If summer ever arrives this year, take a night off and drive to Heron’s Landing.
The picturesque setting overlooks the Rock River. And with a wraparound deck and plenty of outdoor seating, it has got to be a great spot in the summer.
On the chilly Tuesday evening we visited, there were many fisherman trying their luck on the river with a few reeling in their catches of the day.
The interesting 1898 building was renovated after the 2008 flood as part of the city’s master plan. The result is beautiful. The bar area has a gorgeous tin ceiling, big-screen TVs, pub tables and a plethora of beers on tap ranging from domestic to IPAs.
The space then opens to the dining room, where huge windows line the walls with a fantastic view of the river. Pendant lights with Edison bulbs provide additional lighting, and a vintage canoe and canvas prints of Jefferson’s early days adorn the walls.
Wide strips of burlap arranged on the ceiling add to the unique decor and double as a not-quite-efficient sound absorber. It was a little noisy when we sat at our table, but to be fair, there was a large party not too far away.
I had picked up a few brochures about Jefferson at the entrance, and we perused the local scene while we settled in. No one was in the mood for anything from the bar, so we moved on to the menu.
We are always on the lookout for new and intriguing dishes, so when Nikki spotted duck poppers ($8) on the appetizer menu, we knew we had to try them. Shredded duck and jalapenos wrapped in bacon were served with an outstanding herbed bistro sauce. These were a surprise delight. Crispy bacon and the special sauce were the prominent flavors, and the jalapenos gave them just the right amount of heat. We polished them off easily.
I ordered shrimp ($16) as my main course. These were large, tasty tiger shrimp with a garlic butter sauce for dipping. They looked beautiful with my side of perfectly prepared broccoli. Main courses come with a salad of mixed greens, and the blue cheese dressing was first rate. There also was a soup selection, and I enjoyed the stocky potato—heavy on the bacon.
Zeroing in on the “Burgers, Sandwiches and Wraps” section of the menu, Helene chose the healthy salmon sandwich with a wicked side of pub chips ($12). The chips were crispy and nicely seasoned, but they were just on the verge of being too salty if you were to eat a bunch in a row. Pacing yourself is the key.
The salmon was cooked beautifully and was tasty despite the plainness of the plate and its small size. One slice of salmon rested on a French roll, which was slightly larger than the fish. It was a little disappointing visually, but the taste really delivered.
Jennifer also was considering the salmon sandwich, but she was rather hungry. Instead, she opted for the filet mignon ($26). Like me, she went with the potato soup, which was warm and soothing on a pretty chilly night. Small hunks of potatoes, carrots, green beans and bacon in a thick creamy broth proved tasty. The filet, Jennifer’s favorite cut of steak, arrived perfectly prepared—charbroiled and with a nice pink center.
Nikki decided to go with the nightly special, lamb chops ($14.99). As with the other entrees, the dish was served with soup, salad and a choice of potato or house vegetable. She tried the baked French onion soup and added french fries—her go-to side. Two lamb chops were served with dollops of herbed butter, and the meat was cooked just right at medium-rare.
Heron’s Landing offers only two desserts, and neither is made on site. Still, we indulged in the cheesecake after our accommodating server suggested several toppings she could use to dress it up: raspberry sauce, caramel or sugared walnuts. She might have had more options, but she had us at caramel sauce and sugared walnuts (which were wonderfully crunchy). We were not disappointed.
After dinner, we decided a stroll was a good idea. We crossed the river to downtown Jefferson via the timber-arch footbridge. We checked out some storefronts and an old train station turned restaurant and bar. Something tells me we might be making another visit in the near future.
The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.