Whether you are planning an intimate summer date or a casual night out with friends, nothing quite compares to enjoying a cocktail and alfresco appetizers with unparalleled views of the lush St. Croix River Valley. Nibble and nosh on delicious hors d’ouerves at these favorite restaurant patios, decks and rooftops.
Boasting the area’s largest beer garden, the Freight House Restaurant & Night Club is located near the beautiful St. Croix River in historic downtown Stillwater. The outdoor area includes a main patio, gazebo bar and beer garden featuring Stillwater’s own Lift Bridge beer, dozens of microbrews, and local wines from St. Croix Vineyards. “There’s not a bad seat in the house,” general manager Eric Cameron says. “We’re a stone’s throw from the St. Croix.” For a light bite to eat, Cameron recommends the spicy Ahi tuna, sriracha slaw, cucumber boat with avocado, teriyaki and a spicy aioli $16.
305 S. Water St., Stillwater; 651.439.5718
If you’re looking for a relaxing dining experience on a patio that offers stunning views of the river, Dock Café is sure to please. “You can’t get closer to the water than us,” says Sherri Hopfe, who has co-owned the Dock Café for the past 28 years. “It’s a destination spot for the view of the bridge and watching the boats go by.” Freshly battered walleye fingers served with homemade tartar sauce ($12) and the artichoke ramekin, a creamy blend of artichoke hearts, spinach, red peppers and parmesan served with carrots and French bread ($11) are two favorite appetizers served on the large brick patio that is surrounded by a garden of trees and flowers. Dock Café also partners with Gondola Romantica, offering packages that include dinner and an unforgettable gondola ride on the river.
425 E. Nelson St., Stillwater; 651.430.3770
Charlie’s Pub at the Water Street Inn
Between the live music and great food, Charlie’s will have you dancing a jig at this Stillwater locale. Housed in the Water Street Inn, the Irish-inspired amenities include an open-air patio and a covered patio, both with spectacular river views. “We are in the middle of all the action,” innkeeper Chuck Dougherty says. The new summer appetizer menu offers some great selections, while also retaining tried and true favorites such as the Maryland crab cakes ($12) and specialty Irish nachos ($12). In addition to great food and beverages, live Irish bands play on Friday and Saturday nights.
101 S. Water St., Stillwater; 651.430.0907
The Green Room
“We have the best view, and it’s really protected from the elements,” says Stan Schmitt, who co-owns The Green Room with chef Christopher Durant. Diners flock to one of Stillwater’s favorite rooftop patios, which opened in 2012 and provides a birds-eye view of the historic lift bridge. Great drinks coupled with a farm-fresh menu inspired by world cuisine, makes nabbing one of the 30 seats on the deck worth the effort. On a hot summer evening, sip the refreshing Green Room lemonade, made with fresh mint, lemon and simple syrup muddled with Bombay Sapphire gin, lemonade and a splash of soda ($8), or enjoy one of The Green Room’s five different mojitos ($8 each). Along with the cocktails, you might want to share an appetizer plate—such as the salmon lox-wrapped grilled scallops, topped with salmon roe and fried dill ($4.50 each), or the oven roasted fresh mussels served with lemon and herbs ($14).
215 S. Main St., Stillwater; 651.342.0215
The riverside rooftop at Rafters opened last year as part of an overall remodeling project and is now an intimate corner of the larger bar and restaurant. With seating for 50, the quaint veranda features scenic river views and is a great spot to enjoy a meal on a warm summer evening. “It’s a very laidback and casual environment with great food,” bartender Samara Wathen says. A full menu of casual fare and popular appetizers, such as the loaded nachos ($9.50) broccoli bites ($8) or deep-fried green beans ($8) will sustain you for an evening of dancing inside the club.
317 S. Main St., Stillwater; 651.342.1502
Pier Five Hundred
This restaurant’s wood deck is the best seat in downtown Hudson for picturesque views of the historic Hudson pier and St. Croix River, rain or shine. “If you want to sit out there, we’ll be happy to serve you,” food and beverage director Tom Hommes says. Customers enjoy the ambience, but according to Hommes, the primary draw is the restaurant’s quality attention to food. Featuring a menu of classic American cuisine, Hommes recommends the traditional tomato margherita, chicken and portabella flatbread, or the Thai chicken flatbread ($9-$11), which are popular to share as an appetizer or filling enough to serve as a meal.
500 First St., Hudson; 715.386.5504