Regional food specialties
-Sconnie style eating across the border
Today we head into Wisconsin to a popular area for vacationers from Chicagoland and Lake Geneva. I got some random stops from in and around the Lake area that I've been to the last year or so and some which I've been to long ago which I continue to still go to when I get the chance. All of these food places featured are very "sconnie" and worth the stop when vacationing around Southeast Wisconsin.
Enjoying the day along Lake Geneva
Whether it's , , , , or and or and don't forget the likes of they pretty much got it covered. Truth be told and it's just a day trip away. But if you really want to spoil yourself and make sure it's somewhere that has a refrigerator, microwave and grill. There's also lots to be shopped for and then eaten.
Great stops for brats and pies to bring back home or to a home rental
For those driving into town or out of it. For a great example of the fantastic baked goods found throughout WI check out the "Pie Guy". I call it the "pie guy" since the old man whom lives next door is the guy who owns the place and makes the pies and jarred goods sold there. He tells good stories too. I'm a big fan of the guy and his pies and recommend stopping by for one. A little bit up the road there's Lake Geneva Country Meats. This is a wonderful representation of the many world class butcher shops still left in the state. I buy my brats for the backyard at LGCM. I think they're some of the best in state which makes them some of the best in the world. Also found along this little food shopping oasis (Highway 50) is River Valley Ranch.
River Valley Ranch in Burlington
These days you can find RVR at a few different Chicago farmers markets and elsewhere. They are a mushroom farm first but they also grow many other produce goods and make some of the best canned and jarred products around. Let me say it for the up-teenth time on here that their five cheese garlic spread is one of the best condiments on earth. Great burgers both old school and tavern style are found all over sconnie land and a top notch representation of one is Fred's Bar which is also in Burlington.
Fred's Bar and their "world's best burger" in Burlington. More on them HERE.
Breakfast is also big in Wisconsin. Farmers and larger framed people need to eat early and often. So a good place to get it along with a fantastic Friday Fish Fry near Lake Geneva is Daddy Maxwell's Antarctic Diner in nearby Williams Bay. It's a place that always catches peoples eyes when they drive by.
Daddy Maxwell's Antarctic Diner (Williams Bay)
I've passed by here a few times but never when it was open or I was hungry. This trip was my chance as we rode by it en route to the Abbey Resort which is in Fontana, WI next door to Williams Bay. I headed over after I woke up one day and got some breakfast. Another lucky charm came when I saw Friday's special was "crispy corned beef hash" made in house. Pretty damn good. Just the way I like it in that it's all kind of mushed together and crisped up on each side which is the way I like mine done.
Corned Beef Hash Special
As the menu stated, the old man, the owners father whom the place is named after, doesn't like onions and this (along with many other menu options) is his recipe. Obviously the igloo dining room is a big draw getting people inside when they see it riding by, but the food is for the most part all home cooked here and I liked what I had. They make soups, pies and donuts fresh daily and the rhubarb pie was outstanding and although I haven't been swept under by the new doughnut fad, theirs weren't anything fancy but were very good.
Homemade pies and donuts too...
It was Friday morning when I stopped inside and that means it's 'Fish Fry' day all over the state. I saw on their menu they offer deep fried haddock, fried cod, grilled lemon pepper haddock and my guy, butterflied deep fried lake perch. I took note and promised myself we could come back later. I got the lake perch which comes seasoned in house with secret spices and then lightly battered and fried. Served with a housemade potato cake and cole slaw, this was one of the better fish fry's I've had in state. I know the next time I am near here and its fish fry day, I'll be stopping in to say hello. You should too.
Daddy Maxwell's Friday Fish Fry (Lake Perch)
So speaking of Friday Fish Frys is there anything more "sconnie" than those when it comes to food? Well maybe cheese, beer and brats but the Friday Fish Fry's are as much a part of the state as is the beer and cheese. The only places that serve food and don't do a Fish Fry are fast food outlets and in many cases, places that don't serve food at all, sometimes do fish fry's. Daddy Maxwell's is one of the best fish fry's I've had in state as far as taste goes but theres another place close by that's almost as good as far as the actual food but way better in terms of authentic atmosphere.
Freddie's West End located on nearby Lake Como
I'm about to share with y'all a little secret the locals wouldn't like. This is the type of place I seek out when on the road in Wisconsin. Picture the classic Wisconsin tavern. That's where we are. The night we visited, which was a Friday, the only day Freddie's serves food, a local was having a party so pretty much the only people that weren't there were the ones not invited who were at Freddie's instead. They were talking about the party and it's hosts all night you can easily guess whether it was good or bad words. We got there right when the fish fry begins just in case there was going to be the normal rush that comes each Friday Freddie's does it's fry. Call for exact times.
I'm a big lake perch fan but as noted by David Hammond, blue gill is rarely seen on most of the places menus in the Midwest where it used to be much more common. The only other place I know of that has it on menu is a little bikers dive bar in South Haven Michigan called The Curve Inn. So I went with the blue gill and she had the shrimp de jonghe.
Friday Fish Fry with Blue Gill
The shrimp de jonghe was alright but you cant pass on fried fish and potato pancakes
I enjoyed this fish fry very much and would put it as #2 on my all time 'Fish Fry ' Scorecard. The blue gills were very good but I honestly cant tell the difference between it and perch. One day I'll try them both in one sitting. I like each of them served lightly fried and try them whenever I see a place that offers them on the menu as a specialty. I can imagine on a hopping summertime night or a Friday during lent that the atmosphere inside is very sconnie. The cold chocolate eclairs that came with the check were a nice touch of Wisconsin*.
*anything that fattens you up
An authentic sconnie style fish fry
Not as well known as the Fish fry but also very sconnie is the fish boil. It's a Door County thing so for the most part you wont find them outside of that area. But just across the IL border in Genoa City is Fitzgerald's Genoa Junction. It's a ten mile drive from Lake Geneva.
Fitzgerald's Genoa Junction: Famous for their fish boils
Fitzgerald's is a really fun experience and in my opinion the food is as good or better than most everything you can get around the downtown Lake Geneva area and a better value too. So it's worth the drive in my eyes. Popeye's is cool and the rotisserie meats are good on weekends when it's moving and a few other bars are said to have good Fish Fry's (beer battered cod) but other than that I don't think the dining options in Lake Geneva are great. Then again I've never been to Ryan Braun's Restaurant but I wouldn't trust the chicken and beef as being 100% organic and hormone free.
This place it's like going over to someones house to eat. You know those times where your at someones BBQ and not sure if you should just leave your plate where it is or if theres supposed to be a garbage can or empty bin to put things and if there is its nowhere to found and no one has said anything about it? It was kind of like that here. We walked in and saw the bar to the right as you enter the house. Your supposed to go into the room to the left and get a ticket for dinner which is cash only. It's AYCE and the options are boiled fish, bbq chicken and ribs. You can get just one, pick two or get all three for a little extra. They give you a ticket which you present to the person working the food line.
The buffet line & The view inside one of the dining rooms in house
On top of the fact that Fitzgerald's is located in an old historic octagon house making it a fun place to visit is the actual fish boil itself. They do them Wed-Sun during the summertime and remain open over winter but with less hours and days. The boils start at 5p daily except Sunday when they do start them at 3p. The octagon house is big and aside from the small bar and a little closet turned giftshop theres a few dining rooms to eat at both downstairs and up. Each floor has a buffet table where the boiled fish, chicken and ribs are served. Along with the entrees you also get the options of boiled potatoes, cole slaw, rye bread and dessert. There's an outdoor area where you can see the fish boils flame away as you eat. We had the perfect view from our seats outside.
The view from the outside deck dining area during a boil
Going back to this being like your eating at someones house BBQ party is the fact that the food is served in a buffet line so you have to go into line to get it. There is someone there to serve it to you though. I got a fish, chicken and ribs ticket since it was a few dollars more than just the fish which is what your there for. So the first time around I went with fish and the rest of the sides thrown on, butter too please. Instead of the more commonly used whitefish they use cod here and have melted butter ready to be thrown onto your plate if you so desire. They say this is poorman's lobster with the butter added on and I could taste that in a sense but monkfish is still much more similar. I liked the fact that there were big hunks of the cod being served onto each plate and I ate a couples worth. As far as value goes this meal was worth it for me.
Fitzgerald's Fish Boil Dinner
The chicken and ribs were two different stories. I really liked their honey bbq chicken alot more than the fall off the bone, pains me to say it, Chicago style ribs but those were ok too. As long as your cool with eating baked pork and not real bbq. The bbq chicken is another sconnie style dinner popular at many places throughout the state, usually served on Sundays. Each are cooked on a gas grill near where the boil takes place. So I imagine both are baked beforehand but the chicken is still very good and I ate the ribs which they gave me so those weren't inedible. Next time I would get the fish and chicken.
BBQ grilled chicken and baked ribs with frosted apple square for dessert
An authentic sconnie style fish boil
The frosted apple squares were very good and I ate a few of those as well. I feel for the poor girl who was working the downstairs food line. You know the mother in law or maybe grandmother that needs everything a certain way and what not and it better be explained? There were like 10 of them here. No one wanted an end piece of the dessert and others didn't know what they wanted as they stood not knowing what was going on. Some said yes to butter even though they didn't want it. All I could do was simply state what I wanted, say thanks and send her a smile. Elsewhere around town theres an old school supper club/tavern type place for sale for anyone who's ever wanted to own their own. I know such a 1950's type dream but in some ways I think it'd be really cool, not so much so in some other cases.
Along with the artisanal cheese and crafted beer movement in the state theres also alot of local co-op type grocery stores opening or that have been around already. They're spreading away from Madison in all different directions now. These places tend to sell local food and offer wines and beer as well as spices and grains too. On my most recent visit to Lake Geneva we stayed at the Abbey which is in LG but on the other side of the lake away from the more popular parts. En route to the Abbey is the Green Grocer in Williams Bay.
"Organic and locally grown produce, beef, poultry and dairy"
I stopped into the Green Grocer on the way into the Abbey resort when we first arrived one trip back. I decided it might be right to grab a few things for the fridge which was a good call by me. This was right around when winter was ending so I'm sure with summer in full swing theres some good locally grown stuff at the Green Grocer. They have a good selection of wines and beer as well as a full deli and make soups and offer dinners to go on some nights.
Local Cheese & Sausage offered
I liked what I saw and would stop in if near there and looking to get some good local sconnie brewed beer, cheese, produce or other new age hippie supplies like body and skin care lotions and homemade candles. I ended up getting a sandwich which was made perfectly (Boars Head meats are alright) and some Lake Louie 'coon rock' cream ale which if you haven't had it yet is one of my favorites from the state.
So much better (and cheaper) than room service
Down in Southeast Wisconsin theres some great pizza places. Much like us locals in Chicago tend to love our pizza, they like the tavern style thin crust around these parts too. The Next Door Pub is said to be the locals favorite pizza place and when we drove by on a weekday night and the place was packed we thought it might be a good idea to stop inside and see what was up.
Lake Geneva, WI
The Next Door Pub & Pizzeria is has been around this way for over 35 years so they have some tradition going and it starts with their pizza. This was evident when we got out of the car in the parking lot. There's a window in back where all the pizzas are being made and you can see the pizza makers busy at work as they get at it. The aroma in the parking lot had me ready for some. We started off with some of their claim to be famous wings as an appetizer.
Their wings were ok. I like mine fried to the point where theres little resistance and some crunch to each bite. Next time I would ask for them fried well done. We went with a large sausage and onion pizza and were happy with that. They layered a little more cheese on than I like but the quality of the ingredients was good and the dough and crust was somewhat unique tasting. Unlike some other pizza places I didn't think theirs was almost as good cold. Most likely due to the cheese. I think it was a Wed. night we stopped in and lasagna was on special and it looked and smelled very good. most everyone there was either eating pizza or that and it was packed.
Over in Delavan (12 miles from Lake Geneva) theres a great place to stop in at for an afternoon snack and some drinks while your at it. The Brick Street Market opened up in 2008 and as they state on their website "cheese is our passion". If cheese is one of your passions too like its becoming one of mine than you need to head over here while in the area.
This was a great stop and I've been back since this trip. We went in looking to try a couple cheeses and buy some too and ended up staying here for over an hour eating cheese and drinking beer and wine. They have a display of locally made cheeses and an international case too. The lady that runs the place is really sweet and was a big help. There was one other girl there to help here but between cutting the cheese and making sandwiches to order and giving tastings of wine she was busy the whole time.
Some views from inside
We started off with a cheese plate which comes as a daily selection in both coach and 1st class flights. The cheeses featured are written down on a chalkboard and come on a tray with salami, breads, pickles,fruits, nuts and a bunch of other good stuff. We went with a first class flight which includes six cheeses and I thought was a bargain at $11. It could satisfy three maybe four as a snack. They serve beer and if I remember correctly it's $3 a bottle with New Glarus brews featured. Wines from around the globe are available by the glass and bottle too.
1st Class Cheese Flight from Brick Street Market
They had a local mustard seed gruyere that was not on the plate that she gave me a try of that I loved. On the plate there was a local blue cheese called "little boy blue" that was great too. I got a few to take home and the lady behind the cheese counter was great helping me pick them out with suggestions and samples of each one. I cleared out their orphanage bin which is their campaign to have "no cheese left behind" They have little bits and ends of all the fancy cheeses that they've gone thru wrapped up and on sale for a buck or two depending on size.
If your looking for a little more than just cheese to eat they serve some spectacular sandwiches at BSM too. Soups and salads too. Not only are they using their great selection of cheeses in these sandwiches but the bread is from a local baker and meats like the roast beef and turkey are made in house. They make and toast them to order and offer them in halves if your not all that hungry. I went with the one made up of "slices of top round on hearty rye bread with your choice of 2 year aged swiss or blue cheese with tomato, lettuce, and mustard"
The Rye Wrangler Sandwich
So as you can see this was quite the pleasant surprise. I forget how we came about it but I believe it was recommended by someone working at the Abbey. I also remember a customer who came in on a last second call to get a cheese tray for a party his wife was having and he was very thankful they could accommodate his request. So for those with homes near Lake Geneva Brick Street Market is another great grocery store and food shopping resource.
An authentic 'sconnie cheese experience
As many a Sconnies know, man cannot live off beer, cheese curds and fish fry's alone. After taking it "light" on Friday's, Saturday nights are dedicated to beef. Prime Rib is usually the most commonly ordered menu item by folks dining out at one of the states many supper clubs on a Saturday. Staying in Delavan we head over to the Village Supper Club which is the only restaurant actually located on Delavan lake these days.
The Village Supper Club has been serving the folks of this community and its vacationers for nearly five decades. I enjoyed it greatly for its a real deal old time supper club atmosphere. I thought the food was pretty good and it wasn't overpriced and so I was told they have the most popular fish fry in the area and some say the state. It's all you can eat so I think that may play a part. Don't forget where we're at and what (and how much) they eat.
The service here was excellent and I would recommend the place based on the authentic factor. I'd eat here if it's near and you like classic supper club food. They have all the usual's including prime rib available everyday. They also have an Italian menu with dishes influenced in the Italian-American sort of way. Pasta's with red sauce served 10 different ways that pretty much all tastes the same as were used to in Middle America. They do the free relish tray and salad bar which all diners can walk up to and each meal comes with soup or salad too. Don't forget about the free bread. I thought the French Onion soup was below average but I wasn't expecting much.
Getting started at the local Supper Club
I don't remember anything about their whiskey sour old fashioned but that's good enough to mean it wasn't so bad I remembered it. I think they did it right. Like all supper clubs they should be able to do onion rings right. Village does a thinly sliced variety isn't my favorite style but these freshly fried thin slivers of onions were extra good. They advertised housemade Italian sausage which we also tried with spaghetti. It was good in that homey sort of way but I wish they would of given more sausage with it. I got the prime rib and was happy with my perfectly little rarer than medium rare piece with a side of cheesy hash browns with onions. It hit the spot that night.
An authentic sconnie supper club dinner
Don't forget dessert. Sconnies love that too. There's some great ice cream and custard shops, chocolate confectioneries and other sugary fun eats abound in these parts too. I particularly like the widgets aka fried donut balls at Dari Ripple in Walworth. They do a sundae with them too. Looking it up on google there seems to be quite a few Dari Ripple's across Northern IL and across the border in WI. Maybe they were once a chain of which a few remain but not theres much else on the places or their history on the WWW. The same can be said for Frostie Freeze also found out around this way.
Sno Days Shaved Ice found around the area
There's a traveling shaved ice and sno-cone cart that can found around here too. I like shaved ice but so I've been told I've never had the authentic stuff in Hawaii and nothing here is near it. I believe it. Stay tuned. A round up of Southwest Wisconsin to come.
Dari Ripple's Widgets - Banana Split Sundae from the local Frostie Freeze
Lot's to explore outside...
...Beautiful Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva Country Meats
5907 State Road 50
Lake Geneva, WI 53147
"The Pie Guy"
25600 75th Street (Hwy 50)
Paddock Lake Salem, WI 53168
River Valley Ranch and Kitchens
39900 60th Street
Burlington, WI 53105
596 N Pine St.
Burlington, WI 53105
150 Elkhorn Road
Williams Bay, WI 53191
Freddie's West End
W4118 Lakeshore Drive
Lake Geneva, WI 53147
Fitzgerald's Genoa Junction
727 Main Street
Genoa City, WI 53128
24 West Geneva Street
Williams Bay, WI 53191
Next Door Pub & Pizzeria
411 Interchange North
Lake Geneva, WI 53147
Brick Street Market
104 East Walworth Avenue
Delavan, WI 53115
Village Supper Club
1725 South Shore Dr
Delavan, WI 53115
102 State Road 67
Walworth, WI 53184