By Candice Wagener | Photo courtesy Food Fight Inc.
This summer feels especially sweet as we safely return to doing activities we love, like dining out. We’ve rounded up some of our fave spots for dining outdoors in style, where you can soak up all the goodness of summer while enjoying a bite to eat.
There’s a long list of patios around town, but these restaurants go above and beyond with their outdoor setup.
Skål Public House has already garnered Instagram love for their stunning alleyway space, offering a perfect spot to settle in, even on windy days. When in Mount Horeb, go with the lefse wrap: beef brisket, swiss, arugula, tomato and lingonberry sauce all wrapped up in Norwegian lefse (which is kind of like a potato- based crepe). Skål also offers an extensive tap list for beer aficionados.
Downtown Middleton continues to transform, and right in the heart of it all is Longtable Beer Cafe, with garage-style doors that open up to expand their dining space onto the adjoining sidewalk area, complete with fire pits. Here beer lovers are greeted by an entire wall of coolers displaying specialty bever- ages. Inventive salads — like Rushing Waters smoked trout on a bed of spinach, spruced up with shaved fennel, Montchèvre goat cheese and tossed in an orange strawberry vinaigrette — bring summer to the plate.
However, the patio to rival all patios is the lush, hidden urban oasis tucked away behind The Great Dane downtown. It’s easy to forget you’re surrounded by buildings as you sit beneath a canopy of trees and vine-covered stone walls while you dine here. A tried-and-true spot for their house- brewed craft beers, burgers and sandwiches, this place offers a classic Madison experience that is not to be overlooked.
ON THE WATERFRONT
Madison has a somewhat short list of waterfront dining venues considering how much shoreline there is, which makes it that much more special when you get a table with an aquatic view.
A longstanding classic, Mariner’s Inn offers a supper club vibe with gorgeous views of Lake Mendota. Enjoy great “catches” on the menu like lobster tail, salmon and shrimp, but the name of the game here is steak. With several different cuts and preparations — as well as indulgent additions like Bearnaise sauce — you’ll definitely want to come hungry.
Monona has made good on plotting restaurants around the waterfront. Head over to The Waypoint Public House, where you can enjoy a fancy brunch or a fine dinner on the banks of the Yahara River. Eggs Benedict gets a flavor upgrade with smoked salmon, or opt for their avocado-pesto toast if you’re more of a landlubber.
A short drift down the Yahara, Buck & Honey’s spacious, riverside patio brings beautiful views. Their curds are made with Sassy Cow cheese, so you know they’re some of the best. Or take inspiration from your marine surroundings and order their scallops and berries salad.
SHOUTING FROM THE ROOFTOPS
Rooftop dining seems especially magical as you partake in a delicious meal amidst breathtaking views of the city.
There’s no better place to discover the potential of a rooftop than at the Graduate Madison’s Camp Trippalindee. Surrounded by views of the Capitol, Lake Mendota, State Street and campus, you can roast marshmallows for s’mores and catch up with friends. Have fun perusing the camp-themed menu, whether you’re into “Boozy Capri Suns,” adult slushies or homemade lunchables.
Further down State Street, the ideal rooftop date happens at Fresco. The menu here is upscale, with steak tartare, roasted cornish game hen and panna cotta as just some of the delights you can feast on. Recently, Fresco announced they’ll be closing in October (due to financial hardship resulting from the pandemic), so you’ll want to catch a memorable meal here before then!
Meander out to Waunakee for the rare suburban rooftop experience at The Lone Girl Brewing Company. You’ll really get the sense of being away from it all up here, and revel in live music on Fridays and Sundays. With a dozen varieties of their in-house, craft-brewed beer on tap, Lone Girl is a sure bet for taking in all that summer has to offer.