*****Loon Lake Lodge is Closed for Business***** (8/23/10)
I know what you're thinking. That place with the airplane on top and the animatronic animals?? Seriously? Yup. For 2 years (as long as I have lived in this City with children), my kids have asked me to go to this place every time we drive by it. They certainly know how to lure people (children) in with the decor. And that is just on the outside. One weeknight, we decided, what the hey, we wanted something new and somewhere we could take the kids where it would not be unusual to see a three year old jumping up and down in his seat. So we gave in. And hey, it's not a chain right? (Which is where we seem to end up more often than I like with my kids). I will say, I am suspicious of any restaurant with a gift shop though.
So the funny thing about this place is, when I went to their website to learn a bit more about it before our visit (I really wanted to know if it was a chain), the website described it as having been "family owned and operated since 1888." Ok, this I found hard to believe. This place pretty much in the heart of Castleton had been around for over 100 years? Hmmmm... So we went, and as it turns out, Loon Lake Lodge is the successor to Laughner's cafeteria. Those of you who are long-time residents might remember Laughner's, it was a local family owned and operated cafeteria chain, sort of like MCL but a little nicer. Apparently, they used one of their buildings and started this concept after the cafeterias closed. Stretching it a bit I think.
So, to start with, it is a good place to take kids, other then the menu is huge and there is no way to read through it all properly when you have a hungry toddler. So we had to order in a hurry and decided to get several items so we could get a taste. But they really do have animatronic animals scattered about that periodically "come alive" and growl and eat honey and such things. And on the night we happened to go, it was family night (pure luck) and kids ate free and they even had a face painter. (A sweet kid who obviously does not see this as an actual job--I think it must have been the dishwasher or bus boy or something with some paints based on the final product. But my daughter could've cared less. She loves people to paint her face). So those things were good.
The food was ok. I know, big surprise. They do have some interesting game-type entrees like elk steaks and bison meatloaf. I really like bison, but didn't want to order red meat that night, so I went with the tempura shrimp, which were under the "Chef's Specialty items." They were quite expensive for a family type restaurant ($29.95 I think) and they weren't very good. The shrimp themselves were good quality, and huge, but the batter was actually really bready and seriously, they were each like the size of your fist. They reminded me more of shrimp hush puppies--that was more of the consistency of them. You get two sides, so I tried the cheddar mashed potatoes (really, was there cheese in there? I think not) and the corn fritters which were really tasty little morsels of fried corn.
Hubby had the blackened Grouper, which was simple and pretty good. He had it with a side of steak. I know, that is crazy. This is the first restaurant I have been to where you can get a steak as a side item, or shrimp, or you can order steak and get a fish fillet on the side. Seemed excessive, but we did it, just to try lots of things. The fish and steak were the best things, although not the best around for sure. For his sides, he had creamed corn and creamed spinach (I think they were pulling recipes from the cafeteria days with these). The creamed corn was corn with cream in it--not very good. The creamed spinach was much better.
The kids had grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese, classic kids items, with french fries. They seemed fine with it, although they were more interested in the animals coming alive.
All in all, if you want somewhere that is kid friendly, and even kid entertaining, not a chain, and has lots of different items to choose from, you may want to try this place. If you are just looking for a good steak or piece of fish, and you only have adults in your party, there are far better options.
Loon Lake Lodge
6880 East 82nd Street