Lake Country may be known for its water sports and recreation, but there’s a lot more to the area than boating, fishing and long walks on the beach.
Whether you’re looking for a night out with the girls, to enjoy some frozen custard with the family or to experience fine dining without heading downtown, one thing is for sure: Good food and fun is on the menu.
Here is a taste of some of the hidden gems Lake Country has to offer:
150 N. North Ave., Hartland, $$
From its margaritas to its vast offerings of authentic Mexican fare, Senor Tomas is considered a foodie staple for locals.
Yet its uniquely versatile atmosphere lends itself to all kinds of visitors, from those looking to share a cup of coffee and chat over some funky artwork after a stroll through the nearby downtown area to those anxious to dig into some delicious food. An outdoor patio lends itself to either patron, as does the main dining room and The Blue Room, which is inspired by the work of Mexican artist Frida Kalo.
The reasonably priced menu features a variety of traditional favorites like enchiladas, burritos and chimichangas, but ventures outside the box with a variety of specialty dishes, such as Cozumel Fish and A La Diabla and unique appetizers, including tamales and different kinds of quesadillas.
Soups and salads, served alongside freshly baked cornbread, are among the other highlights of the expansive menu, which also includes breakfast and brunch entrees.
153 E. Wisconsin Ave., Oconomowoc, $$
The name is clever and its mission is simple: Think outside the burger. The Crafty Cow in Oconomowoc boasts a unique and unforgettable menu featuring imaginative burgers and a revolving beer menu.
The mouth-watering creations include fan favorites like the Shrimp Taco Burger, a house 1/3-pound patty stuffed with bacon and pepper-jack cheese and topped with seasoned shrimp, chimichurri slaw, raw onion and avocado.
“There really is a lot to take in on our menu,” says General Manager Dale Charboneau, who said he always recommends new visitors try the “Cow of the Moment” special. “We get crazy with (the specials) and have a lot of fun with them so I always encourage people to give them a try since our regular menu will still be around on their next visit.”
With that said, Charboneau says the Packer or the Beast are among the fan favorites on the regular menu.
An ode to local Packer nation culture, the Packer is stuffed with Weyauwega white cheddar cheese and topped with homemade bacon kraut, onions, green peppers and honey Dijon mustard.
“It’s kind of our goal to take the basic idea of a burger and evolve it into something amazing,” he says. “Everything we do is craft, from our burgers made to order to our 20 rotating taps that offer the best selection in Lake Country.”
More traditional burger selections also make appearances on the reasonably priced menu, including options like The Bleu, the Dirty Swiss and the Bacon Cheddar.
Options abound on the build-your-own burger part of the menu, where you can choose from a surprisingly overwhelming number of toppings, breads, meats and cheeses.
The menu also features appetizers, sausages, salads and sandwich melts.
In addition to a variety of bloody Mary choices, the brunch menu features both the traditional brunch offerings and breakfast with a twist. The Benedict Burger sounds downright sinful, complete with a poached egg, spinach, peppered bacon and a house recipe tomato Hollandaise sauce.
Other Brunch highlights include pancakes for any palate. For the early morning sweet tooth, there is a S’mores pancake as well as tropical pancakes, which are topped with pineapple, coconut, mango and served with pineapple mango syrup.
For the savory pancake lover, the Porker features bacon, pork belly and sausage.
W278 N2316 Prospect Ave., Pewaukee, $$$$
For an upscale feel with local flare, Michael’s House of Prime is the place to try.
Located along Pewaukee Lake, the family-owned and operated eatery features a variety of seafood, daily specials and its famous prime rib with all the comforts of an old school, supper club.
“After being around for more than 40 years, we pride ourselves on being one of the few old-fashioned supper clubs left (in the area),” says owner Debbie Griepentrog.
A sense of tradition runs deep at Michael’s, where they serve classic appetizers like breaded mushrooms, French onion soup and haystack onion rings.
The nautical atmosphere is cozy, so a wait is to be expected during the dinner rush when Michael’s features a menu built around steak and seafood favorites.
“Our nautical theme and friendly staff are among the main reasons people keep coming back,” Griepentrog says. “The prime rib is really our specialty … people love it and enjoy that we serve it every night.”
Prime rib is the business’ namesake, and starts at about $34 per person. In addition to surf and turf deals, the menu airs on the more expensive side, featuring a variety of specials, sandwiches and salads in addition to its locally famous Friday fish fry.
3061 Village Square Drive, Hartland, $
Low prices and high-quality are among the reasons locals point to Asian Kitchen as a hidden gem. With lunch specials under $5 and most other beloved menu items at $8 or less, this local landmark has a lot to offer.
A friendly staff and fresh ingredients are among the other reasons locals favor this menu, which features more than 100 options to choose from, including favorites like fried rice, lo mein, chop suey, egg foo young and sweet and sour chicken.
Most entrees are served with your choice of fried or white rice and an egg roll as well.
617 Wells Street, Delafield, $$
For family-friendly fun, good food and affordable prices, check out the Lumber Inn.
A family-owned local favorite since 1983, the menu features all of your favorite breakfast and lunch options served up with a side of home style flare.
The breakfast menu includes everything from chocolate chip pancakes to eggs served with your choice of meat, such as steak, ham or pork chops.
Sandwiches, burgers, dinners and salads round out the menu, featuring unique choices like the Breakfast Burger, Caribbean Shrimp Salad and Napa Chicken Avocado Wrap.
S43 W31343 WI-83, Genesee Depot, $$
A prized neighborhood bistro in the heart of Waukesha County, Cornerstone has been bringing new meaning to the hidden gem concept since it opened in 2005.
The local favorite features a variety of comfort food in a homey atmosphere, starting with breakfast favorites like eggs benedict and berry nut French toast.
“Cornerstone is all about the food and the people … neither can happen without the other,” says manager Judy Knoernschild, who shares partial ownership with chef Francisco Ramirez.
Locals who lunch swear by the Portabella chicken with sun-dried tomato mayo, pastrami Reuben and sirloin steak sandwich for lunch choices.
“I am most proud that we can offer a large, diverse menu that truly has something for everyone,” Knoernschild says, also citing the wine list, microbrews and famous homemade carrot cake among Cornerstone’s features. “The core menu has its fan favorites, but we also feature seasonal specials and fresh creations alongside the regular menu.”
This fall, Knoernschild said patrons have the roast turkey dinner, complete with all the trimmings, to look forward to.
“Where I can, I like to put my own twist on standard restaurant fare,” she says. “For example, when adding butternut squash ravioli to the menu, I knew I wanted to be able to offer it to vegetarians without sacrificing on flavor, so I incorporated sun-dried- tomatoes into the recipe in place of the usual bacon … it has become one of our most requested item.”
Other dinner choices include a variety of steaks and seafood, including dishes like the Parmesan-crusted New York strip, Sunfire Ahi Tuna and seafood jambalaya.
“It’s all about the customers, the employees and the community,” Knoerschild says. “Our customers are truly our friends, and our employees truly care about our customers.”
240 W. Summit Ave., Wales, $
It’s been almost 40 years since family favorite LeDuc’s first opened its doors, yet locals will tell you almost nothing has changed.
“I would say one of the main reasons LeDuc’s has been successful is because of a great staff offering a high-quality product,” says Steve Kinsey, whose family runs LeDuc’s. “Most of today’s recipes have been around for a long time, while new items have also come along to keep the menu interesting.”
Kinsey said before his family operated LeDuc’s they were customers for more than 25 years.
“Great custard has always been LeDuc’s claim to fame, but our food menu continues to grow and gain popularity,” says Kinsey, calling the spot’s old-style, drive-up restaurant feel one of its most proud features.
The destination, which offers both indoor and outdoor dining and is open year-round, has become an establishment over the years, priding itself on offering only the highest-quality food, drinks and frozen custard to its beloved patrons.
The flavor of the day rotates from a list of about 75 flavors, in addition to the business’ beloved menu of sandwiches, soups and appetizers.
Among the favorites are the turtle sundae and their specialty burger called the Benedict.