It’s hard to miss, as you’re heading north on Lake Drive in Whitefish Bay. Just where the road takes a sharp left, there it is, looking like something out of an old movie. Inside, the frozen-in-time feeling intensifies to the point where you half expect Bing Crosby to show you to your table.
The history of Jack Pandl’s Whitefish Bay Inn goes back more than a century. In 1915, John and Anna Pandl bought the building and business, which was situated near the old Pabst Whitefish Bay Resort, a popular vacation spot. John died in 1932, leaving Anna in charge. Their youngest son, Jack, eventually purchased the business, along with his brother, George, who later went on to start his own restaurant in Bayside. In 1992, Jack’s widow, Elaine, their son, John, and his wife, Laura, took over the ownership. More recently, 26-year-old Ryan, the son of John and Laura, has taken an active role, representing the fourth generation.
The restaurant is a bit of a time warp. Ever thought about an update?
Laura: I don’t think people would like that. A customer recently came in who is moving back from California, and he said it’s so nice to see that we haven’t changed.
Elaine, you’re 87. Why are you still working?
Elaine: It helps me keep track of what’s going on with the family, and I really like to do bookkeeping. It keeps my mind sharp.
Who’s next in line to take over?
Ryan: I started getting more responsibility over the last couple of years. It was never something my parents said I had to do, but I’d like to keep the tradition going. It’s important to me.
That wicked curve in the road out front gives the restaurant great visibility, but isn’t it dangerous?
John: We used to have a fair amount of bizarre accidents in front of the restaurant before the barrier went up. We had a car drive into the front door. Before we had the patio, we had people drive across the property or hit the tree or the side of the building. Someone even drove right into the front door of my mother’s house [next to the restaurant].
1915. The restaurant is in its original location, a building erected circa 1903, which is now a designated Milwaukee County landmark.
1319 E Henry Clay St. (at the intersection with Lake Drive)
Whitefish Bay Inn. Jack Pandl added his name in the 1960s.
Popular Menu Items
German pancake, liver, whitefish, Wiener Schnitzel
Family Members on Staff
Gov. Warren Knowles, Debbie Reynolds (“She had to have a special bottle of water”), the Seligs
‘Jack Pandl’s Whitefish Bay Inn’ appeared in the January 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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