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Adams Lake Pub
****
Out of a possible five
$$$

Pub’s fare, lake view reel you in

There is nothing better on a cool summer evening in Indiana than finding a great place near the water and enjoying the view as you dine al fresco.

And there is no better place to do this than Adams Lake Pub, nestled right on the lake near Wolcottville. There are many tables on that back patio and plenty of trees to shade it, and the view is stunning.

The food was pretty good, too.

As is the case with any good lakeside pub, the bar is the centerpiece. It had a good beer menu, there were a lot of colorful glasses of frozen concoctions and martinis, and I even received a complimentary and unique shot to go with my beer during one visit.

My server said the bartenders often send out shots to promote some of their creations. The oatmeal cookie shot – Irish cream, cinnamon and butterscotch schnapps and Jägermeister – looked like chocolate milk but tasted just like the cookie.

My next shots were of the edible kind – oysters Rockefeller.

The pub’s version was on point with just enough spinach, garlic and Parmesan cheese to taste, but not so much to outshine the clean, briny and succulent oysters. They also came with nice garnishes of fresh horseradish, lemon and cocktail sauce.

The appetizer sampler was a great way to try most of the other finger foods Adams Lake Pub had to offer. It included cheese sticks, tater skins, beer-battered shrimp and a magical creation called Brew City Beer-battered Black and Tan Onion Rings. These tiger-striped beauties, which can also be had as a side, were crisp and clean, and the batter had a profound beer flavor that made them hard to stop eating.

Pass on the boring dinner salad – greens, cucumbers and tomatoes; no cheese or even croutons – and get a cup of soup. I was told the lobster bisque was the signature soup, and it was good – velvety with plenty of lobster essence – but the potato soup was one of the best I have had anywhere.

It was thick and rich and had to have a lot of butter or heavy cream in it or – as a pub regular told me he suspected – some of the fat from the bacon in the soup.

Potatoes were also the star of one of my favorite entrées, the potato-crusted tilapia.

A large fillet of the mild fish was beautifully crusted with a well-seasoned potato mixture, and that crust was indeed crunchy from being properly sautéed. The crust didn’t have a lot of potato flavor, but it encapsulated the fillet nicely, keeping all the moisture inside.

To continue this run on spuds, the best side was also a potato. Larry’s Loaded Twice-Baked Potato pays homage to late pub owner Larry Edwards. A jumbo baked potato was scooped out and mixed with cheese, bacon and sour cream, then put back into the skin and baked a little more.

It was great next to the pub’s featured 32-day, 22-ounce rib-eye. This huge cut of beef was beautiful with its crisscross grill marks, had plenty of fat marbling, was seasoned nicely with the pub’s signature rub, and juice oozed out with every cut of my knife. But it was not as tender as I expected and did not have that unmistakable rich flavor most aged steaks have. It was still a good hunk of meat, but I expected a little more.

The bacon-wrapped filet mignon was a better value and a better steak. It was almost fork-tender, arrived perfectly medium-rare like I wanted, and had the hearty, irony flavor I expect from a good beef.

When I was trying to decide between a burger and the Asian meatloaf sandwich, my server steered me clear of both and told me to get the prime rib sandwich. He was wrong.

It was topped with slivers of yellow, green and red pepper, onions and Swiss cheese like a Philly and sounded good, but the beef was cut too thin and dried out. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was a cheap sirloin. I was also miffed that the au jus was served in a tiny ramekin, which made dipping impossible.

The only other item that I would call bad was the grilled shrimp skewer I added for a slight up-charge to my blackened Chesapeake Bay scallops entrée. The smallish shrimp had no char or visible grill marks, were drenched in butter and quite soft, almost like shrimp scampi. The flavor was also a bit fishy, which is never a good sign.

The scallops, however, made up for it. Although not heavily seared like I expect when I hear something is blackened, they were cooked to perfection. And the peppery spice blend that coated them, which also colored the butter sauce a little orange, had just the right heat to accentuate the sweet, delicious scallops.

The pub was out of the only house-made desserts – apple pie and crème bruleè – when I visited, but a couple of other funky options didn’t make me miss them at all.

The Tiramasu-tini was described as “a classic tiramisu laced with additional liquors,” and who doesn’t want additional liquors? Served in a martini glass and garnished with whipped cream and cocoa powder, the lady fingers in this tasty ending were indeed soaked with sweet, potent potables.

The Double Caramel Fudge Brownie was crammed into a tall hurricane glass. It started with layers of crumbled brownie, ice cream and caramel, and then had additional layers of brownie and ice cream, and then fudge, whipped cream and a cherry on top.

As nice as the al fresco experience was at Adams Lake Pub, the interior of the restaurant was also nice. I loved the interesting, in-action color prints of freshwater game fish like walleye that adorned the walls, and it had a sort of lodge feel to it with its wooden accents.

The service, however, was much different inside than out. Inside, I went without a need. My server made suggestions, kept tabs on my party and brought those complimentary shots. On the deck, my server was a bit aloof and had little knowledge of the menu. She also disappeared for far too long a couple of times when my party needed tending to.

But even that could not spoil what was a magical evening on that patio watching the sun set and twinkle on the lake as I finished my dessert. And it could not change my mind about the pub, which was worth the trip for sure.

Restaurant: Adams Lake Pub

Address: 5365 E. County Road 620 S., Wolcottville

Phone: 260-854-3463

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Smoking status: Non-smoking

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Appetizer sampler ($14.99), tilapia ($14.99), rib-eye ($39.99), tiramasu ($7.50), brownie ($6.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.

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