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Elkhart Lake / Crystal Lake Area

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ParmLover Aug 11, 2011 02:10 PM

My husband and I vacationed for a week in the Elkhart Lake / Crystal Lake area Aug 1, 2011. It was a tough area to find much dining information about on the internet. So I thought I'd post our experiences for others who might be looking.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hYV-J... (Hum this theme song as you read ;

)

THE GOOD
Lake Street Cafe -- (Elkhart) Read good reviews about this place. Went here twice. The first time, we weren't dressed for the "nice" dining room at the back so sat in the front dining room which is good for families. It is a very loud dining room -- lots of families, lots of kids, music, people talking. So it is fun if you are in the mood for a caucophony of noise – we wished we had dressed nicer for the other dining room. Fortunately, you can order from the same menu in the front dining room so we had a very nice dinner. I am big on lobster bisque so had to get a cup after reading the raves on the internet. Very good -- nice rich color / taste from the dark roux and one little bit of lobster that I had not expected. My husband had your basic salad. They have very good bread also. I had the shrimp and scallop pasto w/ linguine in pesto cream sauce. Sooooo good -- I wasn't able to eat alot of it, it was so rich. My husband had a fantastic filet mignon that had a lovely crusty sear, some excellent roasted fingerling potatos, and asparagus. We had a slice of the cheesecake-of-the-day for dessert -- "smores" cheesecake -- which was just okay. Later in the week I saw they had double chocolate creme brulee on the menu which sounded heavenly but I never did get to try it. We never did get to eat in the nicer dining room as were trying to mix high dollar meals with moderate to keep from spending too much on our trip.

We went again another day for lunch -- after having Il Ritrovo pizza (see below) earlier in the week, Lake Street's pizza just didn't compare. It tasted like a cornmeal cracker crust, very unique. Neither my husband or I thought they were very good. Not inedible but wouldn't order again. They were also overwhelmed for lunch and service was very slow. (Had an appetizer bowl of homemade sweet potato and fingerling potato chips -- just okay, wouldn't order again.)

The Paddock Club -- oh my, loved this place. First of all, I loved their space -- exposed brick walls, high ceilings, cool paint color, modern fixtures, exposed kitchen. We wished we had sat at the high table by the exposed kitchen so we could have watched them cook. We started with an orange shrimp appetizer -- grilled shrimp w/ orange supremes on a bed of schmancy lettuce. Delicious. I then had the Caesar salad while my husband ate the schmancy lettuce. My Caesar salad was truly one of the best I've ever had and the fresh parmesan shavings were beyond yummy. Since my salad was quite large, I chose the half portion of pasta. Two of the pasta choices had either truffles or truffle oil -- I know it probably goes against the very definition of gourmand, but I am just not keen on truffles. I am a huge mushroom lover so figured I would love truffles, but alas ......... so went with the spaghetti bolognese. I was a tad skeptical as to whether I would truly enjoy the dish because I am not a big meat person and this sauce had three types of meat in it. But it was lucious. The three meats were tender, the sauce was fabulous with San Marzano tomatoes, and the spaghetti was al dente perfection. We were really longing for a fantastic homemade dessert but none of the three that night grabbed us. Went to Gesserts next door for ice cream -- review below. P.S. I always remember what I eat better than my husband ; ) -- he is pretty much a red meat / pork chop guy. Had another fabulous filet here w/ yummy mashed potatos and veggies. (Also, a little clear clasp type container of butter came with their bread – so creative and cute. Good bread too.)

Il Ritrovo -- Sheboygan. This should be in The Superlative category instead of The Good category. Oh my. So so so so good. Went there for lunch one rainy day. The wood-fired pizzas are fabulous - as in, eat every last bite of crust fabulous because the bread is that good. The menu says the cheese is buffalo mozzarella flown in fresh. We started with a bruschetta appetizer. What an explosion of flavor with the great bread, olive oil, the burst of bright fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Fabulous combination. I wished we could have gone back another day to try the ravioli. (I believe their pastas are only served at lunch.) We were seated right across from the oven so it was fun to watch. The store across from the restaurant is also fun to walk around and look.

Bo Mallies -- Crystal Lake. This place was right across from our rental -- given the convenience, I figured our luck it wouldn't be good but there were several good reviews. We ended up eating here three times! The first night, we were just kind of snacky from driving all day and didn't really want a big dinner. So we ordered tapas and salads. For a house salad, we were amazed at how good and how big the salads were. My husband had some jerk chicken skewers which were so spicy hot it seemed like lips/mouth were going to catch on fire. They were really too hot and (ahem) wreaked havoc on the digestive system. I had the seared scallops appetizer which came with a little bit of salad in the middle made up of things I didn’t like (which I can’t recall now) – all I wanted was the scallops which were seared perfectly. We skipped dessert here because we’d had Kopp’s Custard for lunch on our way through Milwaukee. Our second meal was gourmet finger-licking good – roasted chicken w/ some kind of heavenly dark reduction sauce w/ onions. It was a difficult thing to eat politely in a restaurant but so good. Excellent rough-mashed potatoes, nicely and richly flavored, and crispy thin green beans. We had some pork and shrimp pot stickers for an appetizer that I wasn’t so fond of. We shared a glass of vanilla gelato for dessert. Our last meal was the night before our departure. My husband had filet #3 for the week, he’s a creative diner. (But hey, he keeps me company!) He had their terrific garden salad again, and I tried their Caesar salad. It was good but Paddock’s was still better. I had the red pepper risotto (which was cheesey and delicious) w/ seared scallops. We had hoped on a Saturday night to finally come across some great homemade desserts (especially as I’d read one review that said someone had had pumpkin crème brulee here) but no luck again. Just a Guiness chocolate cake and gelato. We had that fine American dessert DQ instead ; ) (In Plymouth.) Bo Mallies is a terrific restaurant for this small town area.

THE BAD
Trying to get some moderate restaurants into the mix and not wanting to drive far, we tried the Irish restaurant in Plymouth, 52 Stafford. Hmmm. This seemed to get good reviews but…….. we joked that we need to come up with some kind of a signal when we walk into a restaurant and the first impression isn’t so great. Three pats on the head mean turn and run?! It was 6:30/7pm on a Friday night and restaurant was virtually empty. Not a good sign. We sat down anyway. I was tempted to try some of the Irish entrees on the menu but was scared to try after the bad first impression. Both of us just got fish & chips to be safe. Then, we ordered iced teas – husband takes first swallow, looks at me, and says – try your tea. I take a swallow. Our iced teas taste like cold coffee!!!! And we are not coffee drinkers, hot or cold. The waitress was mystified – my husband asked to switch to diet coke but apparently she didn’t hear and we both got two more glasses of iced tea. The second glass seemed like strong tea to me but my husband still thought it tasted like coffee. So, not sure what’s going on there? I’m guessing they tried to brew iced tea in the coffee maker?! The fish and chips were just okay – the husband thought the fish was a little too strong tasting. The entrée came with a cup of supposedly homemade cole slaw but it was not cold. I think I was just put off enough at this point to not want to eat. All in all, we were sorry we wasted our time/money here.

THE UGLY
The second not-so-great restaurant was Brisco County Wood Grill in Sheboygan. We had really not wanted to drive back to Sheboygan from Crystal Lake again but just not a lot of moderate restaurants in the Elkhart Lake / Crystal Lake / Plymouth area. I thought I had read that this might be a barbecue place and we were really up for some BBQ given we rotate two really good BBQ places in our hometown every week. But it was really a wings place with charcoal grilled steaks / hamburgers, etc. The place seemed like a bar / wings place when we walked in, kind of old and dingy. We had some pork BBQ sandwiches that were in a BBQ sauce I’d heard of (Sweet Baby Ray’s) or something like that – they were fine but just not quite what we were looking for. We went a little late too – a few people still there but the restaurant was in shut-down mode so the putting chairs up on tables and vacuuming weren’t doing much for the ambiance. Oh well, you win some / you lose some on vacation in unfamiliar territory!

Also in The Ugly category, The Lake Deck beachfront dining area at The Osthoff Resort. So, if you’re at Fireman’s Beach and you didn’t pack a picnic lunch, where do you go for a fun/good lunch without cleaning up? Had read and heard this was a decent place and it appears to be a nice resort. Hmmm. We were not impressed. We had worked up an appetite after swimming – a grilled burger sounded great. I realize as a high schooler having to work at a beach restaurant while others are having fun is not so good – boy did they communicate their lethargia. None of them acted like they had any umph to do anything even though they were on the clock – everyone was lounging around while eating areas etc., need to be picked up / wiped down. I watched two employee kids walk up to get a drink from the bar and were literally dragging their feet as they walked. I watched one employee girl eating nachos directly from the serving area. The burgers were just the frozen thin patty grilled quickly w/ potato chips on the side. I’m not sure how much it costs to stay at The Osthoff but by the looks of the resort, they sure could try harder. Since they had grills going right there for the frozen patties, why not buy good quality hamburgers? And have a manager on staff who can keep the kids hopping – area cleaned up, etc. We did finish off our lunch with nice cold frozen Dove ice cream bars that were only $2.00 apiece which is amazing given what we pay for them in concessions at professional golf outings…… .

THE SO-SO
After no dessert at The Paddock Club, we walked down the street to check out Gesserts. It was like stepping back in time to an old soda fountain. But, unfortunately, that was the neatest thing about it. We met the older lady who runs it – saw the pictures in the display about her family, how her son had died in a tragic auto accident. She was very friendly and kindly took a picture of us as we sat at the counter – the only picture we have from the trip of both of us. But given all the other ice creams in the world – fabulous homemade churned ice cream, Kopp’s custard, Coldstone Creamery, our own local custard ice cream shop at home, etc. – the ice cream was just nothing to write home about and the waffle cone had seen better days. I’m sure the owner enjoys interacting with people (I think it’s only open on weekends).

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I wished we had had time to visit Margaux in Sheboygan – really really wanted to go there but after spending quite a bit on dinners in the area where we stayed, it just didn’t happen. Schwarz’s Supper Club near Elkhart also sounded like it might have been good but we didn’t make it. Bruce’s in Elkhart Lake sounded like it had changed hands recently so we didn’t try it either.

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Paddock Club
61 Lake St, Elkhart Lake, WI 53020

Coldstone Creamery
72 S Weber Rd, Romeoville, IL 60446

Brisco County Wood Grill
539 Riverfront Dr, Sheboygan, WI 53081

Lake Street Cafe
21 Lake St, Elkhart Lake, WI 53020

Margaux
821 N 8th St, Sheboygan, WI 53081

Hacienda Santa Rosa
3535 Calumet Ave, Manitowoc, WI 54220

Il Ritrovo
515 S 8th St, Sheboygan, WI 53081

52 Stafford
52 Stafford St, Plymouth, WI 53073

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  1. nsxtasy RE: ParmLover Aug 11, 2011 04:19 PM

    There are lots of reports in the discussion at www.chow.com/topics/400380 which is still pretty much up to date.

    Too bad you missed Margaux - it's consistently outstanding!

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    Margaux
    821 N 8th St, Sheboygan, WI 53081

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy
      p
      ParmLover RE: nsxtasy Aug 12, 2011 06:14 AM

      Yep, I printed that post before we went on the trip and used it to hi-lite restaurants we wanted to try. It really seemed geared toward higher end restaurants though and we had trouble finding moderate good restaurants. We couldn't afford to have a high-end meal every night (although I probably would, my frugal husband keeps me in check ; ) When I searched for posts about this area, there just weren't alot of reports about people's personal experiences with restaurants like you see in bigger cities.

      I actually thought as I typed this post, I wonder if nsxtasy will see this? Or u-hockey. I love reading all your posts. : )

      1. re: ParmLover
        nsxtasy RE: ParmLover Aug 12, 2011 06:48 AM

        :)

        There are some not-so-expensive places around. Thai Cafe, which I mentioned in the other topic, is moderately priced. Bruce's was always moderately priced too; I haven't been there since they changed ownership and changed the name to Dutch's, but their website at www.dutchsofelkhart.com sounds like it's still moderately priced, with various specials. And there's always the Culver's in Plymouth.

        BTW, I'm hoping to go back to Margaux next week, so I may have an update!

        1. re: nsxtasy
          nsxtasy RE: nsxtasy Aug 16, 2011 04:30 PM

          >> BTW, I'm hoping to go back to Margaux next week, so I may have an update!

          Never mind. It would have been this Thursday, but I found out that on Thursdays they only serve their special tapas menu, not their regular dinner menu. So much for that idea. :(

    2. Fowler RE: ParmLover Aug 12, 2011 12:01 PM

      Wow. Thanks for the excellent report!

      Paddock Club - I wonder where they got truffles this time of year???

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      Paddock Club
      61 Lake St, Elkhart Lake, WI 53020

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