Blog : Pier 290

Pier 290 Friday Fish Fry

Pier 290 Friday Fish Fry

There are many things that set Lake Geneva apart from its so-called competition. The water quality, the housing stock, the liquidity; all are important aspects of our superiority. But perhaps chief on the minds of residents and would-be residents is the plentiful existence of places to dine or imbibe that are accessible via boat. Lots of lakes have a place to eat on the water. Like one place. Maybe two, but probably one. When living on Geneva, there are loads of restaurants reachable via water chariot, and among those restaurants there are bars like Chucks, casual joints like Gordy’s, and the king of waterfront dining: Pier 290. When Pier 290 opened several years ago it immediately became a shining lakefront beacon, drawing residents and day trippers to this lakefront scene. The fanfare was and is deserved.

Friday night called for an early dinner.  My daughter was skiing and my son had basketball practice, so my wife and I put on our going to dinner clothes (in a twist, these are also my going to work clothes and going to Walmart clothes) and arrived at Pier 290 at 5:25 pm. It was dark, cold, and we were pleased to find a parking space near the front door. The hostess led us to an ideal table for two, in the far southeast corner of the main dining room, near the lakeside window and fireplace. It was a wonderful spot in a beautiful room. The firewood was stacked neatly near the fireplace, our table so close I could have tended the fire if I wished. And I did wish. The fireplace was absent of fire on this 14 degree January evening. Why is there a fireplace here if not for an evening such as this? Suddenly my fireside table felt out of the way and meaningless.

The waiter was soon table side and took our order. He was both polite and well spoken.  Two waters and an appetizer of deviled eggs. I’ve had these deviled eggs before, and though they were previously a bit overly mustardy, they were always delicious with a splash of Tobasco. The  plate, two eggs cut in half ($8) arrived quickly. The deviled eggs were good, though not at all as I remembered. The white of the egg was firm, perhaps too firm. In a twist, it seemed to me that the yolk filling also contained chunks of the egg white, which I found to be interesting at first and then annoying.   Bread and butter were served, and I was delighted in the softened butter. I will always delight in softened butter.  The bread was warm, though barely. It could have used another minute in the oven, but was a nice bread, airy and chewy, an ideal accompaniment to the soft butter.

When the waiter returned, we ordered the fish fry. On the menu, it’s listed as an All You Can Eat fish fry with two options: Cod or Bluegill.  Neither option had a listed price, which I thought strange, but perhaps the market price of frozen cod fluctuates wildly and the menu pricing is best left blank. The waiter recommended the bluegill,  so I succumbed and ordered bluegill, it only comes fried. I also ordered one piece of cod fried and one piece of cod broiled. Potato pancakes as the side. Pier 290 offers house made potato chips as a side, and I would suggest you not order those. If you’re going to eat potato, you might as well eat it in the proper dinner form.

In the entirety of the front dining room, just one other table was occupied, so when our fish arrived quickly after ordering I was pleased but not surprised. The plate was large, the serving size ample. Two potato pancakes, one piece of broiled cod, one piece of fried, and perhaps five small bluegill filets. The fried items were not golden fried, as you’d expect with a fish fry, but were rather lightly fried, as if the fish was tossed only in flour or cornstarch before frying.  Maybe dredged, not battered.  That’s fine, but I found the exterior to lack crispiness and necessary crunch.  The potato pancakes were flavorful, hot, and generally delicious. There was more to this mix than is typical, lending a creaminess to the interior that I enjoyed.

The bluegill, with that pale breading, was served skin-on. It was overcooked and had a dull flavor not at all like the bluegill filets I grew up eating.  We would always filet our fish and remove the skin entirely before breading with an egg bath and instant mashed potato mix on the exterior. If you’ve never done this, I suggest you do. I’d also suggest Pier 290 consider it, because the bluegill dinner wasn’t something I’d ever order again. The cod was better, though breaded in that same light crust.  The broiled piece was fine, if small and square, like a Williams Bay 1986 cafeteria serving. Still, it was well salted and not overcooked like the bluegill.  I ordered a second piece of broiled, to make good on that All You Can Eat offer, and was quickly presented with two more squares of cod. These came with a lemon wedge, something the initial plate didn’t include. These are the sort of odd inconsistencies that are common here.

The waiter remained attentive to our water glasses and quickly asked if we wanted any seconds. We declined, and asked for the check. The cod dinner was $13, which comes in just below Anthony’s price. The bluegill dinner cost me $18.95, which came as a surprise only because it wasn’t priced on the menu. I wouldn’t consider ordering that bluegill again, no matter the price. Our total dinner tab for two (no drinks) was $51.15 including tip. In line with expectations, and in line with a typical Wisconsin fish fry.

If you go to Anthony’s, you go to celebrate the big plate of fried fish, and to tolerate the rest, even if the rest is quaintly charming. At Pier 290, you go to celebrate the scene, to celebrate the design of the restaurant and the way the space feels. You tolerate the fish. Will I go back to Pier 290? Of course I will. I’ll always go to Pier 290 because it’s so darn pretty. But the food remains a mystery, and a Friday Fish Fry that should seemingly be the easiest to master because it never, ever changes, was still a slight miss.  Visit Pier 290 because you can. Because it’s accessible by boat, and you can dine outdoors in the summer with your toes in the sand. Visit because it’s our most beautiful area restaurant. But when you go, don’t order the bluegill.

 

Rating 5/10

Pier 290  

1 Leichty Drive, Williams Bay, WI

Friday Fish Fry $13 (Bluegill $18.95)

All You Can Eat

 

New Ideas

New Ideas

I can’t imagine a life where I am forced to sell terrible real estate. Real estate itself, the business, is bad enough, but if I were forced to sell things that were ugly or otherwise horrible, I shudder to think of that life.  Somewhere, in some town, right now, a Realtor is waking up to his schedule. He has six showings today, all properties in the $90k range, because $100k is just too much. If he’s lucky today and he sells one, in two months time, after working through the inspection issues and considering the lender hangups, he’ll close on that $88k sale. If things go well, he’ll make a paycheck of $2112. Then he’ll split that gross with his office, and he’ll walk away with $1372.80. They won’t round up. He’ll pay taxes on the income and when all is said and done, he’ll have a little change in his pocket for some of that first morning, before the check is spent and he’s hunting down the next one. This is real estate in America.

So yes, I’m lucky. I’m fortunate to have a client base that owns some of the most amazing lake properties here, which are some of the most amazing lake properties anywhere. I have buyers that count on me to guide them through this inventory, and I have other buyers that I haven’t met yet who are reading this and should, as of pretty much right now,  make an introduction so I can help fix their summer. But in this mix of lakefront and lake access properties there are other things that I do as well. Not things that I do often, nor things that I do particularly well, but other things. That’s why I brought over another agent to work with me on these other sorts of properties that haven’t, until now, been right for me. Vicki Hansen is my new licensed assistant, and she’s here to help with the condo buyers and listing projects that I’ve previously been poorly servicing.  She’s nice, so if you’d always thought about working with me but then thought, sheesh, this guy seems like a super huge jerk, then email me anyway and I’ll let Vicki work with you.

With the addition of Vicki I’ve been able to add some off-water inventory that I find interesting.  One such property just came to market yesterday, and it’s in the picture above. It’s called Simera, which means something, though what exactly I’m not sure. It’s a modern retreat overlooking the hills south of  the lake, and it’s an absolutely dynamite house.  A decade ago I wouldn’t have liked this house, I admit it. I would have thought it to be too modern, too unsymmetrical, too something else. But now I’m enamored with it, and Dwell magazine agrees. It’s a house that was designed by its owner, who is also a well known architect. It’s a new house nestled in between two original silos, and in that, there is the mix of old and new, of conventional and modern. Of form and function. At $625k, it’s not expensive.  It’s a country property that’s just a few minutes to the lake, so someone could have their country retreat, with fields of wheat and beans waving in the distance, but still make a quick jaunt to the Lake Geneva Yacht Club for Friday fish fry. It’s both things, and it’s worth a look.

Below, another new listing. This of a vintage four square in downtown Lake Geneva. The Maple Park District is just off the lake, and it’s home to many of these original Lake Geneva structures. This one is a brick fortress, with original details and finishes, updated with new this and that over the years. There’s a robust lake view, an easy saunter to town for morning coffee or evening appetizers.  It’s a home for those who love vintage things, who find peace in the age of it all. It’s an exciting location, near town and across from the lake, but the perennial gardens that the owner has nurtured over the years has left this place feeling like an oasis in the middle of an otherwise bustling resort town. Consider this property at $699k to be a way to delve into our scene without completely breaking the bank.

976 Main Street

Below, something else. Something more affordable. This four bedroom home on Jewell Drive is just up the street from Pier 290 in Williams Bay. It’s not fancy. It doesn’t have dedicated lake access. But it’s newer and nice and $289k, and you can walk to dinner and walk to the boat and walk to town and then, when you think you’re done for the day, you can walk somewhere else. It’s close to everything in the Bay, and that used to mean very little. But now,  with the addition of Pier 290, you can walk there, and you can hang out there, and that place can essentially function as your lake access.  This is an easy house, with three finished levels, a private back yard deck, and that convenient access to all lake things. If you have friends in the Loch Vista Club, Oakwood Estates, or Summer Haven,  that’s good, because this is wedged in between all of those associations and you can be close to those friends, without being on top of them.

Jewell Drive Williams Bay

 

Below, another interesting bit. This property is just $549k, offering 5 acres at Black Point Farms. It’s super close to the lake, but possesses no dedicated lake access. The Owl Tavern is close, with their smoked meats both delicious and tempting. The house is large, the property ample, the opportunities endless. That’s not entirely true. There are ends to these possibilities. For instance, if you wished to open a Bed and Breakfast here, I could not help you with that.  Otherwise, the opportunities for someone searching for a lake house that offers up plenty of room to breathe, those are endless here. It’s as these others, different but close, easy to join in on the lake fun but at the end of a lake based day there is a quiet retreat here waiting for you. Five rolling acres worth on Maple Ridge Road.

Maple Ridge Road Home For Sale

These are some of the properties we’ve been bringing to market of late, and as you can see, they’re varied, they’re interesting, and they’re all available for summer 2016. The thing about summer 2016 is that it’s right around the corner. Lurking, sort of, but really just standing there in plain sight. There’s no secret to this arrival. There’s no trick to understanding what’s about to happen. It’s just another summer in a lifetime of summers, but it’s the first summer that you can fix. If you’re reading this from a desk and you’re looking forward to brunch tomorrow morning, then your life makes me exceptionally sad.  Any of these homes can fix that, and I’m here to help.