Chalet Suzanne in Lake Wales was a fantastically eccentric inn and restaurant. It was family run from 1931 and really had to be seen to be believed.
Recommended to us, we stopped once on the way home from Bok Tower Gardens. The buildings reminded me of something from the fairytale Hansel and Gretel or from Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom. As well as the inn and the restaurant, there was a soup cannery and swimming pool with a private lake. There was also an airstrip.
For us, our reservations were allayed when we sampled the food – it was gourmet cuisine with the Romaine soup (fondly known as moon soup as Apollo 15 pilot James Irwin persuaded NASA to let the crew take it on their mission) our particular favourite. I had one of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted at Chalet Suzanne and when I told our server she simply said “we get told that all the time!”.
We liked it so much we visited several times, including with our family when we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.
Our trip was always finished off by asking the restaurant for any stale bread so we could go down to the lake and feed the turtles – a real Florida wildlife delight.
Sadly, on July 10, 2014, it was announced that with the retirement of the Hinshaw family, the Chalet would close on or about August 4 2014.
On 27 February 2015, it was reported that the auction drew more than 1,400 to Chalet Suzanne. While owners were hoping one buyer would buy the 130-acre property, and deep-pocket bidders had expressed interest in the property, the land went to around 30 different buyers .
The property’s former owners (the Hinshaw family) say they plan to write a cookbook featuring recipes from the famed restaurant. Now that’s a book I will look forward to buying.