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Thursday, 03 July 2014 00:00

Special report: Dining with a view of Geneva Lake

Written by  Ian Gronau
The east end of Geneva Lake as seen from the Geneva Inn. The east end of Geneva Lake as seen from the Geneva Inn. Terry Mayer

(Scroll to bottom for panoramic views of Geneva Lake)

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- Geneva Lake provides about eight square miles of Walworth County’s 21 square miles of water. Thousands of years ago, retreating glaciers carved out the depression that eventually became the lake.

The ancient Oneota tribes of the lost Hopewell Culture Indians were thought to have lived in the area as long ago as 1,000 B.C.

By 1831, when European settlers first arrived at the lake, the Potawatomi tribe had established a large village where Fontana is today, and another smaller village in what is now the city of Lake Geneva. 

Read the current edition here: http://www.server-jbmultimedia.net/CSI-WalworthCountySunday

But what’s the best part about the lake? Looking out over its beauty and having a nice meal, of course. Luckily there are many terrific locations around the lake that to do just that.

Here is an unscientific survey of some of our favorites:

• Shore Club, 2 West Geneva St., Williams Bay

Cleta Yamauchi, co-owner of Shore Club in Williams Bay, feels that locals and vacationers alike find both culinary and aesthetic bliss at their restaurant. 

“People love the view,” Yamauchi said. “They really enjoy sitting on the patio, having a glass of wine and looking out over the lake. We have delicious food and the landscaping is beautiful. We put a lot of effort into making sure that everything is appealing.”

Shore Club’s location is not only charming because of its lake view, but also because it’s in what Yamauchi feels is the hub of Williams Bay. Much of her business comes from people walking or driving by just noticing the restaurant, she said.

If you’re stopping by for the view, you might also want to enjoy the live music on Saturday nights, the newly introduced Sunday brunch and a few of the menu standouts. Naturally Yamauchi likes everything they serve at the restaurant, but the fact that her husband, Dom, is the club’s chef gives her special insight.

• Chuck’s Lakeshore Inn, 352 Lake St., Fontana

According to one of Chuck’s co-owners, Julie Ieronimo, the lakeside restaurant is not only a well-established institution for locals, but for her family as well.

“Chuck’s has been in our family since 1968. My grandfather purchased it from his best friend, Chuck Gasser, and it had been in his family for many years before that,” Ieronimo said. “It’s kind of like a tradition, if anyone around here wants to come over to the lake and have a drink they always say, ‘Let’s meet at Chuck’s.’”

Ieronimo claims that the view of the lake from Chuck’s is most likely one of the longest views from any restaurant because one can see all the way to Lake Geneva from the Chuck’s vantage point. She also points out that due to a recent policy change by the village, patrons have been getting even more pleasure out of the view.

“Ever since the village of Fontana started allowing alcohol outside on our patio it has been wonderful,” Ieronimo said. “Now people can sit out on the patio during the summer and enjoy the beautiful view with their drinks. We also have a private room on the second floor where people can really take advantage of the view if they want to do a private party. You don’t even need decorations with the lake to look at.”

As for the food, Ieronimo said that nothing tops her personal favorite, the Chuck’s cheeseburger, and she’s not alone.

“A lot of people don’t even look at the menu when they come in, they know what they’re going to have already. Chuck’s burger is a staple on a lot of peoples’ personal menus,” Ieronimo said.

• Gino’s East, 300 Wrigley Drive, Lake Geneva

Mark Lalasz from Gino’s East in Lake Geneva feels that many diners really appreciate the view from the restaurant’s terrace that juts out toward Wrigley Drive, but he said that this isn’t the only place from which you can enjoy the view.

“Our view is the best,” Lalasz said. “Not only do we have a front view, but a side view as well off the terrace. You can actually enjoy the lake view from all aspects of (the) restaurant, even from the bar from a high table.”

If the view isn’t enough, Lalasz also said that the restaurant hosts daily drink specials and a great menu, but his personal favorite are the Italian nachos.

• The Geneva Inn, N2009 South Lake Shore Drive, Lake Geneva

Geneva Inn General Manager Susan Lorre said that she always hears a common set of words to describe the view from the inn.

“I always hear people say that it’s fabulous and panoramic,” Lorre said. “Customers really enjoy watching the sunsets, especially.”

The Geneva Inn is another venue that offers a bit more in the entertainment department. Lorre said that the restaurant features Friday and Saturday live music during dinner and a Sunday brunch with music as well.

As far as Lorre is concerned, the view and the superb menu have equal draw. Personally she enjoys the seafood; an affinity shared with many of the restaurant’s patrons.

“The salmon filet is great, and the calamari as an appetizer is so good,” she said. “We’re mostly known for our seafood and calamari.”

• Lake Geneva Cruise Line, 812 Wrigley Drive, Lake Geneva

Your favorite view of the lake might actually be from on it; luckily the Lake Geneva Cruise Line has been offering the opportunity to find out for many years. Harold Friestad, vice president and general manager of the cruise line, has been with the company for 47 years and he feels that the line has served up a countless number of great experiences.

“It’s very special to be out on the water looking at the lake, the millionaire mansions along the lakeshore and the sunset,” Friestad said. “It’s a nice way to spend a relaxing evening out on the water.”

The cruise line offers many options for exploring the lake via boat, but the packages that include a meal are the champagne Sunday brunch, the luncheon cruise, the Thursday evening dinner cruise and the Dixieland/Jazz dinner cruise.

“I think our most popular is the buffet-style champagne brunch Sunday cruise; people absolutely love it,” Friestad said. “It is accompanies ... our tour and runs for approximately 2 1/2 hours. It fills up quick, though, so anyone interested would need to make a reservation.”

• Library/Elm Park, 900 block of Main Street, Lake Geneva

This little park runs along the Geneva Lake shoreline, adjacent to the Lake Geneva Public Library. The prairie-style library was dedicated in 1954 and is built on land deeded to the city in 1884 by Mary Sturgess.

On top of being a great place to sit and read a book, the park is the perfect spot to enjoy an expansive view of the lake with nothing other than a picnic basket. It is a passive park designed by the city for relaxation, and it has the amenities of a fishing pier and public restrooms.

Possibly the best part of this location is that you can take your view on the go. After a full meal you may want to go for a stroll; the park is attached directly to one of the entry points to the 26-mile Geneva Lake shore path open to the public that circles the entire lake. Talk about a view.

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