By Dave Fidlin
Throughout its rolling hills and scenic waterways, Lake Country has so much to offer residents and visitors alike with a breathtaking natural environment and top-notch restaurants, shops and services.
While each community dotting the Lake Country landscape has scores of unique establishments, organizations and events, here are some of the best of the best throughout the region.
Best Restaurant: Belfre Kitchen
The inspiration behind this renowned restaurant came to owner Amy Quinn while seated at a gelato shop in Greece with her daughters. In addition to a top-quality tasty treat, the owner of the gelato shop engaged with customers as if they were long-lost friends.
With that pivotal experience on another continent in mind, the Belfre Kitchen was born. The intermingling of service and quality is at the heart of the eatery, housed in an old Presbyterian church — one of the oldest buildings in Delafield — stretching back to the 1860s.
Food and friends are the core of Belfre Kitchen, which has been known in Delafield as an establishment where regulars are known by name and the food is fresh and locally sourced.
606 N. Genesee St., Delafield; 262-303-5066
Best Place to Stay: Inn at Pine Terrace
Speaking of history, over in Oconomowoc, this lodging establishment has been noted for operating out of one of the city’s oldest dwellings — a once-private summer residence built in 1879.
For nearly a century, the building has been a place for visitors to put their feet up and enjoy a cozy night’s stay.
Today, the Inn at Pine Terrace is adorned with modern amenities, while the classic, old-world charm has remained intact.
351 E. Lisbon Road, Oconomowoc; 262-894-5399
Best Golf Course: The Club at Lac La Belle
With roots stretching back to 1896, this so-called birthplace of the Wisconsin golf trail has gained notoriety in a number of ways within Lake Country and beyond. The venue — which also includes the popular Rivalry Pub — is a hot spot for weddings and other special events.
Under new ownership since 2018, the Club at Lac La Belle has expanded to an 18-hole course as the Morse Family has mapped out a larger footprint for one of the region’s most storied and celebrated recreational spots.
“The idea, when (the Morse Family) underwent the renovation, was to create 18 memorable golf holes,” Clint Higgins, the club’s director of golf, said. “Each hole is unique in its own right.”
While the customized course and scenic setting are draws, Higgins said he and other staffers within the club go to great lengths to have a service-minded approach.
6996 Pennsylvania St., Oconomowoc; 262-567-7833
Best Taphouse: Water Street Brewery
Custom-batch brewpubs are all the rage today, but Water Street Brewery was a pioneer in the development when it began a bar and restaurant around the concept in 1987 at its flagship Milwaukee location.
Today, Water Street Brewery has four locations, including the Delafield spot, which is the second in the chain and opened in 1999. The other restaurants are in Grafton and Oak Creek.
While Water Street Brewery has an entrenched legacy in Lake Country and the broader Milwaukee metropolitan area, Delafield manager Cassie Rich attributes a constant commitment to service and quality as cornerstones to the continued success.
“Our menu offers so many different options,” Rich said. “I’ve never met someone who’s come in here and said, ‘I can’t find anything on your menu I like.’ We cater to anyone and everyone.”
3191 Golf Road, Delafield; 262-646-7878
Best Event: Oconomowoc Festival of the Arts
Regardless of the season, Oconomowoc has carved out a niche as a city rich with community events. One of the most tenured — and most attended — is the summertime Oconomowoc Festival of the Arts.
The extravaganza, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19 and Sunday, Aug. 20, is in its 52nd year.
In its more than half century of existence, the festival’s core mission has remained the same. Philip Heinle, a past president of the event, said it entails, “bring(ing) fine art to the Oconomowoc area through an annual, juried, Festival of the Arts and to provide cultural and educational opportunities.”
Each year, the two-day festival includes exhibits from 110 artists who come from all over the U.S. The program also includes three entertainment stages (piano, children’s and pavilion) to showcase local talent.
“The people who are involved in this really do have a great love of art,” Heinle said. “They give of their time very freely, and they get very passionate about it. It is such a good thing for the city.”
Held at Fowler Lake Park, 438 N. Oakwood Ave., Oconomowoc; oconomowocarts.org
Best Marine Services: Tinus Marine
In 1948, Harold Tinus set sail with a Lake Country business built around his passion for boating. Fast-forward to the present, and this third-generation operation remains in the family. This year, Tinus Marine is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
“A lot of people throw that ‘family owned and operated’ tag line out there, but we are the real deal,” said Erik Tinus, who serves as the company’s parts and sales manager. “If you come in here, you’re going to run into a Tinus.”
Tinus said he and other family members at the helm of the venerable business aspire to provide boaters throughout the Lake Country region with a top-notch experience that includes comprehensive sales and service.
“There’s a lot of work that goes with having a boat,” Tinus said.
307 E. Forest St., Oconomowoc | 262-567-7533 | www.tinusmarine.com
Best Place to Shop: MayHouse Collection
Described as a venue for a “fun, compelling shopping experience,” the MayHouse Collection has made a name for itself as a local shop filled with a custom curated mix of offerings in fashion, home décor and gifts.
The shop’s slogan sums up the mission statement: “May you live well, dress well and give well.”
Owner-proprietors Brian and Kris May said their goal is to make the MayHouse Collection “the ultimate ‘house’ in our community by defining ourselves as a lifestyle retailer dedicated to captivating and inspiring our customers through a unique combination of product, creativity and cultural/community understanding.”
W359-N5002 Brown St., Oconomowoc | 262-354-8100 | www.mayhousecollection.com
Best Thing to Do: Hiking and Visiting Lapham Peak State Park
When it comes to recreation, Lapham Peak, part of the Wisconsin State Park system, offers something for everyone — from abundant recreational opportunities to gazing at the Kettle Moraine in all of its splendor.
Activities within the park include picnicking, camping, bird watching stations and an amphitheater. Also in the mix is a popular butterfly garden and prairie restoration area. Hikers have the opportunity to enjoy 25 miles of dirt and accessible paved nature trails.
The main attraction — the peak itself — stands at a height of 1,233 feet above sea level and is the highest point within Waukesha County. The peak offers views of southeastern Wisconsin and the northern edge of Illinois.
W329-N846 County Trunk Highway C, Delafield; 262-646-3025