Fin & Hooves is the restaurant at the Whitewater Country Club, on Highway 89 just outside of Whitewater.
Prior to this review, I had not visited the Whitewater Country Club in years, and for dining prior to the opening of Fin & Hooves, I would have had no reason to visit. (I’m not a golfer, although I respect the sport and follow prominent tournaments.) Quite simply, the Whitewater Country Club in its prior form offered nothing adequate for dining or atmosphere.
That’s not true, now: Fin & Hooves gives the entire venue a needed – and significant – boost. I visited three times for this review, and will visit again both for a follow-up review and likely on other occasions simply for my own enjoyment.
This is one of Chef Tyler Sailsbery’s three establishments nearby (The Black Sheep & Casual Joe’s being the other two), and I was not disappointed to find that his commitment to a proper meal and a congenial atmosphere was present here (as I’ve found at The Black Sheep).
He’s taken a property that served poor food in a decrepit dining room and transformed the dining experience of both food and atmosphere.
This review is the composite of three visits (a late lunch, an early dinner, and Sunday brunch). So we’re clear: food, service, and atmosphere all matter, and while they are integrated as a combined experience, I’ll suggest that it’s impossible to enjoy a restaurant that serves poor food. So, however combined, quality of the meal is paramount.
The most important part of air travel is that the plane stays in the air; the most important part of dining is that one receives good preparations.
The food at Fin & Hooves is easily recommended in choices and desirability. It’s simply delicious. This is a New American cuisine, a favorite of mine, with a moderately-sized lunch and dinner menu that offers a combination of appetizers (3), soups (2), salads (3), burgers (3), two chicken selections, and cheesecake. A separate Sunday brunch menu now offers just under a dozen selections, among them omelets (3), skillets (2), sandwiches (2), and traditional plates (3) of pancakes, French toast, or eggs.
The foods used throughout the menu are, I think, locally sourced, and that seems to include meats from nearby Sorg’s. Local sourcing is not a favor to other merchants – it’s a benefit to patrons dining at Fin & Hooves. Fin & Hooves gives diners the local elements they deserve, avoiding the many problems with freshness or quality (especially of fish) that patrons otherwise might face.
Of my particular favorites from among my visits was a salmon omelet that was among the best breakfast preparations of salmon that I’ve ever had: fresh salmon of the right color and soft texture, breaking apart on one’s fork slowly, neither crumbling immediately nor unyielding to that utensil. A portion of feta within was evident but not overpowering, onions caramelized only lightly.
For a lunch visit, I’d recommend the seafood chowder. It’s served as a moderate portion, but even twice as much, in a larger offering, would be welcome. That’s not the intention of the offering now (it’s meant to be paired with a contrasting selection), but on its own it is light enough to enjoy, perhaps with a small portion of salad as an accompaniment.
The burgers are certainly ample (about eight ounces), seasoned properly, and suitable for eating even without a bun.
The sweet pepper chicken, served over potatoes, is a mixture on the plate of a light element (chicken) with a heavier one (mashed potatoes prepared so that they’re thicker than one might have had elsewhere, giving them a more substantial texture).
Looking around the dining room (two rooms, one near the bar and one with a view of the course outside), I remembered not even a trace of the prior establishment’s disappointing furnishings. (I did notice a large mirror in one of the rooms was cracked, but there’s a good chance the placement is in jaunty defiance of superstition, a declaration that broken glass doesn’t decide one’s fate. It doesn’t, of course.)
All three visits were, for me, happy ones. Yet, on one occasion it was noticeable that the young staff seemed concerned about something else that happened recently, before my arrival, or once out-of-earshot while I was there. On one occasion, I saw that a party nearby seemed upset with their orders, although I don’t know why.
It’s my guess that this staff has not had time to settle into a steady, mostly unflappable response to patrons’ concerns or unexpected errors. When they spoke with me on one occasion, my waiters and waitresses were polite, friendly, but almost apologetic over something that must have happened earlier. They seemed overly-worried about my reaction and that of other patrons, as though diners might be upset or impatient.
They had no reason to be worried over any part of my experience, or of those with me when I visited, with this exception: being overly-worried without reason is, itself, a distraction from an experience.
I’ll be back, to enjoy the food, atmosphere, and to visit to see how the servers are growing into their roles.
It’s quite a feat, even now, to have transformed this location so positively.
LOCATION: N9035 Wisconsin 89, Whitewater, WI 53190. (262) 473-3305, (tables), (262) 458-2227 (events).
Sunday Brunch 8:30-2:30
PRICES: Main dish and a drink for about $12-20, depending on selection.
DRINKS: Full bar, soda, water.
SERVICE: Attentive, friendly, but a bit overly-concerned about patrons’ reactions (where there was no reason for that concern).
VISITS: Three (late lunch, early dinner, Sunday brunch).
RATING: Recommended 3.25 of 4.
RATING SCALE: From one to four stars, representing the full experience of food, atmosphere, service, and pricing.
INDEPENDENCE: This review is delivered without financial or other connection to the establishment or its owner. The dining experience was that of an ordinary patron, without notice to the staff or requests for special consideration.