South end of Lake CdA fills the stomach, empties the wallet
TO: Carolyn Lamberson,
FROM: Dave and Dan
We need more money. Call it a raise, or an advance, or even make this story our summer double issue. Whatever you want to call it, we need more bread.
We went to the lake last month. Not just a day at the beach or puttering along in the boat, but we really went to the lake. It was a weekend on the south end of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Though we’ve often been there and enjoyed ourselves immensely, this time we sacrificed ourselves for our readers. With Arrow Point (aka Eddie’s Bar and Grill) becoming private, there aren’t many places outside the Coeur d’Alene city limits for the average Joe boater to grab something to eat on the biggest, most accessible lake in the area.
So we decided it was our duty to check them out – all in one fell swoop.
It was a tough job, but we survived.
Of course we picked a scorcher of a weekend – which actually made our work more difficult because we had to leave the water for a hot deck (three out of four stops) – but that is just one of the obstacles we faced. And really, it’s not a complaint. Being on the lake is about good weather, especially since cold weather cancelled our first attempt to tackle this difficult assignment.
We went to – starting from the south but not in order – Conkling Bay, Harrison, Rockford Bay and Carlin Bay.
A pleasant surprise
Our (financial) problems started when we chose to tow the boat behind the motorhome down to Conkling Bay Marina. We knew it sucked the gas but, being new at this, we had no idea how the popularity of the place on a Friday night would produce an unwinnable challenge. We arrived after the music on the deck started.
Had it not been for the hospitality of owner Tim Kirkpatrick, we might still be sitting there wondering how we were going to launch the boat and park the RV. (It’s a long story that has nothing to do with dining.)
Once that crisis was averted we settled in to work.
Steamboat Grill was packed, as usual, on this Friday night, but our server was quite adept at juggling limitless tasks. We were pleasantly shocked by a $15 bottle of wine that we have purchased at a grocery store for $14.
Three of us ordered what we would call very good bar food (veggie wrap, buffalo burger, spicy chicken sandwich) but the fourth hit a grand slam with the ahi tuna. It was done to perfection at only $16. Wow.
Visiting friends who keep their boat at the marina and then settling in to listen to the music was a great ending to a hectic evening.
After a leisurely morning we really got down to work.
We headed north to Carlin Bay for lunch. Docking was easy, the restaurant-bar was nice and clean, but overall there wasn’t much to distinguish this from an everyday bar – other than our arrival by water and another beautiful view. It was the only place we were bothered by insects.
Overall, the prices weren’t horrible for the burgers, although the beers with lunch were the most expensive of the weekend. The service was about what you would expect from a place run by a manager rather than the owners – nondescript.
There was no reason to linger with the water calling.
We then spent several hours avoiding (unsuccessfully in some cases) sunburn while enjoying the lake.
Finally it was time to head to Harrison for dinner. Docking wasn’t easy, and the place was packed; people were having an obviously great time.
Harrison has become a nice little town with shops, including competing ice cream parlors, that drew our wives while we returned to work. We can easily recommend the entire town since the cyclist among us has watched it grow from almost a ghost town.
We opted for One Shot Charlie’s. Though not on the water, it’s the place everyone mentions in Harrison. It has a long history and the best beer prices we found.
The place was rocking, yet the staff kept things humming and we never had an issue with service.
That held true through our dinner of a pizza and two sandwiches. Again, it was high-end bar food, but one wife said she couldn’t recall a bar that crazy that whipped up a Margherita pizza so tasty. That, friends, is a compliment.
We tooled back to Conking and spent an exhausted evening enjoying the sights and sounds from lawn chairs.
That left Shooters at Rockford Bay for the Sunday wrap-up. It came after another leisurely morning and visiting friends who parked their RV there for the summer.
The Marina at Black Rock provides Coeur d’Alene-style hospitality with courteous young people to help dock your boat, which can be a big help with limited space on a busy afternoon.
When we sat down for lunch we were again extremely pleased with the service, specifically the effort to accommodate our three friends who were joining us for drinks only.
The crowd really picked up and we got behind a couple of big groups, but the staff was attentive to our glasses and let us know our food was coming.
We were satisfied with our orders, especially the flavor of the big burrito. The burrito was just lukewarm but on this hot day and with the jam-packed restaurant, no one was complaining. However, that is not a pass we would accept under different circumstances.
The hard part
We had a slow, we-hate-to-go, let’s-stop-for-a-final-dip back to Conkling, knowing it was time to figure out how to get away. We asked co-owner Tim Kirkpatrick for his advice, and he dropped everything to help us out.
His rationale was that stress should never ruin a customer’s weekend and went above and beyond, especially considering how slammed they were. Did we mention our preference for owner-operated places, especially one that’s 104 years old?
He talked about their plans for expansion, which would greatly ease the congestion the big crowds create.
We’re going to have to come up with a different plan if we combine the boat and the RV in the future because that is just no place to launch with an RV – and the imposition on the owners too great, in our opinion. That said, we will never return to the south end of Lake Coeur d’Alene without a stop to repay the service we had – and repayment isn’t the right word because the food made it a must-stop anyway.
The south end of the lake is a bit of a drive for boaters launching up north but makes the trip down well worth it.
Just don’t try to do it all at once – it’s just too much bread.
Former longtime S-R writer Dave Trimmer andformer restaurateur Dan Coyle forged a common bond over dinner and drink. They know it takes more than great food to make dining out worth the money. They share recent finds and longtime favorites monthly. Reach them at email@example.com.