Visit Country Lounge for dependably good food
By Mark Taylor Post-Tribune correspondent July 20, 2011 3:24PM
If You Go
What: New Country Lounge
Where: 3700 Montgomery St. on Ridge Road east of Interstate 65, Hobart
Hours: Open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Reservations accepted, especially on weekends and for large parties; call 942-6699.
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:08AM
The New Country Lounge in Hobart may no longer be the top local hangout for Lake County politicians.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
But this 80-year-old landmark eatery and bar that began as Sommers Café continues to serve dependably good food at reasonable prices in a comfortable setting served by staff that really aims to please.
Both the interior and exterior of the New Country Lounge recently had a makeover. Its sandy-colored walls were wainscoted with dark wood and the highlighted with modern oil paintings. Burgundy Roman window shades softened the evening light. We celebrated our friend Marian Kukral’s 90th birthday there recently.
Known to many in Da Region as “Hunkee Hollow” for its popularity with East European immigrants, The New Country Lounge still offers daily specials reflecting its multi-ethnic heritage, such as potato pancakes (lattke) and stuffed cabbage (sarma). Though it is owned by Greeks, there are only a handful of Hellenic specialties like the Greek-style pork chops.
One thing owners Jimmy and Louis Gerodemos, who also own the Paragon Restaurant, have learned over their decades in the business is don’t let anyone go away hungry. Portions are large with attention to presentation and detail. Diners are greeted with bowls of kidney bean salad, marinated roasted peppers and warm bread. The peppers were really delicious and the cold bean salad provided a refreshing start to our meal.
The appetizers menu offered plenty of seafood options, such as oysters Rockefeller, perch dejonghe, crabcakes and pan seared scallops, but the rumaki, an Asian-influenced dish, called my name. And since our friend Marian hadn’t yet tried it, we chose it along with the calamari. I thought the chicken livers were tasty enough that they didn’t require the sweet barbecue sauce served with them. The bacon sheath was crisp, yet moist, and the livers were tender with a slight exterior crunch. I’d recommend ordering the sauce — which was not advertised on the menu — on the side. The deep-fried calamari were served with a homemade cocktail sauce with a pleasant, horseradish infused tang. While these tiny circles of squid were pleasingly crisp, my teeth had to work a little harder than they should have.
Our entrees came with a choice of soup or salad. But instead of a coffee cup serving, my lentil soup, which was rich and hearty, arrived in a bowl, which gave me an excuse to dip the warm crusty bread and savor the flavors. My wife’s salad was a mesclun mix of fennel, red onions, cucumbers and tomatoes, a surprisingly tasty and fresh blend of greens and crisp vegetables.
For dinner our friend selected the Atlantic salmon, which was drizzled with a honey-mustard glaze. It was a huge fillet nicely seared and the glaze accented the flavor of this rich-tasting fish. My wife chose the queen cut of the slow-roasted prime rib au jus, a 12-ounce cut that looked generous. It arrived pink and juicy with the exterior fat crisp and alluring. She chose the twice-baked potato to accompany her beef, but it was a disappointment. It looked and tasted like a baked potato thrown back under a broiler topped with a little cheddar cheese. It was dry and nearly flavorless. Traditional twice-baked potatoes are scooped out, mashed and whipped with milk and butter and returned to the potato skin shell, then baked or broiled. I’d suggest the mashed potatoes or rice pilaf. I selected the perch and frog legs. The perch were just exquisite, barely dusted and lightly sautéed, fresh and buttery tasting. The thinner calf portions of the frog legs, which were deep fried, were equally flavorful. However, the meaty thighs were under-cooked and translucent. Our server, who agreed, replaced them almost immediately with more perch, which pleased me.
For dessert we went deep chocolate, opting for the chocolate volcano cake and the chocolate mousse cake, both of which satisfied those primordial cravings that truly addicted chocoholics manifest.
Prices at the New Country Lounge seemed about average for area fine-dining restaurants. For prices click on its website, www.thenewcountrylounge.com.
The New Country Lounge, which offers full bar service, a wide selection of domestic and imported beers, seats around 12 in the bar and main dining room. On Thursdays the eatery offers different wine specials and we selected an Oregon pinot noir for $10, a real steal. It’s worth it to ask. Wines by the glass ranged from $5.75 to $9 and by the bottle from the wine list they cost between $21 and $36.
What do you think? Contact Post-Tribune restaurant critic Mark Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org dining suggestions.