As summer draws into fall I am especially appreciative of a growing commodity in Winona, and the thing I might miss the most once the snow flies: outdoor patios.
I swear, it used to be that if you wanted to eat or have a drink outside in Winona you had to sit on your car in the parking lot. It might have been that the city was stingy with permits, or it might have been that restaurant and bar owners were leery about sinking money into square footage that would only get used for half the year, or maybe it was a little bit of both. But for a long, long time in Winona we were relegated to the great indoors when we wanted to get out in public.
But no longer , and I am oh so thrilled to take you on a little walking tour of my favorite patios in Winona:
Green Mill – perhaps the grandfather of outdoor restaurant dining in Winona – offers a lovely view of Sugar Loaf and sunsets on its pretty wrap-around porch. Good food, great wine list, interesting people watching – this place hits the spot more often than not for me.
Signatures – those not golfing at the Bridges might forget that on the back side of this historic restaurant is a breathtakingly beautiful patio that offers about the best views one can get in Winona. With flower beds, expansive views, sunsets and a killer wine list, it is quite possibly Winona’s best-kept secret on the patio tour. If you’re thinking you might like to nosh a little more casually, check out The Grill at Signatures, located in the same beautiful complex.
Mango’s – my new favorite patio when I want to devour something interesting in a festive, friendly place. The people are sweet, the food is great, and it’s hard to beat watching the sun set with a big fat margarita in your hand.
Minnesota Marine Art Museum – kind of like Brigadoon, this lively patio for drinks and a bite to eat only appears on Tuesdays throughout the summer and into September, but this is a stop on the tour worth working your schedule around for. The riverwalk is always available for a contemplative stroll along the banks of the Mississippi, but each Tuesday it springs to life during happy hour, and when it does there isn’t a better spot to get outdoors in Winona.
Boat House – you can drink fabulous cocktails, wine, and Minnesota brewed craft beer and dine on homemade and often locally sourced food while sitting on their windowed porch-like dining room with awe-inspiring views of the Mississippi River. The Boat House also has an outdoor area where only drinks are available while you wait for your table at this popular restaurant actually located right in the newly renovated Levee Park.
Jefferson Pub and Grill – a standing ovation for the patio addition at Jefferson’s which is now an awesome outdoor spot for a bite to eat before a movie or after a stroll through Levee Park. And the walleye sandwich is to die for.
Island City Brewing Company – marching forth into its third year, Winona’s craft brewery has added a wonderful new beer garden to go with its scrumptious ales and lagers. Located just outside of the brewery’s front door only steps away from Levee Park, you can find picnic tables, a plethora of yard games, and often food trucks to go with your pint of Pool 6 Pilsner, Docksider Double IPA, or any of their other signature brews. One Saturday a month the brewery also hosts the Winona Artisan Market, a perfect time to check out their new outdoor digs.
Lakeview Drive Inn – of course. Across the street from Lake Park, Lakeview is a fun spot for a burger and an ice cream treat. And while you can eat in your car with the help of a good, old fashioned carhop, they also have some tables if you’d rather just sit outside.
Ed’s [no name] Bar – no secret that’s about my favorite place to see and be seen in Winona, but maybe a little more of a secret that they have a nice, big outdoor space attached where you can sit in the shade under tents on a brick patio, play Kübb on the lawn (trust us it’s FUN!), and you may even find a fire burning in the outdoor fireplace. And the wine special on Wednesday nights is the best deal you will find in Winona, anywhere, ever.
Hei and Low – this small corner bar tucked away in an east-side Winona neighborhood makes its home in a lovely Victorian brick building. In recent years, this popular corner pub has gone through a bit of a face-lift, accentuating the classic interior, and really upping its patio game with seating for dozens under billowing tents. Want to catch the game and sit outside? No problem, the Hei and Low has outdoor flat screens. They also occasionally host live bands al fresco during the summer months. Another Bloody Mary, please!
The outdoor patio walking tour would not be complete without mentioning some of the quicker-fare options like Culvers, Rubio’s, and The Penguin Zesto. For dining and drinks, Blooming Grounds, El Patron, 929 Beerhouse and Grill, The Ground Round, and Wellington’s at Westgate Bowl each have a few tables outside as well. If you’re just interested in the drinks, Port 507, The Mankato Bar, and Market Street Tap have small spaces to sip in the fresh air. There might be others, and if I’ve missed you, I’ll find you, because I’m a junkie for sitting outside on these gorgeous days.
And for the record, I don’t really think you should try this as a walking tour, per say, unless you’ve got all day, because this tour stretches from one end of Winona to the other. But when you’re ready to get outside, no matter where you are in this great river metropolis, there is somewhere to sit yourself down and enjoy the view.