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A closeup of prime rib at the Barbee Hotel. Photo by Loren Shaum.

By Loren Shaum
Guest Columnist

Originally built in 1897, the Barbee Hotel has survived multiple owners and a rebuild. With a setting in rural Lake Country between Little Barbee and Big Barbee lakes, the hotel has attracted many characters over the years. It became a bustling resort with many famous and infamous people visiting. In those early days, it was not uncommon to see the parking lot filled with uniformed, chauffeur-driven limousines.

The notorious John Dillinger saw the hotel as a good getaway.

The rich and famous came for rest and relaxation. Clark Gable and Carol Lombard were visitors when Lombard’s uncle, living nearby, recommended the hotel as a perfect hideaway. The largest suite is appropriately named the Gable & Lombard Suite. 

The rich and infamous also made their presence known including the likes of Al Capone, John Dillinger and “Baby Face” Nelson. When Capone moved in, everyone else had to move out! He always stayed in room 301 because there was a connecting door allowing for an escape route.

In 2014, Travel Channel’s “The Dead Files” investigated the hotel and interviewed owner Dan Signore, who bought the property in 2006. Legend has it that a young boy died in the hotel and still roams the premises. This episode aired in November 2014.

Danny’s Sports Bar

In 2008, Danny’s Sports Bar and Pizzeria opened as an upper-level, back porch bar that is loaded on summer weekends. Featured are gourmet pizzas, burgers and cold beer.   

The “Meat Lover’s Pizza” is the signature pie with five different meat toppings. Watch for daily specials, like the three-dollar burger day.  

The Barbee Hotel Restaurant

Executive Chef Kyle Manning serves up a variety of attractive dishes to suit any pallet. Although I usually go for the walleye, the prime rib is the best in Lake Country. It’s always served at a perfect temperature, and the au jus is hot and spot-on. They sear then roast it low and slow until it’s just right for serving. Prime rib is only served on Friday and Saturday.  

Walleye at the Barbee Hotel is considered a classic. Photo by Loren Shaum.

To start, try the calamari appetizer. The light, crispy coating provides a nice crunch before you bite into the buttery squid inside. Another interesting appetizer enjoyed on occasion is Maple Leaf Farm duck drumettes. They’re fried crispy and served with a garlic-parmesan sauce. On another visit, we had an extraordinary scallop-spinach appetizer.

There are five salads with the signature being the arugula-prosciutto salad with shaved parmesan and a citrus vinaigrette. You can add one of several protein choices to any salad to make it an entrée.

The signature soup is French onion, but there’s always a daily soup.

If you want to go Italian, there are seven dishes to choose from. The lobster ravioli is special. On one visit, veal piccata with pasta was the special. It was one of the best ever!

The steaks are all fairly priced with the rib-eye being a top-seller. And, it’s the only place I know in Lake Country that serves flat-iron steak.  All steaks are hand-cut daily. 

Another difference-making dish that is very popular is the “salmon your way.” Guests choose from char-grilled. blackened, sauteed, broiled or poached. This delightful Norwegian salmon comes with a unique cucumber-oil sauce.

With a focus on craft beers, there are usually six on tap in the restaurant. The wine list is simple but adequate. Specialty cocktails are prepared by several mixologists, depending which night you are there. Some of these are over-the-top concoctions that would make any temple-throb. 

If You Go 

The Barbee Hotel Restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.  Hours are 4:30 to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and 4:30 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Located at 3620 N. Barbee Road, it is an easy drive. Call 574-834-1111 for reservations.

Danny’s is open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. each day except Sunday when hours are11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.