Barrel Back Offers Windows on Walloon
The first thing you notice at Barrel Back restaurant on Walloon Lake isn’t the food.
It isn’t the open fireplace in the center of the dining area, either.
Nope, it’s the view through the garage doors.
Come again? Yes, that’s right. The many garage doors open on three sides of the secondstory restaurant, giving an unimpeded and impressive view of Walloon Lake.
“We open them whenever we can,” said manager Carla Bradley. “It’s great that customers have become so comfortable they go open them themselves.”
The garage doors contribute to the industrial feel of the restaurant, as do the cement floors, wire railings and metal chairs. Bradley says credit for the design goes to general manager Bryan Banfield.
Barrel Back takes up the entire upper floor of the old marina, while the lower floor is home to a watersports shop. Thus the views extend across the water from the northern end across the lake, making sunset an obvious favorite time for viewing – and eating. “The sunsets over Walloon are just magical,” said Bradley.
The food is an engaging mix of traditional favorites and higher-end dishes. Smoked Polish sausage sandwiches with grilled onions on a pretzel bun are served next to grilled Scottish salmon with asparagus risotto, watercress and balsamic.
The menu is the brainchild of chef D.J. Flynn. A veteran of the food service industry in the area, Flynn previously served as executive chef at Bay Harbor and also worked at Tapawingo, the late lamented Ellsworth eatery that regularly topped the state’s best restaurant lists.
“The menu concept is all D.J.’s,” said Bradley, who also came to the restaurant from Tapawingo. “It’s comfortable food done very well – pizza, burgers, salads.”
Bradley calls the lemon basil sauteed walleye “phenomenal,” but says another finned favorite has been the most popular dish at the restaurant.
“The number one seller by far is the whitefish sandwich,” she said. “It’s got a great batter, crispy on the outside, and it’s moist inside. It’s served with a homemade slaw and sweet pickles.”
Barrel Back includes a complete appetizer menu, along with the salads, sandwiches, pasta, and over a half-dozen other entrees. The bar boasts nearly two dozen beers on tap and nearly 100 wine selections, as well as mixed drinks. There’s even a dessert menu, complete with appropriate dessert drinks.
BOATING TO DINNER Since opening, the restaurant has been doing even better than expected. An early Friday evening saw waits of over half an hour. Bradley says that has been typical.
“The support has been great, from the community and from Petoskey and Charlevoix,” she said.
As had been hoped, much of the traffic comes from people in boats tying up at the dock, grabbing a meal and then heading back to the water. And while the warm summer days and nights are bringing in water-lovers, the restaurant will be open year-round. Currently it is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, and till 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Barrel Back is closed Monday.
The restaurant is owned by the Borsch family, which donated the land for the park next door and is now busy refurbishing the retail shops across the road from Barrel Back. Bradley says they wanted to bring people back to the village. This should certainly help.
The restaurant is located at 4069 M-75 in Walloon Lake, and you can visit it online on Facebook or at Barrel-Back.com. But don’t try to call for reservations – not only does the restaurant not accept them, it doesn’t even have a phone on-site, though there is an answering machine.
Oh, and the name? It’s derived from a type of boat, as in the old wooden Chris- Crafts which used to ply these waters. Seems appropriate.
PRICE: Salads from $6, sandwiches from $7, pizza from $10, and entrees from $12 to $29.
DON’T MISS: Lemon basil sauteed walleye with fried green tomatoes, sweet onion/ caper relish and lemon aioli.