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Patio party
Summer is the time to visit these popular spots and hidden gems

Photos by Matt Haas

July 2015

When summer breezes through town, we head outdoors, as much and as often as possible, and we carry that sentiment with us when we dine out. It’s patio season, and most bars and restaurants in town boast some form of outdoor seating, whether it’s a few tables crowded on a sidewalk or plush couches arranged around fire pits.

But given our city’s enthusiasm for al fresco dining, sometimes our favorite spots get crowded. Never fear — if one patio is overflowing, there’s always another one to try. Here are some of our favorites, along with some hidden gems to visit when your favorite patio is packed.


Well Known: Harbor House

One of the best places to catch a breeze off of Lake Michigan is the patio at Harbor House, and two of the best times to visit are on Sunday and Mondays from 4 to 7 p.m., when the restaurant offers Music on the Patio through the end of August. 550 N. Harbor Drive, (414) 395-4900,

Hidden Gem: Café Calatrava

Though not nearly as grand as Harbor House’s, the Café Calatrava inside the Milwaukee Art Museum boasts a little lakefront patio. Just remember, it’s only open when the art museum is open, but it does serve Sunday brunch. 700 N. Art Museum Drive, (414) 224-3200,

Walker’s Point

Well Known: La Merenda

A raised deck with pergola and planters, including those filled with herbs and veggies for use in the restaurant, makes La Merenda’s patio one of the plushest in town. 125 E. National Ave., (414) 389-0125,

Hidden Gem: Crazy Water

As expansive as La Merenda’s patio is, Crazy Water’s is as comfy. Small and secluded, this patio boasts a fountain and greenery. 839 S. 2nd St., (414) 645-2606,

Bay View

Well Known: Palomino

As soon as the weather warms up, patrons — and sometimes their pooches — hang out at Palomino’s oversize concrete patio, underneath the string of lights and inhaling the scent of herbs from the planters. 2491 S. Superior St., (414)747-1007,

Hidden Gem: Odd Duck

Herbs also grow in planters at Odd Duck’s little patio. Unlike Palomino’s palatial sidewalk digs, Odd Duck’s patio is cozy, and you almost feel as if you’re visiting a friend’s backyard. 2352 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 763-5881,

Wolf Peach

East Side

Well Known: Wolf Peach

You won’t get any better views of Milwaukee’s downtown than from Wolf Peach’s perched patio on Hubbard Street. This is one of the best urban patios anywhere. 1818 N. Hubbard St., (414) 374-8480,

Hidden Gem: Balzac Wine Bar

The trellis, lights and almost tucked-in feel of Balzac’s patio make you feel like you’re a world away from the action of Brady Street. It’s the perfect place to sip a glass of wine under the stars. 1716 N. Arlington Place, (414) 755-0099,

Milwaukee River

Well Known: Horny Goat Hideaway

Any patio at a restaurant named the Horny Goat Hideaway seems like it would be raucous and loud, but while it is expansive, it is rather upscale, with plush seats, fire pits and a great river view with plenty of space for boats to dock. This patio gets packed in summer, but fortunately, it’s usually large enough for everyone who wants to sit outside. 2011 S. 1st St. (414) 482-4628,

Hidden Gem: The Yard at the Iron Horse Hotel

Yes, you do hear Harleys that roar up to the patio, but the Yard at the Iron Horse fits the rest of the boutique hotel vibe — both Harley enthusiasts and ladies who lunch will feel right at home. And if your dog fits into your sidecar, take him along for a jaunt, as the Yard is dog friendly. The Yard sometimes features live entertainment, but best of all is the pizza oven right there. 500 W. Florida St., (888) 543-4766,

River Patio

Well Known: Palmer’s Steakhouse

Wooded and secluded, this patio feels like it’s in a forest preserve, not attached to a fine steakhouse with the Bark River bubbling below. 122 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland, (262) 369-3939,

Hidden Gem: The Anvil Pub & Grille

Though it faces Cedar Creek, not a river, the patio at the Anvil is equally idyllic and serene, especially since it overlooks the dam. N700-W6340 Bridge Road, Cedarburg, (262) 376-2161,

Okauchee Lake

Well Known: Golden Mast Inn

Many people pull their boats up to the patio; it has been a regional favorite for years. Anytime is a good time to visit, but one of the best nights is on Wednesday to enjoy live music with a water view. W349 N5293 Lacys Lane, Okauchee, (262) 567-7047,

Hidden Gem: Le Rendez-Vous

If you aren’t making a trip to Paris this summer, you can pretend you’re visiting France if you sit outside on the patio of Le Rendez-Vous. Sip a glass of chablis, nibble on some crepes, and you’ll be transported away. N52 W35002 Lake Drive, Okauchee, (262) 468-4038,

North Shore

Well Known: Harvey’s Central Grille

This popular patio offers both screened-in and open-air options. The screened-in patio is perfect for those nights when mosquitoes are biting, and the open-air patio is perfect for nights when you want to sit outside and enjoy the stars next to a lovely fireplace pit. 1340 W. Town Square Road, Mequon, (262) 241-9589,

Hidden Gem: The Sunset Patio at the River Club of Mequon

The sunset patio overlooks the final holes of this private golf club, but while the view is nice earlier in the day, it gets its name from the setting sun that sets over the greens. Best time to visit is Wednesday nights when the club hosts its free concert series, Nights on the Nines. 12400 N. Ville Du Parc Drive, Mequon, (262) 242-1400,


This story ran in the July 2015 issue of: