These days there’s outdoor dining here, there and everywhere. But you want something specific. The old-timey feel of lunch on the porch. Watching boats drift by on a river while you snack and sip. Or feeling cool amid lush greenery on a hot day. We have the options.
On the porch
There are not many places to choose from with old fashioned porches. The front deck at the house that is the site of Banzo, 2105 Sherman Ave., is sort of a porch-patio hybrid, and an enjoyable spot to indulge in the delights of the Mediterranean menu while overlooking the city of Madison’s Burrows Park. The F-Bomb, a combo of crispy falafel and spicy chopped chicken, is a good call, and go crazy ordering sides — hummus, beet salad, Moroccan carrots and hand-cut potato chips.
At a picnic table
Octopi Brewing at 1131 Uniek Drive, in an industrial park in Waunakee, is not an obvious spot, but on a hot summer night, the picnic tables out front are a welcoming gathering place to try outrageous flavors of hard seltzers and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers — paired with some of the best brisket tacos and french fries around.
Overlooking the vineyard
At Wollersheim Winery headquarters at 7876 Highway 188 outside of Prairie du Sac, visitors can gaze at the hillside vineyards while sipping a variety of wines by the glass, paired with a flatbread or a sampler platter with a baguette, olives, cornichons and a few local cheeses.
Next to the water
The Boathouse at the Edgewater Hotel, 1001 Wisconsin Place, gets you a comfy table on the lake level down next to the pier. Have a Mendota Colada to accompany the sunset over Lake Mendota.
Along the Yahara
Snag the right table at Buck and Honey’s Monona, 800 W. Broadway, and watch the boats float by on the Yahara as plates of the ridiculously popular bacon appetizer float by your table. Bacon will enhance any of the several varieties of old fashioneds on the menu — or is that the other way around?
On (the) Wisconsin
Vintage Brewing Sauk City, 600 Water St., has a big back deck overlooking the Wisconsin River. You might even spot an eagle. There are a handful of Vintage beers served only at this location, including the Cherry Bluff — a fruited sour that plays on the name of the local landmark and natural area, Ferry Bluff. Snacks are available at the bar, or order from the main restaurant menu inside. Bluegill fans take note: There’s a fried bluegill basket served not just Friday, but daily. The patio also welcomes well-behaved, leashed dogs.
Is it a secret if everybody already knows about it? The back patio at the Great Dane Downtown, at 123 E. Doty St., always feels like a secret, removed from traffic and construction on the street. Trees, hostas, ivy climbing the walls — it’s a green getaway. What to order? You likely already have a Great Dane fave. Have at it.
On the roof
Camp Trippalindee, 601 Langdon St., on the roof of The Graduate hotel near campus, boasts views of Lake Mendota, the Capitol, and the building-tops of Langdon Street. The summer camp vibe is enhanced by boozy Capri Sun knockoffs, Jell-o shots, burgers and brats, and s’mores kits.
On the farm
Sprouting Acres, an organic CSA farm at 1746 Highway 73, near Cambridge, holds on-the-farm pizza nights 2:30-8 p.m. the first and third Sundays from May through October, using products from the farm and baking the pies in a wood-fired oven. Pre-ordering can take place online (until 8 p.m. the night before), or order in person. The farm provides a few tables outside and indoor seating in the greenhouse, or BYO seating or blankets.
Surveying the greens
The Oaks Golf Course east of Madison between Sun Prairie and Cottage Grove at 4740 Pierceville Road, features the Oakleaf restaurant and bar. A long outdoor patio overlooks the course. The menu features typical clubhouse burgers and sandwiches, as well as less expected combinations. Cheese curds are the must-have appetizer.
Different day, different lake
Looking beyond familiar Mendota and Monona, there’s casual Fitz’s on the Lake just off of Highway 113 at County Road V at Okee, on Lake Wisconsin. Some folks who’ve been doing Sunday drives for a while say there’s nothing like Sunday fried chicken dinner on Lake Wisconsin.