By and large, there’s no need to sell Chicagoans on the pleasures of Lake Geneva. A popular Wisconsin resort town that’s 80 miles northwest of the city, the lakeside location and rustic charm have long drawn Illinois residents seeking an idyllic retreat. The late Hugh Hefner in 1968 even chose the area for his first Playboy resort. That club is now long gone, but visitors are devoted to Lake Geneva’s other dining institutions: restaurants and bars develop passionate followings over decades, some for even more than a century. From upscale steaks and surf and turf to lakeside fish fries and locally roasted coffee, visitors will find plenty of delights for diners of all ages.Read More
Where to Eat While Visiting Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Find everything from fish fries to prime steaks in this popular resort city
Hawk's View Golf Club
In Wisconsin, fish fries are a way of life. Tail Feathers, this picturesque golf club’s restaurant, serves up popular renditions exclusively on Fridays in the form of crispy beer-battered cod and breaded lake perch filets. It all goes down perfectly with a brandy Old Fashioned — a regional staple.
Next Door Pub & Pizzeria
Consensus around pizza is a rare phenomenon, but Lake Geneva locals and visitors agree that four-decade-old institution Next Door Pub reigns supreme among the top pizzerias in town. Casual and family-friendly, the restaurant features thin hearth-fired pies like the Pub’s Famous Garbage (sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions). It also has an extensive menu of burgers, pasta, sandwiches, and four kinds of Bloody Marys.
Lake Geneva Pie Co
There’s nothing slick or showy about Lake Geneva Pie Co. — just simple, stellar fruit and cream pies in nostalgic flavors like banana cream, lemon meringue, and strawberry rhubarb, all inside a golden crust. The kitchen also puts out top-notch chicken pot pies and rich quiches stuffed with bacon, cheese, and vegetables.
Topsy Turvy Brewery
Topsy Turvy is located inside a 110-year-old neo-Gothic church complete with intricate stained glass windows. Owner Dan Schuld is originally from Chicago’s Northwest Suburbs but he’s fully embraced Wisconsin drinking culture, serving local brews like That’s No Moon witbier and 262 Lake Life pilsner.
Avant Cycle Cafe
The quaint charm of Lake Geneva is arguably best enjoyed on a leisurely bike ride. Enter Avant Cycle Cafe, a local coffee roaster and bicycle shop that offers repairs and rentals. The brand fully integrates both sides of the business, even including links to online route maps on each coffee label. Fuel up before hitting the streets with brewed coffee, cold brew, and espresso drinks.
Sometimes, the name just says it all. This tiny lakeside cafe gets straight to the point with a tight menu of eggy wraps filled with potatoes, veggies, beans, and cheese. There’s also a selection of lunch wraps like chicken-bacon-ranch (tomato, red onion, greens) and BLTs.
Supper clubs are another staple of Wisconsin dining, and Mars — which has existed along the edge of Lake Como under different names since 1926 — puts its own spin on the genre. Offerings range from racks of barbecue ribs and steak to fish fries (Wednesdays and Fridays only), and there’s a special beach menu of casual bites like grilled jumbo shrimp skewers.
Simon Cumming, the chef and owner at the Italian-American bistro Sopra is keenly aware of Chicagoans’s outsized presence in Lake Geneva: he previously worked under chef Jason Paskewitz (Blanchard) at JP Chicago. His menu highlights crowd-pleasers like slow-braised lamb shoulder ragu and pan-roasted rainbow trout with pancetta and gnocchi.
Barrique Bistro & Wine Bar
Housed inside a precious cottage, Barrique is a relaxing retreat stocked with more than 55 wines by the glass and 50-plus beer options from craft breweries. There’s also an emphasis on seafood but this kitchen is a self-proclaimed “fried free zone” — instead, try the escargot, shrimp cocktail, and lump crab cakes.
Patios are hot commodities in Lake Geneva, especially during tourist season. Oakfire’s second-floor outdoor deck, located just next door to Barrique overlooking the water, is hard to beat. The six-year-old restaurant is best known for its Neapolitan-style wood fired pizzas pizza cooked inside imported Stefano Ferrara ovens. Favorites include the Bosco (sausage, cremini mushrooms, mozzarella, basil, pecorino) with optional giardiniera in a nod to Chicago. Additional locations are open in Kenosha and Minocqua, Wisconsin.
Hunt Club Steakhouse
Hunt Club easily ranks among the top spots for a fancy night out in Lake Geneva. It’s a cushy, intimate space housed inside a 106-year-old mansion once occupied by plumbing magnate Richard Crane. The dining room and bar are outfitted with a stone fireplace and dark pine paneling. Steak is naturally the focus, and its difficult to go wrong with ribeyes, filets, and strips sourced from family farms in Wisconsin and Iowa.
Those in search of a truly retro dining experience will want to swing by Joni’s Diner, a staple in the area for diner breakfast favorites and char-grilled burgers. It’s housed in a 1954 Jerry O’Mahony L-shaped prefab metal building (only about 20 remain in the U.S.).
Popeye's on Lake Geneva
An area landmark for half a century, Popeye’s — unrelated to the fast food chain — has pleased generations of fans with its popular rotisserie chickens and all-you-can-eat Friday fish fry. Munch on crispy cod on the patio and take in spectacular lake views.
Scoops Ice Cream
Scoops is the adorable ice cream parlor every small town deserves. Stop in for generous dishes and cones in flavors like strawberry cheesecake and maple walnut. Italian ice is also available.
The Baker House
Patrons with flair for the dramatic may get a kick out of the Baker House, a 136-year-old Queen Anne mansion that now serves as a Gilded Age-themed hotel, restaurant, and lounge. Get into costume by choosing from a large collection of vintage hats and sip French 75s amid opulent decor.
After years of selling pastries part-time out of her home, baker Abby Blada made the leap to full-time pastry professional in 2022 with the launch of her patisserie, Poppy Cakes. Patrons can expect decadent cupcakes, gorgeous iced cookies, and more.
The Grandview Restaurant
Catch gorgeous, romantic sunsets over Geneva Lake through the Grandview Restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Perched atop a bluff near Blackhawk State Park inside the the upscale Geneva Inn, it’s a popular spot for special occasions featuring prime steaks, seafood, pastas, and more.
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