Lake Country Escapades: Stacy's is a local treasure tucked away in rural Leesburg
Leesburg is best known as the home of Maple Leaf Farms duck farm corporate headquarters and their retail store: Duck, Down & Above. Plotted in 1835 by Levi Lee, Leesburg has been known to some as the gateway to the lakes. Historical downtown Leesburg is nestled just off S.R. 15 between Milford and Warsaw and is known for its brick streets. The town has an estimated population at 560, and, other than Maple Leaf, has a local pub, a farm implement dealer and some small business offices (unfortunately, the Old Leesburg Mill Mercantile closed).
A retro gem
Stacy’s, 309 S. Main St., Leesburg, calls itself a fine dining and cocktail restaurant with family access. It’s named after patriarch Stacy Haines who, along with his wife Colleen, purchased the restaurant in 1972. They created a loyal following that generated sufficient income to put their sons, Tyler (Indiana University) and Todd (University of Notre Dame), through law school. Now in its 44th year, Tyler owns and operates the restaurant. It’s open seven days a week, with lunch everyday, dinner everyday except Sunday and breakfast on Saturday and Sunday.
Walking into Stacy’s can quickly take a person back to the 70s. There is retro signage nicely spaced on the wood-paneled walls, and an antique bar. Tables are spaced to allow servers easy access to customers, and there is ample space for families.
The food reflects old and new
Stacy’s menu is extensive and offers something for everyone. However, unlike many local hot spots, everything is homemade. Chef Jim Bryan has been serving Stacy’s version of fine dining for 28 years. Specialties include soups, steaks, lobster, other seafood specials and homemade cheesecakes.
Appetizers are not particularly an emphasis, but the shrimp cocktail is a colossal offering of U/10 to U/15 shrimp, and you can order as many as you want. The horseradish infused cocktail sauce is also house-made.
The most popular salad is the signature famous country salad. Incorporating a hot bacon dressing that dates back to the Haines’ great-grandmother with Boston Bibb lettuce, the slightly wilted lettuce blends nicely with bacon bits, onion and boiled egg. They even bottle the dressing for sale.
The Greek salad is also a favorite. Based on a version from Detroit’s Greektown, this salad includes pineapple that blends nicely with chopped lettuce and other ingredients common in a Greek salad (beets, olives, boiled egg, feta and pepperoncini). It is complemented with a light vinegar and oil dressing. That dressing, like the other 10 dressings, is made from scratch.
Soups are superb
Chili is the signature soup, with chili supreme being an upscale version — cheese, chopped onion and sour cream are added as toppings — but there are always two others. On the day I visited, beef barley and creamy broccoli were the specials. I chose a cup of the latter. It was perfect! It included bits of carrot and onion and nice chunks of broccoli in a delightful cream base. Served at the right temperature and in a large coffee mug, it was easy to sip away.
A sandwich for everyone
Twenty-one sandwiches are on the menu, but often a lunch special is offered. The day I visited, the special was a hot beef and Swiss sandwich. A favorite at the restaurant is the Reuben, which is made from their house-made corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and their thousand island dressing, stuffed between two nice slabs of rye bread and grilled.
Another local favorite is the tenderloin. This huge chuck of goodness may be ordered lightly breaded or grilled.
In making a choice, I had to lean on the side of unusual. How many places do you find offering a cube steak sandwich? Being a 30-year tradition at Stacy’s, I had to try it. I selected the supreme version, which comes with grilled onions and melted Swiss cheese. The pounded steak (usually top sirloin) was tender and had absolutely no gristle. Served between two toasted hoagie bun slices, I savored every bite.
Dinner emphasis is on steak and lobster
Hand-cut steaks are popular at the restaurant; in particular, the prime rib, which is made in-house and prepared from scratch (offered only on weekends), is one of the best in Lake Country. Stacy’s slow-roasts their prime rib every week, then finishes each cut to customer liking. Steaks are offered in multiple weights with filet mignon being the most popular.
Stacy’s lobsters are from the waters off Australia, and are offered nightly at market price. Surf and turf is also available.
The melt in your mouth fresh water lake perch at the restaurant are lightly breaded fillets and flash-fried. There are six other water critter dishes — frog legs being one — on the dinner menu, and usually a fish special.
Then there is the Maple Leaf Farm duckling, served l’orange, a couple pork chop offerings and two chicken entrees.
All dinners are served with choice of salad and one of 12 different side dishes.
The desserts alone are worth the drive
People come from afar just for cheesecake. Currently on the menu is the turtle cheesecake, but there are specials like the caramel apple cheesecake and Jim’s German Chocolate Cake. When offered, you must get there early to get a piece.
Stacy’s has developed a legacy in Lake Country. Tyler says his dad always told him: “Offer good food and they will come.” Tyler employs 22 people, four of whom have worked there more than 10 years. With seating for 140, a full bar with bartenders Rana, Lori and Wendy serving-up any number of craft beers (local Man Cave Sandbar Blonde is a must have) and specialty cocktails (the bloody mary mix is house-made and one of the best), Stacy’s can handle special events and provides catering on request.
Stacy’s is worth the drive down S.R. 15. Besides the local crowd, the focus on fresh ingredients and quality, homemade dishes draws folks from Nappanee, Goshen and other areas where the uniqueness that is Stacy’s cannot be found. Reservations for dinner are always recommended.