Seat with a view: Lakeside bar offers true Wisconsin summer experience
ELKHORN—Nothing says summer in Wisconsin like a fish fry washed down with a cool Old-Fashioned while gazing at a lake. And swatting mosquitoes, but that part isn't quite as picturesque.
Located on the channel between Lauderdale Lake and Middle Lake in Walworth County, Lauderdale Landing sits in a beautiful spot. Newly renovated with expansive decks, outdoor bars and piers for boaters, it takes full advantage of the view. Getting there by car was an adventure on narrow, winding roads shaded by old trees. It does help you slow down after a tiring week.
Along with our dear friends Jim and Nancy, we left Janesville a little after 6 p.m. fully expecting a long wait. The place wasn't as busy as we expected.
It was sweltering and buggy that evening, so we figured we would wait at the bar for an indoor table. The air conditioning wasn't quite keeping up with the heat, and Nancy wilted a little. But our bartender was prompt and efficient, mixed a great cocktail and had the proper amount of sass to keep us entertained.
We decided to try a couple of appetizers. The menu didn't list deep-fried cheese curds-a surprising omission-so instead we ordered the Queso Dippers ($5.50). The item was described as spicy cheese dip fried with a tortilla crust and served with chipotle sauce. It was a little spicy, and we ate it without much thought.
We also ordered the mini tacos ($6.95), which were "back by popular demand." They came with a tube of to-go sour cream but no salsa. The tacos were fine but rather uninspired, and they probably came from a freezer bag.
Once we sat down at our table, the waitress advised us to order our dinners. It was good advice because the kitchen was slow.
Nancy and I ordered our usual: the deep-fried cod ($13.95). It was a bit different from the typical fish fry. The sides were homemade macaroni and cheese or potato medley. Nancy asked for french fries; I tried the mac and cheese. The cod pieces were small but flavorful, and the two little apple turnovers and cornbread that came with the dinners were tasty. The mac and cheese was a small, solid brick that was a bit dry and light on cheese.
Jim ordered the pan-seared walleye ($19.95) and got the deep-fried walleye ($16.95) instead. While he was disappointed, we didn't have the patience to send it back. He said the fish was good enough, and the potato medley-a blend of four potatoes that were buttered and seasoned-was good, too.
Richard ordered the Landing Burger ($8.95), which was properly cooked medium rare. The menu claims it's a half-pound of prime Angus chuck, but it looked on the slim side and was not particularly flavorful. It was served with cheese sauce on a pretzel bun. It was a good bar burger, but nothing special. The sweet potato fries were also probably out of a bag, but they were fine.
While we waited at the bar, we saw several pizzas carried out, so we decided to give one a try. We ordered the Landing Za ($21.95), which was topped with sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms and onions. Each pizza is made from scratch to order, so we were told it would be at least 30 minutes. Our entrees didn't arrive much earlier than that, so the timing worked out.
I liked the pizza better than my companions. It tasted like bar pizza from my long-ago college days. The sauce and cheese were a bit on the sweet side, and it was loaded with toppings. However, it should have stayed in the oven just a couple of minutes more-the crust wasn't as crisp as it could have been.
After dinner, we ventured outside to check out the lakeside bar and deck. Families with little kids were finishing up their dinners, and young adults were playing games on the lawn. We considered ordering vodka lemonades, but the mosquitoes quickly changed our minds.
We're talking about riding up to Lauderdale Landing again the next time Jim gets his boat in the water. The bar food and the view have Wisconsin summer stamped all over them.
Joan Neeno is a freelance writer who reviews regional restaurants for The Gazette.
Last updated: 4:07 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2013