Fishing & Boating in the Northwoods

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Grey Rock Restaurant Review

grey rock mansion

Nestled against the shore of the deepest lake in Wisconsin – Green Lake – is the Grey Rock Mansion at the Heidel House Resort. The resort boasts one of the most picturesque settings I have visited. And the Grey Rock is truly an adventure in fine dining. From the outside, and even upon entering, it is hard to believe that the present restaurant has roots that date back to 1873. The building itself however, was actually constructed in 1949.

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lake side of grey rock

One of the Top Ten Restaurants in the State

I can understand The Grey Rock’s reputation as one of the top restaurants in the state. It was definitely in the top ten of the best restaurants in which we have had the pleasure to dine.
From the moment that one sets foot inside the door, one should be prepared for one of the finer dining experiences ever. Heidi and I had the pleasure of a dinner there in early January and I was amazed that the place was so empty then. Usually, an empty restaurant is not a good omen. Au contraire, mon ami.

Note: This review was originally posted 2/13/03. I believe it is still valid today (2023) – the restaurant was that good!

Our evening started with a cocktail in the bar area where an incredible panoramic view of Green Lake is available. We relaxed on a semi-circular leather sofa fronted by a huge round table before a blazing gas fireplace that was about four feet long. It had a marble hearth that was framed with matching vases filled with tall, dried prairie grasses.

leather couch and fireplace

At the time of our reservation, we were escorted down a long, carpeted, spiral staircase flanked by whitewashed brick. The bottom of the stairs led to an entryway leading to one of four dining rooms that I could see. We were directed to a table in a room with glass on three sides that also overlooked the lake. The white tablecloth was covered with a sheet of pristine white paper and adorned with small, crystal salt and pepper shakers.

For Starters

Angela was our waitress and her warm smile was relaxed and confident. She brought us menus and explained the specials for the evening. As we began to study the choices, my mouth literally began to water, for every single appetizer and entrée. Even though not embellished with a fancy description, every entrée was literally begging me to order it.

Perhaps I was hungrier than I had thought?? We inquired about possibly trying a combination of two appetizers: Oysters Rockefeller and Maryland Crab Cake. The Grey Rock chef obliged. The Oysters came complete with the difficult-to-find Neuske Bacon.  They were fresh, juicy and tasty. The Crab Cake was about 2 ½” in diameter and the flavor was rich and spicy, with just a hint of heat and an indescribably delicious sauce.

breads and spreads

A Trio of Breads & Spreads

A trio of Dill, Rosemary and Focaccia bread then arrived at the table. They were flanked by a trio of spreads: Salmon Mousse, Sun-Dried Tomato, and a mash of Niçoise olives. Each bread and topping was a taste treat. I could have made a meal of the bread alone, but needed to save some of my appetite for the main course.

Heidi had decided on the Sushi-grade tuna, seared and drizzled with a rich Madeira reduction sauce, with mushrooms. Served with fois gras, root vegetables and horseradish-whipped potatoes, it was excellent.

The tuna may have been just a tad past perfectly done, but the premium tuna flaked easily, and the flavors were excellent. Talk about rich! I ordered the Veal Oscar, which I have not ordered since I lived on the left coast oh, so many years ago. It was slightly different from the “traditional” style, in that it was several slices from two nearby bones of a baby veal cutlet. They were tucked neatly beside a pile of Alaskan king crab, each the length and size of my little finger. Accompanied by asparagus, topped with a delicate hollandaise sauce and accompanied by sautéed potato fingers, the dish was awesome!

All the flavors were exceptional as well, and the presentations were outstanding! Two glasses of wonderfully crisp and light chardonnay put the exclamation point on the dinners. Neither of us could quite finish the sumptuous feast and we were quite full when Angela returned. She was carrying an alarmingly large array of tempting dessert choices!

dessert table

Perfect Dinners and a Dessert fit for a King & Queen

Against the cries of protest from of our sated stomachs, we decided to split a slice of Key Lime pie. Delivered to our table were two small semi-circles of pale green ambrosia, a walnut-sized scoop of tangy lemon sorbet and a fresh strawberry . The dessert was picture-perfect, but only for an instant. The tartness was confirmed by a single sample, and we quickly devoured the taste-temptation.

Suffice it to say that our dinners were fit for a King and a Queen and priced reasonably, too. The whole evening took about 2 ½ hours and not once were we rushed. When one considers the quality of the meals, the professional and competent level of service and the beautiful venue, the evening was an outstanding example of fine dining at its best.

Add the excellent service, attractive and appealing dinner/plate presentations to the incredible views of the lake and you have the makings for a marvelous evening. A hearty round of applause goes out to Executive Chef Scott McFarland and his entire staff! Tonight, as the snow fell, the lake setting took on an almost surreal beauty.

We saw only a few tables of diners although it was a Saturday night. This really amazed us. Could it be that perhaps no one knows of the Grey Rock? No, that is impossible, isn’t it?? Do yourself a favor and plan to dine at the Grey Rock – soon – before the line to get in stretches all the way to Madison. We drove 165 miles to stay at the Heidel House Resort and have dinner at the Grey Rock. I would do it again… in a heartbeat!

Location

Grey Rock Restaurant at the Heidel House Resort
643 Illinois Avenue
Green Lake, WI 54941

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R. Karl

Angler, Author & Epicure

Fishing since the age of eight.  Seriously writing since the age of 16. Chef and foodie from the age of 22 years… and counting. So much to learn and so little time. I have enjoyed every minute of it all.  Whether on the water (where I like it best), in the kitchen, or at the keyboard, churning out content, I feel like I have found my place.  I am sharing it with you in the hope that some of what I love to do will rub off on you. I hope to see you On the Lake!

R. Karl