What: Fishtales Bar & Grill at the Benjamin Harvey Inn
Where: 3075 Lakeside Drive, Harveys Lake
Credit cards? Yes
Wheelchair accessible? Yes
Why we went: A new casual eatery at Harveys Lake? Of course we wanted to see (and try). Plus, we’ve been curious ever since the Lakeside Skillet and Romayne’s Ballroom opened on the same property, with the promise that this casual pub and eatery was coming soon downstairs. But this isn’t a basement, per se, so don’t feel claustrophobic. The entrance is level with the rear parking lot, and the other two restaurants on site face front on a hill.
Menu highlights: Now this may come as a surprise — kidding — but the fish is impressive. At least the baked haddock hit every mark. Flaky. Firm but tender. Fresh. Under $20. And with all the right accompaniments, including drawn butter, which was a beautiful bonus that gave this classic whitefish the look and feel of a poor man’s lobster. Shouts-out to the side dishes, green beans (not from a can) with wonderful slivered almonds and a cup of coleslaw that pleased two of the most discriminating slaw critics I know. Why? Creamy but not watery and not so thick it’s dry and useless. Said one: Can’t put your finger on why with coleslaw sometimes. It’s just an immediate sensory perception, and this one is just good. They call it hand-cut here. Aficionados know exactly what that means.
Full dinners also come with two long and fresh baked breadsticks, a nice touch. Our haddock eater and beef eater greeted those with equal gusto. The beef eater, by the way, had another $20ish plate of fabulously tender beef tips in a Gorgonzola cheese sauce deemed nearly perfect — and this from a despiser of bleu cheese, so that must say something.
Other choices: In addition to a full array of three-part dinners, casual fare makes its case here. Burgers are a good choice, as patties are hand-formed, juicy and substantial. We were not asked for a cooking preference and let it ride as chef’s choice. That turned out to be medium, which was fine. A jalapeno burger, sprinkled with a few jalapeno rings atop, which were advertised as fried but seemed uncooked (still OK), was enjoyable. Fries on the side were unremarkable, but no offense taken. One side note: A sure way to kill the joy of a good burger is to place it on a stale roll, and unfortunately this one leaned that way. Otherwise, this could have been a contender — for burger supremacy.
Certain appetizers are worth noting. Fried green beans, to name just one, were especially crunchy with a soy-sesame dipping sauce that was much better than the ranch stuff that usually accompanies this choice. It also perked up the burger-accompanying fries.
Beverages: Choose from a laundry list of $6 specialty drinks, served in a tall glass with a straw and all bearing lake-themed names, as well as a host of interesting beers on tap. The extensive menu also promises that the bar is stocked so options are not limited to what’s on the menu.
Ambience: Fun, fun, fun. The place was quite a bit roomier than we expected, with a large bar in the main room, fronted by pub tables with several lower-to-the-ground seating options off to the side. Forming a slightly elevated stem in a sort of L shape is an equally large, almost-secondary dining room with comfortably spacious round tables offering more privacy and more distance from the live music (if you prefer things quieter). Not that the music is ear-splitting by any means. On a Saturday night, the entertainment was nicely mellow. An Eagles cover or two gave us a peaceful, easy feeling indeed.
Decor: No detail overlooked. The carpet is patterned with fish, and signage and other decor are all lake life all the time. Even the bathrooms, commendably large and clean, are well-decorated and lake-themed.
Overall impression: Wonderful spot, wonderful addition to the lake, whether you live there, recreate there or not. And that’s no fish tale.