Shrimp and crab martini. (Photo by Kathy Tran)

Shrimp and crab martini.
(Photo by Kathy Tran)

Our neighborhood’s favorite lake house isn’t on a lake

A rich bread pudding and mussels. (Photos by Kathy Tran)

A rich bread pudding and mussels. (Photos by Kathy Tran)

Lake House Bar & Grill couldn’t have come to fruition without owner John Schmitz’s family, friends and the book “Running a Bar for Dummies.”

Schmitz wasn’t new to the restaurant business, thanks to a 12-year stint at The Barley House. Even with years of bartending experience under his belt, he admits he had no idea what opening the White Rock establishment would entail.

Schmitz knew he needed help with the day-to-day operations, so he invited his family and friends to his house to pitch his idea. When he said he was quitting his career in logistics sales to open a bar and grill, his dad questioned why he would jump into a business Schmitz didn’t fully understand.

He wasn’t wrong either, Schmitz says.

“When you go into it, you figure out you don’t know anything,” he says. “Something breaks. Something happens. You’re always somebody’s counselor.”

The first thing Schmitz did was head to Barnes & Noble to purchase a copy of “Running a Bar for Dummies.”  But he never needed to read it, because the masterminds behind bars like Oak Cliff’s Nova and Knox Henderson’s Capitol Pub gave him advice about launching Lake House Bar & Grill.

“The cool thing about people in the restaurant industry is they don’t want you to fail,” Schmitz says. “They want you to succeed.”

Everything else was a matter of trial-and-error.

Four years later, Lake House hasn’t stopped evolving. Situated a half-mile from White Rock Lake, the eatery is the local hot spot for cyclists and runners, Schmitz says. It’s a regular first-date spot, and meet-up groups often plan events at the bar.

“I’m happy about the location and seeing everything around it growing,” he says. “I’m passionate about this area. It’s changing, and it’s changing for the better.”

The neighborhood is one of the reasons Schmitz was adamant about quitting his sales job to open the bar and grill. It reminds him of Austin, his favorite city in Texas, because of its open spaces and walkability, but there weren’t many hangout spots north of the lake until recent years.

“The Lake Highlands/White Rock area needed something like this,” he says.

Now Schmitz and Chef Los Akins are tag-teaming to expand Lake House’s motley offerings that range from pub fare to seafood. Popular specials — such as scallops, salmon and meatloaf — will earn a permanent slot on the regular menu. Pizza and grill items are about to become a part of their repertoire, too.

Many of the items are something you’d see at an upscale restaurant, but they’re offered in a laid-back environment. No one has to dress up to order fresh seafood, he says, and that makes it a comfortable place to be.

“I just love making everybody happy,” he says. “I love seeing something you develop on your own blossom.”

Did you know: Owner John Schmitz jokingly calls the restaurant a “Poor Man’s Lake House” because you can’t even see White Rock Lake from the parking lot. 

Lake House Bar & Grill
Price Range: $10-$20
Hours: 4-11 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 4-11 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
7510 Northwest Highway