Central MN: Fisher's Supper Club (Avon)
Fisher's Supper Club has been perched on the edge of Middle Spunk Lake for about a century. It's open on summer evenings only and the only "air-conditioning" is the air that circulates through the screen windows that are covered by hinged shutters and padlocked at nights, and flipped up and tied open with a piece of rope during the day. When you walk in there's a bar area with a popcorn machine (help yourself) and a giant checkerboard sitting out for play. http://fishersclub.com/photogallery/displayimage.php?album=lastup&cat=0&pos=2
Family run for many years, Fisher’s is now owned by a group that apparently includes Garrison Keillor. The old dance floor is now covered in tables, but the warping red wallpaper hung by the original owners still covers the walls. The little liquor lockers (so the regulars can keep their liquor onsite--the restaurant only provides set-ups) are still in use. (You can see both wallpaper and liquor lockers in this photo http://fishersclub.com/photogallery/displayimage.php?album=lastup&cat=0&pos=6 ).
The old "snack" window facing the beach where kids could come buy hotdogs, candy and popcorn is apparently no longer open because they've added a wrap-around porch for lakeside dining. I think they use the snack window for the servers to pass their orders through from the porch!
Though the menu has been Keillorized (you know what I mean, for instance, he's added all kinds of pithy, nostalgia inducing commentary here and there on the menu, including the tagline, "A Fairly Good Place for Quite Some Time," and has written a quaint and romantic history of the restaurant for the back of the menu) this restaurant is the real deal. On a Saturday night, almost every table was reserved (a note with the name of the party and their reservation time was tucked under the candle at each table) and as patrons entered, they waved and greeted each other by first name, got their liquor from their locker, helped themselves to some popcorn and sat down.
We ordered the beer battered onion rings (okay, not great--my dining companion said, "The onion rings at the place next door were always better." PJ's Supper Club, with the original Hamm's sign, is next door.) I ordered Fisher's Famous Walleye Fillets "lightly breaded and deep fried", which came with housemade coleslaw and choice of potato (I ordered the potato salad because it's the family's original recipe), buttered rye bread, housemade tartar sauce, and a lemon wedge. I think the batter on the walleye was corn meal with pepper and some other intriguing spices I couldn't identify, but let me just say, this preparation of walleye, which was flavorful, tender, juicy and not too greasy, is the best I've ever had since I moved to Minnesota. It is the standard against which I will measure all walleye. The potato salad had bits of pickle, perfectly uniform cuts of potato, and egg. It was not too mayonnaisey. Neither was the coleslaw. This was a wonderful meal.
My dining companion had the half broasted chicken dinner, which came with a choice of potato, a side salad and toast. The chicken was pretty good, but not great.
In addition to being Keillorized, the menu has been updated a bit, including adding an artisan bread basket, local bounty greens and herbs salad, but they also have sunfish appetizers, herring and crackers, and plenty of old standards--steaks and barbeque and such--on the menu.
We also noticed they had housemade rhubarb pie on the menu and strawberry shortcake, among other things. Alas, we did not have room for dessert.
This restaurant sits alongside the Lake Woebegone Bicycle Trail, which runs from St. Joseph to beyond Alexandria. (St. Joseph is one exit West of St. Cloud on I94; Avon two exits west of St. Joseph.) If you were staying in town, you could make a wonderful weekend of splashing about in the lake and riding the trail and having old-timey supper club walleye at Fisher's. The online menu says "Beach Menu available summer weekends 11-4," but I'm not sure what that's all about. Might be fun for cyclists--I'd call ahead, though. Oh, and a band was setting up as we were leaving, so I guess they have live music on Saturday evenings.
My main complaint was that the prices are a teensy bit higher than they ought to be. I guess that's the Garrison tax. The food isn't fancy or upscale, but it's pretty typical supper club fare. I don't know if the walleye is the only standout on the menu, but it was awfully good.
Also, en route to or from Avon, consider stopping at St. Joseph's Meat Market. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/435252
428 Stratford St W, Avon, MN 56310
Just an update - fisher's is still up and running strong (not surprising with all that history i suppose).
We went this past weekend while visiting with some St Cloudians (St Cloudites?) and really enjoyed the walleye. We also sampled the "sunfish chips" off the appetizer section which was prepared just like the walleye but with a slight bit more of a fishy flavor (in a good way if you ask me, but i like my fish fishier).
We also ordered the bread basket which is made by a local artisan bakery up there (our hosts were familiar with the baker, who apparently spent some time at turtle bread in the cities honing his skills -and incidentally makes a killer almond croissant). The bread sampler wasnt great, mostly because it seemed like they had frozen and thawed the bread, and 6 bucks for a few slices of good but less-than-fresh bread wasn't exactly a steal.
The potato salad was quite good, and i enjoyed the light mayo-free slaw, but reading your post here i think we missed out on the buttered rye.
Overall it was realy good walleye - notably lighter on the breading/fried-ness than the last time i had the walleye at Tavern on Grand and about average everything else. The place is a real time warp, with the original (1959) wallpaper and the set-ups were most amusing (I dont think ive ever ordered a glass of tonic before). There is a nice patio on the lake, with a great view and good company Fisher's is a good time.
We got the do-it-yourself s'mores for dessert, which were rather unremarkable (exactly as you would expect - pre-package grahm crackers, standard 'mellows and two hershey bars plus a fresh can of sterno). Fun times after a few rounds of set-ups but definitely not revelatory.