Whether you’d prefer to pull up to a pier or would rather reserve a romantic table for two with a view, Madison’s many lakes and winding waterways serve up dining designed with relaxation in mind. Try one of these 10 spots next time you’re in town for brunch, lunch or dinner.

The Boathouse at The Edgewater: Waterfront Dining
© SV Heart Photography

© SV Heart Photography



Pier Side Service: Recent renovations at The Edgewater hotel brought a bigger pier with 40 slips and pier attendants so Lake Mendota boaters can tie up worry-free while enjoying its eateries. The Boathouse is located at lake level, and features fish fry, burgers, brats and a selection of craft brews. Or, get grab-and-go pizza and snacks at The Icehouse, located at the base of The Plaza.

Meanwhile, on Lake Monona: Paisan’s Restaurant has been a favorite for Italian since the ‘50s, but it’s only in more recent years that this family-friendly spot added a lake view to its menu. Classic, red-and-white-checked cloths cover the tables dotting the patio, and set the scene for a refreshing Porta Salad, authentic pizzas and pasta dishes.

Seafood by the Lakeshore: It’s no secret that Sardine is known for its oyster happy hour, which takes place every day from 4-6 p.m. But its bistro-style dining also features French and American fare for dinner—and brunch on both Saturday and Sunday. All with a stunning view, too!

Mariner's Inn: Waterfront Dining
© Mariner's Inn

© Mariner's Inn



On the Marina: The Mariner’s Inn was the von Rutenberg family’s first restaurant and is almost as famous for its steaks and seafood as it is for its spot in the marina on the north end of Lake Mendota. You won’t want to miss the sunset view from the patio—or the authentic antiques inside that create this restaurant’s renowned ambience.

Mom-Approved: Most people have probably perched on the porch at the Nau-ti-Gal, nestled along the Yahara River at the north end of Lake Mendota. This casual dining spot serves lunch, dinner and snacks, but may be most famous for its Mother’s Day brunch and bottomless mimosas.

Aye, Aye: Captain Bill’s, located on Lake Mendota, gets two nods from those in-the-know: this place does both seafood and setting well. Appetizer and entrée menus feature everything from crab cakes to lobster, and on chilly nights a giant round fireplace awaits—a great gathering spot for a group of friends.

All Aboard: From April through October, the family even offers the chance to dine aboard the Betty Lou, a chartered cruise around Lake Mendota or Monona that comes complete with a captain, bar and buffet service—all you have to do is enjoy!

Monona Terrace Garden: Waterfront Dining
© Monona Terrace

© Monona Terrace



Top of the Terrace: If you’re a Frank Lloyd Wright fan, you’ll love the Lake Vista Café at Monona Terrace®. Some say it’s a hidden gem, but being located atop an architectural masterpiece makes it one of Madison’s most visible—and visited—dining destinations.

Comforts of Home: Just 20 miles west in nearby Spring Green—home to Taliesin, Wright’s residence, studio, theater and farm—is the Riverview Spring Green Restaurant at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center. This inviting restaurant features windows that span the entire length of the building, giving guests an unforgettable view overlooking the scenic Wisconsin River.