Most people know Medusa as a mythological serpent-haired beauty who’s cursed to entomb all who behold her in stone. For Lake Genevans, the word Medusa evokes a different image: blazing saucepans of saganaki, tender-tentacle grilled calamari, and platefuls of lamb chops glistening in candlelight.
Medusa Grill and Bistro on 501 Broad Street opened ten years ago in Lake Geneva and has thrived, earning its place as one of the area’s most sought after destination eateries. Before chef and owner, Greg Anagnos, purchased the building, the site was home to another local fixture, Hanny’s Restaurant. Today, one of the few vestiges of this history is the old diner sign that Anagnos reskinned with the image of the restaurant’s namesake Grecian leading lady.
Hanny’s iconic sign, however, is where traces of the past end. Anagnos gutted the space and spent months customizing the restaurant and polishing it into the upscale neighborhood bistro that it is today. The transformation resulted in a 40-seat dining room with 40 additional seats in the new lounge behind the kitchen. Anagnos also added pendant lighting, elegantly draped windows and sleek stainless steel and black finishes. On the kitchen side, he installed a large wood fired grill and a flat screen TV that showcases a range top live feed so patrons can watch their meals take shape. Restaurant manager, Jay McNulty, says he’s heard nothing but compliments about the chef’s culinary transparency.
“Greg got the idea for the kitchen cam from doing some public TV demonstrations,” said McNulty. “People love it. It adds an extra layer to our service.”
While Medusa’s arrival did end the era of Hanny’s, this is not a story of an out-of-towner eroding local business ownership. Anagnos himself has been a fixture of the Lake Geneva dining scene his entire life. At age 11, you would have found Anagnos buttering buns for his father at Popeye’s on Lake Geneva, which his family has owned and operated since 1971. His tenure as a chef also included stints at Cafe Calamari, Kirsch’s on the Bay, and studies at The Culinary Institute of America in New York, where he graduated first in his class.
[metaslider id=”1504″] Greg’s local roots means he knows his customer. Combined with a wide range of culinary experience, he also knows what new flavors and dishes he can introduce that will go over with his clientele. “Our number one sellers are our steaks,” says McNulty. “This isn’t about how outrageous we can be. For us, simple is better. This is a meat and potatoes community.”
Local, homemade and made daily are labels that apply to much of what Medusa serves, and Anagnos selects the menu personally. “Like most chefs, I sit around at home eating comfort foods or looking for good local seasonal ingredients to incorporate,” said Anagnos. “I do all the cooking myself, but I love it. That’s why I can be here for 14 hours a day.”
The attention to detail seduces you when you’re seated downwind from a wood grilled Kansas City rib eye, smeared with a dollop of homemade garlic herb compound butter, adorned with hollandaise garnished mashed potatoes and tarragon, and finished with black peppercorn and red wine vinegar curry cabbage.
Dessert is where Anagnos’s meticulously homemade creations reach their apex in the form of Medusa’s gelato. A cup of Medusa’s freshly made pistachio gelato is sure to unmask any other frozen treat as the imposter it is. Locals are aware of this phenomenon and walk-ins arrive regularly just to order a take-out pint.
Some reviews have called Medusa one of Lake Geneva dining’s best kept secret, but seeing a full house on a winter’s eve seems to run against that idea.
“I don’t advertise. I let the food do the talking,” said Anagnos. “I’m not interested in expansion, we’re not out to conquer the world, but it used to be dead in the winter, and now we’re busy year round. It’s safe to say the secret is out.”
While finishing your meal at Medusa, you might wonder why Anagnos decided on naming his restaurant after this particular gorgon of legend. He’d tell you that it wasn’t easy to pick out, but he knew it when he heard it.
“I wanted a one word name that had an impressive logo,” said Anagnos. “Names with hard consonants are easier to remember. They stick with you. One night we were watching Clash of the Titans and I said, ‘Medusa… That’s it!’ I like that it celebrates my Greek heritage, too.”
Forking in the last few bites, you’re likely to see his point, because there, encircled in a halo of gravy and dotted with flecks of curry cabbage, is the Medusa emblem glazed onto the plate beneath. It’s fitting that a memorable name goes with an equally unforgettable experience. As she locks eyes with you from the plate, it’s hard to deny that Medusa sticks with you.
If you go:
501 Broad St., Lake Geneva WI. 53147
262 249 8644