Bill Brakken opened the Rookery Pub Fine Dining restaurant in 2008. The building originally was constructed in 1978 and had the restaurant on the upper levels. Bill made those areas into the lodge when he bought it in 2005 and then renovated the downstairs to become the Rookery Pub Fine Dining, named for the breeding colony of Blue Herons nearby and to signify a general place for social gatherings. Interestingly, Bill worked as a bartender at the original Kliszcz’s Karczma, the Polish Palace as it was known then, the first year it was in business. Now as you enter the place you see a building on your right with stairs and that is to the lodge and the lower sidewalk goes to the restaurant. You enter into the large bar area and to the right is a hallway, opening onto a row of 4 booth seats, which leads to the small main dining room. The walls are lined with prints of animals (most of which have prices if you want to buy one) and in the corner is a fireplace. The bare wood tables are good sized and well spaced. The menu covers a good breadth of choices with some changes for seasonality and the wine list is better than most. You can have cocktails at your table or enjoy them at the bar before you are seated. Service was efficient and super friendly. Portions are large.
After you’re seated they’ll bring warm bread and butter. It’s soft, doughy olive bread with nice butter. It was good.
Our first visit we started with the Wisconsin Cheese Fondue which was a blend of cheeses with herbs and toasted rosemary olive oil bread. It was a huge pot of delicious melted cheese that perfectly coated the little toasted bread chunks. It was tasty and lip-smacking good but really filling. It could have been an appetizer for 4 but we were happy to over-indulge in the creamy goodness.
For a main course we had the Certified Black Angus 14 oz ribeye. It came with vegetable of the day and chef’s choice of potato which happened to be a mix of winter squash and carrots and twice baked potatoes. You had the option to grill the steak with a brandy Demi-glace and top with sautéed mushrooms or blacken it in bayou Cajun seasoning with bleu cheese butter. We chose the first. The tender meat was cooked rare as requested and was nicely accented with the mushrooms. The squash and carrots were nice as were the potatoes but the star on the plate was the meat and mushrooms.
Our second visit we started with cocktails and enjoyed the same bread at the table.
For an appetizer we split the Rookery Strudel which was delicate phyllo pastry filled with grilled vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, roasted onions and fresh mozzarella and served with a light roasted garlic sauce. It was another huge portion of deliciousness. The pastry was light and crisp and it was stuffed with fun things. It was really savory. Thumbs up on this one.
We ordered the Bacon and Bleu salad to split. It was a salad of mixed greens, red onions, tomatoes, crispy bacon, crumbled bleu cheese and croutons with housemate bleu cheese dressing. The kitchen was nice enough to serve it on two plates and it was good. Filled with lots of bleu cheese and tasty crisp bacon and well dressed it was worth getting again.
The soup of the day was squash ginger carrot and it was thick, creamy and full of flavor. It had a bit of spice somewhere in it and a bit of cheese hidden under the parsley. It was nice.
The Roast Duck was half a duck deboned and rubbed in 18 spices and brown sugar, quick seared to a crisp, then slow roasted until tender and finished with an orange and apple chutney, served on a bed of rice pilaf with fresh vegetables, which was Brussel sprouts. The meat was easy to eat but the dark meat was not deboned. The meat was a tad dry side but very edible. The seasonings were tasty. The rice pilaf was loaded with stuff but the chutney seemed just so-so.
The Pan seared Pheasant was an airline pheasant breast sautéed in brown butter with fresh herbs and white wine, finished in a plum sauce and served with a mushroom risotto and fresh vegetable which were Brussel sprouts. The bird was moist and tasty and worked well with the sauce. The bird was well seasoned and tender. The risotto was on the thick side but still tasted good. The sprouts were overcooked for my taste but there was plenty to eat without them. Overall I’d take this plate over the duck.
The Vegetable Curry was fresh sautéed vegetables in a coconut yellow curry sauce with jasmine rice. It was well flavored and very nice. The same curry comes with seafood and that will be on my list to try next time. The curry had really good flavor and went well with the plain rice and mix of vegetables. A winner.
Once again we were too full to order dessert, but here’s the menu if you want a sweet fix.