The LakeHouse at Buffalo Park is the latest reincarnation of a Maryville landmark, still offering food and drink in a parklike setting but now resembling a more traditional restaurant.
For decades, the 6,500-square-foot building served as the Maryville Knights of Columbus hall. Volunteers hosted Friday night fish fries, bingo and other activities before it was sold in 2012.
For the past four years, the building and property have been leased by Brad Menard, who also owns Schatze’s Bar and Grill in Belleville. He’s gradually overseeing renovations and expanding the menu.
“What we’re aiming to do is serve the food your mom used to make, but better, putting more of an upscale spin on it,” he said. “We don’t have any grand illusions. We’re a bar and grill. But we still want to offer a few fancier items. We want people to be able to come here for a date night.”
The LakeHouse menu includes appetizers, salads, sandwiches, entrees and hand-pattied, half-pound burgers. Chicken wings are 45 cents each on Wednesdays. Other specials include fried chicken on Sundays, meatloaf on Mondays and fish on Fridays.
Chef Chuck Woolery is particularly known for sauces and condiments, including a chocolate barbecue sauce for pork steaks, a crunchy Guinness mustard for brats, a bourbon onion jam for burgers and maple bacon sauce for wings.
“I come up with new sauces just about every week,” he said. “That’s my thing. They can turn a bland meal into something over the top.”
Brad, 41, of Troy, grew up in the restaurant business. His parents, Robert and Jerry Menard, opened the original Bobby’s in Fairview Heights in 1978 and later operated a second location in Meadowbrook.
Robert owned Schatze’s from 1992 to 2001 before turning it over to his son. Plans for a second location in Edwardsville fell through, so Brad turned his attention to Maryville.
The Buffalo Park property has a rich history that goes back to the days of the Kickapoo tribe.
Today, tall trees shade picnic tables, washer pits, an outdoor bar and gazebo. Brad repainted the building’s rust-colored siding and doubled the size of a deck that overlooks a lake with a fountain.
“It’s just a nice parklike setting,” said Knights of Columbus member Russ Geisz, 53, of Collinsville, who helps with maintenance. “And the food is fantastic.”
His favorite menu items? Pork steaks, fried chicken and fried Brussels sprouts.
We don’t have any grand illusions. We’re a bar and grill. But we still want to offer a few fancier items. We want people to be able to come here for a date night.
Owner Brad Menard on the menu
Brad first named the restaurant Bobby’s @ Buffalo Park after his father in 2013, but he ran into legal problems with Bobby’s Frozen Custard down the street. That led to The LakeHouse.
Inside, Brad installed a new kitchen, removed the dropped ceiling, opened up the bar, covered some walls with oak and decorated with neon beer signs and white icicle lights.
“The Knights of Columbus guys milled the floor from all the trees that they cut down to build the place, so we weren’t going to get rid of that,” he said. “But we cleaned up quite a bit.”
Chuck came on board as chef about seven months ago. He formerly worked at the Sheraton Westport Lakeside Chalet and Baileys’ Chocolate Bar in St. Louis, Beast Craft BBQ in Belleville and Hilton Garden Inn in O’Fallon.
A running joke is that he remains calm no matter what. He calls the kitchen his “happy place.”
“I didn’t go to school for this,” said Chuck, 36, of Belleville. “I have a bachelor’s degree in English and an associate’s in psychology. I just love food.”
The LakeHouse can seat up to 200 people. It has three pool tables, a disc jockey after 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and bands from 4 to 7 p.m. Sundays. The outdoor bar is open Wednesday nights in conjunction with a washer league.
Brad gives credit to his wife, Lauren, a project manager with Basler Electric Co., for supporting all of his restaurant ventures. The Menards have three children.
“None of this would be possible without help from my wife,” Brad said.
At a glance
- What: The LakeHouse at Buffalo Park Grill and Bar
- Where: 2822 N. Center St. in Maryville (Illinois 159)
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays
- Seating: About 200
- Entertainment: Disc jckey at 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and bands from 4 to 7 p.m. Sundays
- Other: Party room, carry-outs
- Handicap-accessible: Yes
- Information: Call 618-288-2200 or visit the Facebook page
On the menu
- LakeHouse Burger — Half-pound, hand-pattied, house-seasoned burger, grilled and served on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle and sauteed or raw onions ($7.98 with fries)
- Beef Medallion — Seared beef medallion, smothered in mushroom beef demi-glace ($12.98 with two sides)
- Chocolate Barbecue Pork Steak — 14-ounce pork steak with dry-rub seasoning, grilled and glazed with house chocolate barbecue sauce ($6.98 with two sides)
- Fried Chicken — Hand-breaded and fried to order with choice of two sides, including mashed potatoes with sawmill gravy ($9.98 for four pieces or $6.98 for two; add $1.50 for all white)
- Friday Fish — Cod, Jack salmon or catfish, hand-breaded with house seasoning and fried ($8.98 with two sides)