Can I even count the number of times I've driven past this building in my life? Probably not. When my family first moved out to the Boondocks, this building was the historic Hanson House. My best post-breakup BLT as a teenager was had on the deck when it was Billy's Lighthouse. Then it sat vacant for years, kind of rotting and becoming an eyesore most of us just ignored as we drove by. Now that it's in the process of becoming Birch's on the Lake, I've witnessed its transformation from gutted to gorgeous.
I knew Burt Joseph and partner Brennan Greene wanted a modern supper club with a destination brewery in the basement, but I had no idea that it was going to be so swank. Joseph had thrown the words Vegas and North Woods Loungey around, and I admit that I was nervous. But the interior is entirely fresh and new, with lots of welcoming woods, fireplaces, and warm leather accented by splashes of glam here and there.
The lobby sets the tone that wine is important, and that this is more than a brewpub.
The bi-level bar and dining room has plenty of classic touches, like the rolling bar chairs that have just enough "Vegas" for Joseph. The flooring throughout is beautifully refinished barnwood.
Overall its a surprising mix of retro and contemporary that doesn't feel too gimmicky. Plush booths, warm glass fixtures, and most of all the black wooden walls frame up the giant picture windows which display one of the best features of this joint: the view.
The entire upper level seems to lean out to the lake. I was worried that the north-woodsy thing would be overplayed, but it's kept in check with some neutral plaid booths and a happy lack of evergreen on the inside. There's enough on the outside.
Downstairs, the brewery is in motion. Tanks are filling and getting the two inaugral beers ready for launch next week. The bar area was still under construction, but there's a more idustrial vibe down there. The lower bar is made of lighter wood, but grey steel supports the room. The brewery and its tanks will be right out in the open, part of the action, not sequestered behind walls.
Though I haven't seen any plates, I know the team wants the food to remain approachable and fun: Leave the swank for the lighting. Here's a look at the opening menu that will be in play on Monday, when the doors open wide. I might have to comandeer one of those rolling bar chairs for some Buckhorn fried chicken or beef on weck.