With a panoramic view of Lake Como and the lush hills surrounding it, the Lakeview Grille at The Lodge at Geneva Ridge, Lake Geneva, Wis., on Highway 50, offers a dining experience that’s elegant but comfortable, familiar but fresh. An enthusiastic culinary staff wisely tips its hat to tradition, but also shows courage in the kitchen.
“We definitely want to set ourselves apart by using high-quality ingredients and cooking from scratch,” says Executive Chef Michael Seeley. “Our steaks are Grade A all-natural beef. Our seafoods are the best and freshest available. But we also like to offer unexpected dishes that change with the seasons.”
As he speaks, a deer timidly picks its way across the lawn outside the wide windows. “That’s a common sight here,” says Seeley, nodding toward the young buck. “And this view is just as beautiful in wintertime. The snow-covered oak trees are amazing.”
Nodding in agreement is Nicholas Johnson, general manager of The Lodge at Genvea Ridge. “Families have been coming here for generations,” he says. “We’re part of their tradition. That’s why, as a new management team, we wanted to put our stamp on the menu, without losing what people have loved about it for decades.”
The Lodge at Geneva Ridge, formerly Interlaken, was beautifully renovated in 2008. Today it’s managed by the owners of neighboring Geneva National Golf Club, which offers fine dining at The Hunt Club.
Seeley was managing four restaurants in Rockford when he made the move to Lake Geneva. “I absolutely love the creative freedom I have here with the menu,” he says.
“We just liked his approach in the kitchen,” says Johnson. “He has a way of taking people’s favorite foods and making them special, without being pretentious.”
This autumn, Seeley added to the menu a 16-oz. slow-smoked and char-grilled pork chop that he tops with a caramelized brandy apple demi-glace. For the winter menu, he’ll debut a signature veal lasagna made with 20-month aged Parmesan, smoked mozzarella, fontina and asiago cheeses.
“I’m a huge fan of home-cooked comfort foods. I’m not a frou-frou chef,” says Seeley, whose cooking lessons began as a child, when he helped his great-grandmothers lovingly prepare special meals for large family gatherings.
“We recently added meatloaf to the menu,” says Seeley. “Yes, meatloaf. We use a combination of ground duck, sirloin and pork, for a wonderful balance of flavor and moisture. Then we top it with a wild mushroom demi-glace, and believe me, it ceases to be ‘just meatloaf.’”
A dish popular with guests this past summer was a 6-oz. panko-encrusted chicken breast, served with fresh pomodoro sauce made, in part, from tomatoes, herbs and other ingredients grown on-site.
“I’m impressed by the commitment to grow what we can here in our own gardens, and to source other ingredients from local farmers and purveyors,” says Seeley. “This whole management/sales/culinary team is so eager to make this place all that we know it can be.”
The restaurant offers a Friday fish fry with cod or perch, served with warm bread, potato pancakes and slaw, “all from scratch, including the beer batter,” says Johnson. “At $10.99, it’s an amazing value.”
There’s also a certified angus prime rib buffet on Saturdays.
Starting Nov. 20, Lakeview Grille will host Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “We’ll have it all,” says Seeley. “Salad and carving stations, omelet and crepe stations, a main buffet and barbequed short ribs – I adore ribs, they’re a passion of mine. I’ve spent a lot of time coming up with a way to slow roast them to perfection.”
Lakeview Grille serves lunch and dinner daily, and breakfast weekends-only during winter. Hours are Mon. 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tues. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fri. & Sat. 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sun. 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. ❚