Where to Eat
1. Artisan 179
179 W. WISCONSIN AVE., PEWAUKEE
Bookmark this fine dining locale the next time you really want to impress someone. As the setting sun sends shades of orange and red over resplendent Pewaukee Lake just outside this cozy haunt’s windows, you will feel like you’re on a mini culinary vacation, complete with exceptional from-scratch dishes such as pan-fried gnocchi with pesto cream and 16-ounce cider-brined Berkshire pork chop.
151 ST. PAUL ST., OCONOMOWOC
Inspired by the owner’s love for prime steaks and fish caught off the coast of Florida, this retro-meets-modern escape is where Lake Country folks go to feel pampered – in a white tablecloth setting that feels Lake Country relaxed. The menu has a classic steak-seafood house flavor to it, with top picks ranging from pan-seared sea scallops with mushroom risotto to a 45-day dry-aged cowboy ribeye.
3. Union House
S42 W31320 HIGHWAY 83, GENESEE DEPOT
This “country gourmet” retreat, housed in the circa-1861 former Union House Hotel, is a little outside what we’d usually consider the suburbs, but it’s worth the drive. The historic space is known for superb food and staff who lead diners through the experience like they feel personally invested. This is not the night to watch your diet. Indulge in the lobster bisque, roast half-duck with spaetzle, Wagyu steak and classic schaum torte for dessert. And the Tuesday-Thursday dinner specials are always a great deal.
128 W. WISCONSIN AVE., OCONOMOWOC
This upscale but rustic Italian joint gets its name (Italian for On a Beautiful Lake) from its location along scenic Lac La Belle. It’s an unpretentious spot for a glass of Tuscan red wine and a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, or a negroni cocktail and the roasted branzino with limoncello caper sauce. The ricotta gnocchi with Italian sausage tossed in Gorgonzola cream sauce isn’t labeled a house specialty, but it should be.
7610 HARWOOD AVE., WAUWATOSA
Tosans get their coq au vin and croque monsieur on at this humming two-level French haunt. Besides serving lunch, dinner and brunch, this must-stop also makes baked goods (those croissants!) and French desserts that are truly enchanté.
622 GENESEE ST., DELAFIELD
Even if the tank’s full, it’s worth a stop for gas at Daybreak Mobil. And artisan cheese. And bottles of French wine. And Strauss lamb and free-range poultry in the deli and at the butcher counter. Look for the Cape Cod-ish red-brick, two-story building with dormers. Those run-of-the-mill gas pumps are out back.
Where to Shop
175 MAIN ST., PEWAUKEE; 600 HARTBROOK DR., HARTLAND
Empty your trunk before going, especially if you love one-of-a-kind finds. Consigners sell their furniture and home decor here, many of them antiques or from top brands. Store managers organize the eclectic wares in stylish scenes. The prices start high but drop each month – that is, if you’re willing to gamble that someone else won’t buy your prized item first. Head to Pewaukee for your porch and patio needs and Hartland for everything else.
20111 W. BLUEMOUND RD., BROOKFIELD
Glittered with local boutiques and national retailers, including the only Von Maur department store in Wisconsin, this 5-year-old, upscale town center serves accessible luxury with a twist of small-town feel. But The Corners goes well beyond shopping, with popular dining options from Wisconsin favorites like BelAir Cantina and Café Hollander to national chains, and entertainment attractions like a live comedy club and dine-in movie theater. Its year-round special events are a consistent draw, too.
2420 MILWAUKEE ST., DELAFIELD
You’ll be smiling as wide as the yellow barn when you leave this old-fashioned toy and candy store with play areas sprinkled throughout the store’s collection of nostalgic and modern toys. Don’t miss the second level’s dedicated Playmobil-themed playroom – one of the first two in the nation (alongside New York City’s famed FAO Schwarz).
N48 W36154 E. WISCONSIN AVE., OCONOMOWOC
The surest sign of spring in Lake Country: the carhops of The Kiltie getting back in action. Founded in 1947 and marked by its towering neon sign, this busy burger-and-ice cream place is a haven for nostalgia-seekers. So fasten the tray to your window, crank up the classic rock and go ahead and dip those salty fries into your chocolate shake.
More Reasons to Go
11. Frame Park
701 W. MORELAND BLVD., WAUKESHA
Frame Park’s picturesque riverwalk follows the Fox River Trail as it hugs the shoreline, winds through the vibrant formal gardens, and connects to downtown Waukesha. The trail, peppered with segments of brick path, is bookended by a nationally recognized accessible playground and a transportation-themed tot park. The green space is easily explored on foot, but a bike or boat rental is best in summer months.
6501 W. NATIONAL AVE., WEST ALLIS
The 103-year-old source for Wisconsin-based fresh produce, meat, dairy and eggs, plus fresh flowers, plants and more, is beloved by food lovers and restaurant chefs alike. That’s largely owing to the market’s well-deserved reputation for quality.
13. Cranky Al’s
6901 W. NORTH AVE., WAUWATOSA
The doughnuts that made this east Tosa joint famous are exceptional – the raised donuts are pillowy, the cake donuts crumbly, the crullers killer. But don’t sleep on the thin-crust pizza that’s recently gained wider distribution across metro area shops and bars. And Doughnut Don, the collaboration coffee cruller imperial stout made by fellow North Avenue business Vennture Brew Co., drops again this month.
14. Sunset Playhouse
700 WALL ST., ELM GROVE
This community theater can pack the house with its diverse spread of productions. The shows range from fun musical tributes (The Artistry of Miss Peggy Lee this spring) to serious theatrical productions (Newsies this summer). There’s a regular children’s theater series, too, with Shrek the Musical Jr. a highlight of the upcoming season.
15. Pewaukee Beach
100 BLOCK OF WEST WISCONSIN AVENUE, PEWAUKEE
This beach on Pewaukee Lake is clean and family-friendly, though it can be a bit crowded at times. That figures, because it’s a centerpiece of a great downtown with locally owned shops and eateries just across the street. (Is there any better spot for The Chocolate Factory ice cream/sub shop?) Events throughout summer – the music of Waterfront Wednesdays and the annual Kiwanis block party in late June – keep us coming back.
16. Ten Chimneys
S43 W31575 DEPOT RD., GENESEE DEPOT
Milwaukee-born actor Alfred Lunt and actress wife Lynn Fontanne – both Academy Award nominees – built this 60-acre, summer-home estate in the 1920s and ’30s. Now open to visitors, each of the estate’s 18 rooms holds artifacts and artwork: some were gifts to the couple from Golden Age stars like Noël Coward, Edna Ferber and Laurence Olivier.
17. Nixon Park
175 E. PARK AVE., HARTLAND
An idyllic small-town gathering spot, this park overflows with things to do. In summer, it hosts concerts and movies, an impressive splash pad runs on-demand from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and – to the joy of parents – it is home to the Lake Country Beer Garden. The Bark River, flanked by the Ice Age Trail, feeds a small pond perfect for fishing beginners. The last weekend in June, the park is home to the annual Hometown Celebration, including a festival in the park and a fireworks show worth traveling to see.
2525 AVIATION DR., WAUKESHA
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to fly in the warbirds of yesteryear, this nonprofit can show you. It runs flights of a brightly painted pair of World War II-era two-seater trainer planes (a SNJ-5 and PT-26, both built in 1943) and a 1955 Beechcraft T-34A from the Waukesha County Airport.
19. Sanctuary Woods
NEAR 87TH STREET OFF OF WATERTOWN PLANK ROAD
This portion of County Grounds Park in Wauwatosa was once used for leisure by the residents of a mental hospital, and the ruins of related structures (and natural landmarks) were annotated recently by a park friends group. But the real star is the woods itself, an old-growth forest with trails weaving through the soaring oaks.
Before she was a Go-Go, Jane Wiedlin was born in Oconomowoc and lived in West Allis. The future pop star and her family lit out for LA when she was 6.
After the end of World War I, Waukesha County dubbed itself “Cow County USA” due to the fact that it had more bovine residents than people.
Beat of the Burbs
Don’t cast your local custard crown without checking out this spot.
21. Doc’s Dry Dock
Pizza rules, including the Mega Watt, created by football pro/pie fan J.J. Watt.
A sub shop with great variety, even for vegetarians; don’t miss the mushroom brie soup.
Solid local bar with standout hot wings.
The west metro’s arts hub.
The vast beer list drops even a beer geek’s jaw.
26. Hoyt Park
Pool, playground and beer garden are a potent trifecta for young parents.
Perfect naan sense.
Beer, of course, but also atmosphere and underrated food.
Tater tots smothered in Sloppy Joe meat sauce? You betcha.
The stunning Frank Lloyd Wright design reflects the faith.
Theater without the theater – under the Lapham Peak stars.
A great community park, pool and library in one spot.
Exceptional wine and beer selection and service.
34. Golden Mast Inn
One of the finest fish fries in Lake Country.
35. Hartung Park
Hiking trails with sweeping views from the suburbs to Downtown.
Man cave decor has never been easier.
A welcoming space in the thick of the downtown scene.
38. Red Circle Inn
Don’t miss the made-to-order dessert souffles.
39. Capri di Nuovo
Casual family joint with unspeakably good lasagna.
40. Mad Rooster Cafe
A breakfast that draws crowds.