Lake Villa's Lake House home to big portions, big flavor

  • A moist devil's food cake awaits hungry patrons wanting a decadent ending to a fulfilling meal.

      A moist devil's food cake awaits hungry patrons wanting a decadent ending to a fulfilling meal. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Chef Armando Haro oversees kitchen preparations and keeps an eye on the whole chickens slow-roasting in the house rotisserie.

      Chef Armando Haro oversees kitchen preparations and keeps an eye on the whole chickens slow-roasting in the house rotisserie. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Guests can peer into an illuminated, 300-gallon fish tank as they dine at Lake House.

      Guests can peer into an illuminated, 300-gallon fish tank as they dine at Lake House. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Spicy avocado chicken and baked French onion soup in a crock are among the many homestyle menu favorites at the Lake House restaurant in Lake Villa.

      Spicy avocado chicken and baked French onion soup in a crock are among the many homestyle menu favorites at the Lake House restaurant in Lake Villa. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
By Caroline LeBlanc
Daily Herald Staff
Published9/30/2008 12:07 AM

Spending a night out with your honey should take you to places other than the usual, everyday dining options in the 'burbs. Lake House of Lake Villa gave my fiance and me an opportunity to talk to each other while enjoying a pleasant and satisfying meal of big portions and even bigger flavors.

After opening the restaurant in January, the Vass family and chef Armando Haro keep this nontypical bar and grill alive in an unreliable economy. While food prices soar and some restaurants close their doors, Lake House fills the void in a quiet town while filling its dining room.

 

The interior is not what you'd expect from a strip mall eatery. The restaurant hosts a grand dining room and bar accented in dark woods where patrons can grab a cold one, browse the antique fishing paraphernalia on the walls, gaze at the 300-gallon fish tank or glimpse the sports action on flat-screen TVs. More than a lake house, the décor reminded us of a cozy ski lodge. Televisions are on but you can have an engaging conversation without yelling. Diners can also peer into the stainless-steel kitchen as chefs, waiters and cooks move about.

We were overwhelmed by the lengthy menu and glad that management points out customer favorites. Try the rotisserie chicken quesadillas, which combine the restaurant's signature shredded poultry with a thick blanket of cheese, scallions and peppers nestled between two very large tortillas. Cool sour cream and piquant salsa complete the plate. The hefty portion alone could have fed us for the whole evening.

Since we rarely pass up potato skins when we dine out, we nabbed an order of giant potato canoes, overflowing with bacon crumbles and a little more melted cheese than I can normally handle. The potatoes skins' were scorched around the edges and a bit on the rubbery side, but it was the largest plate of skins we'd ever feasted on. Other palate teasers include saganaki (another Lake House favorite of Greek cheese flamed tableside), fried green beans and nachos.

Most of the generously sized entrees come with homemade soup or salad, vegetables and potato choice. Soups are limited to baked French onion or the soup of the day. My fiance went for the French onion soup, which we loved and wished was bottomless. A ceramic bowl filled with piping hot well-seasoned soup, smothered with sizzling, bubbly cheese and croutons underneath, was exactly the hearty beginning we were hoping for. The side salad features a light ensemble of iceberg lettuce, carrots, cucumbers and tomato drizzled with a zesty dressing. Bread is also brought to the table to be enjoyed with butter as you await your entrees.

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The healthy helpings of the previous courses had our tummies filling up, but our eyes and palates remained hungry for more. Steaks and chicken fill the menu, as do informal selections such as Black Angus burgers, salmon paninis, Philly steak wraps and a trio of chicken sandwiches. Daily specials include all-you-can-eat rib tips and Friday fish fries. Since the restaurant boasts about its grill and rotisserie, it was an obvious choice to take the plunge.

The 14-ounce, tender rib-eye came incredibly juicy and did not need A-1 steak sauce, despite our waiter's inquiry. Sides included steamed zucchini and carrots and, our favorite of the evening, a baked sweet potato that provided a tasty homage to fall.

If you want to take them up on rotisserie fare, try the avocado chicken. As we now expected, an unsparing half portion of chicken came drenched in a spicy tomato-based sauce with diced avocado. At first glance it's an unusual combination, but once I started tearing through the moist chicken I found my mouth on fire. The sauce is rather spicy, so if you're not conditioned to handle heat, opt for the Villa chicken, a half chicken roasted with olive oil, fresh lemon and herbs.

Looking at the menu you will find several dishes with chicken, but don't be bummed - there are more than 10 other rich entrees of seafood and pasta such as tilapia, mahi-mahi, swordfish, angel hair marinara and rigatoni à la Villa.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

For sipping pleasure, diners can select from several domestic and imported beers as well as an array of white, red, blush and sparkling wines available by the glass or bottle. The bar remains open past dinner service hours, so grabbing a margarita or after-dinner port isn't a high request.

Homemade desserts seek those daring enough to keep eating. The devil's food and carrot cakes were moist, but the icings on both were tooth-achingly sweet. Other desserts to tempt you include bread pudding, tiramisu and a Snickers cheesecake, which almost had me at hello.

The friendly staff at Lake House complements the homemade tasty food and cozy atmosphere. Attentive and polite, the waitstaff seemed to have the charm of Southern hospitality. We only regret being rushed throughout the meal; we would've liked more time to finish one course before being bombarded by the next.

Still, we did take home plenty of leftovers, which we enjoyed the next day at our leisure.

• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. Our aim is to describe the overall dining experience while guiding the reader toward the menu's strengths. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.

Lake House

@x BTO factbox text bold with rule:850 Tower Drive, Lake Villa; (847) 838-6400; lakehouseoflakevilla.com

Cuisine: American grill

Setting: Large, casual dining room

Price range: Appetizers $5.99 to $9.99; entrees $7.99 to $29.99; dessert $4.95; wine $5.50 to $10 by the glass, $22 to $35 by the bottle

Hours: Kitchen open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; bar open one hour later

Accepts: Reservations, major credit cards

Also: Full bar, free parking and private banquet rooms

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