(A Trip to) Mars Resort & Bar in Lake Geneva, WI

Sometimes, a short excursion is better than no excursion at all. And so, at the end of a very long week, Heidi and I decided to head a short distance north to one of our favorite dinner venues: a small restaurant on the shores of Lake Como (just north of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin) called the Mars Bar.

Menu cover from Mars Resort on Lake Como, Lake Geneva, WI

Although the history of the Mars Resort dates all the way back to the early 1920’s, I first stumbled upon the Mars Bar back in the summer of 1972. A friend and I had journeyed north to Lake Geneva and, after a rather long “night on the town,” decided that we should look for a place to camp for the night.

We had no idea where we were going, and after several turns led us out of town and onto what seemed to be a very deserted road, we quite literally stumbled onto – and into – the Mars Bar. The name over the door almost made us think that we had entered the Twilight Zone. Once inside, we discovered that what we had found was a small but very cool local bar on a lake that I had never known to exist. Everyone inside was extremely friendly to two obvious “outsiders” and… well, the rest is history.


I had forgotten all about the friendly little bar and resort until the early 1990’s, when Heidi and I first got together. (It was easy to have forgotten; I didn’t know how I got there in the first place and it was doubtful that I would ever be able to find it again.) We had decided to spend a night or two at Interlaken Resort (now called the Ridge Hotel) for a weekend getaway.

Driving up the hill on our way out of Lake Geneva, I happened to spot a small rectangular sign that read: Mars Resort. An arrow pointed the way. My heart started to race as I drove down a long hill and followed the road to a dead end at a lake. The only way to turn was to my left, so I followed a vaguely familiar road.  All of a sudden, there it was.

The same small sign above the door read: Mars. I had found it once again. Heidi and I checked in to our room at Interlaken and later I suggested that I wanted to return to Mars and make certain it was the same place that I had been some 20 years earlier. It was! We stayed for a marvelous fish fry and several cocktails, and spent some time reminiscing with the new owner about the various changes that had taken place, the most notable of which: the draught beers were no longer 20¢ – I had not expected to find the same prices as 1972 – and that the ownership had changed several times.

But almost everything else seemed to be exactly the same. The atmosphere was warm and we were welcomed as if we were one of the locals. The food, by the way, was excellent! As Heidi and I left to return to our room, a smile took residence on my tired face. It is a smile that returns every time that Heidi and I return to the Mars Bar on Lake Como.

And return we do, about two or three times per year, and as we did just this past weekend – on another short escape from “the office”. Many of those to whom I tell my plans to drive fifty-plus miles just to have dinner, look at me with those eyes that say I’m out of my mind. I don’t care.

The drive still brings back fond memories from – gulp – six decades of trips to Lake Geneva. And even though the traffic on a Friday night can be a bit difficult, I still enjoy the solitude of the car and conversation with Heidi. We usually check in at the Harbor Shores on Lake Geneva, and after unpacking, we head over to the Mars Bar.

This past Friday was no exception. We arrived in Lake Geneva at about 6:30pm and headed to our special place. It was as if we had been there only last week. The place was crowded – as usual – and we waited about 40 minutes for a table. The wait was pleasant, time passed quickly and we were soon guided to our table, where we enjoyed another great and relaxing dinner.

The menu is fairly basic, offering steaks, chops, chicken and a catch of the day, along with tasty sandwiches, homemade soups, salads and appetizers. Friday’s special is always Icelandic Cod and it’s always good. The signature dish seems to be Monday’s and Wednesday’s Barbequed Ribs and they are truly outstanding.

Times change. Faces change. Prices change. Even the shores around the lake change to some extent… Geneva National Golf Club certainly wasn’t there in 1972! But more importantly, there are two things that have not changed through the years or the changes in ownership.

First, although I am certain that no one recognizes us, we are still treated with the same attentiveness as the “regulars” and we always have a great time there. It is a very special place to both of us and we enjoy the few occasions when we can get away for dinner there.

Second, the food is still as good as it ever was. We have tried many items on the menu and they are all great. The fish fry is excellent and always my first choice on Friday Nights. I hope that you too, take the opportunity and time to head north to one my all-time favorites – the Mars Bar!

R. Karl

Mars Resort website: www.Mars-Resort.com