Insert shameless plug: If you have a Quimby’s Cruising Guide, you’ll come across listings for numerous marinas and restaurants on the inland waterways. A lot of these places serve adult beverages, but not all of them. To help you locate some of the best stops for a “docktail,” we’ve rounded up 12 of our favorite bars in the HeartLand Boating area.
Starting way up north, our first stop is the Mississippi Pub at River Heights Marina (Mile 830.3) in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. While the pub’s most popular order is its homemade Bloody Mary, the bar offers a variety of liquors and brews to satisfy the taste of just about anyone. Mississippi Pub holds daily happy hours, weekend drink specials and serves food all day.
Head down the river to Mile 791.1, and tie up at Harbor Restaurant Bar and Marina in Red Wing, Minn. It has outside patio tables along the river and features a Jamaican and Caribbean theme. Its specialty drink is the Dirty Banana, a banana-flavored daiquiri made with real bananas, rum, Kahlua and Irish cream. People are said to drive hours to try one of these concoctions.
Up next is The Waterfront Restaurant & Tavern, located directly on the river in LaCrosse, Wis. While boaters can’t dock at the venue, there are public docks located within a mile of the property. Walk, Uber or cab it to the restaurant, which casts a bit of an upscale atmosphere. Inside the tavern, guests will come across a historic, prohibition-era antique bar, where they can enjoy classic cocktails, regional beers and an extensive wine list.
Go Fish Marina Bar & Grill (Mile 502.5) has its own docking and an outside patio on the river’s edge at Pool 14 in Princeton, Iowa. Some of the bar’s signature drinks include the Blue Bayou (a blue banana colada), and an assortment of daiquiris, margaritas and local beers. Be sure to save room for one of Go Fish’s specialty food items, including fresh fish tacos and a variety of burgers.
St. Croix River
Emptying into the Mississippi River, the St. Croix River is navigable from Stillwater, Minn., to Prescott — a distance of about 25 miles. It’s in historic Stillwater that boaters will come across a music bar and grill called P.D. Pappy’s. Tie up at one of the docks and enjoy one of two outdoor patios. In addition to a fully stocked bar, Pappy’s has a large, American-style menu for lunch and dinner. Grab a cold beer or cocktail and check out the live music lineup Thursday through Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.
Located directly on the Illinois River at Mile 159, just north of the Peoria Lock and Dam, is Kuchie’s on the Water. With enough dock space to tie up 15 large boats, Kuchie’s is open every day May through September and closed Mondays the rest of the year. If you’re able to stop by, try the Shipwreck Blood Mary, which comes with a cheeseburger on it! The bar also serves rum buckets, signature tropical cocktails and offers live music on the deck.
Just a few hours away is The Loading Dock, at Mile 0 at Grafton, Ill. The bar has some on-site docking, with additional slips next door at the Grafton Marina. The Loading Dock offers more than 20 varieties of beer and frozen and mixed drinks, with a few wine choices to boot. Guests can enjoy live music throughout the summer, either on the ample deck or inside. Be sure to try its famous Dock Salsa. It’s so popular that it serves about 50 gallons of the appetizer to customers each week.
Stopping at Mile 109.8 in Dayton, Ky., boaters can dock and check out Riverside Marina, which is equipped with a full bar. Boaters can visit year round and even tie up for the night if necessary. The bar and grill has lots of outdoor patio space, where guests can tune into some live music and boat watching along the river.
If you find yourself boating in Cincinnati, be sure to stop by Pirate’s Cove Tropical Bar & Grill. Boaters can sip the bar’s signature cocktails and drinks on its huge open patio overlooking hundreds of yachts on the river at the Four Seasons Marina at Mile 464.1. The menu includes an abundance of beers, wines, mixed drinks and even non-alcoholic cocktails. While there, relish in the venue’s live music and Key West-inspired cuisine.
Located on a huge property on the river near Louisville, Ky., Captain’s Quarters Riverside Grille can seat up to 250 guests inside its lodge, with room for 500 more guests outside. It has four bars — two inside, two outside — and a lot of dock space. Popular drink choices here include the Miami Vice (a blackberry brandy, banana liqueur, pina colada mix with a splash of grenadine and a Sailor Jerry floater) and its Creek Water Colada (a mixed drink that includes Rumhaven coconut rum, Pina colada mix and a dash of pineapple juice and blue curacao served with a Southern Comfort floater).
The Rudder at Anchor High Marina is located on Old Hickory Lake just off the Cumberland River at Mile 216.3 in Hendersonville, Tenn. It provides boaters with a versatile drink selection and live music year round. Known for its cherry limeades, margaritas and its famous Rudder Fishbowl, the establishment hosts a daily happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. Wine and beer are also served.
Just a few miles away is Sam’s Sports Grill, located at Blue Turtle Bay Marina at Mile 219.8 in Old Hickory. The bar and grill opened in 2000 and has been voted Nashville’s No. 1 sports bar for 14 years in a row and named one of Maxim Magazine’s 16 Best Sports Bars in the country. Sam’s has your staple bar drinks, including beer, wine and liquor, with plenty of food to satisfy the cravings that often accompany drinking. Transient docking is available at Blue Turtle Bay, where boaters can fuel up and stock up on supplies before heading to the next watering hole.
Got your own best bar along the inland waterways? We want to hear about it. Send your favorite place and a picture to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Prost!
By Heather Ervin