More Than 20 Bistros in Tiny Lake Village Tells You All You Need to Know
Ask anyone in Elkhart Lake, Wis., population 967, the mindset of visitors who flock there every summer and the word “resorter” will invariably come up. Turns out, that’s also the name of the local school mascot and an identifier embroidered on vintage hoodies. Elkhart Lake Resorters.
Now, as for defining resorter, certainly a love of the historic white clapboard resorts, the crystal-clear lake and the quaint downtown shops plays into it, as does walkability and welcoming vibe.
Oh, and the food scene, a big surprise for first time visitors. There are 20+ bistros, gastropubs, and taverns tucked into the village’s 1.3 square miles, many with al fresco options, each with their own distinctive take on dining and cocktailing.
A fine starting point for any Elkhart Lake culinary conversation is Lola’s on the Lake at the Osthoff Resort, the epitome of chic farm-to-table cuisine. The culinary team sources from its own one-acre garden, a bounty finding its way to the menus of the resort’s restaurants as well as its elegant cooking school and spa café.
That same farm-to-table sensibility shows up at the Paddock Club, where the weekly small plates menu showcases what’s fresh and flavorful from local famers and purveyors.
At Lake Street Café, ask for a wine recommendation from their Wine Spectator-recognized selection to accompany the orecchiette con carne. On summer nights, linger in the beer garden.
The Wisconsin tradition of the supper club can be found at Elkhart Inn, where steaks, chops and seafood dominate the menu and meals always start with a well-mixed Old Fashioned.
While it looks all-tavern, you’ll have regrets if you don’t try the food at Brown Baer. No deep fryer here, rather grilled veggies and their secret-recipe cornbread smothered in butter and maple syrup.
Savvy diners know to save room for dessert at Back Porch Bistro, part of the Victorian Village Resort. The Friday fish fry, a Wisconsin favorite, can be found at the Quit Qui Oc golf course clubhouse.
Mornings are for Off the Rail, a coffeehouse run by a Brit who relishes his slice of Americana and where lines out the door confirm the power of the pastries.
For libations, there’s Vintage Elkhart Lake a wine shop/tasting bar run by one of the country’s top sommeliers, and the Barefoot Tiki Bar where sunsets are always sensational. SwitchGear Brewing Co., the village’s first nanobrewery, is a nod to Elkhart Lake’s road racing history, where daredevil drivers once zoomed through the streets. Today racing is staged exclusively at the Road America. Pop in to Stop-Inn Tavern at Siebkens Resort and you may spot a celebrity racer as you nosh on gourmet fried cheese curds washed down with a craft cocktail. That, after all, is the resorter way to vacation in Elkhart Lake.