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LakeShore Marina Restaurant and Lounge, Johnson Lake, NE
by Pam Soreide and Betty Sayers
One day in midsummer, the urge to get out of town and visit friends at Plum Creek Lake was irresistible. The evening air was soft as we got out of the car and trooped into the lovely lakefront home our friends had just built.
A sun room with what seemed to be a 240 degree view looking out over the lake was the perfect place to sit and visit with a glass of wine, but as the sun started to sink beneath the treetops, those old familiar hunger pangs began to gnaw, and the discussion turns, as it often does, to “where shall we eat?”
In the end, we decided we couldn’t do better than a favorite local restaurant at the Johnson Lake Marina.
The LakeShore Marina Restaurant and Lounge is not fancy – no linen tablecloths here – and an unassuming entry masks the lively atmosphere that meets us inside the restaurant. People are clustered at the bar and over by the pool table, and we hear congenial conversations and laughing. These are boat people, recognizable at any waterfront café by their deep tans and casual confidence. The interior has a nautical theme, with the main appeal being walls of windows offering a pleasant if not panoramic view of the lake. We are seated at a wide booth by the window just in time to enjoy the water turn red and gold in the setting sun.
Wine and appetizers
Dan and Karen Finken, who own the LakeShore Marina, appreciate fine wine. Given our table’s preference for red wine, the server recommended their Pinot Noir or a Marietta Old Vine, a red varietal wine comparable to a Merlot. If you prefer white wine, the favorite Chardonnay is a medium-bodied St. Viveran, or you might enjoy the Chenin Blanc from Center Home winery. The house wines are Salomon Creek. We were pleased with the Pinot Noir, a smooth, lush, glass of wine.
We indulge in an appetizer of mussels for the table to go with the wine. The mussels are prepared San Francisco style, sizzling in garlic butter. They taste fresh and look appetizing, their dark blue shells gleaming from the savory sauce. Sipping wine and watching activity out on the lake, we reminisce about memorable meals enjoyed on the waterfront in Seattle or the Carolinas, or lakeside in Minneapolis.
A little something for everyone
As reviewers, we feel it is our duty to each have something different from the menu. When the server returns to take our order, the tantalizing odor of steaks on the grill proves irresistible to one of our men, who orders the ribeye without much consideration of other options. We learn later that the ribeye steak is the most popular item on the menu. Wanting diversity in our selections, however, someone chose the fried catfish, someone else thought the LakeShore chicken pasta supreme sounded good, and I opted for the cheeseburger with a side of Thousand Island dressing. That makes it a beach burger in my book, and therefore the perfect fare. John chose his favorite, the basket of fried chicken gizzards — go figure — and our vegetarian was happy with the salad bar.
It was obvious somebody takes pride in the salad bar. Selections are fresh, crisp and green, featuring a icy bowl of mixed green lettuce and spinach, a selection of dressings made in the Marina kitchen, potato salad as we like it in Nebraska with mustard, hard boiled eggs and celery for crunch, a superior broccoli salad, and much more.
All this and gizzards too
While the tone of the restaurant is very relaxed, service is friendly and efficient, and our meals soon arrived. The fried catfish was crisp, flaky, and served with lemon and capers. The ribeye must have been excellent, as there were no offers to share bites from that quarter. The steak was accompanied by a perfectly cooked baked potato with a salt crust. The cheeseburger was satisfying, if somewhat unremarkable, but the Alfredo sauce cooked up in the Marina’s kitchens make the chicken pasta dish hard to beat. We heard only crunching and munching from John and his fried gizzards. He just smiled when we ask how he liked them. Pam bravely tried one, and decided that it was pretty good…if you like chicken gizzards.
Not quite ready for our evening to end, we took after-dinner cups of coffee out onto the deck and stood at the railing enjoying the breeze off the water. There were slips to tie up to after a long day of water and sun, and a couple of boys who obviously hadn’t had enough of rough-housing and diving into the cool water. We watched some activity loading boats on the boat ramp and recalled stories of amusing and tragic miscalculations and unfortunate timing. Seems that everyone has a launch ramp story!
If you like a water view, discover for yourself what the boat people, lake people, fishermen, and foodies have found at the LakeShore Marina Restaurant and Lounge. It’s not hard to pick a time…they are open every day except Christmas, serving dinner until 9:30, with the bar open until 1:00 a.m. There is just something about spending a couple of hours at a marina that makes you feel like you’ve had a holiday, even if it is only dinner on Tuesday night.
Who to Contact
Lakeshore Marina Restaurant & Lounge
2 Lakeview Acres Drive 14
Johnson Lake, Nebraska 68937