Updated: Jun 9
Being a local, it’s easy to get into a rhythm of favorite places to frequent, especially when it comes to dining out. You hardly need to look at a menu, as you can order, and the waitress or waiter already has your “usual” penned in. Rarely are your taste buds taken on an adventure of new and exciting flavors.Therefore, my husband and I were thrilled when we heard that the Rusty Hook Saloon and Smokehouse opened on County Rd B, just past Robin’s Nest. Smoked meat!? Sign us up! Southern-style BBQ might be one of our love languages.
One Saturday night, we hopped into the truck and took the voyage (yes, it’s quite a trek, but as you’ll see, worth it), out to this new mouthwatering destination. The outside is not too flashy, with a simple but edgy sign with “The Rusty Hook” over a fishbone (their logo), making it quite the hole-in-the-wall looking spot. Upon entering, one scales a wheelchair accessible ramp, adding to the suspense for what’s in store.
The restaurant itself is a very comfortable environment. Smoked meat wafted through the air and tickled the olfactory bulbs. Wood covered the place; walls, ceilings, all of it, like the rest of the northwoods. They have custom wood tables with their logo printed on them, giving a personal flair. Some of the high tables in the bar area are atop beer barrels, and the bar itself is nice and big (though not the center of attention), and classy. We took our seats in the dining section of the saloon and smokehouse, and anxiously looked forward to getting menus.
The Rusty Hook is a family and locally owned business, and you can tell by the friendliness and easygoingness of the staff. Our waitress was super sweet, and gave us a run down of the place, along with our anticipated menus. The menus themselves were such a treat! As a fishing-themed restaurant, all of the menu items had “catchy” (see what I did there?), names. I’m a “sucker” for clever wording, so right there I was “hooked” on this place!
For starters, we had ordered “lily pads”. These are fried pickles. They were hand breaded and heavenly. The breading to pickle ratio was right on point, and our taste buds were feeling finer than frogs’ hair. My husband then ordered a full rack of smoked BBQ ribs, while I got a half rack and some smoked chicken. They came to us on a brimming metal tray of goodness. The ribs and chicken were smoked and seasoned to perfection, nearly falling off the bone in wonderful tender goodness. The meat was smoked with a dry rub, which meant that we got to put as much BBQ sauce on it as our little hearts desired. We got to choose from four house BBQ sauces: Spicy, Smoky, Pineapple, and Cranberry, that sat in bottles at our table, just waiting to flavor enhance. The smoky was our absolute favorite, though the pineapple was pretty good on my chicken. Our meals also came with coleslaw, baked beans, and jalapeno cornbread muffins, all of which were good, but not our main focus.
Which leads me to quite possibly the highlight of the evening: THEY HAVE SWEET POTATO FRIES. No other restaurant in the area has these any longer. Not only is The Rusty Hook the sole proprietor of sweet potato fries within a 30 mile radius, they have dang good ones. And dunked into smoky BBQ sauce? So choice.
Report Card: 5/5: Overall, my husband and I loved our dining adventure. The atmosphere, staff, and food were all a 5/5, and we will definitely be adding this to list of favorite places to eat. I have a feeling it won’t be long before we can order of “usual”, so you might want to stop out there before I clear them out of sweet potato fries.