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Woodstone

Woodstone

The thing about houses, is they’re all the same. A few bedrooms, some bathrooms. The number of each signaling the value, sometimes.  A kitchen down the hall from the dining room, or a breakfast room if space is scarce. The living room, that’s something every house will feature.  A tiny house even has one, with the wheels  and the hitch and the fold out table. Look, the dining room!

Woodstone Lake Geneva

What makes houses different, or better, is where they’re located and what else they offer. If I have a basic house, older and damp, with a roof needing tending to, but that house and that old roof are located on the lake, then I’m in luck. It’s valuable.  Further, if my house isn’t on the lake and it still needs the roof but it’s on 80 acres with incredible rolling hills and a small stream in the valley, then I still have something that others will value.

Woodstone Lake Geneva
Woodstone Lake Geneva

The home at 1593 Woodstone Lane is a nice house. It’s really nice. Built in 2013, there’s nearly 5000 square feet of nice. I won’t insult your intelligence by describing each nice thing. There’s nice wood floors, two fireplaces, a deep and wide screened porch. The kitchen is super sweet, the first floor master bedroom suite both convenient and, perhaps, someday necessary. There are three more bedrooms, bunches of bathrooms. One bedroom has been made into a bunk room with the help of some snappy carpentry. Oh, and the finished, walkout lower level has a large rec room, full bar, and exercise and theatre rooms. See, it’s nice.

Woodstone Lake Geneva

But it’s the extra here that matters. The landscaping is lush, irrigated, and full. For an off-water home, the views of the surrounding wildflowers and hills and deep, dark deciduous border, all divine. Walk out of that large screened porch and onto a stone patio, where umbrellas and lounge chairs surround a private, in-ground swimming pool. Barrington Pools installed this pool, complete with automated cover, to the exacting specifications of the owner, and what a pool it is.

You could buy a lot in Woodstone and build a house. There’s nothing stopping you. But what you’ll do is spend more money to achieve a lesser than result. Why build new and abide the aggravation, delays and expense,  when you can buy this for less than it would cost to replicate? You wouldn’t, because you’re smart. Use as an affordable primary home close to Lake Geneva but with low Linn Township taxes, or continue using as the current owners have: As an ideal vacation home close to downtown and the Lake Geneva Yacht Club.   Available for private tour this weekend. $845,000.

The Waterfront Fish Fry Review

The Waterfront Fish Fry Review

I didn’t grow up in the church of the Friday Fish Fry.  Sure, I went once in a while, but it was never a pattern. Once a year, twice maybe. In the summer when relatives were in town, we’d fish fry. But we never made a habit of it. As an adult, I too would fish fry. But only every so often. There was never any particular need. With plenty of other things to eat on a Friday, why fish?

With that in mind, I must tell you what happens later. If you’re a fish fryer, then you already know, and even if it’s never discussed, it’s always understood. If you’re not a fish fryer, this might come as some strange surprise to you. But when you start going to fish fry, the habit that might become a pattern sneaks up on you. Eat fish on a Friday, feel fine about it. Eat no fish for the next six days, feel fine about it. Friday afternoon, when the work day is dwindling off towards another weekend, that’s when it grabs you. Where are we going to eat fish tonight? The habit becomes a pattern and the pattern, at least for those in Wisconsin, tends to become a religion.

Last Friday it was intolerably hot. Much like the weekend that followed. Because of this heat I needed to eat somewhere that I thought might have a modern air conditioning system, something adequate to ward off this heat and humidity. Last Friday, more than any Friday before, I wasn’t so keen on discovering something new. I wanted to go somewhere known. I wanted to go to Abbey Springs, to use my dining membership for the second time in several months. To Anthony’s, where I know exactly what to expect. But alas, I soldiered on in the attempt to weed out the pretenders in this Friday Fish game. My son and I pulled into the Waterfront’s parking lot at 5:45 pm last Friday. It was hot out.

This restaurant is on Highway 50 in the Delavan inlet. It was built new several years ago, or so I recall. I went there to eat a few times after it first opened, but as with most restaurants here, if the menu doesn’t resonate and the scene doesn’t inspire, I often don’t go back. The Waterfront is a nice enough space, new, with icy cold air conditioning. There’s a front porch (too hot), a main dining area focused around a large bar, and a side dining space on the East side of the building. That’s where we were seated, in a booth with wood top and cracked vinyl covering the bench seats.

The waitress was chipper and quick to our table, and without delay I asked of the fish fry. It was presented several different ways, one with some sort of creamy concoction, one might have been Walleye, and the others baked and fried cod. It was all you can eat, which I always enjoy on account of my terminal obesity. Given the options, I asked the waitress what she preferred. The fried cod was good, she said, and so I ordered half and half with a side of potato pancakes.

The wait was short. Like insanely short. I suppose that’s good, but the wait to receive our food was so short it almost caught us off guard. But the plate was large and filled to the edges with food, and so we didn’t complain. The baked cod was served three pieces in a small dish, much like you’d use to plate shrimp scampi. The baked was dry. It lacked salt. I exhausted my lemon wedge onto the pieces and my son lathered tartar sauce on his, but they could not be saved. Time Of Death: Approximately two minutes before the cod was removed from the oven.

The fried cod was much better, as the waitress promised. The batter was crunchy, the interior flaky and white. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The thing that can put a fried cod piece over the top is usually some sort of combination of salt and slightly flavored batter. This lacked both, so while it was good enough, it wasn’t a standout on this tour. The coleslaw and tartar sauce were both okay, according to my son, who declined to elaborate except to say the coleslaw had some seeds in it that he didn’t appreciate.  There was also a piece of marbled rye bread, or perhaps pumpernickel, which though I despise,  I nibbled as a form of self-punishment. The bread was buttered, but there was no table butter.

The potato pancake was served two to an order, though they were small. They were also curious looking, like they were hand formed in the way you’d hand form a sugar cookie before pressing it with the palm of your hand to flatten a bit. The reason they were slightly off-looking is because they were not a typical pancake. Instead of shredded potato, as God intended, these were some sort of mashed-potato creation, lacking any tooth to the bite and overall leaving me with a feeling of deep and thorough disappointment.  I understand that chefs often take liberties, but if you’re in Wisconsin and you’re serving Friday Fish Fry, please don’t waiver from the standard. Shred your potatoes. Rinse them. Squeeze out the starchy water. Mix with some classic ingredients, and fry on a flat top or, if you must, in your fryer.

In spite of these issues, the dinner was nearly saved by a most amazing applesauce. It was served in a plastic tub, which is terrible, but the side itself was delightfully cold, immensely flavorful, and delightfully chunky. The latter of which is how my grandmother would compliment me when describing me to her friends. Applesauce cannot save a dinner that was destined for obscurity, but it does show a nice attention to detail. Unfortunately, the detail was skipped on those mashed potato disks and just missed on the fried cod. I liked the Waterfront for its convenient location, ample parking, hefty portion size, and refreshingly cold AC. But as for the items that matter most,  the Waterfront missed the mark.

The Waterfront 5/10

408 State Road 50, Delavan, WI

$13.99 All you can eat fried or baked cod (optional creamy cod dish and possibly walleye, but I wasn’t paying attention)

Scarred

Scarred

It’s still not clear to me whether or not the air conditioning worked. I remember a serviceman arriving in his rusted Suburban, the smell of his cigarettes, the sound of wrenches and hammers coming from the basement. But in spite of those visits,  who could know if the air ever, actually worked?

The excuses were many. It’s an old house, my dad would say. My mom, wiping sweaty bangs from her face, would echo the same. But her words were less certain.  Like she was reciting a line rehearsed in private. In private, from that room at the end of the hall, that larger lakefront room with so many windows, that’s where they hatched the plan. I’ll tell them the house is old, my dad would say. My mom would nod.  They disagreed often, but on this they could agree. No one thought of the children. My dad thought only of the $8 he would save that month from keeping the air conditioning at bay.

I’ve owned plenty of older homes in my life. All of them had air conditioning. I paid to have it installed, because without it there could be no peace. In these older homes, some older than my parents’ home, the same man with the rusted Suburban would take his hammers and wrenches down to the basement. But when he had finished his clamoring there was some obvious sign of his success. Cool, dry, life sustaining air would pump from the registers in these old homes, bringing relief to the residents.

During that sweaty childhood there was an ongoing debate. If the outside, nighttime air temperature was 80 degrees, would it be better to shut the windows and wait for that slow, slight trickle of coolish air to pulse from the scant registers in my room, with the hope that the system would be able to cool the room to at least 79 degrees? Or was it wiser still to leave the window open, with the sounds of the fighting raccoons and the passing nighttime boats, and the slight chance that the air would cool on its own and settle, in the depth of a dark summer night, to 78? This was my arbitrage, a degree or two would make the difference, and the debate raged.  Decision making skills wane during an 80 degree summer night under that blanket of intense humidity and a sheet of still, suffocating air.

Today, I’m want to turn on my air conditioning at the slightest hint of warmth.  Some choose to leave their windows open during soft spring days. I say no, because I have no choice.  On hot summer days when the night cools and the humidity falls, many will open their windows and rejoice in those cool summer nights. Not me. I can’t. I set my air conditioning to 70 in the spring and leave it there until it’s time to switch the cool to heat. I cannot consider another night in a sweaty bed.

It’s been noticed that the thing most of the tortured souls who have been lost adrift at sea crave is ice. Ice cubes. Not water, not food, but ice. The sound of it in their teeth, the sharp sting of cold in their throat. The numbing of their cheeks and tongue.  Lost at sea once, forever in search of ice. I, too, was lost at sea, and I, too, crave the comfort of cold. It’s just that my sea was a childhood bedroom, and it was hotter, and more humid, and my chances of survival, less.

This weekend, it’s going to be hot. You should be at the lake.

Above, my Clear Sky Lodge listing in Fontana. Air Conditioning, included.
Trout House Fish Fry Review

Trout House Fish Fry Review

Travel down any of these wide roads that lead to other towns and other states, and you’ll likely find something from here, there. There’s a nice parcel of land north of Elkhorn that was blessed with an abundance of cold water springs, the sort that are perfect for raising rainbow trout. Those ponds have tens of thousands of trout owned by Rushing Waters, and those trout find their way from this little spot in Wisconsin to some of the finest restaurants and grocery stores in the country.

A few years ago, Rushing Waters decided to try its hand at a restaurant, so they built out a nice space adjacent the building that houses their operations. The restaurant there is very nice,  a wonderful addition to the sparse restaurant scene that the Lauderdale folks must abide.  I ate at that restaurant a few times and generally enjoyed my meals. Last year Rushing Waters and their Trout House branded restaurant expanded into the Lake Geneva market, albeit by way of Delavan.  That’s where I went to eat last Friday night, because who better to serve me fish than an operation that understand fish from egg to table?

The space that the Trout House Delavan now operates from was most recently a large expansion undertaken by the cheese and sandwich shop known as Brick Street Market. The name comes from the brick streets in Delavan, in case you haven’t been to Delavan, ever. The cheese shop first occupied a smaller area to the West of this one, and then upgraded to this cavernous expanse of square footage and tables.  Brick Street Market didn’t last, sadly, and the Trout House took over the space. The issue with this particular location remains one of some trouble. On one hand, it’s Delavan, which struggles to pull from the Lake Geneva market. On the other hand, that space is so large that it’s nearly impossible to feel as though you aren’t eating a hot lunch in a school cafeteria on a Saturday, when just you and the other few kids in detention are in the building.

I tried to go to the Trout House twice before, both times being turned away. So last Friday I went early, arriving at 5:30, and found immediate seating near the front window.  The space, as described above, is nice and new, with some generic updated finishes, but the space remains so large that I cannot imagine it feeling lively or cozy under any circumstance. Still, the restaurant is clean and bright and there’s some exposed brick on the walls.  Once seated, we perused the menu. No mention of a fish fry. Some rainbow trout dishes, of course, but where was my cod?

I inquired of the waitress, and she told me of the fish fry. It’s two or three piece fried cod, or a single piece broiled cod, served with choice of potato and the typical sides. I ordered the three piece fried, as I need to keep up my weight in the event that I am ever called upon to hold onto a hot air balloon that has blown dangerously close to power lines. My wife ordered the one piece broiled. We drank our water and waited.

The wait wasn’t long, which was nice.   My fried looked crunchy and sublime, my wife’s broiled appeared to be a hefty portion. Hers was served with drawn butter, which immediately captured by attention. There was no table bread or butter, which I thought odd for a restaurant like this.  The potato pancakes were served two to an order, and the accompaniments of applesauce, tartar sauce, and coleslaw were offered up in small plastic tubs. How I longed for the sophistication of a ceramic or metal dish.

The potato pancake was up first. Nicely crisped, smallish in size, overwhelmingly bland. It had some green flecks in it that I initially thought might represent flavor, but those flecks turned out to be parsley, which is the anti-flavor. The pancakes lacked salt and needed a bit more panache. The fried cod was appropriately crunchy and sported a very nice battered exterior.  The interior was white and flaky, well seasoned. The fried fish was a delight, and after two weeks off from the Friday Fish Tour, I enjoyed my three pieces rather quickly. My wife’s broiled cod was dry, and needed some salt.

The applesauce, all two spoonfuls of it, was righteously chunky, which was also the name of my childhood praise and worship band. But it was a bit warm, which detracted from the otherwise wonderful sauce. The coleslaw was ok, and my wife liked the tartar sauce. When I pressed her for the reasons why the tartar sauce was good, she declined to comment further.  The dinner was over shortly after it began, and left me with a general feeling of meh.

Having spent that vacation in France last month, we decided that dessert would be nice. We ordered the chocolate torte at the waitress’s recommendation, along with two coffees. The torte was divine, deep and rich, not too sweet, but dense and more closely aligned with fudge than anything else. The coffee was acceptable, but would it kill local restaurants to indulge in an espresso machine? I have one that cost $599 and it works perfectly. Please, local restaurants, I’m begging for something other than drip coffee. Worse yet,  we were served cream in single serve take-out plastic teaspoon size tubs. The sort you’d find at a rest stop somewhere between Lodi and Necedah.  What a terrible miss this is for any restaurant, and what an easy miss this is to fix. Please serve cream with your coffee. It’s so easy. Painfully easy.

The dinner tab with tip came to $53. The fish dinners were $15 each, which is in line with expectations. Sadly, on this night, the Trout House failed to impress me. I love what it is that Rushing Waters does. I love their business, and their impact on this local economy. But a fish business should serve me a better fish fry. If not them, who? It shouldn’t be so hard to dial in the details of a proper Friday Night Fish Fry, but I’m finding that somehow it is. I’d give the Trout House a visit, either in their Delavan location or the Palmyra one (north of Elkhorn). But don’t expect to be dazzled,  just expect to be fed.

Trout House at  Delavan 6/10

118 East Walworth Avenue, Delavan, WI

$15 Fried or Broiled Cod

On Average

On Average

A lack of inventory is a curious thing. On one hand, lack of inventory typically leads to pricing increases. This is obvious. If I have one of something and three people would like to buy it from me, I get to raise my price. Simple. But lack of inventory has an uglier, less talked about side. Like your uncle who isn’t allowed to attend family gatherings. Sure, you see him once in a while and pretend everything is fine. The weather fine, your job, fine. But you know. You know.

That other side of low inventory is that it has a nasty tendency to choke out market momentum. Imagine a particular market segment is like a fire. A nice, tidy, fire. Sometimes it’s crackling and blazing and other times it’s just smoldering, but it’s always burning so long as you add a bit of wood to it now and again. The key isn’t the strength of the fire, it’s your supply of wood. Keep feeding that market some inventory and it’ll keep burning. But limit the inventory for long enough and that fire is going to go out. Lack of inventory is all fun and games until your market decides to quit.

It’s not exactly like that, but it’s sort of like that. And in my world, sort of still matters.  We know our issue for 2018 has been a thorough lack of lakefront and lake access inventory, but without checking the actual statistics it’s just chatter.  The year is now old enough that we can measure it against another year. It’s time for 2018 to be judged.

From the first of January through yesterday, the MLS shows 28 sales of lakefront and lake access properties (Geneva Lake). Of those 28, 11 have been lakefront. That feels like a low tally, to be sure. And low it is, when compared to the 45 homes and sold during the same period of 2017. Of those, 11 were lakefronts. Looking farther back, 2016 printed 38 sales, eight of which were private frontage. 2015, the last year that could be considered some reasonable semblance of a buyer’s market, we closed 34 sales, nine of which were lakefront.

With those numbers in mind, it’s obvious that our broader lake access market is short of supply and therefore short of closings. But what of the lakefront, what of that king of all markets, that mighty ruler by which all other things are rendered unimportant? Well, the lakefront market, with 11 YTD sales, is obviously doing just fine. It has matched the 2017 production and exceeded both of 2016 and 2015. Maybe our inventory problem is one of perception?

There are a few things that are going to happen this summer on the lakefront. There will be more inventory. I’m certain of it. There will be more to choose from and there will be buyers intent on changing their boring weekend lives who make the right choice. The key isn’t to flood the market with inventory, rather to keep introducing pieces of it, slowly but surely. We don’t need to light the whole forest on fire, we just need to toss a log on every once in a while. And I’m fixin’ to throw some oak in the coming weeks (let me know if you’d like to know when I do).

South Shore Club Sale

South Shore Club Sale

As recently as last year, it wouldn’t have been easy, perhaps not even possible, to fetch $2.1MM for a vacant lot in the South Shore Club.  That’s not because the broad market wouldn’t have appreciated an offering of a rare, lakefront lot in the Club. Nor is it because the market hadn’t yet appreciated to such a wonderful extend that the sale price would have been possible.  That price wouldn’t have been possible one year ago because the supporting sales that prove that particular value hadn’t yet printed.

There’s something interesting about what’s happened in the South Shore Club over these past several months. First, a lakefront listing, last August. I closed that listing for $4.175MM, making it the first sale in the SSC to exceed $4MM. Plenty of owners have investments in their homes that exceed $4MM, but never before had the market validated those outlays. Following that sale, another owner sensed the timing might be right for his family to make a move and he listed, also with me. We closed that sale this spring for $4.6MM (plus $100k for personal property). With those sales cemented, it was this vacant lots turn.

I listed this lakefront lot last month for $2,195,000. I didn’t feature it on this website, in large part because the buyer presented quickly and was ready to roll. The lot closed last Friday for $2,100,000, making it the highest vacant land sale in the SSC, ever. But was it some unique marketing spin that I employed to sell this property? Other agents might have you semi-convinced that they have some proprietary blend of marketing wiz-bang, but they don’t. And neither do I.  It’s not hard to place an ad in a newspaper and have no one call you from it. But it is hard to print two sales within 10 months that successfully prove a segment’s market value and then introduce a piece of inventory that falls nicely in line with that newly affirmed market.

And that’s the real secret to this recent SSC success. It’s not in the marketing, though if I’m involved that’s pretty nice stuff, indeed. It’s in the timing of it all. It’s in understanding how a certain piece fits into the greater SSC puzzle. Yes, an owner can list his property whenever he or she feels like it. But is this approach smart? Or is it better to understand the process, to understand the inventory and the competition, and apply a rare dose of sensible timing to the process?  This seems simple, but timing an offering within the greater context of an association market is anything but common. Thankfully, these past three properties sold because the sellers listened to me, and the result was perfect.

To the seller of this most recent property, I thank you. To future buyers and sellers of properties within the South Shore Club, work with me. Since 2012, when I was hired by the developers of the SSC to represent several of the homes and remaining lots there, I’ve closed on 8 of the 13 single family home sales (including the top two sales), and 11 of the 13 vacant lot sales. If your aim is the South Shore Club, you’re in luck. The market couldn’t be healthier, the future more secure, and your choice in agent more clear.

Lazy Patience

Lazy Patience

It was good to be a buyer in 2011. And in 2012. 2013, too. We know that now. What a time! We think. If only I could have been a buyer then, say the buyers now.  But was it so great back then? Was everything perfect? I remember a buyer from the fall of 2011. He was worried about the 2012 election. Worried about the economy, or the economy as measured by the stock indices. He bought in the fall of 2011, and the lakefront purchase changed his life. But he almost didn’t buy and it almost didn’t change his life. It was good to be a buyer then, but it wasn’t easy.

If you were a buyer then and you didn’t buy, and in the days that have followed from those days to these days, I understand how you must feel. Shame is a powerful thing, but shame with equal parts regret is devastating. I have buyers today that tell me they wish they had bought. They wish they had upgraded. There were so many properties for so few dollars.  What an amazing market it was, they say, as if they were non-eligible bystanders during the whole show. I should have bought something. Anything.  That’s what a buyer of mine told me in a text last weekend.

Bill Shakespeare once said, “striving to be better, oft we mar what’s well.”  It’s no secret that I’ve built myself a small cabin in the middle of nowhere, on the road from Where? , just past Nothing, Unincorporated. I commonly bemoan what it is that I’ve done. I built something too small. I built it a bit too far to this side. I painted that a bit too blue. It was supposed to be gray. The shame is intense.  The deck isn’t finished, the patio never will be, and the gravel driveway is nearly impassable several months out of the year. There were some execution issues. It took two years to build a scant few square feet.

But it did get built. And I do get to sleep there. And when I drive down the road and fish the streams, I feel content. I say hello to the cows in the pasture and wish there was something I could do to help them get rid of those flies that pester and bite. I wander the farmer’s market once in a while, and buy something from someone who made it near there.  The process was painful, the execution questionable, the outcome reasonably acceptable, if full of concerns.  But I’m happy with it. Because it lets me hang my hat when I’m done with a long evening of casting tiny dry flies to wary, wild trout.

In the same way, last Memorial Day I sat lakeside and watched the show. It’s our show, after all. This is our thing.  After a dreary winter it’s easy to forget how much passive fun can be had while watching boaters boat. New boats, old boats, new boats made to look old.  Shore path walkers, some strolling, aimless in their amusement, others hiking, working, efforting. This place is unique, and it’s ours. On that day, was there any difference between the boater who has a Viking range and the one without? Was there any difference in the way that cool May water felt to the owner who has a small cottage a few doors away from the owner who has the larger home closer to the lake?

The great equalizer in the home search is found when you maintain focus on the true goal. If you want a nice house, just buy one in the city or the suburbs. There are lots of them for sale. Shiny ones with fancy things.  But those homes don’t get you any closer to what you want. To indulge in this place. To wake up Saturday morning in a different state with a different state of mind. A different state of being.

The buyers from 2012 who missed out largely did so because they wanted better. They wanted different. Something with a larger living room and another bedroom. A shinier kitchen. One more bathroom. What a tremendous mistake to hold your lifestyle hostage when the demanded ransom is something as trivial as square footage. Or a garage.  Today, buyers are doing the same thing. They’re deciding that an extra bedroom is worth another summer in the city. They’re choosing nothing over better, because they really want best.  I have buyers tell me they’re being patient. Being patient is easy. It’s finding motivation that’s often far more difficult.

Above, the entry at my Basswood estate listing. Now reduced to $8,950,000
Municipal Musings

Municipal Musings

Last weekend, it was hot. You know that. I know that. It was super hot. Smoking hot. Summer hot. If you were here, then you were less hot than the other people who chose to stay there. But still, hot. Williams Bay had a big pile of rocks on its lakefront, with some earth moving equipment stacked next to a small stream that I’d like to have moved. If I do anything in this life, it should be that I’ll have that stream moved.  On Memorial Day, Williams Bay had a nice little Memorial Day Parade. The dandelions noticed. The earth moving equipment, sitting idle for the weekend out of respect, noticed. The trees in the beach park, with weeds growing up around them, noticed. Williams Bay was not ready for prime time.

It was Memorial Day Weekend in Fontana, too. The beach was combed, the large pile of sand pushed up to that child-friendly mound. The boulevards were mowed and trimmed. The baseball diamond that has withstood lakefront re-development was mowed, its infield dragged. Someone might have dusted off the bases, I can’t be sure. The Harbor is new now, shiny and better. No matter that the floating piers are awkward still and they slope unnaturally from shore, and there might be a few too many lights, LED or not. But the Harbor was spiffed and the boats were waxed and the infield was dragged. In the boulevards, flowers bloomed.

In Lake Geneva, the road project near the lakefront was completed. The giant potholes that plagued that lakeside stretch of Main Street have been fixed, and just in time. But the yards that were torn to complete this work were only seeded, not sodded. So the dandelions pushed and the grass stalled. The glistening blacktop flanked by messy stretches of straw and netting. Sod would have been nice, considering it would have required such a modest amount. My friend had a sod farm once.  He closed it down and planted corn, because no one wanted to pay him for his fine sod.

What exactly are these lakeside communities? What do they aspire to be? I contend that only one town here knows the answer to that question. Fontana knows what it is, what it wants to be, where it wants to go. It makes the effort. It sees the vision. It understands the market, the clientele, and the visual that they demand. Williams Bay hasn’t a clue. Not a single, tiny clue. There’s an auto-repair shop with constant torque wrenches and a view of the lake. There are three ice cream shops within a 150 yard radius. Most of the shop spaces are for rent, and those that aren’t will be some day. There’s a piece of vacant dirt in the downtown with a FOR SALE sign. For Rent signs litter the surrounding corners.  Williams Bay is a sleepy hamlet, but it’s only sleepy because it doesn’t have a plan.  Without a plan, why get out of bed?

In spite of Fontana’s confidence and Williams Bay’s awkward adolescence, Lake Geneva is the town that truly isn’t sure of itself. On one hand, a dynamic, rare lakefront. Parks, walkways, grass and water. The new walkway over the beach is smart and shows awareness.  The downtown remains idyllic, even if the rents are too damn high and the result is too many vacancies. The downtown is truly the only thing that needs to remain a draw, and there’s no danger of that status changing. But around that special downtown, what exactly is the City of Lake Geneva doing?

A five story chain hotel adjacent its major thoroughfare? Big Box stores of all makes and models littering its primary entrance? Increased revenue from every angle but no decrease in taxes?  Why is it so had to understand what it is that the residents and visitors want? The Wisconsin Dells is a nice enough place, I suppose. If you get married on a Friday and have no time for anything but a two day weekend, then the Dells is nice. Honeymooning at a waterpark, that’s something. But absent that shot-gun wedding, or a carload of 12 year olds headed for a birthday party, who really wants to go to the Dells? Not me. And not the people who call Lake Geneva home, whether that’s a permanent home or a seasonal one.

These lakeside municipalities have made strides in the last decade, but only one has identified its highest and best use. Fontana, thank you for being what you are. Thank you for understanding yourself. Williams Bay, please, please figure it out. Million dollar bike paths are fine, but are they? Invest in your lakefront. Invest in your downtown. Offer incentives to develop and redevelop your commercial buildings and residential properties that line your main streets. It’s so great that you’ve spent untold millions on your school buildings. Terrific. Now focus on the reason your tax base is so high and your expenses are so low: the lakefront and your general business district. And lastly, to the City of Lake Geneva. Stop it. Be a high end resort town. Every time a new proposal for some new nonsense comes your way just ask yourself: Does anyone like the Dells?

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend

To all of the soft people who complain about winter and whine about spring, you’ve made it. I mean, I’ve made it to, to this place, to this time, to this summer. But it’s really about you, the soft-weather-whiner. It’s 80 something and the leaves are green and the shrubs are flowering and the lake is as deep and clear as you remembered it. If you cannot be happy now, will you ever be? Are you not entertained?

This weekend, I wish you a most pleasant time at the lake. This is the weekend to immerse yourself in this scene, in this place, in this thing that we have that’s so very hard to describe. The key to a long summer is to get a head start, to squeeze a few extra weekends early and a few extra weekends late. No matter what happens from here on out, we already have this weekend. Sure, it might rain. Sure, it might get cloudy for a bit. But on balance it’s nice out, and for that, we can all be thankful.

You’ll start seeing my new issue of Summer Homes For City People around town this weekend, and I do hope you enjoy it. I know I don’t really enjoy creating it, mostly because I’m overwhelmed with anxiety when I think about what I might have missed, or what errors slipped past multiple proof-readers. If I make an error on this blog, which I tend to do, it’s not really a big deal. It’s just a bunch of words thrown onto a screen. But in print, it feels so much more important. The magazine is out, with design help from Flair Studio and a new cover by Neal Aspinall.  You’ll find it around the lake wherever cool things are found.

This Memorial Day Weekend, be sure to apply sunscreen. Boat safely. But above all be thankful for the sacrifices made by others so that we can argue over the petty. Today, I’m worried about some deals and about some smudges on a few of my magazine covers. I’m not worried about invading forces from the north, or artillery fire landing near by home. I’m just worried about silly things. It’s the superfluous things for which men sweat (Seneca), but we’re only able to do so because the truly brave have made that possible. My thanks to the veterans, to the active military, to everyone who has given more than I’ll ever be asked to give.

Now, let’s strike the grills and gas the boat. There’s summer to be had.

Lilacs

Lilacs

There was an old Lilac outside my childhood bedroom window. It wasn’t a great bush, or tree. Whichever it was, it wasn’t the finest specimen. It was just a bush around the corner from an old garage, wedged in between that old garage and older house, down around the cracked concrete driveway that later would be paved. When the pavers came they found an old brick cistern under the driveway that no one knew was there. Well, I suppose someone knew, but that someone was dead. He might have been the one who planted the lilac.

Down the road, around the corner, up a ways and over just a bit, there was another man. An older man, a shorter man. Just a man, really.  I met him on the pier, his fishing rods stuck into PVC holders that he affixed to the outside horses on that long association pier.  The lilacs were in bloom. His bucket was full of bloody water. Rock bass twitched their fins, bluegills rested, belly up, their eyes blank and wondering. Lower still a crappie, maybe two. Large and white with black dashes. Papermouths, the men called them. A smallmouth bass, wedged in the bottom of that bucket of death and dying, not longer than 12 inches.

It’s a rock bass, the old man told me, his tone proving his lie.  I knew better. I knew it was a smallmouth and I knew it wasn’t legal. I knew it was too small. It bothered me something terrible. Later, as the years wore on and both of us grew older, I’d sneak down in the morning and release the fish that the old man had caught and tethered to the pier with an old sailing rope. Other times there would be no fish to release, so I’d open his minnow bucket and let the minnows swim free. If he didn’t have any minnows then he couldn’t skewer them with a hook. If he couldn’t thread that hook through their eyes then he couldn’t cast that old frail monofilament out and set the worn rods into those homemade holders. If I could stop the first part of this cycle, the death could be spared.  My desired end more than justified those particular means.

He’d give me advice, once in a while. Sometimes, the water was too cold. It’s early yet, he’d say. The water needed to be 50 degrees, or maybe 55. His old thermometer would dangle from the swim ladder, close enough to where he’d store those fish that I’d later release. I wondered if he knew what I was doing. I assumed he didn’t, but now as I think about it he must have known. There was no one else but me.  Without the thermometer, he told me, it wasn’t hard to know when the bass would be biting. When the lilacs bloom, that’s when they’ll be biting.

There was another large lilac on my way to and from school, and in April and then May I’d walk by that bush with anxious anticipation.  That lilac, and the one by my window, took forever to bloom. Cold, late spring would cling for so long. Every day, nothing. Then, something. Tiny sprouts at first, but then within days, maybe just hours,  I’d witness the unfurling and pushing of all those leaves. Bright green, young green, then, when the blossoms were near, deep and lovely green. Every day, a little more. And then, like magic, the flowers. Those flowers with their purple petals and overwhelming perfume, they told me it was time. Time to grab by rod and reel and cast those chartreuse jigs as far as I could, sometimes towards shore and sometimes towards the depths. Smallmouth bass would eat, greedily, angrily, their red eyes filled with malice towards that little collection of feathers.

These days, I don’t fish in the lake very often. I want to, but I don’t. There are times when the pull is greater than others, like late into a summer evening when the southwest wind falls flat and I see the bass chasing minnows to the surface.  Or in the fall when the boating traffic has left and the lake is clear and the water cools. I know the big fish are in shallow. I know the lake trout and the brown trout are spawning, and I know the musky and the pike are binging before a long dark winter. But the strongest of pulls is right now. In the spring, when the grass is green and the lilacs are purple. I haven’t fished in the lake for a few years, but I know the bass are biting. The lilacs told me so.

Photograph courtesy Kristen Westlake
South Shore Bar Fish Fry Review

South Shore Bar Fish Fry Review

I was born in Elkhorn. Raised in Williams Bay. Then I lived in Linn Township, Geneva Township, Delavan Township, Fontana, and now Walworth Township. I am the embodiment of local. The word was made for me. If I’m not a local here, no one is a local anywhere. I was in France last week, being a non-local. If not for my strapping American frame and my obvious American nature, I might, after some lengthy period of time, be considered, at least by some, as a local.  This business of localness typically requires significant effort and significant time.  Last Friday night I walked in to the South Shore Bar and Grill on Delavan’s southern shore, feeling very much not like a local.

I’ve been to this bar before, or I should say, at least once before. I went with a friend for pizza on a night when our wives weren’t looking. On that night, I generally enjoyed the pizza, which is tavern style. But on this night, I was there for the fish fry, and the parking lot sign proclaimed that I was indeed at the right place. I should say that I didn’t intend to visit the South Shore Bar that night. I first went to the Rushing Waters Trout House restaurant in Delavan. The restaurant there is very large, and when we walked in we were delighted to see open tables and no one waiting. The hostess told us there would be a 20-30 minute wait. But there were open tables, I replied, incredulous in my tone. She said there weren’t enough servers. And so we left. This is embarrassing for the Trout House, and if I were in any position of authority there I’d quickly right my ship before all of this excess water sinks it.

The South Shore Bar and Grill is a bar. There’s a large bar in the main room, with a small dining room off to the West side. When we arrived the parking lot was full and so was the restaurant. We were told the wait would be maybe 10 minutes, so we stood by the door, sticking out like very sore thumbs. Eyes glanced our direction. At least one man at the bar whispered something to another man at the bar. It might have been about my powder blue shorts, but I couldn’t be certain. A man on the other side of the bar drank from a tall can of Busch Light. His wife nursed a cocktail.  Everyone knew each other, no one knew us. If it weren’t for the Wisconsin law, I’m guessing 40% of the bar would have been pulling on a heater.

A polite but somewhat harried hostess led us to our booth. The booth cushion on the one side was torn open in many spots, so I opted for the other side. But the other side had very little breathing room, and the table was affixed to the wall, a condition I only realized after pushing and tugging at it for a while. I switched with my son and sat on the torn side. I reviewed my fishy options.

All you can eat fried cod, $11.50. Baked cod dinner, $11.50. Pan Fried Walleye, $15.95. Fried Walleye, $15.95. Fried Perch Dinner, $15.95. These are fine options. Impressive really, for a small bar on the way to no-where, just around the corner from Nothing. The menu reflected a general understanding of the Wisconsin Fish Fry. All items were served with a  side of potato and access to the small salad bar that resided in between the bar and the dining room. I asked the waitress what she recommended. The fried walleye was a bit bland for her taste. She loved the perch. I opted for the fried cod, with a piece of baked cod for good measure.

The salad bar was modest. A few bowls of mayonnaise based salad of some variety, along with some lettuce, chopped onion and tomato, and shredded cheese. I could have used a few more accoutrements, but seeing as how I was at a bar for fish fry, I didn’t mind. If you wanted a salad bar, you should have gone to a salad restaurant. This was a fried food restaurant with a side of pizza, and I was content to nibble a bit of salad and wait for my fish. After a week  of French food,  my stomach was hankering for some classic Wisconsin fish fry.

And the South Shore Bar didn’t disappoint. The fried cod came out, two pieces with my initial order, and it was delightful. The batter was well seasoned, and the fish was moist, sweet, and salty. I really loved it. The baked was a bit dry, but it was served with a small plastic tub of drawn butter, and that made everything better. There was a single slice of rye bread on my plate, which was awful as expected but it was buttered so how terrible could it really be? Give me liberty or give me death, but if you’re going to give me rye bread you should at least butter it for me.

The two potato pancakes were nicely fried to a golden brown, and while they were a touch dry, they met the expectation of an average pancake.  I quickly ate all of my food and asked for a few more pieces of fried cod, not because I was hungry but because I refuse to walk away from an all-you-can-eat dinner offering without ordering seconds. The cod was again delightful, even if my second piece was thicker and ended up being slightly undercooked.  My wife said the tartar sauce was okay, and I found the applesauce to be delicious. It was served ice cold, and had immense flavor. It was, perhaps, my favorite applesauce to date.

I enjoyed my dinner at the South Shore Bar and Grill.  The waitress was sweet and attentive, the food above average for this tour. The fried cod was a real treat, as the seasoned batter elevated otherwise bland cod to a higher level. I’d add the South Shore Bar to your Fish Fry rotation, especially if your preferred joint is slammed this summer.  I left feeling satisfied in my dinner, and had it not been for those powder blue shorts and my wife’s white jeans, we might have fit right in.

 

South Shore Bar and Grill 7/10

W6763 South Shore Drive, Delavan, WI

$11.50 All You Can Eat Fried Cod

 

Geneva Lakefront Market Update

Geneva Lakefront Market Update

The curious thing about Lake Geneva is that the market would potentially be fine even if another new customer never followed his roads to our roads and purchased a lakefront house.  No new buyers, no problem. Never, ever, a new buyer who needs figure out our scene in order to buy it. If no one ever came here again, we’d still have a market.

That’s obviously not entirely true, but at times it sure does seem like we needn’t another new buyer. We have enough, and they’re the people who are already here. One of my favorite transactions to assist in is the buyer who is new to Geneva Lake looking to capture something ideal. That buyer, someone with no prior experience here, hasn’t yet been confined to his developed tastes. He’s a blank slate, a clean canvas, and that buyer can look at this market without geographic bias. That’s a terrific sort of buyer, one that I highly value.

But that’s not the traditional buyer here. That buyer exists, of course, but that buyer isn’t what keeps this market humming. What keeps this market on the move is the lakefront ownership group. Those 600 or so discerning lakefront owners; that’s our market. One year they might wish for a big estate, with 800 hydrangeas and no fewer than 375 rose bushes. But three years later they may long  for the simplicity of a lakeside cottage, still with a slate roof, of course, but a cottage nonetheless. A pure lake experience, tidy and controlled. Who could tend to 800 hydrangeas?

Yesterday, a new sale on this Great Lake. The last time Clear Sky Lodge sold it was my listing as I represented Bank of America in the liquidation of that valuable asset that they came to own by way of court proceedings. That sale in 2012 was for $3,700,000.  Clear Sky sold again yesterday, this time without my involvement, which has put me in a sullen mood for such a lovely Friday.  The price? $5,715,000.

That’s a lot of money for this old log house, but I won’t say it wasn’t worth it. The house is rare and intensely magnificent. The location desirable, the views sublime, the logs super loggy. I like this sale for the market, but it’s a bit of a loss leader. The appreciation from 2012 of more than 50% isn’t reflective in the broad market. Some homes have appreciated this much, others have not. This is why it’s difficult to take individual sales and suppose that they are meaningful to the broader market segment.

If you’re sad that you missed out on this house, I have the next best thing available at Clear Sky Lodge, with tennis court, swimming pool, canopied slip, and beautiful privacy listed at $2.99MM…

The trend of lakefront owners swapping homes is nothing new. It’s a common theme here, but it appears to be on the rise. When the markets were bad I encouraged would-be-sellers to sell low and buyer lower. I argued it was, in fact, a better situation than it would be to sell high and buyer higher. Very few people listened, but those that did have found the new market to be rewarding.

The key for the lakefront market now remains inventory. We need more of it. Ready made inventory, easy houses with large lots. Others with small lots. We need all of it. If you’re a buyer on the hunt, let’s hunt together. If you’re a seller considering a move, you know who to call. (It’s me. Call me. Or Email, that’ll be easier. Text is fine, too.) 

Valley Park

Valley Park

Follow South Lakeshore Drive far enough from town and after some time you’ll be in the general vicinity of Black Point. But weave farther and deeper off of the known and you might be lucky enough to find Valley Park. Tucked away on the East side of Black Point, Valley Park likely isn’t a location on the lake that you know very well. That’s because it’s exclusive and slow to offer inventory, and that’s just one of the reasons Pier 630 is a property with very few equals on Geneva Lake.

This Valley Park estate represents a most unique opportunity on Geneva’s southern shore. With 211′ of frontage and two parcels combining for nearly 7 acres, this truly is a rare property. The lakefront home boasts magnificent lake views and includes six bedrooms along with five bathrooms. A highly sought after boathouse near the water’s edge and a four car detached garage provide plenty of toy storage. The three bedroom guest house was built in the 1990s by Jawort Lowell to exacting standards with a wood burning fieldstone fireplace, maple hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings and a delightful screened porch.

Often times, brokers and sellers will market properties as estates, even when we all know they are not. One hundred foot lots are nice, and one acre or two in depth is lovely, but does that constitute an estate? In a city setting, of course, but not at Lake Geneva. Moreover, a property with 150’ might be considered an estate, but what flexibility does the parcel actually offer? There is little that can be done with such a parcel except to build one new, likely beautiful, home. It’s not the screened porches or the pier that make these 211’ of South Shore frontage unique. It’s the possibility of a family compound. The possibility of future divisibility. Offered today with both tax keys and that glorious frontage and rare 6.9 acres in depth, this property will provide a buyer with the ultra elusive combination of wide frontage with significant acreage. New to market just in time for summer 2018. $5,195,000

Forty

Forty

This weekend, I’ll turn 40. It’s no big deal, really. No feat, nothing particularly impressive about passively allowing time to be measured. I’m probably an old 40, if there’s such a thing.  I’ve spent every day for 22 years at this desk, typing these things, working for business, hoping for someone to call and buy this or sell that. In those 22 years I built several homes and sold several more, I built a family, I built a business that should continue at least for a bit longer.  It’s easy to look back and assume that what has been accomplished is rare and special, but I’m not entirely sure that it is. It’s just some years, thrown together all in this little town, through no special effort of my own.

I have a good friend who has told me we all have an exaggerated sense of our own importance. He reminds me that we’re all replaceable, no matter what we do. You’re a hedge fund guy who writes Java? There are likely tens of thousands of others who write the same code, and thousands who write it better. You’re a founder of a company that sells widgets? There’s another guy, or another gal, in some other town, who sells widgets like yours but they’re better widgets, shinier and smarter, and her company makes more money, more easily, more quickly.   You’re a Realtor in small-town Wisconsin and you sell lots of houses some years? The guys in Los Angeles would be overwhelmed with shame if they ever had a down year that beats your best year.

There’s something quietly odd about turning 40. I’ve never done it before, so I don’t know if it’s supposed to feel like unique. Perhaps it’s finally some notice that time is working against you, and more than working, it’s winning.  Time is short. I spend my days stressing and wishing for the days when my days can be different. If I can just get this deal closed, then things will be better. And the next one, too. If this deal in November works, things will be fine.  Real estate, like all sales, is a terrible unfulfilled cycle. Sell something today, great. Now go sell something tomorrow. I enjoy the race, I enjoy the effort. I enjoy the game. I enjoy trying to solve problems. I enjoy struggling against larger, legacy competition. But at some point it starts to become tedious and mundane. It starts to feel like there should be something greater than just a hope for a Saturday call and a Sunday offer. Maybe that point is 40. Maybe it isn’t.

This week, I’m taking a few days off and traveling with my wife to a country far away. It should be a nice trip. I’m taking the trip, in part, because I don’t want to turn into my parents, to work and wait for the time to do something fun or rare and then someday have no energy or desire to actually do it.  What’s the point of sacrifice if you’ll never reap those stored rewards? Why waste years crippled over fear of failure when there’s already some success begging to be celebrated?   Next week,  I’ll return home having missed out on some deals, I’m sure of it, and my absence will be marked by cell phone conversations and emails sent while standing near pretty sights. Pray for my wife’s patience.

Today, I’m grateful for this life that I get to live. For my little house down the road from this little office, and that big blue lake around the corner. I’m grateful for my clients who trust me and count on me, and in turn, provide for me and my family.  I’m grateful for this life that I’ve been blessed with.  Here’s to another 40, hopefully as good as the last.

Hazel’s Baker House Fish Fry Review

Hazel’s Baker House Fish Fry Review

When a new restaurant opens there is much excitement surrounding the event. Yay! The internet screams.  But opening a new restaurant is at once fun and exciting and yet, still, scary. If you open and you’re not ready, things will generally go badly for you.  If you open and you must make excuses as to why this isn’t quite right and that isn’t any good, then your opening is less a coronation and more a dirge. With that in mind, I went to the newly opened Hazel’s Restaurant inside the Baker House Hotel in Lake Geneva.

I first learned of this new restaurant opening earlier in the week after a friend posted a picture of what appeared to be a rather delicious breakfast. He was enthusiastic. It was wonderful, it seemed. I called Friday morning to ask if they served a fish fry, which they did. I asked if they took reservations, which they did. I’m a huge fan of reservations, and since the restaurant was new to Lake Geneva and in a desirable lakefront location I figured a reservation would be necessary. The evening was beautiful, the sun high, the lake sparkly, the parking lot open.

I walked in with my wife and kids at 6:30 Friday evening and we sat down to wait for our friends who were joining us.  Our table was an eight seater off the main foyer, without a view of the lake.  It was close to a piano where a woman sang the hits from my grandmother’s childhood, and while piano music is nice I found it all to be rather loud and distracting. I think the scene in the Baker house is supposed to be a lively old timey thing, but I personally found it to be less than ideal.  Thankfully, no one at my table put on any of the signature hats that line the walls.

Our waters were filled quickly and routinely, which was a nice touch. The menu featured several fish fry options, but I narrowed in on the fried or baked cod, offered with a side of potato and soup or salad. I was happy to have the option of a soup or salad and chose the clam chowder.  The cod was one piece of fish, so no combo ordering was available. I ordered the baked, my friend ordered the fried, and we split up our single pieces so we could experience both methods. The fish was labeled Cod on the menu but my receipt labeled the fish Haddock.  This is a strange inconsistency, but the night would have plenty more.

It should be noted that there was no kid’s menu available. That’s a huge mistake for a restaurant here.  My son ordered the fish fry ($17) and my daughter the chicken tenders ($14), while our friends’ son ordered the ribs ($22ish). If you wish to become a destination in a  family oriented resort location, you’re going to need to cater to your audience.

We ordered at 6:50 pm.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then, we added in some waiting. The piano blared.  The sun set.  Without good company I would have been incredibly irritable by the time our food arrived, at 7:50 pm, one hour after we ordered.  The clam chowder was very good. Salty, like I prefer my clam chowder. But the portion was tiny and the soup spoon was more like a teaspoon, perhaps so that I’d feel like it was the late 1800s. But no steamers were on fire down at the piers and no one at the table had measles so the attempt to take me back in time failed. The fish was presented a bit later.

The single piece of cod was quite large.  So large that we wondered what sort of cod this was. Perhaps this was a whale shark filet, we figured. The fried cod was heavily battered and a bit soggy. It also smelled strongly of beer, which is okay for some I suppose, but it was too strong. The outer shell fell off of the large fish piece and sogged onto the plate. It wasn’t good. The baked portion was better, but only marginally so. It needed salt. It was a bit undercooked. The texture was a bit off. The potato pancakes were fine, much like breakfast hash browns, but acceptable. The applesauce was served in an out-of-place plastic container, and it was warm. Why was it warm? Because it likely sat under the heat lamps for a while, just long enough to sog the cod and warm the applesauce.

There was no coleslaw. The tartar sauce was pretty good, according to my dinner mates. But my friend’s fish fry came with green beans and mine didn’t. My fish fry came with applesauce and my sons didn’t.  There was no table bread, no butter. No crackers. Nothing, at all, really. Nothing except those abnormally large fish pieces and that heavy shroud of soggy batter.   We finished our dinners and left Hazel’s, a restaurant I will more than likely never visit again.  I understand the wait, while a kitchen works through some opening Friday night jitters, but the inconsistencies in plating are inexcusable.

People say you should give a pass to new restaurants. I say no.  If you open, you should be ready. Have a soft opening for a couple of weeks to work out the kinks, if you know there are some. Don’t open until you’re ready. But Hazel’s is open and on that Friday night at my table it wasn’t ready. The wait was too long. The service was slow. The fish unremarkable. The piano was too loud. The scene, while certainly authentic to a period I know nothing about, was not my tiny cup of chowder. Nothing felt right on this night, and for that, I was sad. I had begun the evening full of hopeful enthusiasm and left wishing I had just gone to Gino’s East for a pizza.

Visit Hazel’s this summer. You might like it. It’s a new location here for an existing Illinois based restaurant. But maybe give them a few weeks to work out the issues that they probably  should have worked out before last Friday night.

 

Hazel’s Baker House  3/10

327 Wrigley Drive, Lake Geneva

$17 one piece fried or baked cod

Abbey Ridge Sells

Abbey Ridge Sells

When shopping for a car, most shoppers narrow the search at some point. What started out as a search for a mid-size SUV with all-wheel-drive, has turned into a search for a BMW X5, the one with the 5.0 engine, black on black, with the 21 inch wheels, because the stock 19 inch wheels look like they belong on a rental car at the Akron Airport. This is the way a search evolves. Initially it’s just about accomplishing some general goal, like transportation, but it ultimately turns into a fine-tuned search for personal perfection. Housing searches are like this, too.

I spent the past two years with a buyer in search of something unique. Well, it’s unique now, but it wasn’t always unique. A general lakefront house, in a general location, nothing too fancy, with budget aplenty. The search had ups and it had downs, far more downs than ups, really.  After so much time searching for something specific, the search arrived at a crossroads. Should this buyer continue searching for what they really wanted, or should they acquiesce to this tight market and buy something that, at least, gets them here? They wanted to be in this place in a certain variety of home, but maybe just being in this place would suffice, for now.

This week I closed on a three bedroom condo at Abbey Ridge. It was a homecoming of sorts for me, as I used to spend considerable time in this condominium development listing and selling these two, three, and four bedroom condominium units. The condo was a nice enough three bedroom with a bit of a harbor view and a generally pleasant disposition. $560,000 was the ransom for this space, and we secured it in turn key fashion, down to the bottle openers and fake bird statues near the fireplace.

Abbey Ridge, for those who haven’t been paying attention, is hot again. Hotter than hot. Infrared. I sold a unit there last December (off-market), and didn’t bother to write about it. That unit sold for $555,000.  A four bedroom unit overlooking the pool sold last October for $485,500. A three bedroom unit listed at $635,000 is pending sale. The only available unit at Abbey Ridge today is a two bedroom first floor unit listed at $360,000. Abbey Ridge is bucking the soft condo trend and printing peak numbers, and for this, we should stand and applaud.

But what of these buyers, what of this particular condominium bent, of this desire to find a condo in Fontana without any particular form of lake access? Are these buyers that have only aspired to this form of vacation home ownership? I’d say yes, some are, and a nice condominium in a nice lakeside village in this nice place is a very nice thing. But I have a feeling that several of the other recent buyers aren’t here because they desperately want to be. They’re here because there’s nothing available that truly fits their eye. Abbey Ridge might be benefiting from the tight housing market on the lake and just off, and as a result, sales are printing and prices are escalating.

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago about buyers making hot-market-mistakes.  This was a bit about the buyers who find the bread and butter vacation home segment to be too hot, too scarce, too expensive, so they retreat to areas where prices are lower and value seems evident.  They’re often making mistakes by buying vacation homes in non-vacation home settings, which sets them up for crushing price declines should the market one-day adjust downward. A safer play for these sorts of buyers is to do what my buyer just did. Find a place in Abbey Ridge. In the Villas. In Willabay or Bayside Pointe. Find a condo that might not be what you really want, but it’ll help you live your best life this summer.

Vista Del Lago Sells

Vista Del Lago Sells

It isn’t easy being a large condo association. In fact, a seat on a board at such an association is the worse sort of punishment, the sort for which you volunteer. Geneva National knows this pain, and it knows it well. Large associations have different problems than do the small associations, owing mostly to the scale of it all. Lots of land, lots of amenities, lots of structures, and unfortunately, lots of owners. Vista Del Lago, the largest condominium association on the lake, knows these problems all too well.

There’s been a learning curve of sorts at Vista.  New ownership flooded in during the 2000s condo boom, and unlike the average of the previous ownership, these owners were more affluent and as a result, more demanding. Expectations soared, and along with it, the request for improvements. This should be better and so should that. New retaining walls here, new roofs there, new landscaping around the corner.  The property was old enough by then to need some serious attention, and as a new group of owners settled in, the attention was paid.

There were some management concerns, so management changed. There was some maintenance concerns, so maintenance changed. There were reasons to improve Vista, so the improvements were made. But that makes it sound like there wasn’t a struggle, because there was. Whenever a large group needs to make decisions in unison, there is a struggle. But today, the smoke is clearing and Vista, with those improvements made, has once again found favor in the market. It’s a good time to be at Vista Del Lago.

The market hasn’t fully recovered, mind you, but it’s finally gaining some ground. This week I closed on a sale of a four bedroom condo for $520,000.  Currently, there are two other units at Vista pending sale, with just two others active on the market. There was a time not too many years ago when it wasn’t uncommon to have six or more units available at the same time. These recent sales and this lack of inventory is just what the doctor ordered, assuming the doctor was ordering Vista Del Lago to return to form.

Today, there are only eight available lakefront condominiums on Geneva Lake. That’s a low total, to be certain.  The most amazing of them all? Obviously my Bay Colony unit in Williams Bay. First floor unit, boat slip, perfect lake views and a stunning interior. For real, stunning. You’ll be stunned. Actually.  I wouldn’t ever use that word out of context.  For now, let’s celebrate the Vista sale. It means a lot to the market, and I expect the lakefront condo market to continue its long recovery throughout the coming summer. If you’re looking for a ready-made lakefront experience and your budget doesn’t allow for single family, there’s no better way to indulge in the lakefront scene. If you’re wondering who to work with towards this end, email him here.

Mars Resort Fish Fry Review

Mars Resort Fish Fry Review

A man and his wife sat at the corner table and argued over the bark on a tree. Half way down, he insisted.  She responded with something about the weather. Snow, soon. The waitress confirmed it.  He talked about earthquakes. She asked about the tree. They nursed their drinks, each engaged in a conversation that seemed to have no bearing on the other.  A man at another table. Rick, or Jim, or Bill. He walked in slowly and sat down. The waitresses came over, one by one, to give him a hug. Good to see you, Jim/Bill/Rick.  The bartender knew his drink.  He had on his Cubs hat, and the Cubs had just won. He had reason to be in a good mood. It wasn’t yet 4 pm.

Mars Resort has anchored the south shore of Lake Como since 1923. Originally named “The Old Glory Camp”, this lakeside restaurant/bar had a few ownership and name changes before finally resting on the name Mars Resort in 1949. It has operated continuously ever since. No matter the fish, no matter the ribs, something in this area that has operated for so long under the same roof deserves our praise and our attention.  That’s why I slinked in to a window table just before 4 pm last Friday night. No area restaurant has had as much practice serving fried fish, and practice, as I tell my kids, is supposed to make perfect.

There were schedule conflicts on Friday night. I’ve tried to eat at Mars several times during this fishy tour, but each time the sheer number of cars in the parking lot rebuffed my attempt. I like to eat fish, but I don’t like to wait 30 minutes for a table. Because of our odd Friday schedule, I knew I could either eat dinner slightly later or slightly earlier, and as a devoted fan of eating, I opted for earlier. Knowing I needed to capitalize on this early dinner, I headed for Mars. Surely the restaurant couldn’t be busy at 4 pm.

And it wasn’t, excepting the bar that was filling in and the happy customers nursing their Old Fashioned’s.  Sometimes  you want to go where everybody knows your name, and it seemed that indeed everyone here knew each other’s name. Except mine, of course, even though my local status is likely even more local than the most local among them. Still, Mars isn’t my thing, and it isn’t my place, so I sat at a local bar with my daughter and her friend and felt very much like an outsider.  I almost felt the need to apologize to the waitress, who seemed concerned that she didn’t recognize me.

Mars is a classic supper club. It has classic supper clubby things, like a piano bar, where, on one of my only other visits I was entertained by Wayne Messmer. The decor is old school, thankfully old school. If I learned anything from the Big Foot Inn it’s that you don’t go messing with what works. At a supper club, old works. Don’t dress it up. Don’t ruin what makes the place different. Mars doesn’t, and that’s why Mars feels, even for an outsider like me, very much like home.  Sitting lakeside on Como, my daughter commented on the water. It’s so shallow, she said. I assured her that she wasn’t seeing the bottom, but just the scum of the water that is Lake Como. After I told her that, I wondered if it could have indeed been the bottom. With Como, one never knows.

The fish fry is All You Can Eat cod, fried or broiled, with a choice of potato and a choice of soup or salad. I liked the option of a soup or salad. A friend of mine was in Boston over the weekend, so in his honor I ordered the soup, Clam Chowder, on this chilly, windy spring evening. My daughter and her friend both skipped the fish fry and ordered off of the menu. Apparently everyone around here is sick of fish except for me. There were other options for fried walleye, but I didn’t want to eat walleye two Friday’s in a row. I’m watching my figure. At $12.95, the cod dinner was a bargain.

Shortly after ordering the waitress brought out a cracker basket and a rounded mound of soft, spreadable cheese. I greedily fought my daughter for the cheese, and enjoyed it very much. There was no traditional bread basket, just this cracked basket, but the addition of the soft cheese made me forget all about the bread, and even made me look past the foiled packets of butter. My clam chowder arrived a minute later. It was hot, creamy, and above average for a clam chowder. It wasn’t all poisoned with too much celery, either. The clams had some nice sand content, so I knew they were good.

The fish was table side within a few minutes, which was a benefit of eating dinner at 4 pm with my elderly friends.  The plate looked right. A lemon wedge,  two large piece of fish, two potato pancakes, and some plastic containers holding my applesauce, tartar sauce, and drawn butter.  Don’t assume I’m just a fan of softened butter, by the way. Melted butter works just as well, and I felt rather satisfied and portly as I submerged my pieces of baked cod into the pool.  I tasted the applesauce first- nice and cold, a little bit of chunk, delicious. Nice. The tartar sauce would have to go unjudged, as my wife and designed tartar sauce tester was not present. It looked super relishy, which may be good and it may be bad, I couldn’t tell.

The baked cod was good. Firm, reasonably well cooked, and quite satisfying. It was good enough on its own, but with some lemon and a butter bath it was even better. The fried cod was fine, but not particularly memorable. The batter wasn’t really a batter, as it was too thin. It was more like the fish was rolled in flour and tossed into the fryer. Without the batter to protect it, the exterior of the fish dried out a bit. It was still good, and I still enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite on par with the standouts.

The potato pancakes were pretty good, and closely resembled breakfast hash browns pushed into a pancake shape. I liked them, but I won’t say they were at the top of the list. That’s sort of how I felt about the whole dinner at Mars. It was quite good, but not as good as others. I liked the scene, a lot. I liked that the patrons were happy and known. I like that a place like this exists, here, in this place, on that shallow water shore.  Mars didn’t reach Anthony’s level, but it is certainly a nice little bar. If you go there often, I have no doubt that it won’t take long before everybody knows your name.

 

Mars Resort 7.5/10

W4098 South Shore Drive, Lake Geneva

$12.95 All You Can Eat Cod (Walleye optional, likely an upcharge)

 

Lake Geneva Market Update

Lake Geneva Market Update

It’s been a while since I’ve written a broad market update. It had also been a while since I felt the warmth of a bright sun on my skin. But yesterday fixed that latter absence, and today I’m sporting a proper spring sunburn. Sunburns are generally understood as being bad. Bad for your health, bad for sleeping. But an early spring burn, with just a slight sensation of sting, well, that’s something that everyone of our winter condition needs. It’s an event. A ceremony. A wonderful happening that signals the passing of winter with the emergence of spring. I don’t like sunburns, not one bit. Except in April.

The Lake Geneva vacation home market has endured quite a winter. Winter was fine, I suppose. It snowed a bit and it was cold a bit, but it didn’t snow a ton and it wasn’t cold all that often. That was winter. But March and April, the two months to which we generally assign some spring tendencies, they didn’t cooperate. The weather was awful. It was. Terrible, really. Rainy and windy or snowing and windy. Early ice out means nothing if the ice is replaced with snow. And so we endured. Showings were made and showings were canceled. Who could drive in this snow and that rain?  The market faced obstacles, mostly from the clouds above, and yet here we are. The market triumphed over so-called-spring, and is, today, poised to do some serious selling.

Because we’d be remiss to fail to recognize that the weather has indeed had an impact on our market. The market has performed valiantly, don’t be confused, but I can only imagine how much stronger the market might be today if not for the desperate grip of a belligerent winter. We’ve had sales, closings, showings, galore.  If I’m a buyer today, I’m worried. The market performed well in spite of the weather.  Can you guess how much better it might do if it were able to excel because of it?

Current vacation segment activity knows no limit. The entry level lake access market is active, with pending deals in Country Club Estates and Cedar Point Park. Country Club has had the hot hand of late, with buyers greedily gobbling up any bits of inventory, with few exceptions.  Further up the price scale, there are three off-water homes pending sale between $800k and $1.5MM. Those homes include one in Wooddale ($899k), one on Hunt Club Lane ($1.3MM), and the long-listed, renovated Loramoor home ($1.499MM). These homes are all fine in their own right, and each sale will ultimately make plenty of sense to me, and to the market.

There was a time back during the prior market cycle when the least expensive listing on Geneva Lake was right at $2MM.  If you liked that market, you’re in luck, because today there are just two true lakefront homes available priced under $2MM. The bulk of the lakefront inventory today is priced between $2-3MM, with several fine offerings in that mix. Some of those properties have been listed for quite some time, others are fresh to market this season.  My predictive qualities are quite refined, and as of now I’m going on a limb and guessing we’ll see two or three new accepted offers out of those nine lakefronts in that particular price range by Memorial Day Weekend.

There are two lakefront spec homes being built in Cedar Point Park. Both of those homes are listed at $3.85MM and both have been under contract since last summer. The first one is now finished, and just closed for full price. I’m not going to elaborate on these sales publicly (you should be working with me if you want to know what I think about them), but I’ll just state the obvious: this market craves new construction. It loves it. It needs it. It cannot live without it.  $3.85MM x 2 proves it.

The top end of the market has been quiet in terms of new inventory, and just two long-contracted deals remain to be closed. Those are of the Born Free property on the North Shore of Geneva ($5.75MM) and Clear Sky Lodge ($6.5MM) on the South Shore. Sometimes I randomly capitalize the shores to make them feel more important.  Both of those sales will be fine, though both feel somewhat pricey given their prior, recent sales prices. That’s $3.5MM for Born Free in 2011 and $3.7MM for Clear Sky in 2012 (I represented the seller in that sale).  Still, the market is hot and these two properties prove that appreciation over recent years has been, in some cases, quite impressive. The best remaining upper bracket offering is my Basswood listing.  Watch the video here   to remember what summer looks and feels like.

Inventory remains the biggest concern as we transition into the summer market.  This concern isn’t limited to the lakefront market, as there are lots of buyers in search of a reasonably priced ($500k-$1.3MM) off-water home with either a lake view or a boat slip. But the lakefront is the market that generates the headlines, and the lakefront could also use an injection of new inventory. What segment has buyers waiting? Um, all of them? There are active buyers right now in every price range, from $200k cottages in Country Club to $10MM lakefronts. If I’m a seller today I consider the market and wonder if I should sell (maybe). If I’m a buyer I consider the market and wonder if I should jump (probably). But if I’m me, I’m just concerned about hanging on to this new spring-time tan (unlikely).

Above, sunrise from my 274 Sylvan listing in Fontana’s Buena Vista.
Whiskey Ranch Fish Fry Review

Whiskey Ranch Fish Fry Review

There’s a certain thing about a restaurant name that sets the tone for diner expectations. If you visit a restaurant called Whiskey Ranch, your expectations are set long before you pull into the gravel driveway.  This particular restaurant occupies an old house at the intersection of Highways 14 and 11, just outside of Delavan and Darien. Across the street there’s a strip club, in case you’d like to wash away your whiskey sorrows with a dash of glitter. The parking lot at Whiskey Ranch is nearly always full, whether from patrons of the Ranch or patrons of the aforementioned club. Parking in the lot across the street feels like an awfully flimsy alibi.

When we caught a glimpse of the parking lot at Whiskey Ranch on Friday night it seemed as though we’d be finding somewhere else to dine. It was around 6:30 and the lot was absolutely slammed. I parked near the front door and entered the bar to ask how long of a wait I’d have to suffer through. Five minutes was all, so I found a permanent parking spot and we pulled up two chairs to a high top in the bar. There appears to be only two dining areas in this bar, both very bar like.  The waitress and the host both told us often about the beer sampling that was taking place in the other room, which might be a more traditional dining room, but I couldn’t tell. The free beer would explain the abundance of cars in the lot.

The crowd here was a bit boisterous, celebrating the certain fact that they had made it through another work week. How I wish I could celebrate like that. I can barely celebrate New Years Eve, (it’ll be a new year no matter if I celebrate or not), or my birthday (big deal, lots of people have lived this long), or a large closing (Great, now I don’t have any deals pending). This was a group engineered to celebrate just making it, and there they were, enjoying the evening and the free beer and the fish fry.  When the waitress was table side I asked about the fish, which, for the first time in this tour, actually required some explanation.

The Friday specials, the waitress explained, included a traditional fish fry (two pieces find cod), a Fried Walleye Dinner (two pieces), Pan Fried Walleye (two pieces), Baked Cod (two pieces), some fried shrimp dish, a grilled salmon dinner, and a fish fry sandwich, in case you were in a hurry. I appreciated the multiple options, and asked the waitress for her recommendation. Without pause, she said she liked the fried Walleye. So that’s what I ordered, ignoring the cod completely. If a restaurant serves Walleye (like the Waterfront at the Abbey), I must oblige their effort and order the Walleye with potato pancakes. My wife ordered the shrimp dish with fries.

One of my many poor eating habits involves the appetizer. As a child, I didn’t get to eat appetizers. I wasn’t really sure what they were. My dad would never consider pre-gaming a meal with a smaller meal, because who would spend $8.99 on something so unnecessary? I asked the waitress if any appetizer was important here, and she explained some sort of fried corn ball thing that sounded sort of appealing but sort of strange. I ordered the jalapeño  poppers, which was a mistake. They were brought out first, and they were bland and pretty much terrible. I should have known better. This is my fault.

The fish dinner, on the other hand, was a beautiful plate of fried food. The Walleye filets were large, battered, as the menu said, to perfection. The potato pancakes (two) were thin, but well crisped. The plate had a small piece of cornbread, a tiny container of applesauce (too smooth, bland), and matching plastic containers of coleslaw and tartar sauce. There was also a small plastic container filled with some sort of maple syrup concoction. I’m not sure what it was or what I was supposed to do with it. A lemon wedge provided the only color.  The cornbread was on the dry side, but flavorful. It could have used a nice smear of softened butter, but my only butter option was a foil packet from somewhere in Houston. For shame, Whisky Ranch. For deep and terrible shame.

The Walleye was delightful. Beer battered and fried to a wonderful golden hue, it was moist and tender, quite divine. I think the Waterfront’s (Abbey) fried Walleye might have been slightly better, but this Walleye was delicious. The potato pancakes were more traditional, one note, some potato and onion crisped on the flattop. I liked the fact that they didn’t try to church the potato up with some sort of add-in.  There were only two pieces of fish and two pancakes, but that was plenty of food. My wife said her shrimp were pretty good, and I had to eat some her fries so I could properly report back on my findings. They were superlative.

Our waitress was friendly, but she let our water glasses go dry for what felt like most of my dinner, which wasn’t terrific. We waited for quite along while after our plates were cleared to be presented with the check, which did allow for a bit more people watching but was also slightly annoying. The hostess reminded us again of the free beer in the other room, and continued to be somewhat perplexed at our lack of enthusiasm.  The Whiskey Ranch is a bar. It’s in an old house. The ceilings are low, the bar is loud. It feels like an up north bar, which is actually a good thing. Their Friday Fish Fry was above average, but not on par with the standouts I’ve so far discovered. If you’re in the mood for fish and want to hang out with some locals, give the Whiskey Ranch in Delavan a visit. It won’t let you down.

 

Whiskey Ranch 8/10

W9002 Highway 11, Delavan, WI 

$14.99 Fried Walleye Dinner, $10.99 Fried Cod, $11.99, Pan Fried Walleye $14.99, Fish Fry Sandwich $8.99

 

Geneva National Vs. The World

Geneva National Vs. The World

If you think the vacation home market at the lake is active, you should check out the market for sub-$350k single family and condominium residences that lack lake access. That market is absolutely on fire. A recent search I performed showed 23 single family homes in Williams Bay priced between $310k and $400k. Of those 23, 15 were pending sale. That’s a hot market. Similarly so, the vacation home segment under $400k is also active, and that activity isn’t only involving properties with lake access. There’s an entire subset of vacation homes here, those condominiums that lack dedicated water access but still, often, appeal to a vacation home buyer.

Condominiums, wherever they are found, lend themselves to vacation home ownership for pure ease of ownership, and as a result, the off-water, non-access condominium market in Walworth County is a common target for vacation home seekers who find themselves with a fixed budget. Many of these buyers find their way to Abbey Springs, where they receive lake access, or to other condominiums like Willabay Shores in Williams Bay or the Abbey Villas in Fontana. It’s obvious, too, that these buyers end up in Geneva National. But increasingly I’m finding it annoying that Geneva National is overlooked by so many in this sub-$300k price range.

As I don’t often work this market, you’ll know my annoyance is genuine, as I’m not stumbling into this condition simply because it doesn’t serve my purpose. Geneva National might offer solid value and a rare setting, but as budget minded buyers know, it also offers a hefty monthly association fee. Often lakefront condominiums on Geneva will have elevated fees, but that’s an understood situation given the piers and pools and increased amenities. Geneva National has high fees, and while it offers justifiable amenities, many buyers will look directly past GN based solely on those monthlies. I think this is a mistake.

Let’s consider a random Geneva National condominium and contrast it to competing inventory in the broad market. For our purpose today, we’re going to look at a Highlands unit listed around $220k. This unit is a three bedroom, three bath, with a two car attached garage, three levels of finished space and a walkout lower level. The unit is a bit dated at this point, but who isn’t? The tax bill is around $3500 with monthly association fees of $590. That fee covers exterior maintenance, pools, tennis court, gated security, private roads, etc and etc. It’s a nice condo for the money.

If we’re a buyer of a three bedroom condominium in the Lake Geneva area, another reasonable option would be a unit listed for sale on the East end of the City of Lake Geneva listed at $290k. This is a four bedroom unit with slightly more square footage, but a two car garage and a one less full bath. To be certain, this is also a nice unit, and any buyer on a budget would likely find living here to be pleasant. The condo fees are $235, the taxes $4200.  The fee covers exterior maintenance. And exterior maintenance. There’s nothing else for it to cover.

The sort of buyer that might be drawn to the city condo would likely find the low monthly fees to be an important data point. Those fees might be the same reason they avoided Geneva National. But let’s really consider those fees. The GN fees allow use of a resort community with pools, tennis, walking trails, gated security, and more. The fees at the other development cover simple exterior maintenance. There’s no resort there. No other value added amenities. Just a condo that lists access to the highway as an amenity. These may seem like similar units, but they are not, as a matter of fact, even remotely the same.

But that’s just the lifestyle difference, and that’s where Geneva National shines, so let’s go back and look at those monthly fees. To own in Geneva National, versus our fill-in-competition, it’ll cost an extra $4260 per year. Ouch, that’s rough. That’s why people avoid GN. But let’s dig a bit more. The taxes at GN are $700 cheaper, owing that to a Town of Geneva tax scale, rather than the City of Lake Geneva. Now our annual premium is down to $3560. The fee in Geneva National covers water and sewer charges, which the other condo adds in separately (according to the MLS listing). It’s fair to assume the annual water/sewer charge for moderate use would be around $800. Now our Geneva National premium is down to $2760.

Now that we’ve figured out the monthly fee difference, consider what that $2760 buys you. Tennis, pools, gated security. Is that worth $230 a month? I think it is, but you might not be so easily convinced. What we’re forgetting here is that the Geneva National condo is a full $70k less in initial purchase price. If we’re financing our transaction with a 20% down payment, that means the non-GN condo cost us $14k more up front, and adds $335 to our monthly liability. If we’re paying cash for the purchase, assuming a similar discount to ask for each unit, we’re forking over an additional $70k for the amenity-void unit.  That’ll cover the next 25 years of Geneva National premium.

The exercise today is simple. Let’s stop ruling out condominiums based solely on monthly fees. Let’s consider the real numbers behind that initial number, and let’s buy something that matches our lifestyle and our budget, not just our budget.

Photo Courtesy either Ideal Impressions or Matt Mason Photography. I’m really not sure… 
Bay Colony For Sale

Bay Colony For Sale

Back on the market just in time for whatever season we’re now calling April, a most memorable Bay Colony lakefront condominium…

There’s a thing about lakefront condominiums. The typical way to remodel these condos is, well, typical. Some new countertops. Paint. A backsplash of something from Home Depot. And this way of doing things is just fine. When people come to see the newly remodeled condo they’ll tell you it looks nice. Good job, they’ll say. But they won’t really mean it. They’ll wonder why you put new counters on old cabinets and painted the old doors. They’re still hollow, after all. White paint doesn’t change that. But they’ll tell you it’s nice and they’ll leave wondering if the lie was convincing.

At my newest lakefront listing in Bay Colony, there’s nothing to look at that isn’t new. There’s nothing that was missed. What started out as an intended surface renovation ended up including new everything. Everything? Everything. And instead of the typical wares you’re used to seeing in this segment, the owner decided to do the unit right. The floors are oak. The counters are quartz. The bathrooms are marble. There are custom built ins galore. There’s a new laundry room. There’s style here that is not just rare on this lake- before now it didn’t even exist.

Two bedrooms and two baths with a slip. Immediate outdoor access from both the parking side and the lakefront, making for no annoying hallway conversations. Is this unit simple? Yes. It’s simple. But in the simplicity is the value. I’m offering this unit today at $899k, fully renovated by Lowell Construction. Fully furnished. Fully ready to transform your weekends. If you’ve been in the market for a turn key lakefront residence but have been let down by your condominium options, come visit me at Bay Colony unit 101.  It’s stunning, and that’s not the slightest exaggeration.

Abbey Springs Yacht Club Fish Fry Review

Abbey Springs Yacht Club Fish Fry Review

I take some offense to the term “yacht club”. It’s a bit over the top, a bit ostentatious. A bit too much.  There are boats that are launched with routine frequency at the lakefront in Abbey Springs, but I’ve seen these boats and while many are nice, none are yachts. We should reserve use of the word for when we really mean it. Like when we say something is breathtaking. If it took your breath away, it’s breathtaking. If it’s a view of the lake, it’s just a nice view. But in spite of this grudge against this phrase I pulled up a chair at a lakeside table last Friday night and did what it is that I do. I ordered the fish.

But before I could order and before I made that reservation I filled out the membership application and sent in my $200 to Abbey Springs. That membership fee allows me access to the restaurants of Abbey Springs, both the clubhouse grill on the golf course side of the property and the Yacht Club Dining Room on the lakeside. It’s a small price to pay for another dining option on the water, and so there I was, membership in hand, seated at the table watching the rollers build and sway from one end of our big lake to the other.

The dining room here is nice. It’s not incredibly nice, but it’s nice. It lacks some of the sophistication of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club, but the space is comfortable and nicely appointed. There’s a large bar on the West with adjacent dining space, and a large dining room on the East. Like most restaurants of this style, the dining room was full of folks that belonged to a different generation, the greatest, perhaps. While we waited for our friends I perused the menu.

I’m fond of restaurants that list their fish fry in their menu. I don’t like restaurants that mention the fish fry as though it’s some unique treasure, some special that they just thought of and had little time to add it to the menu. In bold print, there it was:  Friday Fish Fry. Cod, potato, sides, $15 for all you can eat.  Our friends were late but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the bread basket, complete with a pumpernickel, a whole grain, and sourdough roll.  The bread was warmed and quite wonderful and likely would have done well on its own, but the most glorious addition to a Friday Fish Fry was also present: A dish of soft, whipped, room temperature butter. What a delight, after weeks of bread and butter disappointment, to start my meal with this treat.

The waitress was pleasant and attentive and quick to take our order. Mine was clear. I’d have half broiled and half fried along with the potato pancakes.   Within fifteen minutes our dinner was served. At first blush the plate was a delight. Several smaller pieces of broiled cod, one large piece of fried, two potato pancakes, a lemon wedge, two hushpuppies, and a nice ceramic dish of applesauce and tartar sauce. The coleslaw was served on the plate, which was unique, and not especially preferred considering I don’t like coleslaw, but I abided the addition and neatly pushed it to the side.

In a first, the broiled cod also featured distinct grill marks. The fish may have been broiled and then briefly finished on the grill, but it looked to me like it was only grilled. Either way the pieces were tender and sported an extra flash of flavor from those grill marks. My dinner mates enjoyed the broiled cod quite a bit, perhaps more than I did. I liked it well enough, but I don’t think it was the best broiled cod I’ve had on this journey. The fried piece of cod was supremely crunchy, battered in a tempura style. The fish inside was moist and tender, but lacked salt. It was good, but again, not quite the best I’ve had.

The potato pancakes were well crisped on the exterior while still maintaining a creamy interior. They were delicious. It’s a rare feat, or so I’m discovering, to serve potato pancakes worthy of actual praise, but the Abbey’s pancakes were near perfection. The hushpuppies, two to an order, were drier than a typical hushpuppy, and sweeter, too. But I wouldn’t let that get in the way of devouring both of them, as the sweetness was a nice interruption to the savory fish and potato.  Were they as good as the Popeye’s hushpuppies? No, but they were certainly close. The tartar sauce won some praise from the table, and the applesauce was remarkably flavorful, if a bit too smooth.

It was apparent to me that this was a superlative dinner. Some of the items were not perfect, but the combination of lakeside dining, comfortable seating, and delicious food is a rare combo here. If you’ll recall, I loved the fish fry at the Outlook Bar at Lake Lawn Lodge, but I hated the restaurant space. I loved the restaurant space at the Ridge Hotel’s Crafted Americana, but the cod was dry. There’s always something that takes a meal and derails it. But at the Abbey Springs Yacht Club, whether there are actual yachts there or not, most things were executed to near perfection. Buy yourself a membership and order the fish. It’s worth it.

 

Abbey Springs Yacht Club 9/10

1 Country Club Drive, Fontana, WI 53125

$15 All  You Can Eat Cod (plus $200 annual dining membership)

 

(Author note: The definition of Yacht in my usage has nothing to do with Coast Guard certification, rather only my own interpretation of the class of boat that should be referred to as a yacht…)

 

Lake Geneva Prices

Lake Geneva Prices

There’s an interesting bit of information available this morning courtesy a recent lakefront sale. The sale was of an older house on a 90′ lakefront lot in the Birches. The property was fine. The MLS description made no mention of it, but I believe the house may have been a Zook.  Zook homes are a lot like Frank Lloyd Wright homes, in that the sellers care about the pedigree of the architect, but the market doesn’t.  This property was initially listed for $3.5MM back in 2008, and after a series of price reductions and listing pauses, the property mercifully sold this week for $2.3MM.  I didn’t have the listing or the buy side, which is pretty awful for me but worse for the buyer and seller.

The parcel of land was reasonably decent, though I don’t count Maple Lane to be among the best streets on the lake. It’s a fine street with fine homes, but it’s not necessarily a street that has a history of selling for elevated prices. Today isn’t about that parcel, it’s about the market context of this sale.  Brokers are clamoring over potential listings to such an extent that prices are being driven up less by market conditions and more by the breathlessness of agents who are new enough to the business that they have no way to be sure of valuations. It’s not their fault, they’re just chasing dollars.  To understand what this sale means to the market we must first look back at some very recent history.

In 2016 I sold three lakefront homes on Lackey Lane. Of those three, two were modest homes, one of which has since been torn down while the other was renovated. Those two properties that sold at land value printed at $1.9MM and change, for 100′ lots on a really desirable street. Geographically, Lackey and Maple are close, so we’ll consider them to be likely comparables for each other, even though I find Lackey to be far more appealing.  Those two sales printed at around $19,000 per front foot. This isn’t some long ago number, this is 24 months ago. Market conditions today have improved, but market conditions in 2016 were still quite good.

The recent sale on Maple printed at $25,555 per front foot. The overall land mass at Maple was larger than Lackey by two fold, but the market pays little attention to overall mass and focuses instead, perhaps at times incorrectly, on frontage.   The Maple sale closed 34% higher than the 2016 sales on Lackey. Does this mean the lakefront market has appreciated 34% in the past 24 months? Of course not.  Does it mean that some properties have appreciated that much in such a short period of time? Absolutely yes.

In 2016, those Lackey sales were not easy sales. Both properties endured some time on market. Both properties were overlooked, even by smart buyers who were working with me.  Today, the Maple property proves out what I knew then: 100′ vacant lots that are selling at land value are becoming increasingly rare. Just as we’ll someday run out of dumpy lakefront cottages that you might be able to buy for $1.2MM, we’re also running out of 100′ lakefront lots with older, modest homes on them.  This scarcity is driving up prices in both categories, though the entry level market remains rather stagnant compared to the 100′ market. Expect this trend to continue as buyers seek out properties that offer them some upward mobility should they one day decide to build new, or undertake a serious renovation.

Beware The Traps

Beware The Traps

There’s a house for sale not too far from where I’m sitting. It has a roof and some siding and windows. There’s even a deck. It’s close to the lake I suppose, walking distance, for whatever that’s worth. There’s an ice cream shop nearby and another ice cream shop not too far from that one. There’s an art gallery, and another ice cream shop.  A bit down the way you’ll find Geneva Lake and a nice beach. When I was a kid the beach goers would shriek when a large Snapping Turtle would ease through the stream and make an appearance on the beach.

The house reminds me a lot of the prior market peak. Those days in the mid 2000s when everything seemed fine, and inventory was as tight as tight could be.  There were brief moments back then when the most affordable listing on the lake was two million dollars. When the most affordable house listed in Williams Bay was over $200k. Those times were difficult for buyers, and in their misery they’d find their way to non-typical vacation homes just so they’d have something. Not so they’d have what they really wanted, but so they’d have a place to hang their hat on a Friday night after a Wisconsin fish fry.

If they had to walk to the public beach, so be it. The lake is the same there as it is in front of your fancy private pier. Or so they’d tell themselves. At their new vacation home they can walk to get ice cream. Try doing that from the middle of Basswood Drive,  they’d say. It didn’t matter that their vacation home didn’t have any deeded lake access. It didn’t matter that their new vacation home was surrounded by non-vacation homes. What mattered is that they paid $250k when the cheapest home available in Cedar Point Park was $350k. They paid $250k when the cheapest home in Country Club Estates was $370k. They paid $250k when there was nothing for sale in the Loch Vista Club or in Oakwood Estates. What mattered was that they paid $250k and they were here, in this place, enjoying the things they wanted to enjoy.

And that, I suppose, is good. But what wasn’t good was what happened when the market tumbled. The vacation homes tumbled, too. Those homes in the Harvard Club and Glenwood Springs, they felt some pain. But the homes in non-vacation home settings, those homes in town that were tapped as fill-ins for buyers who couldn’t find anything else, those homes saw their values crushed.  They were crushed because they spent vacation home dollars in a primary home market. That, my good friends, is a tremendous mistake.

Today, the market is active. Inventory is low. My job is not all that much fun at the moment. Buyers wish for inventory, sellers wish for too much money, and the market is trying to decide who will win. Signs are pointing to the sellers winning, but the war is still being decided one battle at a time.  When the market is low on inventory buyers tend to do one of two things. They either wait, patiently, but anxiously, knowing that some day the right thing, or something close enough to the right thing, will materialize. Or they don’t wait, and they buy something dumb. Something close to town. Something walking distance to the ice cream shop. Something that fills the immediate void, but something that is, undoubtedly, a mistake.

In this market, be patient. Be ready. Be prepared. Be anxious. But don’t be foolish. Work with me and I’ll make sure you don’t make a very terrible mistake.

Culver’s Fish Fry Review

Culver’s Fish Fry Review

I was a bit nervous about having to write this review. It reminded me of the time I decided to go visit Harbor Country for the first time, just to see what it was all about. I booked my hotel and drove East, down that terrible route and across Indiana, the Fireworks and Strip Club signs lighting my way.  Once I was done driving East, I drove North, up and along that shore, worried that what I would find would be so wonderful that I’d have no means to ever compete with it. When I pulled into the town a deep sense of relief gently washed over me.  This place wasn’t great at all. I had worried about this competition for no reason, for no reason at all. This place was lame, and I was relieved.

I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to sit in the VC meeting where Culver’s first pitched its business plan. The Culvers’ brothers on one side of the table, with their attorney, me and my VC cohorts on the other side.   I’d lead off by asking what this new plan was that brought them to my office.  “It’s a burger joint”,  one Culver would respond. I’d say, so what’s the catch? There’s a lot of burger joints, obviously. How do you plan to attract customers? What’s your angle? Will you serve the food like super fast? “No, we’ll take the order and then give people and little plastic number and make them wait in their cars for a while, maybe like five or seven minutes, then we’ll bring them out their food”. 

Ok. So is the food like super cheap and affordable? “No, it’ll be very nearly the same cost as a sit down meal might be at a regular restaurant where they have waitresses and metal silverware”.  Ok. So, you’re going to create a fast food restaurant that will be quite expensive and you’ll make people wait in their cars for an extraordinarily long amount of time before you serve them some burgers and crinkle cut fries?  “Yes, that’s right”.   That’s when I’d pass on the deal and that’s why the Culver’s family is super rich and I’m typing fish fry reviews.

Last Friday called for a short road trip, which means there was no time for the traditional Friday Fish Fry. But alas, the trip was through Wisconsin, and so we decided there would be no better time to test the waters at Culver’s. The fast food chain has become a ubiquitous Wisconsin staple, and their television commercials spend considerable effort touting their fish fry. I have little doubt that their fish is among the best in the fast food world, but how does it stand up to the typical Wisconsin dinner?

The Cross Plains Culver’s is in an awkward location. It’s right off of Highway 14, but the drive-thru is wonky and the parking lot is small. The display screen doesn’t show any particular fish fry option, though it does offer an Atlantic Cod Sandwich, which is presumably the same fish that is served as a fish fry. Wild caught from the Barents Sea, apparently. I asked the fella on the other side of the screen if there was a fish fry. There was. Two or three pieces, served with two sides.  The price wasn’t listed, but I came to find out when the total was announced that it was $12.99. That’s in line with any sit down establishment where you don’t have to eat with one knee on the steering wheel.

I ordered three pieces with fries. Then I paid the enormous tab of $36 (my son had a fish sandwich, my wife chicken tenders with no fries, my daughter a kid’s meal, no ice cream, no sides, no extra drinks) and pulled around to my designated waiting spot. Several minutes later a nice girl brought out a large brown bag with our dinner. After disbursing the contents, we noticed we were short a couple of items, so my wife had to run in to ask for what was left off our order. This is pretty lame, but it’s Culver’s, so nothing fast should be expected.

My fish dinner was served in a plastic plate with matching plastic lid. Three pieces of cod, all nice size filets, with a lemon wedge, fries, and a small dinner roll. The roll was a nice touch, but if ever I would have given a pass for serving foiled, cold butter, this was it. Yet no butter was included. Perhaps it was left behind, like the rest of our order. With no potato pancake to judge, I’ll just say that the fries were fine but in no way should Culver’s be proud of their crinkle cut fries. Their custard is praise worthy, but their potato is not.

The cod was fine. The battered exterior was crunchy, the fish was respectable but in no way memorable. It was a touch dry,  bland, and not worth the $12.99 ransom. I ate it as I drove West, one hand on the fish, the other on the wheel. Nothing about the dinner was good. Nothing about it was memorable. Nothing about it is worthy of your fish fry time. If you’re running late on a Friday night and feel like a fast food fish fry might be a convenient substitute for a sit-down fish fry, don’t do it. Just skip it and wait for the next Friday to roll around.

Culver’s 3/10

Everywhere, Wisconsin

$12.99 Three Piece Fried Cod

Process

Process

There’s a process to this whole thing.  This is something the buyers who wish to be here on these shores, but lack either the financial ability or the mental focus to actually be here, need to embrace. I sold a particular lakefront house a couple of years ago. A modest house on a beautiful lot, purchased by a young couple with their young children. There’s a sign on the street welcoming guests to their home. It says, “Someday”.  The interpretation of the sign is simple: They dreamt of the day they’d be on this lake, and now they are. It’s Someday, everyday. Passersby see the manifestation of that dream, but not the messy, painful process of making it a reality.

It is no secret that I harbor a fierce addiction to fly fishing. I would argue that the addiction has waned some in recent years, as my work and my love of this lake has a tendency to keep me here, rather than where the fly fishing occurs, there.  Several years ago, when this addiction was new and escalating, I decided that it would be good if I had a small cabin in this hilly part of this great state.  So I did what any Realtor would do, I started looking.

I looked high and low, ideally for something modest, bare, hardly there. Something simple that could hold my hat for a night once in a while, so that I wouldn’t always have to drive home at midnight after a long day hiking these streams.  An Amish cabin, perhaps, with optional plumbing but some built in cots, maybe in a loft. I looked at some of these cabins and quickly decided that composting toilets are of the devil, and wood structures built by the Amish tend to bow out at the heel height, causing some awkward leans that I could not, and would not abide. Maybe not a small cabin, but maybe something a bit better? The budget would need to expand.

An acre, down in the valley, by a trout stream. That’s what I want. To see risers from the deck. A slow stroll with fly rod in hand, a BWO tied to the slight leader. An evening fish or two, before returning to the peaceful still of my little acre and my little deck. But one acre or two, that won’t cut it. There’s no privacy in a place like that if one acre is all you have, so ten or twenty, that would be better. And the house, that should be better, too. The budget would need to expand.

But these houses, for an area settled by Germans and Norwegians, two groups I thought had a proclivity towards quality design and construction, these houses are so terrible. Raised ranches on hillsides with vinyl cladding. Old farmhouses with terrible bones, brittle shacks with a propensity to lean. That valley dream? It’s a floodplain.  The term Hydraulic Shadow means nothing to Lake Geneva, but it means certain someday death to the homes that lie in its path. Valley is out, hillside is in. And these houses? They’re no good.  I’ve built several homes throughout my life, certainly one more wouldn’t hurt. The budget should increase.

But these hillsides, they’re all the same. County after county, hillside after hillside. They’re like lakes in the Midwest, all the same. But lakes aren’t all the same, and I know that here, so I should have known that there. The counties, well, they’re all the same to those who don’t understand or subscribe to nuance. But I am the self proclaimed nuance king, and so I should know which county is best. And I did, so the search had focus, but still not enough. The one valley, one stretch of river and the draws with their own rivers, that one area would be my aim. That area commands a premium to the other areas in this vague, general region of this state? The budget needs attention.

And then one day, after years of on and off searching, one day the right lot appeared. Was it perfect? No. Was it everything I ever wanted? No. Did I let a desire for great get in the way of a hope for good? No, I didn’t. And so I bought that lot, as imperfect or perfect as it may be, and in June of 2016 I started building a little cabin for my family.  The process was as imperfect and blatantly annoying as any process has ever been. I had issues with weather, issues with tradesmen, issues with finding tradesmen whom I had already hired, and issues with finding tradesmen to hire.  The build was a total disaster, the process a painful experience, the result an imperfect realization of a dream I first hatched a decade ago.

That’s the thing about a place like this, whether it’s here or there.  Every once in a while, someone, somewhere, finds the perfect house for the perfect price in the perfect location. Lake Geneva cannot generally accommodate you on those wishes. We might give you the perfect house, but at a price that you don’t believe to be anywhere near perfect. Or we’ll give you the perfect location, with a mightily, aggressively imperfect house. We can’t give you everything you want. But you should be like me. Strive for the best, knowing that all you’re really after is a piece of this place. A place that gives you things other places can’t. Narrow your focus, true your aim, and do your best. It’ll all be worth it in the end, at least that’s what I kept telling myself for the past two years.

Along The Way

Along The Way

I love my kids. I really do. Of the few things in this life of which I’m certain, that condition is firmly assured. But I can’t stand driving anywhere with them. Short trips, long trips, it’s all the same, and it’s all awful. Social Media, this week and the last, has been full of road tripping families, heading to some awful place in Northern Florida, the kids crammed into the backseat with pillows and blankets and iPads and earbuds. The images are supposed to evoke feelings of good old fashioned family fun, but to me, they are the stuff of nightmares. Loving my kids is one thing, loving spending time in cars with them is an entirely other thing.

During the summers of my youth, in between bouts of rag tag, lawn mowing and, well, rag tag and lawn mowing, my family would take to the interstates and spend two weeks in another place. We did this for many reasons, but mostly so my dad could rent out his house to raise money to help pay his property taxes.  We packed our station wagon, whichever one it was at the time, hitched up the trailered Boston Whaler, and proceeded to pack the Whaler full of everything we thought we might need for two weeks in the north woods of Minnesota. The preparation for the trip was remarkably stressful, and to this day, I cannot pack for a trip anywhere without falling into my father’s pattern of yelling and stressing over every detail of the chaos.

Most years, we’d cram into the back of that station wagon, first a blue one and then a red one, three brothers in the back, parents in the front, and we’d drive through the night without much excitement. The drive was long, perhaps eight hours worth, and exceedingly boring. There were no iPads to distract. No iPhones to amuse. Just the road and the night and three sweaty boys, packed like sardines in a can lined with red upholstery.

One year, a wheel bearing gave out in Minneapolis sometime around midnight. I don’t remember the details of that night, but it was similar to when Clark fell asleep and took that exit to the wrong part of Saint Louis.  In spite of the hiccup, we arrived the next morning in those northwoods, the washboard rumble of the camp driveway serving as our only notice.  Once we arrived, we’d spend our time swimming and following girls and attending more church services in two weeks than most fit into a year.  After two weeks we’d pack up and drive through the summer night. We’d be home by morning, because there were lawns to mow.

The summer trips we took were never about the journey. They were only about the destination. We didn’t stop to see the World’s Largest Ball Of Twine. We didn’t stop to take pictures at overpasses. We just drove because we knew the destination was worth the effort.  The journey, well that was just the price we had to pay.

There’s a new Pure Michigan commercial disrupting my television commercials of late, and it’s a commercial that praises the journey.  Along the way, Tim Allen insists, is where we have the most fun.  Along the way, he says, is the place we’ve been longing for. I’ve always been trained to endure the journey to embrace the destination. Suffer through the trip, because it’ll be worthwhile when you get to where you’re going. This is why I fly Frontier to Denver.  Tim Allen says otherwise. He’s told us that the journey is where it’s at. But, like always, he’s wrong. This is what people say when the destination isn’t very good. This is what people say when the journey is long and the travelers are weary.  Drive to Michigan if you must, just remember the commercial asks you to enjoy the trip because the destination isn’t all that great.

Image by Matt Mason Photography
Lake Geneva Yacht Club Fish Fry Review

Lake Geneva Yacht Club Fish Fry Review

Sometimes, dive bars aren’t where it’s at. They’re fun, the irony of it all, of the dated this and the out of style that.  But once in a while you just want to be surrounded by nice things. This is why we have nice lake houses. Old cottages are cute and fun, but luxury isn’t so bad either. Last Friday night I abandoned the dive bar scene and embraced the fanciful surroundings of the lake set. The Lake Geneva Yacht Club serves a Fish Fry, which means it must be judged.

Friday night wasn’t a great night. It was a bit windy and a bit cloudy, excepting a bright burst of sun that pushed through the low clouds right around sunset. The dying light made one last gasp and filled the lakefront bar just as we pulled up a chair. Our benevolent hosts had arrived before my wife and I, and as we chatted in that beautiful bar that lakefront light slowly faded beyond the western shore.

This is a restaurant at a yacht club (with a venerable history), so the E-Scow hanging from the ceiling and the trophies filling the glass cases shouldn’t come as any surprise. The surroundings here are vibrant and clean, beautiful, really, as they should be given the building is only a few years old. A large fireplace anchors the Eastern wall of that large, lakeside dining room.  The glow flickered throughout the room, with the overhead chandeliers warmed to low.  Excepting Pier 290, this is the nicest scene of any fish fry you’ll find in the Lake Geneva area.  But this is also a private club, so you’ll need to consider membership to enjoy this place. Or just be like me, and tag along with friends.

After some time lingering near the bar, where I nursed my Sprite, we sat at a table for four in the middle of that lovely dining room.  The crowd was well dressed, happy, with most sporting birth years that fell closer to those of my parents than my own. The waiter was quickly table side, and with a slightly uneasy cadence described our dining options. The Fish Fry was two piece cod, served broiled or fried, served with potato pancakes, applesauce, tartar sauce, hushpuppies, and coleslaw.  That sounds good, I’ll take it.

The Crab Cake appetizer looked worthwhile, so we took a stab. It was a singular cake ($14), nicely crisped but tender as a crab cake should be. It was served with a smear of something or other and a small assembly of finely diced vegetables, bacon, and some corn. It was a delicious appetizer, though I would have liked to have some larger chunks of crab in the cake.  In the distance, the old men in blazers discussed the wind and knots and cleats and sails.

The fish arrived within a reasonable amount of time, served on a white platter with quality, smaller dishes holding in the tartar sauce and other accompaniments. I liked this, as the plague of plastic takeout containers had been kept out of this fine establishment. The fish filets were not large, but they were large enough, and shaped like a proper rectangle, not a silly square. A lemon wedge sat atop my broiled piece. The potato pancakes were moderately sized, and after a disappointing run where my cakes were served in the singular, I had a nice pair of pancakes to consider.

My first bite was of the fried cod.  The batter was super crunchy, thin, not tough, the cod white and tender like the cod in my dreams. It was perfect. Well salted, slightly sweet, and perhaps the best fried cod I’ve had so far, only rivaled by the Lookout Bar at Lake Lawn Lodge. The broiled piece was slightly undercooked, which is preferable to slightly overcooked.  The hushpuppies (2) were sweet and creamy, the best hushpuppies I’ve had to date. If dusted with powdered sugar and served after dinner on a small white plate, I would have appreciated them even as a dessert.

The potato pancakes were well salted, with a bit of extra flavor that I couldn’t quite identify. They were thin, but properly cooked, nicely crisped, and delightful. Were they the best pancake I’ve had? No, but they were close.  The applesauce was too smooth for my liking, but it was cold and flavorful. The tartar sauce, according to my dinner mates, was lighter than typical, nuanced with flavor, and generally accepted as being delicious.

This was a beautiful dinner. The food was wonderful. The scene divine. The hushed murmurs of sailing strategy only slightly distracting to my fishy focus.  Given that this is a private club, it only stands to reason that it would be better than your average fish fry, but this dinner was exceptional. The next day, I inquired of the membership manager as to what a social membership would cost me. This is a fish fry I might not be able to live without.

 

Lake Geneva Yacht Club 9/10

1250 South Lakeshore Drive, Fontana, WI 

Members Only

$17 Single Serve Fried or Broiled Cod