Jonathan Borisch grew up coming to Walloon. He loved the feel of the little village on the shores of Walloon Lake, and always had a desire to bring Walloon back to its former glory. He and his wife, Mary Kay, have done just that, as they own the Hotel Walloon and their son, Matthew Borisch, owns the Barrel Back Restaurant, the Walloon Lake Inn and Tommy’s Walloon Water Ski Shop.
Walloon Lake Village is now a perfect mecca of summer and winter fun, packed in to a small and very comfortable space. From the gazebo where multiple marriage proposals and special occasions are celebrated, to the little shops all unique and changing, to the ice rink and the snowmobile trail traveling right through the middle of town and, of course, to the phenomenal accommodations and dining options.
The Barrel Back Restaurant was named after old wooden boats that looked like a barrel from the back. The restaurant caters to all, boaters, skiers, snowmobilers, locals, tourists and everyone in between. The large menu has a modern American theme with many house smoked options. Kitchen manager Jared Mathers states, “we like to smoke just about anything,” including house cold smoked bleu cheese. The restaurant uses as many local ingredients as possible and makes all of its own sauces, rubs, dressings and more from scratch. The desserts are made in-house and almost all are gluten free.
Both Laura Kowalke, general manager, and Mathers agree, “If we can do it, we will ... nothing is set in place, we have staples but willingly change things up.”
On a recent wintry Sunday, we sat in the afternoon sun near the indoor fireplace and enjoyed a fine meal.
It started with a house favorite, smoked chicken wings, big hearty wings perfectly caramelized with house-made bleu cheese dressing. The gluten-free cornbread baked in a wood-fired oven was outstanding. Another signature dish was the grilled romaine salad, tender greens satisfyingly covered in bleu cheese, bacon, egg, tomato and house-made horseradish vinaigrette. Onto the grilled filet mignon, two perfectly grilled medallions, so tender with a not-too-spicy rub, extra creamy garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, blue cheese compound butter and red wine sauce ... all heavenly. Next, and my favorite dish, was the brisket and taleggio cream pasta, a nice sized, enough-for-two plate of comfort food goodness. The large gluten-free noodles were covered with tender brisket, smoked jalapeños, pearl onions, roasted tomato, arugula and parmesan cheese.
To cleanse the palate while sitting back and enjoying the view, the bar is well stocked and has some exquisite house-made drinks along with a great selection of wines. We enjoyed the cinnamon old fashioned, a sweet and warm-your-insides winter drink; the cran-raspberry mule, made with raspberry vodka, ginger beer and a house-made cranberry puree; the Red Jack Amber Ale from Keweenaw Brewing which was light and easy to drink; and lastly, the Barrel Back bourbon aged black ale, specially made by Perrin Brewing for the Barrel Back Restaurant.
A brownie s’more, gluten free, with house-made graham cracker toffee and cinnamon ice cream was the perfect ending to a sumptuous feast.
Discover, relax and play in Walloon Lake. Feel the magic of a unique and special town. Ski, snowmobile, skate, hike, snowshoe, or boat your way into a memory of your making and treat yourself to a meal at Barrel Back Restaurant, you definitely won’t regret it.
Written By Ann Marie Tingleff, Photos by Dave Tingleff