The Union House restaurant headed for growth under new ownership.
Feb 19, 2020
GENESEE DEPOT - Longtime fine dining restaurant The Union House in Genesee Depot has been purchased by local entrepreneur Jim Lindenberg.
After operating the restaurant for 30 years, owners Curt and Patty Robinson sold the business and the building at S42 W31320 Highway 83 and retired. The deal closed Feb. 18, Lindenberg said.
Lindenberg is owner and president of Lindy Enterprises and JML Holdings. He previously owned Waukesha patio and rec room retailer Master Z’s, but sold the business in 2018. He has been involved with a number of other local ventures in recent years, including the Milwaukee Wave, which he owned from 2008 to 2013.
A longtime customer at The Union House, Lindenberg was approached by the Robinsons late last year about purchasing the restaurant. Now, as owner, he plans to grow the business and introduce new diners to a “hidden gem,” he said.
All current staff members at The Union House will be retained, and Lindenberg plans to make some new hires in the coming months.
Lissie Vorberg will serve as the restaurant’s executive chef and general manager. She previously worked at the now-closed Coquette Cafe and Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro. Her husband Nick Vorberg, who played goalie for the Milwaukee Wave while Lindenberg was owner, has been hired to head up the bar and assist with operations.
Heidi Lindenberg will lead marketing for the restaurant. She currently serves as marketing manager at Lindy Enterprises.
“We could not be more excited about the future owners and management,” said Patty Robinson. “We know they will do a great job keeping the fine tradition going moving forward, and we are excited about them taking this restaurant to even another level.”
The two-story historic Union House building was built in 1861 as a hotel, and has since functioned as a social gathering spot for locals.
Lindenberg said the structure “needs a little TLC.” He plans to finish the second floor for additional seating and private events. That would increase total seating from 75 to 120, and allow the business to business to book events on weekends.
“Currently they turn away people on Friday and Saturday because they’re so booked,” he said.
He also plans to update the outdoor patio to add outdoor seating.
“I’m excited that the restaurant has great history, great reputation and that we’re going to be able to take it to another level, increase sales, increase revenue, add some staff, fix it up,” said Lindenberg.
Where to dine on wild game like kangaroo, pheasant and quail in Lake Country.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
July 30, 2018
GENESEE DEPOT - The name implies bringing people together, and there's no loss in translation from that to the reality at the Union House.
"We think of ourselives being like a 'Cheers' bar. We have a lot of regular customers. Frequently people will come in and just have a glass of wine and pretty soon the people next to them are like old neighbors," said Union House owner Patty Robinson.
Patty and her husband, Curt, have created and cultivated the camaraderie and cuisine at their establishment for nearly three decades.
"My husband and I have been here since 1989. The building had been empty for five years," Patty said.
The structure itself was built in 1861, and its name is inspired by the great conflict that was going on in America at the time.
"It was built in the Civil War. It used to be a stopping place with a hotel and a few rooms, and you could get a hot meal. It's always been a restaurant. There was a burger bar before, before that it was more like just a hangout place where they had pool tables," Patty said.
"That's probably what spurred us on at the time. There was nothing really around in this area. There was very little development; lots of farmhouses," Patty said. "It seemed like the thing to do."
Two years after opening, the Robinsons teamed up with chef John Mollett, who is still running the restaurant's kitchen and helping to produce signature dishes.
"I know that their chef has been there a long time with them, and I think it's just one of the best places in the entire Milwaukee market even though it's pretty far out here," said Delafield resident Cheri Larsen.
Patty noted that the Union House has been referred to with a number of different labels in terms of what type of restaurant it is.
"We call it 'country gourmet.' We have some standard items that we feature on the menu, we have a selection of steaks and seafood, but we always have some farm-to-table offerings," Patty said.
One recent example is the Alaskan sockeye salmon.
"We always have a wild game option on the menu. It could be venison, kangaroo, pheasant, quail," Patty said. "It changes often. We just do a variety of things."
A couple of particular specialties at the Union House include the roast duckling, pecan-crusted chicken, steaks and the signature wild game options.
"I've tried a lot of new things there, and it's always been excellent. I don't even know if I could say that I have a usual because I don't get to go quite as often as I wish, and when I do, I'm always interested in something new," Larsen said.
Patty, herself, makes all of the restaurant's desserts, and the Robinsons also pride their restaurant on its wine selection and array of single malt scotch.
The Union House is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. For a time, the restaurant also offered lunch, but Patty and Curt have decided to focus on the evenings.
"There are several other places in town now that offer lunch, and we didn't find it to be to our benefit. It's not consistent enough at our location to really warrant being open," Patty said.
But while the Robinsons are well aware that there is plenty more around them than when they first opened nearly 30 years ago, they're more than happy about it.
"We've just had an incredible year with all of the development in our area, subdivisions popping up and new houses being built," Patty said. "Business is great."