As Minnesotans, we are duty-bound to enjoy our many lakes to the max; our state motto won’t let us forget our natural abundance of water (86,936 square miles of it, across the state). We are deep in the season to be on the lake, and by “on the lake” we mean boating. It’s a sadly short season, so get out there as early and often as possible. Which means you will need boat food, and lots of it. Local eateries are hip to the urgency of the summer and happy to provide all kinds of exciting nosh for your aqueous outings. From snacks and treats to meals and drinks, here are some great ideas to make your fleeting days on the boat extra-yummy.
Pizza turns any old time into a special occasion, and Punch’s pizza is exponentially delicious when paired with a giddy summer outing. You’ll have to hop off the boat to fetch it, but it’s totally worth it for the hand-rolled, hand-shaped, wood-fired dream pie. This pizza starts with a bed of impeccably fresh mozzarella and the crème de la crème of crushed tomatoes—San Marzano—and ends up with a perfectly blistered, ultra-thin crust. A simple margherita (mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil) is best; that way you won’t lose any precious toppings that decide to hop off into the inky depths. $6.25. 1313 Wayzata Blvd. E., Wayzata; 952.476.7991.
The Californian Sandwich
This is a popular stop for picnic provisions; nothing beats a pile of sandwiches for crowd-pleasing portability. Choose from special subs, like the bursting Italian one called The Godfather and classics like the chicken and bacon club. We especially like No. 12, the Californian. It’s a multilayered wonder of roasted turkey breast, a double application of Provolone cheese, creamy guacamole, crunchy alfalfa sprouts, lettuce, tomato and mayo, (in this case, Hellman’s). Thick slices of good whole wheat keep everything in its place. $6.39. 23480 Highway 7, Shorewood; 952.474.2020.
Scallop, shrimp, roasted sweet corn and avocado: Yes, please. Spiked with lime zest, this irresistible mélange is a cross between ceviche and salsa. Use the accompanying tortilla chips to scoop up every tidbit. It’s refreshing, elegant and addictive; we want to eat this lovely mix of shellfish in the sunshine all day, every day. $15. 700 E. Lake St, Wayzata; 952.473.5253.
Artisan Cheese Platter
Now for some schmancy stuff—picture a sunset cocktail party with good wine and fine cheese and a dozen or so of your dearest friends and family members. Lakewinds can set you up for this dreamy scenario. Their artisan cheese platter is gorgeous, well-balanced and exquisitely delicious. It includes four cheeses, most notably St. Pete’s Blue, a local cheese from the caves of Faribault, aged a minimum of 100 days and as creamy as it is pungent. There’s a soft Brie, a tangy log of goat cheese, and Prima Donna Gouda evens out the tang with a mellow nuttiness. Pale marcona almonds, fig jam and grapes make excellent counterpoints. Serves12 to 15 lucky souls. $59.99. 7501 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.473.0292.
Taco Assortment Lago 12-Pack
Lago Tacos in Excelsior has dockside service so you can throw a fiesta on the water. All you gotta do is phone in your order, then look for the dude in the neon orange T-shirt that says “Lago Tacos.” The tacos here are fantastic, street food-style, authentic as all get-out and as spicy as you want, depending on which salsa you choose for dousing. The convenient 12-pack is made of six chicken tinga tacos, six beef and potato tacos, one pint of guacamole, one pint of beans, one pint of salsa and a mess of tortilla chips. $39.95. 30 Water St., Excelsior; 952.300.8495.
Beef Tenderloin Sliders
McCormick’s Pub and Restaurant
Hamburgers can be a bit unwieldy in a picnic-type setting, especially one that bobbles and rocks. Little burgers, however, are perfectly manageable and in fact recommended. Crank up the gourmet factor and you have McCormick’s beef tenderloin sliders. Three round “country white” loaves provide a cushion for morsels of perfectly seared, rosy-centered beef tenderloin. A bit of mixed greens, caramelized onions and a generous schmear of aioli are the only adornments necessary. $16. 331 Broadway Ave. S., Wayzata; 952.767.2417.
Tonka Grill and BBQ's barbecue chicken is the quintessential outdoor meal, complete with beans and slaw.
Tonka Grill and BBQ
Park your floating home here and await delivery, or go inside for a killer barbecue chicken. Owner Mike Lindahl is passionate about the craft of slow-and-low cookery; the in-house process starts with a dry-rub marinade, followed by a spell in the hickory wood smoker and finished on the grill with a swipe of Tonka Grill BBQ Sauce. Choose two from the list of yummy sides: baked beans and coleslaw for us, please, though the creamy cukes are super too. Half-chicken, $14.95. 4016 Shoreline Dr., Spring Park; 952.471.7447.
One Dozen Doughnuts
The food trend scouts say that doughnuts are in, sort of like the new cupcake—but were they ever really “out”? We’ve always loved them, and blessed was the day that YoYo came to town. This charming, hip bakery offers a dizzying array: cake doughnuts as well as yeast-raised in a multitude of flavors. Enjoy seasonal specials like red velvet and beloved faves like chocolate, cinnamon sugar and coconut. Don’t miss the fun specialties like “dirt and worms,: chocolate-covered cherry and the s’mores, a raised doughnut with chocolate icing, graham cracker crumbs and a gooey marshmallow heart. Mix and match, $16.99. 5757 Sanibel Dr., Minnetonka; 952.960.1800.
Pull right up to the dock at Maynard’s (Word to the wise: the dock is set at a right angle) because it’s time to indulge in some cheese curds. Not only is this gooey, melty snack an expression of state pride, it’s a smart way to prep for the great get-together, the State Fair, our ritualistic event that closes the recreational season. These are a delicious pile of molten cheese; some like ketchup, others don’t. Ignore the chiding and eat ’em how you want, but definitely use a lot of napkins. $8.50. 685 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior; 952.470.1800.
Excelsior Brewing's Big Island Blond ale is a local favorite and staple for our boating excursions this summer.
Big Island Blond Ale
This brewery has 16 draught lines running at any given moment; if you have time and inclination, stay and taste a few, or just grab a growler (a half-gallon jug) to go. You can’t go wrong with Big Island Blond ale. For those wary of ales, relax—it’s not as bitter as you might fear. It’s balanced with malt and a touch of citrus, and goes with just about any food. It’s refreshing yet sophisticated, light but flavorful. In other words, it’s perfect for a lazy spell on the lake. Seasonal price. 421 Third St., Excelsior; 952.474.7837.
Basket of Seasoned Fries
While you’re picking up some beer in Excelsior, swing by Haskell’s for an order of seasoned French fries to go. What are they like? One server described them as “like Arby’s curly fries, only straight.” Neither fat nor thin, these battered beauties are perfect with beer or a pop on the water—salty enough to satisfy, but won’t sting your tongue. $4.50. 1 Water St., Excelsior; 952.474.0937.
D’Amico and Sons
This Italian eatery is a Minnesota native and a tried-and-true favorite for tasty picnic foods. A selection of salads is the way to go. Try the Mediterranean tuna with radish, tomato, green beans, egg, olives, onion, parsley and a kickin’ mustard vinaigrette; the chicken gorgonzola with pasta, bacon, roasted tomatoes, spinach and creamy gorgonzola dressing; and wild-caught shrimp with farro (wheat berries), cucumber, tomato and feta. Get some crusty ciabatta bread to soak up the good juices. $8.59–$9.99 for one serving; famiglia style for 6–8, $35.95. 810 Lake St. E., Wayzata; 952.476.8866.
This seasonal little shop makes the most luscious smoothies we’ve ever had the pleasure to slurp. The 32-year-old ice cream parlor welcomes guests with a heady aroma of waffle cones and cotton candy, and the smoothie flavor choices are gratifyingly straightforward: strawberry, raspberry and strawberry-banana. Each one is made on the spot from whirled frozen fruit and frozen vanilla yogurt. Thick as soft-serve ice cream, flecked with chunks of fruit and topped with snowy peaks of whipped cream, it’s as welcome a sight as a desert oasis. It’s too thick to sip right away, but by the time you get it back to the boat, it’ll be perfect. $4.75. 31 Water St., Excelsior; 952.474.4791.