We reached out to 20 lakefront restaurants to find out what they felt makes them special – besides their great food and drinks! The following are the responses we received and included in our 2023 Greater Madison Lake Guide.
Lake Vista Café (Lake Monona)
Lake Vista Café features delicious fare and some of the best views in the city, with sprawling views of Lake Monona and downtown Madison’s cityscape. The café is located in the Monona Terrace William T. Evjue Rooftop Gardens. With more than 4,000 plants on display, the gardens cover over 68,000 square feet and include plantings of both native and non-native grasses and perennials selected for their beauty, resilience, and ecological function.
East Side Club (Lake Monona)
What says summer like listening to live music and playing in a Bocce or Kubb league while enjoying views of Lake Monona and the capitol building? Voted 2022 Best Place for Live Music per the Herald-Independent Best of Monona, the East Side Club offers live music twice a week during the summer, 12 taps for draft beer, and rental space available to the public. Plus, boat up to our dock to visit the Tiki Bar!
The Biergarten at Olbrich Park (Lake Monona)
The Biergarten is certainly a very family-friendly place! Kids tagging along with their parents/guardians often keep busy with our giant Jenga set, playing in the sandbox, or learning how to play bag toss. Biergarten patrons seem to especially enjoy the ability to bring their leashed dogs with them. May – August we offer live music every other Saturday in partnership with the Sugar Maple Festival, and local accordionist Mike Schneider makes an appearance about once a month all season long. Also, it’s hard to top our view of Madison and the Wisconsin State Capitol as the sun sets over Lake Monona.
Mariner’s Inn (Yahara River)
Mariner’s Inn not only offers Madison’s only Lobster Boil, served the last Thursday of the month from June through October, but also provides indoor and outdoor dining featuring live music overlooking the marina. Owned and operated by the von Rutenberg family since 1996, Mariner’s Inn celebrated its 57th year in business in 2023!
Betty Lou Cruises (Lake Mendota)
In the summer of 2023, Betty Lou Cruises celebrated its 25th season of private group charters and public cruises. Owned and operated by the von Rutenberg family since 1998, Betty Lou Cruises provides a one-of-a-kind dining experience that captures the essence of Madison. Day or night, cruise along Lake Mendota’s shoreline and enjoy a meal with views of the State Capitol, UW Madison Campus, Governor Nelson State Park, and more.
Springer’s of Lake Kegonsa (Lake Kegonsa)
Several things make Springer’s unique, including a location on the county snowmobile trail and on the proposed bike trail. Located across the street from Lake Kegonsa State Park where there are cross country ski trails, hiking trails, an abundance of wildlife, and a beach – with full public facilities! The lake bottom in front of the restaurant is sandy and shallow, so kayak-launching is quite easy from the piers. The Stoughton Conservation Club holds an Ice Fisheree every winter and headquarters at the restaurant. And, of course, the sunsets are out of this world!
Lakeside St. Coffee House (Monona Bay)
The Friday night “Bayside Music Series” features an eclectic mix of great music. Enjoy music with the sun setting over Monona Bay and the Madison skyline as a background. From jazz to bluegrass, Lakeside St. Coffee House offers a unique experience fit for the City of Madison.
Buck & Honey’s – Monona (Yahara River)
Every effort is made at Buck & Honey’s to make you feel as though you’ve dropped by an old friend’s house. A friend that has an undeniable passion for service and prepares amazingly fresh food. A friend with an upscale casual atmosphere, huge patios, live music, craft brews on tap, specialty craft cocktails, and an extensive wine list. A true friend, indeed!
Our mission is to consistently deliver creative, yet familiar food in a welcoming and vibrant atmosphere. We facilitate the fun to ensure each guest has a memorable experience at a great value.
The Edgewater (Lake Mendota)
For the last 75 years, The Edgewater has been “Madison’s Place” to stay and play. In addition to the property’s three restaurants, the urban resort offers a year-round calendar of events and activities for out-of-town guests and local Madisonians. This summer don’t miss our popular Bluegrass concerts, happening every Friday on the Grand Plaza. Or, take a cruise around Lake Mendota with a pontoon rental from the pier. A must see are the sunset views from The Statehouse and The Boathouse restaurants — unmatched anywhere on the lake!
Christy’s Landing (Lake Waubesa)
Family owned since 1936, Christy’s Landing is a classic lakeside Wisconsin tavern. Offering cold beer and great cocktails, you can dine and enjoy a drink in the comfortable bar or outside on the spacious patio overlooking beautiful Lake Waubesa! An outdoor tiki bar and volleyball courts add to the summer fun. With ample docking for your watercraft, it’s a great spot for casual meals and drinks. Christy’s Landing is also a proud host and sponsor of the annual Waubesa Surf ‘n Turf golf and fishing tournament, benefiting Clean Lakes Alliance.
Memorial Union (Lake Mendota)
Unique doesn’t begin to describe the Wisconsin Union’s Memorial Union and Memorial Union Terrace. It’s part concert venue for free music, art gallery and studio, outdoor recreation outlet, free movie theater, and, on top of all that, a highly-rated dining destination. The Terrace provides dozens of free events and low-cost activities. During warmer months, it’s a place for kayaking, canoeing, free outdoor concerts, free outdoor film showings, and outdoor art experiences. When cold temperatures envelop Wisconsin, Lake Mendota turns into an icy, gorgeous setting to use snowshoes rented from the Wisconsin Union’s outdoor recreation desk and to savor wintertime events, such as a freestyle snowboard and skiing competition.
More from the Greater Madison Lake Guide
This Lakeside Eats & Activities article originally was printed in the 2023 Greater Madison Lake Guide. Read more from the publication.