Photo by Caitlin Abrams
Lola's Lakehouse in Waconia
Excelsior’s Water Street
At the far end of town where Water Street begins, stop at the new Kowalski’s for picnic fare and head down to the lakeside municipal park The Excelsior Commons to eat. Or meander a bit, starting with some live music and a smart glass of wine at 318 Café. If you can pass up the goodies at Patisserie Margo, you are strong indeed, but no one can miss pulling up a stool at Excelsior Brewing, one of the best and liveliest taprooms in the west metro. Shop your way down the street before you have to make a hard choice: chef-driven local foodery Coalition, casually raucous Irish bar Jake O’Connor’s, or chewy crust pizzas at Italian Victor’s on Water? That’s a hot corner. In the end you will get in line at the whimsical Licks Unlimited for a scoop of Superman ice cream, or stop at The Trolley for some Sebastian Joe’s before strolling the park or sitting on the city docks and watching the big boats come and go.
Waconia’s Main Street
While Lake Street is technically closer to the water, it’s the street a block south, Main Street, where the action is. Waconia Brewing has a great taproom that is all modern barnwood and good times, and there are often food trucks parked outside. Just down the block you’ll find the Iron Tap with 30 taps of craft beer, burgers, and barbecue, plus a rooftop patio that jams in summer. Next door at Frost & Steam, it’s a much more chill coffee café experience, plus ice cream for the kids. Chumly’s on Main is a local dive with Heggies Pizza and pool tables, which is sometimes just what the day requires. Head east to the shore for the water experience at Lola’s Lakehouse, where deck lounging with a bucket of peel ’n’ eat shrimp is a well-guarded Waconia tradition.
Wayzata’s Lake Street
Following the historic tracks that once delivered Twin Cities elites like James J. Hill to the lake, Lake Street’s in the middle of the action on Wayzata Bay. Head into the historic Boatworks Building where 6Smith knows how to pour a craft cocktail on the only rooftop deck in town. Or head next door to the freshly opened Wayzata Brew Works, which may be the state’s first boat-up taproom and brewstillery. Then stroll down Lake and make it a happy hour crawl: Gianni’s sidewalk patio for a see-and-be-seen spot for a Manhattan, McCormick’s Irish Pub for a Guinness, then CōV and its massive Hamptons-inspired patio for bubbles. At this point, you’ll need to eat something, so go lowbrow at The Muni (Wayzata’s municipal bar and grill) for wings, or get out of the sun and into some serious sushi and Japanese whisky at Sushi Fix. Hit Yogurt Lab before calling it a day.
White Bear Lake’s Lake Avenue
There’s so much summer action in the WBL! Admiral D’s is the anchor of Lake Avenue with a huge patio overlooking the lake, live music, and sturdy drinks. Up the road, Tally’s Dockside & CG Hooks BBQ is summer living at its best, with tons of outside seating, baskets of saucy Memphis-style barbecue, craft beer, ice cream for days, and a family-friendly way of living. Order the Frito Burrito Pie, oh my. If you want to class it up a bit, pop over to Acqua, which offers delicious rustic Italian-made fare with local ingredients served on two covered decks and a lakeside patio. Even though it’s finer dining, it’s still relaxed and easygoing; try the three-course tasting menu for $40. Afterward, head into the township proper and get a craft cocktail at Johnny Michael’s bar, The Alchemist.
Three Other On-Lake Spots Worth a Try
Birch’s on the Lake (Long Lake)
Quiet Long Lake is a great backdrop for sunsets, and the local crew team practices from this brewpub’s docks. Get a Peach Sour Ale with the mahi mahi tacos.
Charlie’s on Prior (Prior Lake)
In a total lighthouse-themed overhaul of the former Capt. Jack’s, Charlie’s is a more family friendly and has two levels of outdoor seating, plus docks.
The Caribbean (Lake Minnetonka)
Serving some of the meatiest hand-pattied burgers on the lake (order your temp, or it will come well done). It’s deck-only dining, easily the most chill place on ‘Tonka.