By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Apr 09, 2021 at 11:01 AM

Last December, the former Bayside on Okauchee, N50 W35016 Wisconsin Ave., changed hands. 

Joe and Ellen Hennes, owners of Sloppy Joe's Saloon and Spoon in Hubertus, purchased the restaurant, along with the former Okauchee Elementary School property across the street, from former owners Jim and Carolyn Cadd and renaming the venue Smoke on the Water BBQ Okauchee.

“We’d been coming out here for a number of years,” says Joe Hennes, “And we really fell in love with the Okauchee area. We got a place on the water here, and over time we’ve made so many friends, including Jim and Carolyn. I’ve always been drawn to water, so when the opportunity arose to buy the property, we took advantage.”

Busy bar filled with peopleX

Hennes says the scenario hearkens back to the motto  at Sloppy Joes: "Where strangers become friends and friends become family."

“We really value the friends we’ve made over the years,” he says. “And we loved the idea of creating another space where more people can come together and have fun.”

When the Henneses took over, they changed little about the property, which sports a raised deck patio (complete with gas tables and plentiful seating) which overlooks Okauchee Lake and three piers with six boat slips where customers can park for dine-in service or quick, efficient carry-out.

PatioX

Ellen Hennes says that, even inside, they kept the overall nautically themed look and feel the same; but they took the opportunity to warm things up with new lighting and a few personal touches that offered up a bit of personality.

On the menu

But they did bring new touches to the menu, adding an outdoor smoker and bringing their expertise in smoked meats to the table with options like pulled pork, ribs, pulled chicken, wings and – the crowd favorite – smoked beef brisket.  All are available in sandwich form or as a platter with a choice of two sides, including options like Carolina coleslaw, pit beans, maple bacon glazed baby baked potatoes or carrot pearls with bourbon glaze.

Barbequed ribs
Ribs and sauce (photo c/o Smoke on the Water BBQ)
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There are also smoker-enhanced options like smoked chicken, turkey or brisket pot pies and the popular Texas Twinkies: bacon wrapped smoked jalapeno poppers stuffed with cream cheese, pepperjack and brisket and dusted with dry rub.

“Barbeque is our main lane,” says Hennes, “But that’s not the only thing you’ll find.”

Guests will also find Nico’s pizza, a popular carry-over from the former Bayside on Okauchee’s offerings, as well as numerous sandwiches, wraps and entrees like Caprese chicken risotto, pan-seared wild salmon and Burgundy brandy filet of tenderloin.

Community

The Henneses have also made partnering with neighboring businesses a priority. So their hamburger buns and pretzels come from the Baker Meister bakery just down Wisconsin Avenue, they participate in friendly cross promotion with the Lake Life retail shop across the street, and they’ve begun planning a variety of events with other local eateries. 

In fact,  guests can look forward to a variety of forthcoming summer events including a series of water ski shows with Foolery’s Liquid Therapy, weekly “Wheels on Water” car shows and even a Pup Crawl pet parade. Watch their Facebook page for details.

State of the art event space

The Henneses also know a bit about throwing a good party. For years, they’ve run a healthy off-premise catering operation in Hubertus where they’re also well known for their live entertainment.  

They’ve already brought some of that to the table at Smoke on the Water, with open jams on Thursdays, live music on Fridays and karaoke on Saturdays. But they will be upping the ante very soon with a brand new state of the art banquet facility and live music venue.

Hennes says that, before they took over, the ground level of Smoke on the Water was vacant for over a decade. But he and Ellen are making progress on converting the space into an event space and live music venue which will accommodate about 250 people.

“Back in the 1950’s there was a thriving bowling alley there,” he says, “And it was a nightclub in the 90s. But we’re currently working on it, and – hopefully by early summer – we’ll be able to put a ribbon around it and present it to the community as a state of the art facility.”

They are currently taking bookings on the space (with pre-construction discounts), which will boast a modern-industrial-nautical look and feel with hardwood flooring, a stage for live entertainment and six operable garage doors that will open up toward the lake.

 Call (262) 468-5012 for more information.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.