Lake Country Dining is Alive
I live in Lake Country, more specifically, I live in Oconomowoc. Oconomowoc used to be the jewel of Lake Country. There was Binzel Brewery, the thriving downtown, Lac La Belle and more. In the more recent past, Oconomowoc has taken a turn for the worse much like many towns in Wisconsin that have been bipassed with new Highway construction or because of the modern world and the competitive nature of corporate vs mom and pop business.
Recently there has been a new expansion of modern dining and entertainment that has come to downtown Oconomowoc. Three businesses that stand out for me are Splash Martini bar, Burkes Lakeside, and Cornerstone Sports Pub.
Splash is a great little martini joint. They offer a chill atmosphere that was smoke free before it was required. It has a touch of old lounge and modern amenities with a touch of Wisconsin. You are immediately engaged by the building as you approach it. It is a beautiful brick building with a black awning and these cool blue led icicle like lights they keep up all year round. When you walk in they have a small stage that is used for performers. They have anything from jazz, to spoken word, to local favorites. In the back they have secluded seating arranged for small to large groups to converse and lounge in deep plush chairs that you don't want to get out of. Good thing they have a great waitstaff as I usually don't want to get up. Their hand made cocktails are always fresh and made with precision. Recently they added a food menu which is catered by a local pub. I ordered some homemade rueben rollups made in wonton wrappers. I was not sure what to expect...hors d'oeuvres made by a pub and catered in. I was surprised. It arrived hot and crispy and super delicious.
My experience with the appetizer led me to investigate the next place. Cornerstone Sports Pub & Eatery is the business that catered the appetizers. I googled them and gave there website a quick view and the menus looked good. Finding Cornerstone proved to be a bit of a quest of its own. It is located on the backside of a mall and looks a bit off putting from the outside. Upon entry I was pleasantly surprised. First off, the handles to the doors are golden dragons, apparently left over from a previous occupant that was a Chinese restaurant. The place is clean and does have a charming allure to it. Upon further investigation it does appear to be more restaurant than bar but does appear to be bar from the initial reaction. The menu is typical pub style treats but made in house and there are a few quirky concoctions. I ordered there Wisconsin Black and Bleu burger with jalapenos and upon encouragement had the black and tan onion rings.
This burger is AWESOME! It has a combo of cheddar cheese layered over blue cheese crumbles with two slices of bacon and jalapenos...Oh yeah and it is a half pound. It is too much food for me but it was moist and the combo of the cheddar and blue cheese was great. The black and tan onion rings were excellent as well. I will definately get back as soon as I can.
The other local place I visited was Burkes lakeside. Burkes opened last Summer in what was the old Steak house on Silver Lake. Wow, they did this joint up correctly. They added a huge deck that over looks the Silver lake boat launch. That is going to be pure entertainment in the summer. Nothing is more funny than watching the Benny Hill like shenanigans that happen at a boat launch. There menu is very solid. They did a great job of bringing downtown high end casual dining to the suburbs at a reasonable price. The day I went it was busy and I had great service. I was ambitious and went with my two children who actually behaved. The "kids" pizza that they ordered and shared was huge. It was made on an oblong hand made crispy crust and layered with the toppings. I have a slice and it was very good. I ordered up the lobster macaroni. This was great. It was creamy, tender, al dente...it was perfect. I had the left overs for lunch the next day and still great.
Honestly I have lived in Oconomowoc now for almost three years and had almost given up on the city because of the lack of variety. I lived in Madison and in Milwaukee for several years and my wife is a Chef. I have to have good food options and variety otherwise I go crazy. I have heard of some new additions to the area that I have yet to try and I will let all know of my findings.