By Brian Thalhammer | Photo courtesy of Visit Lake Geneva
Even better than a meal shared with good friends, impeccable food and great weather is one enjoyed in a sun-soaked atmosphere featuring a gorgeous lake view — and maybe even a few fruit-garnished cocktails. As the summer weather brings everyone outside, the Geneva Lake area transforms into a small, sacred paradise filled with sunny patios, photogenic white piers and the unique beauty of its lake views. So we decided to highlight a few of our favorite local options for lakeside dining.
For a casual dining experience, foodies can head to Chuck’s Lakeshore Inn in Fontana, a “homey, lakeside eatery” serving cold drinks, juicy burgers, pizza and other local favorites, including an exquisite, homemade lobster roll. The building that originally housed Chuck’s dated back to 1891, when it was built by a local doctor as a family residence. There has been a bar and restaurant on the site since at least the 1940s, with the current iteration dating to 1969 when it was purchased by the late Gordy Whowell. A fire in 1988 destroyed the original building, but Whowell’s son Jamie and his wife rebuilt it almost identical to the previous structure. One thing that’s never changed is their unrelenting focus on “great food, generous drinks and friendly service that has always made Chuck’s a tradition,” according to the restaurant’s website. With a spectacular east-facing view of Geneva Lake, public boat parking nearby, outdoor seating and live entertainment on summer weekends, Chuck’s is a fantastic casual dining experience for anyone seeking a sunny “staycation.”
For a relaxing harborside meal, head to The Waterfront at the Abbey Resort in Fontana, which offers an easygoing atmosphere where diners can enjoy lunch, dinner and drinks paired with a perfectly-framed view of the Abbey Marina, and Geneva Lake beyond. In the dining room or on the patio, enjoy specialties like the smoked brisket BBQ mac ‘n cheese or mouthwatering BBQ ahi tuna tostadas, while ogling the boats moored in the marina. Try the restaurant’s signature “Fire on the Water” cocktails while enjoying live music. And on Fridays, the menu features a popular fish fry. For boaters interested in stopping at The Waterfront, there are a handful of boat parking spots on the Fontana Municipal Pier, across the street from the Abbey, and from there, you can easily seek out this little piece of paradise.
A “purveyor of handcrafted cocktails, scratch dishes and a sprawling deck with sunny lake views,” is how The Boat House Bar & Grill in Lake Geneva describes itself. This casual eatery next to Big Foot Beach State Park is a destination for anyone who enjoys great food, well-made drinks and a perfect sunset view over the lake. With a menu consisting of made- to-order appetizers, tantalizing salads, pizza (including a gluten-free option!), tacos, burgers and more, The Boat House aims to impress. A large parking lot and boat parking at the Boat House pier allows visitors to join in on the fun regardless of their transportation method. The restaurant’s spacious deck and wraparound bar gives diners plenty of room to kick back and take in the unparalleled west-facing lakefront views while enjoying live music.
For a slightly more elegant dining experience, Pier 290 in Williams Bay is a lakeside restaurant serving up all things “lake life” year- round. With its reputation as a place for elevated food with daily specials and live music, Pier 290 is a great spot for happy hour deals, boozy brunches and meals in a quintessential, on-the-water atmosphere. Pier 290 gives diners several seating options — from the dining room, to the front deck, to the outdoor bar under a covered canopy, to the lakefront beach area with firepits — all of which afford incredible views of the lake. The weekend brunch menu features dishes like house-made corned beef hash and quiche Lorraine. For dinner, try the pan-fried walleye or Chilean sea bass. For those who prefer more traditional offerings, opt for the homemade meatloaf, burgers and steaks — all of which have their own passionate following.
For over 136 years, the historic Baker House in Lake Geneva has been a recognizable landmark on the lakefront. Built in 1885 as a summer home for Robert H. Baker, throughout the years, it has also served as a sanitarium and even a speakeasy during Prohibition. Today, the Baker House stands as a historic, boutique hotel — with an incredible restaurant that defines a truly luxurious dining experience. Popular menu items include the signature crab cakes, steak frites and classic fish-n-chips — all paired with a timeless view of the Lake Geneva’s spectacular lakefront. A Sunday brunch menu features made-to-order, farm- fresh omelets, classic breakfast options and a bottomless mimosa package. Whether you’re spending the night at the hotel or simply looking for a dining option that will transport you back in time, the Baker House is an unrivaled spot.
A “flair on flavor” defines Abbey Springs Yacht Club in Fontana, a members-only lakefront restaurant focused on pleasing the tastebuds of diners hungry for the finer things in life. (An amenity of the Abbey Springs subdivision, a gated community, the Abbey Springs Yacht Club sells dining memberships regardless of residency.) The restaurant offers beautiful views of the lake and the community’s marina, and offers members a restaurant dedicated to impressing the palate, with menu options like mussels paired with coconut milk and curry, elaborate salads, pastas (short rib gnocchi is a highlight), and entrees such as the braised lamb shank and macadamia-crusted grouper. The location and focus on excellent food make a club membership worth having year after year.