Throughout Wisconsin, local bars and restaurants make an effort to be involved in their communities. The sense of gratitude these establishments show toward their customers comes across as authentic and heartfelt through meaningful contributions to the places they call home. Goose Blind Grill & Bar is definitely one of those restaurants, but it also does something a little subtle that, if you’re not a regular, you might’ve missed.
It all starts inside the grill and bar. Owner Mary Rowley has set a mission for herself and her barstaff. “When you walk in the door, all we know is we need to bring you up. We don’t know if you just had a bad day at work, you just had a fight with your wife, if you just came from a funeral, if you’re celebrating a birthday, if you just got married.” She doesn’t want to wait to see who comes back before building a relationship with her customers. Goose Blind treats tourists like locals and locals like family.
And that’s not a slogan; that’s just what they do. It starts with their relationship to Green Lake. “We’re a constant. We’re involved in the community. We’re involved with the schools—having school dances here, fundraisers here.” In a town of 1,200, everything you do gets noticed, which is why I find the best thing Goose Blind has done for Green Lake lies in the decisions and expansions they’ve made in house.
In the beginning, Goose Blind was just a bar. “I knew we needed to be a food eatery with the bar and everything else.” Mary wanted casual dining at a time when Green Lake was filled with fine dining. It might sound like filling a niche, but I think there’s more to it than that. Then consider her philosophy on beer. With 18 beers on draft, Goose Blind keeps its ear to the ground for what’s going on in the local craft-beer world, ensuring they’re rotating a handful of taps for seasonals and offhand varieties while preserving some year-round favorites.
“You can’t be stagnant. … We’re always reinvesting in the business.” Mary’s energy in keeping Goose Blind relevant has often placed her ahead of the eight ball. Her adventurous spirit translates well to the menu. “We always do food with a twist.” Little things like tequila in buffalo sauce and brussels sprout leaves on a burger make the food something that she seeks to keep evolving.
But the staples of Goose Blind’s menu, like a white chicken chili from a recipe Mary got from her best friend, are some of their gems. Bit of a side note: as a Wisconsin native, I love good fish. I think those who like baked fish can agree that finding a place that knows how to fry fish while preserving the flakey texture and succulent taste can be tough. I’ll just say you won’t be disappointed here.
From the unique to the familiar, Green Lake means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And whether you’re a local or a tourist, Goose Blind fashions itself to make sure that never changes.
Kyle Jacobson is a freelance writer and senior copy editor for Green Lake Magazine.