An outdoor table of pizza and beer at Chef Shack in Bay City
Chef Shack Bay City
In a land bisected by rivers, we can't let the lakeside spots get all the credit.
Psycho Suzi’s has the best boat-up patio on the river, what with all the torches, thatched awnings, and tiki drinks. Sitting there, eating your pizza with pineapple, almost makes you think the river could be in Hawaii. Almost. The Sample Room next door also has docks that lead up to a bucolic park-like setting and a relaxed covered patio nestled up to the historic building. Farther south, St. Anthony Main is finally becoming a real river-loving community with all the development around the Stone Arch Bridge. Aster Café has the most sought-after patio seats, always hopping with people sipping craft cocktails in groups, though we’re all still waiting to see what happens with the old Pracna spot. Down the way, Tuggs Tavern keeps it tavern-friendly with a pool table, beer rockets, stuffed burgers, and a deal of a happy hour. But the newest charmer is Jefe, a Mexican street food spot with a gorgeous old-world wood bar that has amped up the margarita quotient in the neighborhood.
Just North of Town
If there’s a more idyllic little river town than Marine on St. Croix, we challenge you to find it. Besides quaint houses, there’s a genuine slow pace to the living here that feels like Mayberry. The Marine General Store, a historic spot that’s been around since 1849, serves up plenty of sundries and deli sandwich specials, but it’s best known for ice cream. Next door, the Marine Café is where you get your coffee and pastries fix, but save room for a stop at the St. Croix Chocolate Company, which makes some of the most beautiful treats in the state. If it’s a burger and bump you seek, the Brookside Bar & Grill, which was originally built as a creamery in 1930 and has an actual brook flowing beneath it, is your best bet. It even has chicken pot pie to warm you up after a windy night on the river.
Just South of Town
Just past Hastings, at the confluence of the mighty Mississippi and the St. Croix River, sits the small town of Prescott, Wisconsin. It’s a great meet-up spot for boaters and bikers alike, which means it has a bunch of bars and more patio space than you’d ever believe. Brickyard Pub & Eatery has a round of stuffed burgers and two very chill patios, whereas Muddy Waters has a multi-leveled deck out back with a hot blues scene. Plenty of dive bars offer fun, but foodists should stick to the cute Kitchen Table, which takes it up a notch with smoked gouda mac ’n’ cheese and beer cheese fondue. Or just keep on the Great River Road until you hit Chef Shack Bay City.