Photo Series: Pato Azul


Photo taken by Henry Anderson.

Henry Anderson, Photojournalist

One of the newer restaurants that have joined the downtown La Crosse lineup is Pato Azul, which opened about four months ago on Oct. 10, 2022. They serve authentic Mexican cuisine, and the restaurant was created by co-owners Jennifer Lester and Erik Kleven, who also opened Bleu Duck Kitchen.

Pato Azul, which is Spanish for “blue duck,” is a taqueria. “Historically, a taqueria would be a taco bar along with some fun sides,” said Jennifer Lester, one of the co-owners of Pato Azul. She said, “I kind of put all of this magic to work,” and, “I come up with the design of everything: the policies, procedures, hiring, ordering, all those sorts of things.”

Along with sticking true to the taqueria’s purpose, Pato Azul adds its own spin on what a taqueria is. “[On the menu] you are going to see tacos, but you will see other fun stuff such as ceviche, handmade gorditas, and stuff like that,” said Lester. She continued, “Additionally, we did add some noodles on the menu to give an ode to what this space was before, which was a ramen bar.”

“We are known in Rochester for adding our own twist and spin on things, a lot,” said Lester. Along with owning and operating Pato Azul here in La Crosse, Lester, with her co-owner Erik, run Bleu Duck kitchen in Rochester, Minnesota. “We are not French by any means, we just thought it would be fun and quirky to call it that,” said Lester. According to the owners, it was at the Bleu Duck kitchen where the idea of Pato Azul began to take its’ shape.

“We ran this concept of Pato Azul during COVID at Bleu Duck,” said Lester. She continued with, “So when we were able to open our doors again at the Bleu Duck, we kind of reconstructed our whole entire front space and restaurant and turned that into Pato Azul.” Through this, the whole Pato Azul team was able to test out different aspects of how the restaurant would be run.

As for why La Crosse was chosen to be the home of Pato Azul, Lester said, “We kind of stumbled on the space.” Lester continued, “We were asked by another restaurant group to come down and look at a space. While we were waiting to see that space, we were in Dale’s Clothing talking with him,” and, “He asked why we were here and we told him and he said, ‘Well I have a restaurant that is available.’ So, we came over and looked at the space and thought it was a way better fit.”

Lester expects to use Pato Azul’s space for more than just food. “We’ll have to see where that goes.” Lester continued, “We do that in Rochester a lot. We are really good at doing different style events on a whim, whether that be cooking classes or other types of events.”

“We are really good at pivoting and flying by the seat of our pants, a lot,” said Lester when asked about what Pato Azul represents. “I think there is nothing that is out of the question that we won’t entertain doing,” said Lester. She continued, “I think we just need to find our niche and what we want to be and where we want to go with that.”

Pato Azul is located at 127 S 4th St. in downtown La Crosse. They are open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information about the restaurant, visit its website or follow Pato Azul on Facebook and Instagram.