Follow the Dam East Access Road as it bends around Carlyle Lake and you’ll wind up The FishHouse.
Built next to a boat ramp, on a rise overlooking the lake, the restaurant boasts not just a grand view of the water, but a place to beach your boat (docks will be installed by June). You can sit outside on a landscaped patio and enjoy a menu that ranges from crepes and homemade pastries for breakfast to Grafton-caught fresh catfish and buffalo (while supplies last).
The spit of land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers was just the spot Ed and Jean Kleber, of Carlyle, wanted for their business. It took a year to get the lease from the Corps, another year to build the place and, in February 2015, the doors opened.
“Plus, we rent kayaks and bikes,” said Jean, adding that it gets crazy busy as traffic on the lake picks up and summer approaches.
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Inside the cream-colored building with the bright blue metal roof is a casual eatery with wood paneling, corrugated-metal wainscoting and concrete floors. In warmer weather, a glass garage door rolls open to the patio, which is partially covered. It’s a good way to hear the live music on Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting.
The pastry display case at the front entrance catches everybody’s eyes. It’s filled with cream horns, cheesecake, mini pies and more sweet treats created by sisters Hollie Sensel and Jamie Kohrmann.
Jean met the pair, who ran a bakery in town, while working on a catering event. A partnership of sorts was formed.
“We incorporated our bakery in here and do our baking here now,” said Hollie.
At first it was, ‘A bakery case at the FishHouse?’ But yes, it works, We all work together.
Jean Kleber on the bakery-restaurant combination
“At first it was, ‘A bakery case at the FishHouse?’ But yes, it works,” said Jean. “We all work together.” Pastries range from $1.50 to $3 while pies and cheesecakes (New York style and a lighter, fluffier version) are $3.50 a slice and up.
There has been a delicious crossover on the menu, says Hollie of her sister’s creation, the Mediterranean Shrimp sandwich ($7.95, with chips): grilled shrimp topped with feta cheese, peppers, tomatoes, basil and Italian mayo. Other sandwiches, served with chips, include popular cod or catfish, grilled chicken and a thinly sliced marinated steak, topped with cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms ($8.95).
Appetizers include fried shrimp ($8.95) and chicken-and-cheese stuffed quesadillas ($7.95).
“Everything we do we do from scratch,” said Jamie, including soups like gumbo and shrimp and corn chowder ($4.50, bowl), tartar sauce and Jean’s secret breading.
There are nightly dinner specials, such as fresh buffalo fish for $13.95 and a half-rack of ribs for $15.95. All come with two sides and trips to the soup and salad bar.
“We always have chicken and steak options at dinner,” Jean said. “If you want something grilled (instead of breaded and fried), we’ll be glad to do that for you.”
The all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar is $8.95.
Sharon Schneider, of Carlyle, brought her two grandsons for lunch.
“I’ve been here a couple times,” she said. “The food’s good. I usually get the catfish or the cod.” She got the catfish sandwich that day. Grandson Brent Schneider, 18, got the same, while his brother Brandon, 12, not a fan of fish, ordered the chicken strips.
The FishHouse is open four days a week, with lunch and dinner served Thursdays through Sundays. You also can order from a big breakfast menu on Saturdays and Sundays that ranges from Peaches ’n Cream Crepes ($2 each), pancakes, waffles and stuffed french toast to omelets, a breakfast burrito and the Haystack.
Jean said the restaurant got some extra attention in March when a professional competitive eater named Randy Santel, of St. Peters, Mo., took up the challenge to eat a mega version of the Haystack: eight biscuits, four servings of meat, hash browns and eggs, all smothered in homemade gravy ($20).
“It weighed 6 pounds,” said Jamie. He finished it, but his eating buddy didn’t. You can see Santel’s photo on the wall; he also got a T-shirt.
This Sunday, Mother’s Day, hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a special brunch buffet and regular lunch/dinner menu from 4 to 8 p.m. The restaurant will be closed from 1 to 4 p.m. Call for information and reservations.
The FishHouse Restaurant
- What: Lunch and dinner, as well as weekend breakfast. Carryout, dine-in and off-site catering available. Kayak and bike rentals. Boat ramp/parking and beach docking. Live music Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting.
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Friday; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays
- Where: 13551 Dam East Access Road, Carlylse. Off Illinois Route 50, 1/2 of a mile mile east of Carlyle. Turn left at sign for Dam East Access/Recreation Area, then right at stop sign. Follow road to brown sign for boat ramp access and turn left.
- Information: 618-304-5273, www.fishhousecarlyle.com and on Facebook