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Uncharted Chow in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
While the crush of tourists line up at Sprecher's Restaurant & Pub, Popeye’s on Lake Geneva and Gino’s East (for the same pizza they can get in Chicago), wily tripsters aren’t fearful of a 10 minute drive to land flavorful finds minus the crowds.
Finch Tavern & Taqueria, open the summer of 2016, is on Geneva Lake but far from the fudge shops in vicinity and tourist vulgarity. Just across the road from Big Foot Beach, the beachy restaurant and bar serves modern tacos and adult beverages made with fresh locally sourced ingredients. Order guacamole and the smashed avocado and pico de gallo smartly arrives table side separated so one can add as much or as little of the oniony mixture as the palate permits. The accompanying chips are fresh fried every day. Finch is attempting Mexican street taco fare and hitting the mark: big, fat shrimp spill from the shrimp tacos; carne asada is tender, sans fat and simply dressed with onions, cilantro and salsa roja; red snapper (the most popular) is tucked under lime, red cabbage, onion, cilantro, ancho chili, mango and Chipotle mayo; and the Taco de Costilla de Res (Beef Short Rib) is perfectly prepared with a smatter of pickled jalapenos, queso fresh and crema. There are dozen tacos from which to choose, a couple of sandwiches and salads, super fresh oyster shooters and seafood ceviche. Have a cold beer orany of the freshly squeezed Margarita cocktails and snag a seat outside with a view of the beach, far from the chattering touristas. Prices are on par with the quality - you won’t be disappointed unless On the Border or Taco Bell are more your style.
Finch Tavern & Taqueria,
N2062 S Lake Shore Dr
Lake Geneva, WI. 53147
There are plenty of fancy, schmancy spots in which to dine in the southeastern Wisconsin tourist town but can there be anything more infuriating than dropping serious coinage for a merely mediocre meal? When you want that one elevated dinner in Lake Geneva, try Crafted Americana in the Ridge Hotel and you may revisit before you leave town - it’s that good and reasonable priced. It offers requisite Wisconsin menu items like a slow roasted Saturday night Prime Rib ($26.95-$29.95) and a Friday Fish Fry ($12.95) for two pieces of baked or fried cod, one potato pancake or seasoned fries, coleslaw and house-crafted applesauce and tarter sauce. But Chef Ricky Lund’s technique shines from apps (shrimp n grits with crispy pancetta and stone ground mustard grits for $11 and big enough for two) to perfectly charred Strip steak and a stellar Chilean Sea Bass atop bulgar wheat and charred sugar snap peas dotted with pancetta and a squeeze of lemon for brightness. Entrees range from $15-$38, with big city inventiveness and quality. A winner.
By the way, save more money and hitup the Crafted Happy Hour, Monday to Thursday 4pm to 7pm for half price drinks
Mars Resort has existed since the 1920’s and although it isn’t a “resort” with cabins or rooms for visitors, the restaurant oozes old-fashioned Wisconsin campinessfrom the woozy elderly couples at the bar to its mid century renditions of the catch of the day. The traditional Friday Fish fry offers a variety of options (bluegill, walleye, perch, potato pancakes) and others make the short trek from downtown Lake Geneva for the house specialty - slow roasted beef ribs. It’s dark, dated and fabulous. There’s live music weekends, well-poured cocktails, two-fisted burgers and pretty sunsets on the shores of Lake Como.
W4098 S Shore Dr
Lake Geneva, WI 53147-3438
Insane in Galena
The building which housed the first version of Fried Green Tomatoes Restaurant in Galena, IL was an insane asylum. It was torn down (much to the chagrin of ghost hunters) and the Italian eatery now serves insanely good food to conga line of customers on Main St. After ingesting your full pound of mussels plus warm bread dipped in butter and dusted with Parmesan, walk up to the second floor dining area and notice the stained glass fragments and wooden door hanging on the brick walls - artifacts snatched from the asylum. The Main St. locale has plenty of its own historic mojo previously serving as a small town pharmacy.
It seems as though everyone orders the titular app - breaded green tomatoesfried in olive oil and capped with cheese and marinara. It’s most def Italian and not a southern Paula Deen construct. Chilean Sea bass was expertly pan seared alongside tenderbroccolini and the smoked Gouda mac ’n’ cheese dotted with discs of sausage was a comfort food standout. Main St. dining in a tourist town is often disappointing but winning service and fine food at Fried Green Tomatoes will have you humming “Love Her Madly” on the way out.