It’s a cloudless evening and the sun is beating hot on your back when the server arrives with a cold, perspiring glass of rosé. You sit back in your chair and sip, the sound of lapping water playing the soundtrack to dinner’s first course.
Sound just about perfect? It’s also quite realistic, considering the bevy of prime waterside restaurant seating opportunities stretched across the state.
What’s more Minnesotan than sitting by a lake (we hear there are something like 10,000 of them, plus a river by the name of Mississippi) and soaking in the best of the non-snow season? Well, maybe sitting by a lake while downing some spectacular eats and drinks — everything from burgers and beers to tiki cocktails, shrimp tacos and octopus ceviche.
So work up an appetite and check out these 10 spots:
Red River Kitchen at City House: The food truck’s summer landing place, opening last year, might be one of the more unique patios in the state, sitting in an open-air, renovated grain elevator hard by the Mississippi.
What to order: The menu changes regularly, but tacos and Cuban sandwiches are regulars and cocktails are a must.
Find it: 258 Mill St., St. Paul (redriverkitchen.com)
Canal Park Brewing Co.: The closest thing to waterfront in Duluth (the lake walk lies between the patio and the lake) also often comes with a line on nice days. Put your name in and go wade among the smooth rocks of Lake Superior while you wait.
What to order: One of their inventive burgers, washed down with a house-brewed beer.
Find it: 300 Canal Park Dr., Duluth (canalparkbrewery.com)
6Smith: With two levels, the patio at this Wayzata behemoth has arguably the best view of Lake Minnetonka, plus plenty of intriguing fare for happy hour.
What to order: During the (early and late) happy hours, house wines are $6, tap beers are $4, oysters on the half shell are $2 apiece and several heftier dishes fall under $10.
Find it: 294 Grove Lane E., Wayzata (6smith.com)
Sandcastle: Doug Flicker’s lighthearted, kid-friendly lake palace has hit legendary status with its crafted take on simple, approachable beach food.
What to order: The Dog Flicker — a beef frank with kimchee, cilantro and a fried egg, and one of the refreshing house-made agua frescas.
Find it: 4955 W. Nokomis Pkwy., Mpls. (sandcastlempls.com)
Psycho Suzi’s: The Polynesian paradise makes full use of its proximity to the Mississippi, with plenty of patio seats that gaze along the shoreline.
What to order: A tiki drink, of course — perhaps a classic like the Mai Tai — and a big plate of spicy wings.
Find it: 1900 NE. Marshall St., Mpls. (psychosuzis.com)
Dock Cafe: On the edge of the lovely St. Croix River, this brick patio offers some of the best views in the metro area, and there’s plenty of potential on the menu, too.
What to order: Try the panko-crusted walleye or opt for something lighter, like the Caribbean scallops salad.
Find it: 425 Nelson St. E., Stillwater (dockcafe.com)
Nosh Restaurant & Bar: With an artful menu and a two-story patio that overlooks Lake Pepin’s picturesque marina, this farm-to-table restaurant has gained a summertime reputation.
What to order: Changes are frequent on the menu, but chef Greg Jaworski typically includes some tapas-like snacks and a paella as a centerpiece.
Find it: 310 S. Washington St., Lake City, Minn. (noshrestaurant.com)
Como Dockside: Cap a trip to the Como Park Zoo with a stop in the remade historic pavilion’s eatery with a New Orleans touch, or make Dockside the main event on one of many evenings featuring live music and movies on Como Lake.
What to order: At lunch or dinner, snag one of their famous fried catfish po boys. At brunch, shrimp and grits, and beignets with powdered sugar are enticing options.
Find it: 1360 N. Lexington Pkwy., St. Paul (comodockside.com)
Lola’s Lakehouse: Watch the boats go in and out at this venue, perched above the docks on Lake Waconia, or pull in your own vessel for a post-sailing treat.
What to order: The New England-tinged menu is loaded with seafood items, including during the notable brunch service, which includes crabcake Benedict.
Find it: 318 E. Lake St., Waconia (lolaslakehouse.com)
Birch’s on the Lake: Yes, there are western suburb waterfront options apart from Lake Minnetonka’s mob patio scene, including this charming brewpub with a stellar view.
What to order: Beer is the name of the game here, with Birch’s brewing everything from sours and raspberry shandies to coconut porters and Mexican chocolate milk stouts.
Find it: 1310 Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake (birchsonthelake.com)