by Mike Miller
(Mount Dora, Florida)
Chalet Suzanne Bar
When I first moved to Florida, my job as a civil engineer took me all over the state. When I was down in the Lake Wales area, a special treat was to have dinner at Chalet Suzanne. It was expensive, but I could put it on my expense account and skip breakfast and lunch.
At one time it was one of the most famous resorts in Florida, with its own airstrip where people flew in from all over the country. It was featured many times in national magazines like the New Yorker and National Geographic.
In 1931 the newly widowed Bertha Hinshaw opened her home as a restaurant and inn. The dinners were famous and featured her own original recipes. All meals were served from her collection of fine china. Most of the time the china pieces didn't match each other but that was part of the charm.
Equally charming was the interior. You felt like you were a guest in someone's home, which in fact you were.
The Chalet almost burned down in 1943 and was rebuilt using pieces salvaged from the stables and other buildings on the property. The new design was sort of haphazard and the building had 14 different levels.
In 1956 the Chalet opened its own cannery on the property to can their famous soups. The soups were very popular and sold all over the world. Chalet Suzanne soup even traveled with the astronauts on two Apollo missions to the moon.
The restaurant and inn closed in 2014. The property has been put up for auction, but I don't know what it's current status is. Many famous people dined there in its heyday including Dinah Shore and Burt Reynolds, Robert Redford, Johnny Carson, Don Johnson, and Kevin Costner.