Restaurant review: Popeye's remains a casual standard in Lake Geneva
LAKE GENEVA--Popeye's of Lake Geneva, a casual dining restaurant not to be confused with the Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen fast-food fried chicken franchise, has been around for a long time.
After starting out small in 1971, the eatery has grown by leaps and bounds and now is able to seat more than 600 customers. Large windows at the front of the restaurant provide one of the best views of Geneva Lake, which is just a stone's throw away, and great opportunities for people watching, as well.
The décor features a familiar nautical theme I've often found in Alaska, Washington and Maine, and it is often a sign of good seafood. Along with an eclectic array of ships and maritime furnishings, Popeye's also features a giant map of the world.
The full bar has some interesting cocktail concoctions, and my spicy lemonade drink ($10.99) was made with infused vodka, chile, cilantro and lime. It was outstanding.
Popeye's has Greek heritage, and that is reflected in a few items on the menu. For instance, customers can order gyros ($13.99) or the pulled lamb sandwich ($16.99). But what caught our eye was the skordalia appetizer ($11.99), which really showed off the excellent flavors of the Greek culture.
The thick and creamy dip—made from olive oil, lemon juice, almonds and garlic, garlic and more garlic—isn't as overwhelming as one might expect, but it is flavorful and addictive. It is served with bread, but a side order of vegetables is available for another $1.99 (we recommend this). The few vegetables that came with the dish were cold and crisp, and we almost fought over them.
When the vegetables were gone, we had the accompanying rolls to mop up the rest of the dip. We even used some of Helene's fries to finish the job. I think even cardboard would have tasted wonderful with that dip.
Next to the restaurant is a little hut that contains an outdoor rotisserie. There, Popeye's cooks a marinated meat lover's delight: savory lamb, pork, beef and its well-known flame-roasted chicken.
Earlier in the summer, Nikki dined with friends at Popeye's outside cafe (sidewalk seating with a lake view) and raved about the rotisserie lamb. Intrigued to try a rotisserie meal myself, I ordered the nightly special, which on Tuesdays is rotisserie pulled pork ($17.99). Eight ounces of delicious pork with sauce on the side definitely lived up to the hype. I recommend it, and it's a value if you get it as the special. The same dinner is $23.99 on the regular menu.
Nikki splurged and ordered a bowl of lobster and shrimp bisque ($11.99). It was a rich and decadent treat with big chunks of seafood and the heady scent of brandy. We all took a spoonful and agreed it was exquisite.
For her dinner, Nikki went with one of the featured entrees—upside-down chicken pot pie. Like many of Popeye's offerings, it came in small ($13.99) and regular sizes ($16.99). For another $3, it was worth it to get the larger portion.
With big pieces of tender rotisserie chicken, broccoli, peas and fresh carrots in gravy topped with a golden brown crust, the pot pie was comfort food at its best. Hopefully Popeye's keeps it on the menu through winter, because it would be the perfect dish on a cold night.
Helene opted for the fresh lake perch sandwich ($11.99) with three nice pieces of breaded perch paired with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce atop a toasted, grilled bun. It ended up being more than she could eat, and it would have made a great lunch the next day if her husband hadn't gotten to it first.
The wait staff was busy, and several televisions and nearby tables filled with families vyed for our attention. When the food came, it was so good we became so engrossed in the meal and conversation we were able to ignore the rest.
After such a filling dinner, we were reluctant to just hop in the car and drive back to Janesville. With such a beautiful setting and warm weather to match, we decided to wander around for a while, take a lovely evening walk along the lake and do a little window shopping. We also discovered a few more restaurants we'd like to try, and we look forward to a return trip to Lake Geneva.
The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.