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Summer is a time of transformation — down comforters turn into thin sheets, hot chocolate succumbs to chilled moscato and ice becomes our beloved bodies of water again. While soaking up the season out on the drink, be it Wolf or Winnebago, drop anchor at any one of these boat-friendly restaurants and savor the summer metamorphosis.
On the shores of the Fox River, Becket’s Restaurant in Oshkosh proves to be a triple-threat – claiming modern American eats, perfectly-muddled cocktails and intriguing architectural details all in one sitting.
Inspired by namesake Welton Becket’s modern and clean architectural aesthetic, Becket’s brings the same contemporary feel to their menu that the world-renowned architect brought to the Oshkosh City Center, which now houses the four-year-old eatery.
With a selection of starters that rivals the entree menu, including tenderloin lollipops, seared ahi tuna and fresh oysters on the half shell, boaters regaining their land legs may just opt for a series of small plates. If you’d rather not rock the boat, Kris Larson, who owns Becket’s with his wife Sarrah and Chef Mike Buckarma, says to simply call your order ahead and it will be delivered boatside upon your arrival.
Live musical performances occur outdoors every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night (weather permitting). But with boat docking directly on Becket’s patio, leaving the boat isn’t necessary. Construction is set to begin on Oshkosh’s anticipated Riverwalk which will “increase docking by four or five times” near the City Center, says Larson, making it even easier for boaters to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Becket’s all season.
If you can bring yourself to mingle with the boatless folks on land, separate dining and drinking lounges await on the patio, as do some of the freshest hand-crafted cocktails around thanks to Becket’s own herb garden. Larson recommends ordering a mojito so you can “watch the bartenders pick the herbs for your drink right before they make it.”
As you cruise out of sight, Larson suggests boaters check out the City Center’s epic eight-story atrium made of glass because it, along with pretty much everything else, just looks better from the water.
With a front row view of the Wolf River, Fin ‘n’ Feather Showboats in Winneconne is a destination for boaters who appreciate a little bling. “The Diamond of the Wolf” sparkles with a rich history and when it comes to the food, it dazzles.
This summertime dining staple is widely known for their everyday, made-from-scratch buffets – be it lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch.
“I’m not bragging. I’m not that kind of girl,” says owner Debbie Ryf. “But everyone says our [buffets] are the best.”
Fin ‘n’ Feather offers docking right in front of the restaurant for those arriving by boat, but there is additional public docking to the north and at the waterfront park to the south of the restaurant.
This season, Ryf is debuting new menu items including an antipasto appetizer and several summer salads. Ryf suggests boaters hankering for a bite grab a table on the waterfront deck and try one of their light, but satisfying salads, such as the pecan chicken or coconut shrimp.
Entertainment on Fin ‘n’ Feather’s deck is a time-honored tradition. Friday through Sunday, and even some Wednesdays, you can find family friendly bands and performing duos on the water’s edge. This summer Ryf will be offering diners new entertainment options like Diamonds on the Deck, a showcase of all things "ice," and several fashion shows through partnerships with local retailers.
After you’ve refueled and rehydrated, Ryf suggests you make like the locals and head north along the river to Lake Winneconne. A short 15 minute cruise will bring you to the “Weed Bed” on the eastern edge of Lake Poygan, a favorite anchoring and swimming spot of Ryf’s regulars. With the enticing waters and sandy lake floor, waiting the suggested hour before jumping ship might prove difficult.
If you’ve drifted up the Wolf River to New London and hunger strikes, you’re in luck. The Waters Supper Club & Lounge serves up some of the most crave-worthy Americana classics this side of the Mississippi.
The no-nonsense menu features steaks, seafood, chicken and, of course, a Friday fish fry among other nightly specials. Although Jim Adrian, co-owner of The Waters, says his loyalty lies with any of the combination dinners, such as the steak and shrimp, where you can sample the best of both worlds.
The Waters owns roughly 150 feet of docking space so there is always plenty of room to accommodate seafaring folk. A sizable outdoor seating area is just steps from the water, so if you just can’t take your eyes off your prized pontoon (who can blame you?) while dining, you don’t have to.
But Adrian says his restaurant offers diners, by land or by sea, more than just great eats and entertainment.
“I believe we are the furthest place north on the Wolf River where you can get gas,” he says. Boaters can refuel their watercraft with the riverside gas pump and hit the open water for round two.
Where the Wolf River and Partridge Lake meet you’ll find Ted’s Grandview Supper Club, a 41-year-old legend of a restaurant boasting some of the most picturesque dining room views in Fremont.
If arriving on water, Ted’s docking area can accommodate at least 10 boats, but it does fill up on the weekends. Owner Peter Lantvit Sr. suggests visiting earlier in the week on Wednesday or Thursday if you are seeking a more leisurely pace (Ted’s is closed Monday and Tuesday).
But if being seen is what you’re after, it’s all about the weekends at Ted’s. Kicking off with a Friday fish fry buffet (yes, buffet) straight to the Sunday brunch, menu offerings at Ted’s are unpretentious, but still pack plenty of punches. Lantvit encourages ordering the slow-roasted prime rib, but if you happen to cruise in when the ahi tuna and couscous with wasabi sauce is the nightly feature, you may need to make an exception.
A summer spectacular anticipated by land-lovers and boaters alike is Ted’s Bayou Bash. This event, occurring July 7, is in its tenth year and will feature swamp-rockers Copperbox as the outdoor musical entertainment. But Ted’s Bayou Bash claim to fame is certainly the evening show of impressive pyrotechnics.
“At dusk we put on a phenomenal fireworks display,” Lantvit says. “And I mean phenomenal.”
The hour-long, Independence Day-worthy show over the Wolf River offers spectators a number of vantage points, but undoubtedly the best place to gawk is on Ted’s patio, cold beverage in hand.
A visit to Norton’s of Green Lake offers an iconic dining experience on the north shore of “Big Green.” Since 1948, Norton’s has been serving locals and vacationers their brand of unfussy, yet upscale American fare.
The restaurant offers a unique hybrid of fine and casual dining. The main indoor dining room, with a fantastic view of the water, linen tablecloths and cozy fireplace, has a homey feel. For boaters fresh from the lake, Norton’s offers a plethora of alfresco options. An upper outdoor lounge, deck, two large patios and waterfront tiki bar (with $1 beers all season long) are up for the taking.
“Our demographics are changing,” says Mike Havey, who owns Norton’s with his wife, Jill. “Most people want casual, swimsuit/t-shirt sit-on-the-deck dining.”
Havey says Norton’s outdoor dining spaces are a favorite of diners arriving by boat who are looking for a more laid-back ambiance. Truly epicurean boaters can call in lunch orders, even a bottle of wine if they wish, and have them delivered right to the dock. For dinner, Havey suggests the Canadian walleye, a Norton’s classic, but you can’t go wrong with any of the fresh fish on the menu.
In addition to great grub, brews and views, Norton’s hosts events throughout the summer like a free waterski show every July with skiers from the Pewaukee Waterski Club, Sunday jazz and outdoor performances on Saturday evenings.
A new dock was completed three years ago, so swashbucklers should have plenty of room to land their vessels. Havey does have a piece of advice for boat-docking novices.
“The main thing is speed,” he says. “Creep in slowly and under control. Slower speeds are more forgiving. But practice makes perfect.”
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