Dining and Drink

11 eateries with gorgeous waterfront views

Whet your appetite with these splashy spots

It’s not exactly breaking news that Madisonians enjoy dining alfresco during our city’s summer months. But given that our humble isthmus is surrounded by gleaming freshwater on both sides, fate has given us the perfect opportunity to augment the experience by adding a little sul lago to the equation. And why not? The Madison area has a surfeit of strategically positioned eateries—running the ambiance gamut from upscale to sandals and jorts—that take advantage of Madison’s unique geography. Let’s do a little waterside dining, shall we?

Anchor Inn
When a fire all but burnt Edgerton’s Anchor Inn to the ground two summers ago, the question for owners John and Dawn Kinnett wasn’t if they were going to rebuild, but when. That’s because it’s almost unthinkable to imagine that stretch of the Rock River without the Anchor Inn. The Kinnetts did rebuild, more than doubling the size of the old space with a gorgeous bar, restaurant and banquet hall that seem a better fit for its large customer base looking for a Bloody Mary on Sunday or a basket of wings and a pitcher of beer after a hot summer day on the river. 718 E. State Road 59, Edgerton, 884-7565

The Boathouse
Even before its spectacular reconstruction and redesign, the Edgewater has always offered Madisonians signature waterfront options. All summer long, boaters flock—and we mean flock—to the Boathouse, where a windy day on the deck may season your crab cakes and Spotted Cow on tap with a splash of Lake Mendota water. Whether you’re sitting on the deck or peering out from the floor-to-ceiling windows inside the two-level bar and dining area, your view is one of the best in the city, bar none. 1001 Wisconsin Place, 535-8200

The Buckhorn Supper Club
It’s not a true supper club experience unless you have to drive awhile to reach your destination. Which makes the Buckhorn in Milton a go-to when you’re craving familiar supper club fare and a lakeside view to boot. Situated alongside Lake Koshkonong, the Buckhorn sits atop Charley’s Bluff to give diners a spectacular view of the sunset over the lake. Let the Pope family serve you lobster, steak or a cup of clam chowder while you pat yourself on the back for choosing to live in Wisconsin. 11802 N. Charley Bluff Road, Milton, 868-2653

Christy’s Landing
Tradition and history—eight-plus decades of history—form the heart of the casual, comfortable Christy’s Landing experience, where east-side locals access the ever-popular Tiki Bar (Thursday and Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday days only) and nosh on Friday night fish fry by land and by sea, er, lake. Your Lake Waubesa-viewing experience won’t necessarily be serene—chances are there’s a volleyball game going on and the boat traffic’s nearly constant. But once you sink your teeth into a monster-sized burger or a fiery plate of Shrimp Christy, you’re frankly not going to care. 2952 Waubesa Ave., 222-5391

The East Side Club
If you like piña coladas, tiki bars and fish fry, join the club. Well, actually, you don’t have to be a member to enjoy those things at the East Side Club. Nonmembers can hang out during the week, order the Friday night fish fry from Slide and take in the sight of the Madison skyline on the shorelines of Lake Monona at the kid-friendly, guests-welcome venue that feels a little old-school. You have to work or live in Dane County or an immediately adjacent county to gain access to members-only events at the Club. Also, keep this place in mind if you’re looking to rent a lakeside space. 3735 Monona Drive, 222-9131

Fitz’s on the Lake
Sometimes the front-door familiarity of Monona and Mendota just won’t cut it. Which means it’s time to hitch up the boat trailer and head to Lodi and Lake Wisconsin, and dock at Fitz’s on the Lake. The sunsets are spectacular, the menu is unexpectedly upscale (French-fried lobster and tenderloin) and the Triple Treat—a plate of BBQ ribs, country-fried chicken and fried shrimp (Wednesdays and Sundays)—is worth the trip all on its own. W11602 Hwy. V, Lodi, 592-3302

Paisan’s
It’s somehow poetic to think that Paisan’s, a pizza joint that spent the majority of its nearly 70 years as one of the anchors of a boxy (and now demolished) ’70s-era mall on University Avenue, is now in a location with an absolutely killer view of Lake Monona. Enjoy one of Paisan’s delicious specialty pizzas­—and don’t forget to score a pitcher of sangria to go with it. Whether you stay indoors with your lake view framed by curved glass windows or enjoy the gentle breeze on Paisan’s patio, you really can’t lose. 131 W. Wilson St., 257-3832

Sardine
You wouldn’t necessarily think that a restaurant that sits in the shadow of one of downtown’s most bustling interchanges—hey there, John Nolen Drive—would also sport one of the city’s more intimate lakeside dining experiences. But enjoying a plate (or maybe two) of happy-hour oysters, having a laid-back brunch or splurging on Sardine’s spectacular duck confit from the coziness of the patio is better when it’s topped off with an eye-level view of Lake Monona. 617 Williamson St., 441-1600

The Statehouse
Those looking to leaven their Mendota sunset view with some of the finest formal fare the city has to offer know to check in at The Statehouse, where the steaks always sizzle and taste so much better with a cup of silky-smooth crab-velvet soup. Enjoy the bird’s-eye view over a cocktail and something off the gourmet menu. Do remember to wander around the redesigned Edgewater hotel after dinner. 1001 Wisconsin Place, 535-8200

The Memorial Union Terrace
Sun beams through a terrace chair signal Madison’s true start to summer. As sailboats float by and the Union buzzes with activity, you have your pick of activities here. You can catch live music four nights of the week, watch an outdoor movie on Monday, grab a bite to eat at Der Stiftskeller or one of the Union’s other dining options or scoop up some Babcock ice cream. Get there early to lock down a couple of sunburst chairs for you and your group and enjoy a pitcher of beer. And don’t worry, the Memorial Union is open during construction. 800 Langdon St., 265-3000

The Waypoint Public House
You’ve likely seen it while driving down the Beltline, staring at you from across the Yahara River. Trust us—the view of the river from inside the Waypoint Public House is significantly more relaxing, especially if you’re drinking it encamped at the wrap-around bar with one of the ridiculous number of local or international craft beers clutched in your paw. Boaters already know they can tie up their rigs at the Waypoint pier and be staring down a plate of kickin’ tilapia tacos and a rum cocktail in a matter of moments. Now that’s riverside paradise. 320 W. Broadway, Monona, 222-0224


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