Elkhart Lake and the Acura TL are a Sophisticated Pair
They make a drive and a vacation equally enjoyable
Acura has stood at the leading edge of sophisticated automobile technology since its introduction to America in 1986, giving fits to BMW, Lexus and Infiniti competitors. Always handsome, the TL is even more stunning with a refined front grill, tailored trunk, 18-inch wheels, chrome treatments and a sleek, aggressive stance.
With the 2012 TL model, engineers and designers clearly haven’t taken their foot off the accelerator. The Super Handling, All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) version with the 305- HP, 3.7 liter VTEC ® V-6 engine makes this beauty feel totally comfortable in the fast lane on the freeway—and right at home in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s epicenter of international auto-racing.
Just as Acura has earned and expanded its leadership credentials over the years, so has this summer vacation community of about 1,000 people. At the beginning of the 1900s, Elkhart Lake was known for fabulous Victorian resorts, Old World hospitality and sparkling waters. Following World War II local leaders worked with sports car enthusiasts to stage Euro-style auto races on village streets and twisting roads circling Elkhart Lake. By the mid-’50s a separate, four-mile, paved off-road track, Road America, had been carved out of the Kettle Moraine and by the 1960s the world’s top drivers praised it as “one of America’s finest, most beautiful racing circuits.”
In the past decade the community invested millions of dollars in preserving and expanding elegant resort facilities, enhanced the racing heritage with new events and international-style concours de elegance’ and today is emerging as a favorite destination of the cuisine-seeking, creative-cultural set. The cutting-edge Acura TL was a superb match. It looked perfect parked in the historic town square keeping company with Porsches, Jaguars and Corvettes.
A shop owner saw us park the Acura and assumed we were participating in a track event. She saw the sporty wheels and trim and assumed we were with a sports car group rallying in Elkhart Lake that weekend.
Certainly, the interior comfort and class of the Acura are premier. The high-tech stereo-CD-radio-XM-hard-drive option turns the interior into a brilliant concert hall. Fully adjustable leather seats offer excellent lateral support and are heated and ventilated as you wish on the advance package. The TL’s navigation system is easy to use, precise and accurate, arriving from the dealer smart and ready to respond to your voice commands.
One of the ironic things about Elkhart Lake is that it’s a legendary “auto Mecca” wonderfully suited to walking. Stay at any of the resorts—Siebken’s, Osthoff or Victorian Village—and it’s a pleasant stroll to the Village Square, shops and most of the dozen local dining choices run by people who are passionate about food.
The Paddock Club, is named for the area’s early gambling traditions and an excellent dinner is a sure bet. Backed by her older siblings, including general manager Cheri Hau, Chef Lynn Chisholm presents “simple food, well-made.” For diners, this means simply hard choices. Our waitress confessed to not being a broccoli fan, but recommended it as a customer favorite. Bless her! Definitely try the rich, crispy pork belly with balsamic roasted grapes and the mushroom risotto fritters.
Half portions of handmade fresh pasta mean you can sample more. The spinach and ricotta come bearing a fabulous surprise, a breaded deep-fried egg that provides crunch and cuts some of the richness of the dish. We also enjoyed halibut with a ramp blanc buerre, leek flan and Chef Chisholm’s favorite ingredient, preserved lemon.
Visit any Tuesday when Chisholm, who trained at Lombardino’s in Madison and Bartolotta’s in Milwaukee, features small plates. She says it’s her “chance to play.” Leave room for dessert. Chisholm’s vanilla panna cotta, a light, intensely vanilla Italian classic, is “Top Chef”-great!
Next door, Lake Street Café isn’t your ordinary café. Lynn Shovan is justifiably proud of her Wine Spectator recognition with the third largest wine list in Wisconsin. The menu is creative and family friendly but the tastiest secret in town is melt-in-your-mouth angus tenderloin stuffed with garlic herb boursin cheese bathed in Shiraz wine sauce. The décor is pub-eclectic with vintage Elkhart Lake signs, a billboard-sized beer mural and even a working photobooth.
For fine resort dining, attentive wait service and an unmatched view of Elkhart Lake, “Lola’s” at the Osthoff Resort sets the mark. The menu features creatively prepared salads, seafood, steaks, fowl and pastas. Lakeview dining is also offered at Victorian Village’s Back Porch Bistro and in summer one of the most popular spots on the lake is the Barefoot Tiki Bar serving tasty pub entrees and boat drinks to a lively crowd. There’s free live music every weekend.
Siebken’s Resort has been serving guests in their Victorian Dining Room since the early 1900s. Open for breakfast and dinner on major race weekends, it’s a quintessential Elkhart Lake dining experience. The Stop-Inn Tavern & Restaurant serves pub fare and Siebken’s signature sandwiches. It’s a landmark pub decorated in racing memorabilia, home to race crews, drivers and fans throughout the summer. We parked the Acura in the hotel lot and it held ground nicely with a vintage Porsche on one side and a Cadillac CTS on the other.
Start the morning at Off the Rail Café in the Old Mill. The aroma of rich coffee will draw you in to this cheery, checker-tablecloth cafe. Buttery, fruit-laced muffins are served warm from the pan while breakfast burritos to go please the soccer crowd.
A new addition to the culinary scene is Osthoff’s L’ecole de la Maison. We peeked in to observe a sauté class in action. Under the tutelage of Chef Scott Baker (executive pastry chef at Osthoff) two couples were joyfully creating thirty-eight different dishes with proteins, veggies and starches. Between chopping carrots and quartering bulk butter, they said they were learning all kinds of things—like preserving leftover herbs, how to break down a chicken and where to find the best knife values. Two friendly, efficient assistants took care of clean-up. It all crescendos with an outstanding meal.
Three excellent resorts, each just steps from the lake, honor Victorian tradition in appearance and comfort, but offer state-of-the-art resort amenities.
Victorian Village, charming families since the 1900s, hugs the lake shore and offers lodging ranging from hotel rooms to multi-bedroom condos and villas. With lakeside dining at Back Porch Bistro, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, water sport rental and live evening entertainment, one wouldn’t need to wander far for fun.
Siebken’s Resort is a landmark hotel operated by the fourth generation of the founding family. Thirty guest rooms in two historic buildings decorated in antiques have hosted famous race drivers like the late actor/driver Paul Newman whose film “Winning” was shot at Road America. A closet still bears his signature. We enjoyed the latest addition, a luxurious condominium in a building overlooking the Lake Street Walkway, once part of the 1950s race course, and, beyond it, Elkhart Lake. Equipped with a full kitchen, guests find a selection of fresh foods, cheeses, wine and gourmet favorites at the Feed Mill Market and Deli.
The Osthoff Resort, built in 1995, was named for one of the original Elkhart Lake resorts and shares local Victorian heritage. With 245 suites, Osthoff offers an elegant, comfortable atmosphere and all the amenities of a full-service, year-round resort. It has earned the prestigious AAA Four Diamond Award. The expansive front lawn is great for a family soccer game, a casual stroll to the beach or picture-perfect wedding photos. All suites have kitchens, fireplaces and private balconies.
Osthoff’s Aspira Spa’s extensive menu of services blends local Native American wisdom with Eastern and Asian influences. Among signature services is the relaxing Sacred Waters Massage using water drawn from Elkhart Lake and warmed to penetrate deep muscle tissue. The Elderberry Facial promises antioxidant benefits in a soothing multi-step service that includes gentle massage of hands, feet and neck. Aspira enjoys a reputation as one of the top spas in the Midwest.
Elkhart Lake has not neglected the sport of shopping. Art fanciers will want to visit Two Fish Gallery. It occupies the lower level of owner/potter Pat Robison’s bungalow and features work by 60 artists and fair trade craftsmen. Outside is a beautiful sculpture garden tended by Robison’s wife, Karen.
Down the street is Three Gables Consignment Shop and a few blocks farther is Rhine Street General. Three Gables brokers a changing stream of furniture, antiques, jewelry, books and art while Rhine Street General serves discoveries from estates, vintage furniture, Debbie Macomber novels, beading supplies, hand-sewn aprons, Watkins ointments, tools, cottage art and gently used clothing.
We couldn’t stand to let the Acura rest too long so we asked the GPS to take us to the Abler Art Glass Gallery near Kiel. We chose the scenic route and enjoyed a spirited roller-coaster run. Acura’s responsive all-wheel drive holds a firm grip on the pavement, even in twisty corners which are conveniently wound all around the area. At Abler’s, you’ll drive through a delightful landscaped outdoor glass and sculpture gallery. Inside the shop is extraordinary art that could ride home in Acura’s spacious trunk.
The return trip home showcased Acura’s refined side. We sampled several XM radio channels, cable news and a favorite CD as miles slipped away. Cruise control kept us running smoothly, at freeway speed. It would be easy to bond with an automobile like this. It’s like James Bond: elegant, sophisticated and intelligent, loaded with a competitive heart. It’s ready to go, in style, whenever you are and made for the long haul.
– Gary and MaePatrice Knowles
Farm & Artisans Market at the Railroad Depot 8:30–12:30 a.m. Saturdays
Begins June 22: Every Wednesday Evening Musical Theatre at Victorian Village Resort
Begins July 7: Every Thursday Evening Musical Theatre at Victorian Village Resort
July 15: Vintage Race Car Concours (Free event)
July 16: Classic and Sports Car Concours de Elegance’ (Free event)
August 6: Midwest Acoustic Music Fest at Lake Street Café
August 8: Taste of Elkhart Lake
Road America: Major Events
June 16–19: Weather Tech Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints
June 23–25: NASCAR Nationwide Series BUCYRUS 200 (Sat.)/GRAND-AM
July 14–17: Kohler Int’l Challenge with Brian Redman (Vintage)
August 18–20: American Lemans Race Series (Sat.)
August 21: Corvette World Tribute
Sept. 22–25: SCCA National Runoffs Championship
When You Go
Elkhart Lake Chamber of Commerce
Victorian Village Resort
Lake Street Café
920-876-3288 Reservations Encouraged!
Off the Rail
Lola’s on the Lake at the Osthoff
Back Porch Bistro