Whether by powerboat or paddle, there are plenty of waterfront dining options that are luring boaters during the summer dining season. Establishments are hoping customers drop anchor for a while as a new trend in waterfront dining emerges. FOX CITIES Magazine has taken note of restauranteurs who have set sail on a course to offer boaters specialized menus, a place to rest their head or the opportunity to enjoy the water from another perspective by making their eateries an oasis for easy access, electricity and much needed fuel-ups for both watercraft and water lovers.
Dockside Tavern Food & Spirits
“Any of the places that are on the river, I think part of the attraction is outdoor dining,” says Brian Lammey, general manager of Dockside Tavern Food & Spirits in Oshkosh. “Our docks are usually full on the weekend.”
Dockside has 48 tables for outdoor seating and 12 slips to accommodate all types of boats. The restaurant opens everyday at 11 a.m. and serves the same menu all day. Live music also is featured on the patio Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Lammey shares. Performers are posted on the restaurant’s website and Facebook page.
“I think that is a little bit of a draw,” Lammey says. “We do a lot of one- and two-piece bands.” Larger groups typically perform on the weekends.
“People are coming and going all day — whether they’re going to Lake Winnebago or Buttes des Mortes, we’re in a pretty convenient location being right at the mouth of the river,” Lammey adds.
“The ease of the slips, how many there are, how big they are and the entertainment,” is what draws customers to Hagemeister Park in Green Bay, says General Manager Curt Cornell.
Situated in The City Deck area, 100 slips are available for day use to boaters, pre-orders and food deliveries are available, and ice also is for sale. Hagemeister Park also offers live entertainment on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Another draw is craft beer. The Packers-themed eatery has more than 220 beers available and 29 on tap; the majority of which are craft options, including local selections.
“We have everything from appetizers and wings up to steaks,” Cornell says. “It’s casual, but nice.”
The Lake House Supper Club
Being across from the 90-slip Menasha Marina was appealing to Kelly Taylor when she opened the Lake House Supper Club with her husband, Stuart, in the former Nauts Landing location in Menasha.
“We wanted it to be upscale food in a pretty casual atmosphere so you could feel comfortable if you’re coming off a bicycle or a boat,” Kelly says. The Taylors also have been working with the marina to have menus available, and will even run orders over to boaters.
The supper club serves brunch on weekends, and cocktails, appetizers and dinner Wednesday through Sunday. Items like prime rib, steak, seafood, hearty appetizers and Friday fish specials like sea bass have been a draw, Kelly says.
“We have a boat and what I find is it’s nice if you have somewhere to go instead of just going around the water,” she adds. “Even if it’s just drinks and an appetizer on the deck, it seems they’re just looking for somewhere to enjoy a weekend.”
The Taylors have been approached to consider opening for lunch as well and may be adding that on Fridays in fall to test the waters.
Mr. Brew’s Taphouse
“Really our draw is our craft beer selection. We have 48 on tap and fresh ingredients (and) meat from The Meat Block,” says Tammy Verhagen of what’s drawing customers to Mr. Brew’s Taphouse, which recently opened in Appleton near Lock No. 4. The beers have changed since opening as well and will continue to do so.
“We do have options for people who don’t want hamburgers,” says Tammy of their non-beef black bean and turkey burger options. “People seem to like them as much as the burgers.”
A favorite burger that customers can’t seem to get enough of is the Peanut Butter Burger. Because the restaurant is a franchise, the Verhagens have adhered to menu offerings. Boaters are welcome to call ahead for take-out orders or can dock and dine in by following the walking path. The dock allows for eight to a dozen boats to tie off comfortably.
“To stop for an appetizer, you’re able to get off the boat and enjoy a soda or beer,” Craig says. “If they want to get it to go, we can do that, too.” Mr. Brew’s offers two levels of indoor seating and an outdoor, fenced-in patio.
The Verhagens wanted a restaurant that was comfortable for families. Craig also enjoys being able to watch wildlife including eagles, pelicans, herons, ducks and turtles. He’s hoping to work more with the Fox River Navigational System Authority to increase boat traffic.
Nauti Turtle Bar & Grill
A new riverside bar known as the Nauti Turtle Bar & Grill, is the latest venture from Jim VanderGeest who also owns Ted’s Grandview Supper Club in Fremont. The space, with 82 dining chairs and a dozen bar stools, is on the same property as the established supper club.
VanderGeest is catering to the waterfront crowd by offering free electric service at the docks for up to 14 boats to plug into overnight, along with two bathrooms with showers. To-go packages, ice and beer also are available for purchase.
The entrepreneur says he’s trying to “utilize the waterfront dining experience” and sees watercraft traffic turnover throughout open hours.
“There are only a couple of restaurants on the water,” says VanderGeest referring to the Wolf River. “There’s more boaters than restaurants right now.”
The Nauti Turtle offers a laid-back, island vibe with decor including stamped cement and sun shades over the patio. Diners also can enjoy Caribbean-style music and live acoustic tunes on the weekend. The scaled-down menu, which is different than Ted’s, features salads, wraps, sandwiches, burgers, appetizers, pizzas and a daily special, VanderGeest shares.
“They (boaters) come in during their lunch time, get back on the boat and then it gets busy again for dinner,” he adds. The Nauti Turtle is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to dusk with the full menu offered until 4 p.m., and pizzas and appetizers available after 4 p.m.
River View Diner
River View Diner in Little Chute “has a beautiful dock,” says manager Kurt Koehler.
The dock accommodates easily half a dozen watercraft from powerboats to kayaks and includes electricity.
“We would certainly welcome more boaters,” Koehler adds. “We’re looking at adding more signage down there.”
Because the diner, which is attached to the Hawk’s Nest, is on top of a hill it may be tricky to be seen by those who pass by. Still, Koehler, and owners Gary and Dorrie Konetzke, are entertaining new possibilities.
“There have been a few that have stopped for a meal or they’ll have a drink at the bar,” Koehler says of boaters who have come into the restaurant. “We certainly want to build that part of the business. … Our menu has changed and has grown tremendously since we opened.” The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch and later on Fridays for fish frys.
River View Diner has been open a little over a year now and has seasonal options, like garden and chef salads, along with nachos for the summer.
TJ’s Harbor Restaurant
With panoramic views of Lake Winnebago and two levels of outdoor dining connected to TJ’s Harbor Restaurant, the Oshkosh dining establishment is hopping during summer.
TJ’s plans to open a new screened-in space with a glass garage door during this year’s EAA AirVenture that will be open to the public following the event, says Brad Lind who is a partner in the restaurant with TJ Rodgers. The roughly 800-square-foot new space includes a bar area, high-top tables and a few other tables for seating that will accommodate 40-50 people. This is the first half of creating a courtyard area that can be used year-round to increase traffic for parties, holidays or in inclement weather, Lind says. The second facility will have a capacity of 99 people, he adds.
“We have 980 feet of harbor area and you could not get another boat in there,” Lind says of the traffic he sees from boaters each summer. The stretch offers tie-off docking. “Our problem is our harbor. When it’s full, it’s full.”
“The harbor is usually packed on the weekends. We have a line of boaters waiting to get in,” adds General Manager Kristin Treichel.
Live entertainment from local bands also is available on Sundays.
“When you come to TJ’s, we don’t have frozen. We do our best to have something a little different,” says Lind. The restaurant specializes in items like chicken, prime rib and duck cooked on a rotisserie, says Treichel, but also offers steak and pasta, with locally sourced products.
The Waters Supper Club & Lounge
Taking advantage of the Wolf River in New London, The Waters sees mostly locals with pontoon boats, but offers a 140-foot long, tie-off dock, says Jim Adrian, owner and manager.
The Waters features specials every day and entertainment on the deck on Sunday afternoons. Information is posted on The Waters’ website.
When the water is high, Adrian says he sees more traffic. He has a sign out front to alert passing traffic of his establishment, which features a full soup and salad bar, pizzas, reubens, chicken sandwiches, burgers, chicken dinners, steak, seafood and fish frys on Friday. Adrian also has grab and go options.
“Some of them will come up here knowing that they’ll get a steak diner,” he adds. “Or, sandwiches. It doesn’t take long to cook a burger when the grill is hot.”
In addition to refueling customers, The Waters also is a fueling station for boats in need of gas.