand’s newest kiosk design. It’s also the second Caribou Coffee spot within a Festival Foods store to have a drive-thru.

The new location features both beverages and Caribou’s food menu, including breakfast sandwiches and bakery items. Customers can stay awhile in the seating area or grab something to go while shopping in the store. “We are excited to bring Caribou Coffee to Holmen, opening the first newly redesigned Caribou drive-thru and in-store kiosk,” said Mark Skogen, Festival Foods president and CEO.

The new Caribou Coffee location is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.

The J-Mart Japanese/Asian Grocery opened Nov. 20 at its new location at 112 S. Water St. in downtown Sparta.

Owner Brian Jewell moved the business there from 229 N. Black River St. in the Jones Plaza shopping center. His brother, A.J., had operated A.J.’s Sushi Cafe in part of the Jones Plaza storefront until he and other owners opened Kazoku Bistro, a new Japanese restaurant, in June at 140 N. Water St. in Sparta. The brothers’ mother is Japanese, and they lived in Japan for several years.

With the transformation of his brother’s cafe to a full-blown restaurant at another location, Brian told me, he no longer needed as much space. He started his Japanese grocery in Jones Plaza in August 2020. He describes it as a one-stop shop for Japanese, Korean and other Asian foods and gift items.

Brian told me he began baking Japanese bakery products such as milk bread, melon buns and purin (a Japanese type of custard) a few months ago and expected to resume baking them again this week at the new location.

Store hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 608-269-1574 or visit the grocery store’s Facebook page.

Onalaska native Kelly Cottrell is the new proprietor of the Outback Steakhouse restaurant at 311 Hampton Court in Onalaska. The restaurant’s previous proprietor, Jaime Capuzzi, is the new proprietor at the Outback Steakhouse in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., the company announced.

According to an Outback Steakhouse press release, Cottrell is a veteran manager in the restaurant industry, both in the La Crosse area (including five years at Outback) and in the Houston, Texas, market.

A Shoe Sensation shoe store opened Nov. 17 at 224 W. McCoy Blvd., in a retail strip center near Walmart on the northwest side of Tomah. Its grand opening celebration will be from Dec. 8 to 10.

Hours at the new store are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

The Shoe Sensation chain is headquartered in Jeffersonville, Ind., and has more than 230 stores in 20 states. Its stores sell shoes for men, women and children. For more information about the new Tomah store, call 608-567-6130 or visit

Another shoe store, If the Shoe Fits, closed in September in the same retail strip center after 32 years in business, when its owners retired.

Steve Cahalan writes about business news and can be reached at

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