7141 State Highway 17 N
Rhinelander, WI 54501
Rating - 3 out of 10
If you ever travel to Northeastern Wisconsin and are looking for a great steakhouse one place that comes to mind is the White Stag Inn located in Sugar Camp, just north of Rhinelander on Hwy 17. My parents have been there several times and thought it would be right up our culinary alley. Peggy and I had heard of this place for years and alas the time came for us to try the famed "north woods" icon.
If you are looking for "Up North" charm then this is the place to visit. Located in a beautiful setting of forest and fresh air the rustic exterior features a chimney billowing the aroma of grilled goodness. As you enter there is a large bar just past the host stand and several dining rooms branching off. The mood is created with subdued amber lighting and dark wood tones. Old pictures and trinkets adorn the walls and bring to mind being in a cabin at "the lake". To complete the cabin feel, there is an open fire grill located in one of the dining rooms so patrons can watch food being prepared by the chef.
We all have choices of what to eat and where to eat it. Should we stay at home or go out? If the choice is going out then one thing that should hold true is great service. Why would you want to visit a place that has the opposite? With that being said, our dinner party had some of the worst service I have seen in a while. And believe me when I say this because Peggy and I eat out a lot. Our main server was average at best. Fairly friendly when present, but not present very often. And not very apologetic about the long waits between visits. In fact we waited roughly 15-20 minutes for our beverages to be delivered and then when they finally arrived late and with melted ice we had the extra special treat of them being delivered by a cross between Rosanne Barr and Rosie O'Donnell with peroxide blond hair to boot. She could dish out the insults quicker than the drinks. To this day when I think back to the nasty "stink eye" she laid on us I still get shivers down my spine. Word to the owners, do not employ people who are rude and crude, nobody wants to pay for getting insulted and being made unhappy and uncomfortable. Most people can get that for free at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
-2 points (Keep in mind that if the service was not as bad as it was this restaurant would have been rated above average.)
Nothing special here. A slab of meat or fish on a plate, nothing else. Salad is basically a head of iceberg lettuce cut into quarters and dropped in a bowl. Rolls are served in a napkin lined bowl. No frills presentation at this joint.
Peggy had the Swordfish ($20) a large steak grilled to order. She thought it was juicy and had a good grilled flavor. Mom tried the Haddok ($18) and thought it was some of the best fish she has had in a long time. Grilled white fish tender and flaky. Dad had the 10 oz. Beef Tenderloin Fillet ($27) which he said was excellent. A perfect medium rare bursting with juice. I had the 12 oz. Rib Eye ($22). While it was a perfect medium rare, at least two of the oz. were fat and gristle which I have come to expect when ordering the rib eye cut of beef. The steak was flavorful and filled with char grilled juicy goodness.
Accompanying the meal was a wedge iceberg lettuce salad that was just that, nothing special. Three homemade dressings (Creamy Russian, Garlic Caesar, and oil & vinegar with minced onions, garlic, and peppers) are served lazy Suzanne style. I asked the server what was the best and she suggested a scoop of each. I enjoyed each of them equally and like the idea of mixing. The only potato choice is baked with a cottage cheese and chive mixture in place of sour cream. Peggy and I loved the cottage cheese mixture since we serve almost the same at home. A bowl of warm rolls was enjoyed by all.
Considering the what you see is what you get style of menu offerings we felt the White Stag Inn was a bit pricey. A 10 oz. beef tenderloin for just under $30 just does not cut it even when you throw in the 1/4 wedge of iceberg lettuce, a hot roll, and a baked potato. I have seen many of the same offered at similar restaurants in the area for as much as $10 less. $22 for a rib eye is not a lot but when you take into account the gristly nature of the meat $15 would be a little more appropriate.
I do realize that there are a lot of big time fans out there that have been frequenting the White Stag Inn for many years/decades. I understand that there is a big reputation at hand and I should not offend an institution that has stood the test of time. However in this day and age where the dollar is being stretched and competition is at a all time high, a restaruant cannot afford to fall off its game. Sure another day brings another dollar but this diner just might decide to spend their dollar at another place. Some day we may decide the give the White Stag Inn another chance, but as Tony Robbins says, "The road to some day leads to nowhere".