Just Add Water

What can make a local eatery into one of summer’s hottest spots? A waterfront view. Here, our top 10 picks for dining a la aqua.

A funny thing happens to our internal compasses in summer: they face due water. ¶ Like lemmings, we flee for the lake, head to the beach, hop in canoes—anything to make the most of this short season before it freezes over. We also like to eat in plain view of the water, preferably someplace where we can dip a toe in afterward. Whether you’re craving an umbrella drink or diver scallops, these fine establishments serve every order with a generous side of shoreline.


Acqua Restaurant and Wine Bar

THE VIEW: White Bear Lake
While downtown White Bear Lake has charm in spades, waterfront dining worth the drive was in short supply until Acqua landed on the western shore. The rustic, seasonally driven Italian restaurant and wine bar owes its culinary prowess to Campiello alums—general manager Daron Close and executive chef Chris Walen—and its charm to the cozy two-story house it occupies. Take your Pinot Gris on the patio overlooking the marina.
ORDER: Mussels in white wine, ragu alla bolognese, butterscotch budino with caramel.
DETAILS: 4453 Lake Ave. S., White Bear Lake, 651-407-7317, acquawbl.com

Aster Café

THE VIEW: Mississippi River
Since reopening last spring under its new owners, Aster Café has quickly become the most popular kid on the St. Anthony Main block. It’s impossible to deny the allure of live music, a bohemian vibe, and the incredibly friendly staff. This year, Aster’s substantial patio promises to spill over with Nordeast hipsters and the downtown happy-hour set, all undoubtedly drawn to the city skyline and stiff tea-infused cocktails.
ORDER: Polenta fries with romesco sauce, the happy hour cheese plates and flatbreads.
DETAILS: 125 Main St. SE, Mpls., 612-379-3138, aster-cafe.com

Bread and Pickle

THE VIEW: Lake Harriet
For a proper picnic in the park, head to Lake Harriet where restaurateur Kim Bartmann (Barbette, Red Stag, Bryant Lake Bowl) has opened her newest outpost. Located inside the concession building, Bread & Pickle should not only fill the foodie void on the Minneapolis chain’s southernmost lake, but do so with classic Bartmann creativity. Order your basket online, then pick it up when you’re ready to picnic.
ORDER: Fresh salads, grass-fed beef burgers, locally baked bread, and a blanket on which to enjoy your seasonal spread.
DETAILS: 4135 W. Lake Harriet Pkwy., Mpls., breadandpickle.com

Dock Café

THE VIEW: St. Croix River
A hotbed for antique shopping and bar hopping, downtown Stillwater offers endless options for al fresco dining and imbibing. The Dock Café falls on the more genteel end of the spectrum. Lined with floor to ceiling windows and a leafy deck, the Dock does fresh fish and steak best. For a romantic evening, make a reservation for the five-course dinner followed by a gondola ride.
ORDER: The thyme-roasted Atlantic salmon for dinner, and the steak salad with warm bacon vinaigrette for lunch.
DETAILS: 425 E. Nelson St., Stillwater, 651- 430-3770, dockcafe.com

Lola’s Lakehouse

THE VIEW: Lake Waconia
Here on lush Lake Waconia, it’s more about basking in the sun than bellying up to the bar. Formerly Nancy’s Landing, the charming Lola’s is like the family-friendly version of Lord Fletcher’s. Dock your boat in the marina or make the drive from the inner circle for a day at the beach capped off by a cozy fish supper and stellar sunset views.
ORDER: Crispy fish and chips, fresh oysters, meaty crab cakes, and stone-fired pizza for the kids.
DETAILS: 318 E. Lake St., Waconia, 952-442-4954, lolaslakehouse.com

Lord Fletcher’s Old Lake Lodge

THE VIEW: Lake Minnetonka
The social epicenter of Lake Minnetonka and a favorite destination for city dwellers, Lord Fletcher’s offers superb people watching and walleye eating. Hit the outdoor deck to gawk at yachts and their high-rolling owners, or retreat inside to the Old Lake Lodge to sip chardonnay over lobster tail. Come one, come all, but don’t forget to pop your collar.
ORDER: A frosty beverage, walleye dinner, surf and turf.
DETAILS: 3746 Sunset Dr., Spring Park, 952-471-8513, lordfletchers.com

Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge

THE VIEW: Mississippi River
There’s absolutely nothing psycho about wanting to grab your closest friends and while away the hot summer days under Suzi’s palm-thatched umbrellas. And with stiff tiki drinks, kitschy appetizers, and a riverfront patio, it won’t be hard. After moving into the old Gabby’s space, this Nordeast favorite is bigger, better, and delightfully tackier than ever.
ORDER: Anything with an umbrella, Grain Belt Premium, Brown Sugar Babies, dry-rub wings, and the Barbie Q. pizza.
DETAILS: 1900 Marshall St. NE, Mpls., 612-788-9069, psychosuzis.com

Sea Change

THE VIEW: Mississippi River
It’s hard to imagine, but Tim McKee’s sustainably sourced, impeccably fresh seafood tastes even better on Sea Change’s outdoor patio overlooking the Mississippi. The Guthrie’s refined yet casual restaurant is a pre-theater no-brainer, but shouldn’t be overlooked for any summer evening when a plate of chilled oysters sounds more appealing than firing up the barby.
ORDER: Spicy shrimp sandwich, the burger with fried egg, whatever crisp white wine Bill Summerville is recommending.
DETAILS: 806 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-225-6499, seachange.com

The Tin Fish

THE VIEW: Lake Calhoun
Loved, hated, but never ignored, thanks to its endlessly long lines and steady waft of deep-fried fish, the Tin Fish holds court at the Lake Calhoun Pavilion from April to mid-October. If you’re lucky, you might be able to nab an Adirondack chair. Otherwise, take a stroll with your seafood after the dinner bell rings, signifying that your order is ready.
ORDER: Quickly, please, and keep it simple with the fried-fish sandwiches and grilled-fish tacos.
DETAILS: 3000 E. Calhoun Pkwy., Mpls., 612-823-5840, thetinfish.net

Urban Eatery

THE VIEW: Lake Calhoun
Watch the world go by from the sidewalk patio of Urban Eatery, the new bistro-bar at Calhoun Beach Club. Another crowd-pleasing concept from the Crave restaurant group, Urban Eatery keeps the see-and-be-seen post-sunbathing crowd coming back with its ample indoor and outdoor seating, twice daily happy hours, and panoramic view of the lake.
ORDER: Cocktails, happy hour specials, grilled-chicken banh mi sandwiches, tomato-and-avocado pizza.
DETAILS: 2730 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-920-5000, myurbaneatery.com

Elizabeth Dehn is a former editor at Minnesota Monthly. She blogs at Beautybets.com.