Dining inside the bubble

Winter does not prevent visitors from gathering on the shore of Geneva Lake. At Pier 290 many gather around the fire pits to enjoy a cocktail and the view of the lake. The outdoor winter dining experience is intended to create safe spaces amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy of PIER 290)

Restaurants offer ‘igloos’ for outdoor dining in winter

By Sandra Landen Machaj


Sitting on the lakeshore looking out at the water while enjoying lunch, dinner or perhaps just enjoying an afternoon cocktail is an activity that is usually associated with summer. But no longer is it limited to summer.

This winter along the shore of Geneva Lake, Delavan Lake and Lake Como, there is a new look as small igloos can be seen on the lakeshore. These igloos at a distance may look like those found in the Arctic Circle, but unlike the arctic igloo, which is constructed of snow and ice, these igloos are clear plastic often with heat and decorative lights inside.

Locally these igloos are found at Lake Lawn Resort, Mars Resort, and Pier 290 providing a unique dining experience in a protected environment. In a year that has been filled with limited activity outside our homes due to the pandemic, these igloos are a festive way to enjoy a safe meal with a beautiful winter view of the lake.

While some may worry that dinner in the bubble may be a bit claustrophobic, visitors have said that because of the clear walls there is not the feeling of being locked in but rather it is a cozy space to enjoy with friends.

Here’s a closer look at the area restaurants that give a fresh meaning to life inside the bubble:

Mars Resort

Mars Resort on the south shore of Lake Como has been a popular place to eat and enjoy time with family or friends for many years. Known for its fabulous view of the lake and unique cocktails, guests also enjoy quality food.

“A special feature is the view of the lake whether enjoying an inside or outside meal,” said Scott Pohl, co-owner of Mars. “In winter when the lake is frozen, visitors enjoy watching small private planes fly in and land on the lake’s frozen surface. Many of these pilots fly in just to have lunch – some from as far as Milwaukee or Chicago.”

Last year Mars Resort came up with a new concept to allow diners to enjoy being outside on the west deck during the winter. They brought in some festive, lighted and heated igloos for a special experience. The addition of something similar to Stone Tech granite fireplaces inside the igloos was an immediate success.

This year with people social distancing, the igloos are perfect for a family or small group to safely enjoy eating out. So, they have brought them back for another year. They have five igloos on site that each seat six patrons comfortably.

Reservations are required and allow for a 90-minute period inside the dome. A $100 minimum for food and drink is required. Smoking or vaping are not allowed in the igloos nor are pets invited.

With up to six people in the igloo, the minimum charge is less than $17 per person minimum if you bring five family members or friends with you.

The food offered is from the “Igloo Platters” menu. Each of the platters serves four to five people. A favorite item is the Mars Famous BBQ Ribs platter, which consists of 2 slabs of ribs either in the classic tangy barbecue sauce or with their dry rub. The ribs are cut to share.

Other choices include the Mars Charcuterie, a variety of Italian meats including Soppressata, Mortadella, Capicola and Genoa Salami, a collection of artisan cheeses and a medley of imported olives and Italian bread. Dips, skewers of chicken, steak, or shrimp, and bruschetta are also on the menu.

Diners may opt to finish with the Silvestri Sweets Dessert Platter and enjoy bite-sized cake, caramels, chocolates and cookies.

Patrons can also enjoy their favorite beverage while relaxing with an after-dinner drink of your choice, a traditional cocktail, favorite wine, or soft drink from the full-service bar menu. Or perhaps it is a cup of coffee to keep warm that is your choice.

Mars is following the latest in cleaning and sanitizing measures to protect both the staff and customers. Masks are worn by the service staff and diners must wear them when not in their igloo.

Mars Resort is at W4098 S. Shore Drive, Lake Geneva. Call 262-245-5689 to make a reservation for the igloos. For more information about Mars Resort click here MARS.

Lake Lawn Resort

Located west of Lake Geneva on Highway 50, Lake Lawn Resort, Delavan, has been a favorite destination for weekend getaways, weddings, golf outings or just coming out for lunch or dinner along the lakefront. This year Lake Lawn has added a new treat that is being enjoyed by visitors looking to share an outdoor activity with family members or close friends.

“We have added five igloos for outdoor winter dining,” shared Eileen Cole, Executive Director of Marketing and Sales at Lake Lawn Resort. “The igloos can hold six guests and are heated with 1,500-BTU space heaters for the comfort of the guests.”

Even though the igloos are heated, Cole recommends dressing for outdoor weather even though they have heat. When seated in the igloo, legs and feet can be chilled if the outdoor temperature is low, he said.

The igloos are available for a 90-minute rental daily during the hours of 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The rental cost is $75 plus the cost of food and beverages ordered. Smoking is not allowed in the igloo per Wisconsin law. No outside food or beverages are allowed. But the beautiful view of the winter lake will be enjoyed the entire time in the bubble at no additional cost.

The Lakeside Igloo menu offers varied and unique foods that will offer a taste treat to all. There is a share menu that starts with a Family Batter Platter consisting of chicken tenders, Wisconsin cheese curds, mini corn dogs with BBQ sauce, ketchup, and mustard to dip them in.

Sliders are also on the menu and the Lake Lawn version is the Bao Bun Sliders made of Korean angus brisket, kimchee, satay chicken, spicy bean sprouts or house-smoked duroc pork, hoisin, and seared chanterelles.

Even the nachos are unique. They’re not the traditional ground beef nachos but made with smoked pork BBQ, pico de gallo, jalapenos, green onions shredded cheddar and garlic sour cream. Street tacos with pork, brisket, chicken and beef steak are also available.

They offer three entrees: Dry Rub Pork Tenderloin; Angus Filet, and Chili Chicken Bacon Roulade served with sides.

And to finish off the meal, try the Peppermint Chocolate Cannoli or the Chocolate Chunk Cookie S’more.

Whether a choice of appetizers to share or a full dinner, the food and the full view of Delavan Lake will make this time special.

The full bar service is available to enjoy special cocktails before dinner or draft and bottled Wisconsin beers or wine selections. Lakeside also offers hot drinks. Among the favorites are Bailey’s Hot Chocolate or a coffee with Grand Marnier and Kahlua Coffee Liqueur.

“The igloos have been a big hit,” said Cole. “People are looking for a way to go out, enjoy a good meal and have a few drinks, but also want to know they are safe. The igloos provide all that and more.”

To be certain that the igloos are germ free for the next group of guests, they are sprayed with an electro-static disinfectant and allowed to air out for 30 minutes prior to seating the next group. All staff members wear face coverings while tending to guests. Guests do not need to wear face coverings while inside the igloos.

Lake Lawn Resort is at 2400 East Geneva Street, Delavan. Call the resort at 262-728-7950 for igloo reservations. The igloos are expected to be available through the first week of March but are weather dependent.

Pier 290

Located on the shore of Geneva Lake in Williams Bay, Pier 290 offers a beautiful view of Geneva Lake no matter where one chooses to be seated – in the indoor dining room, the canopy, the igloos or out by the fire pits. In winter the outdoors has a very different look and seating arrangements will allow the visitor to take in lake view. These surely have proven to be an attraction in the area, and maybe, this could even influence the common folk to construct or buy custom firepits for their homes!

“We have six igloos, three are located on the waterfront for a view of the lake and three are located on the back part of the property, said Adam Newell, Assistant Manager of Pier 290. “In addition, we have two solid fire pits.”

The fire pits, according to Newell, produce a warm place to sit and enjoy a drink lakeside. The igloos are enclosed and heated to provide an outdoor winter lunch or dinner in a protected environment.

The three igloos on the waterfront give a full view of the lake that is especially impressive at sunset. After dark the decorative lights inside the igloo offer a soft and festive glow.

The three other igloos are placed on the property amid the lights that normally would illuminate the shoreline for the Santa Cruise. This year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to practice safe social distancing, the Santa Cruise was cancelled. So, the lights were turned into a winter wonderland for both children and adults to enjoy.

The igloos are suitable to hold six guests for lunch dinner or cocktails. The igloos must be reserved in advance. There is a reservation fee of $45 for two hours to enjoy lunch or dinner or $25 for one hour for cocktails. They are open Wednesday through Friday starting at 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

The menu at Pier 290 is large and varied. Whether the customer is looking for a light lunch or a hearty dinner of the comfort foods that everyone looks to in winter, there is an item that will be there for any palate.

In winter, soups are a favorite to provide a sense of warmth. Try the flavorful baked onion soup, covered with rich and creamy cheese. Or ask about the soup of the day. Soup with a salad is a favorite lunchtime combination.

Pier 290 offers a variety of salads including a Butternut Cranberry salad that includes crispy butternut squash, cranberries, red onion, Brussels sprouts, and candied walnuts with a quinoa couscous over spinach and arugula with a balsamic glaze.

A variety of appetizers are on the menu from the traditional cheese curds and deviled eggs to flatbreads with unique toppings or, for the more adventuresome, tuna tartare.

Pier 290 is known for its seafood entrees, which include salmon, walleye and sea bass. They also have variety of warm and hearty comfort items such as meatloaf, beef stroganoff, BBQ ribs, and quality steaks.

Their Steak Stack Burger is a special take on the hamburger. It consists of a half-pound of sirloin, tri tip, and chuck formed into two patties, layered with cheddar cheese, lettuce tomato and the special 290 sauce.

To protect customers from COVID-19, the igloos go through a sanitizing after each party. Masks are worn by the servers at all times when in the igloos.

Pier 290 has a lot to offer for winter outdoor dining. Reserve an igloo for lunch, dinner or a cocktail hour, have a drink at one of the outdoor fire pits and enjoy the winter view of Geneva Lake or meander through the winter wonderland of lights on the property.

Pier 290 is located at 1 Liechty Drive, Williams Bay. Call 262-245-2100 for reservations.

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