By Kevin Revolinski | Photo courtesy The Edgewater
Madison boasts more than 300 places for dining and drinking outdoors — which is always a sweet reward after a particularly stubborn winter’s departure. Here are a few great recommendations.
Rivaling the Memorial Union’s view (because you can see it from The Boathouse’s pier!), this bar and grill at The Edgewater has the best lakeside sunset vistas. If you’re already out on Lake Mendota, you can come by boat. The Chicken BLT is served on Stella’s Spicy Cheese Bread, and the taps are all Wisconsin. For a sundowner, sip a Mendota Colada.
The canopied back deck — open rain or shine — of this 1870s brick farmhouse- turned casual-elegant-restaurant hosts live jazz most evenings. Several other tables sit out under umbrellas or trees. Consider the Lemondrop from the martini menu, a glass of wine from their well-stocked list or one of their Mediterranean-influenced salads or seafood dishes.
1847 at the Stamm House
This supper club, in a handsome 19th-century stone building in Middleton, serves classics, from crab cakes and burgers to steaks and pasta. Surrounded by a white picket fence and strung with twinkling lights, their spacious patio is a charmer for Friday night fish fries.
The estimable dining destination, set in an 1855 mansion and horse stables, offers two options with outdoor spaces. The Stone House has a small patio for dinner, while a large tent in the paddock area serves Friday night fish fries in the summer.
With dishes that look like works of art, the gourmet resto has a quaint two-table outdoor dining space that is the envy of foodies. Chefs Itaru Nagano and Andrew Kroeger are winners for the 2023 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest. What to expect? “We just buy from the farmers’ market and go from there,” says Nagano of their no-repeat menu. That goes for drinks too!
Close to the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, the spacious, family-friendly patio here is surprisingly sheltered from the nearby Beltline. Shareable appetizers, such as the brisket quesadilla, are fun for groups, and the dedicated patio cocktail menu offers
a whole range of summery, Tiki-inspired bevvies.
The Asian-inspired eatery inside The Bur Oak event venue is popular for takeout, but has a surprising little outdoor space in back. The beef laap (a cool meat salad) and summer rolls (with edible flowers), along with Thai iced tea and Chanh Muôi (salted Vietnamese limeade) were originally intended for hot climates — so chow down.
Sweet Home Wisconsin
From deep-fried Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery cheese curds to brats and Italian beef, this place screams Wisco comfort food meets a touch of Chicago. The back terrace is tucked into vines and greenery far from Regent Street traffic noise. Summery sips include the Bramble On — gin, blackberry liqueur, lemon, sparkling wine and mint.
Great Dane Pub & Brewing (Downtown)
Nestled in the back of the eatery among brick buildings, the Dane’s back patio is a secret garden of trees and climbing vines. They recently launched a new brunch menu, seasonal cocktails and a summer main menu with rotating weekly specials. Refreshingly light summer beers include a Flemish Cherry Ale and a Frambozen Sour Ale — brewed with fresh local raspberries.
Chill on the front porch of an old Victorian while sipping craft cocktails such as This Is a Spicy Drink, with
chile vodka, pisco, cucumber, lime and pineapple. There’s no food here, but staff from Grampa’s Pizzeria next door (run by the same owner, Gilbert Altschul) will walk over your order.
A downtown staple since 1972, the Parthenon is surprisingly the only rooftop restaurant on State Street at the moment. It offers casual counter service with the tried-and-true Greek dishes, plus a few beers, wines and shots of ouzo. While closing time is 10 p.m., be aware the roof space shuts down closer to 8 p.m.