A Seafood Smorgasbord

The Mariner's Inn is defining destination dining in Madison

The Mariner’s Inn is defining destination dining in Madison

If there’s one thing the Von Rutenbergs know, it’s destination dining. Owners of Madison’s venerable lakefront restaurants Nau-Ti-Gal, Captain Bill’s, and The Mariner’s Inn, these second-generation restaurateurs (brothers Robert, Bill, and Jack) continue the family tradition by serving up spectacular lakeside views, winning hospitality, and exceptional food.

A warm destination for a “date night,” The Mariner’s Inn provides an intimate atmosphere overlooking Lake Mendota. Can’t decide what to order? Start with an appetizer. Several popular entrées, including the Sesame-Crusted Ahi Tuna and the deep-fried jumbo Mariner’s Shrimp are also available in a smaller, first-course size. But don’t be fooled: these selections are still large enough to share.

The Tenderloin-Stuffed Portobello is a standout – a large mushroom cap overflowing with tender chunks of steak, topped with a smoky yet creamy whiskey peppercorn sauce and house-made haystack onions. The sizeable pieces of tenderloin are fork-tender.

The Admiral’s Tenderloin consists of twin tenderloin filets, aged to perfection and perfectly tender, topped with lump blue crab meat and a Béarnaise sauce. Served alongside are seared scallops, presented on a sprig of rosemary, plus a choice of sides and soup or salad.

For accompaniments, go with the Legendary Hash Browns and the award-winning New England-style Clam Chowder, which features enormous pieces of clam in a wonderfully rich base.

A new offering that’s making quite a splash with patrons is the Macadamia-Encrusted Grouper, served on a Chambord Raspberry Sauce. Delicate and crunchy, the fish remains the star of the plate, but the refreshing mango salsa and fruity – but not overly sweet – Chambord sauce elevate the dish to new heights.

For a sweet finish, the house-made Door County Cheery Cheesecake is a delicious slice of history. Lovingly developed more than thirty years ago by the matriarch of the von Rutenberg clan, its dense, moist texture leaves a hint of amaretto on the palate.

With fantastic food, a lakeside view, and an impressive wine selection… forget waiting for a special occasion. This is a date night destination too good to put off visiting.